At last, four months into new motherhood, I was starting to feel like I’d established a routine with my baby. We were both sleeping, he was eating regularly, and life felt almost manageable! In fact, I was so secure with where we were, I had hardly any questions for our pediatrician at his next well visit. But our appointment left me reeling, because the doctor ended up recommending I put an end to some of the sleeping and feeding habits that basically helped me stay sane.
Her first startling recommendation was that I stop swaddling my son before I put him to bed. Except every time he manages to break free of his swaddle, he wakes up because his arms are flailing all over the place. Her second recommendation was that I shouldn’t supplement my breastfed baby with a bottle of formula each evening as I’d been doing. Except by bedtime, my breasts are sore, my supply is dwindling, and I look forward to that break from breastfeeding. Her final unexpected course correction note was that I put the baby to bed for the night at 7 p.m. when he usually naps, not at our chosen time of 9 p.m. Except he always wants to eat again at 9 p.m., so why go through putting him down for the night twice? He’d been sleeping soundly from 9 p.m. until at least 7 a.m. What if he stopped sleeping for such a long stretch once I changed our routine?
The entire way home from the appointment, I obsessed over what she’d said. She was a doctor, and doctors know best, right? Suddenly, that mommy swagger I’d been enjoying lately had completely vanished into thin air, and I found myself questioning everything. Had I been doing it all wrong? Was I harming my son? Were swaddling, supplementing, and sticking to a later bedtime bad decisions? Was I a bad mom?
It wasn’t until I spoke to my husband that I was able to stop berating myself for my perceived failures. “Is our son healthy?” he asked me simply. “Yes,” I kinda whimpered. “Is he happy?” my husband asked. “Yes,” I replied, my voice still wavering. “Are you happy?” he questioned gently. “Yes.” This time, my response was more firm and self-assured. I was beginning to get it. These were the things that mattered. If our routine was working well for us, I just needed to stop worrying.
Because really, I know my baby best. Sure, a doctor’s recommendations are important, especially when it comes to safety, but doctors aren’t with us 24 hours a day and certainly not at three in the morning. They can’t possibly intimately understand each child’s every quirk. I may not be an expert on every baby, but I sure as hell am an expert on mine and what works best for us.
I slept soundly that night after feeding my baby formula and swaddling him. And at 9 p.m., when I put him down, he slept soundly, too.