The Secret to Loving Your Post-Baby Life: Going With the Flow

by Ann Douglas

It wasn’t that long ago that parents were encouraged to put their newborns on four-hour schedules and to start sleep-training their babies by six weeks of age.

Putting a baby on a schedule would be good for the parents and the baby, or so the experts of the day claimed.

Baby would be comforted by a predictable routine (“We’re here for you, kid—every four hours!”) and life could return to normal for the parents (“You can’t let your kids control your life”).

Image: VEER/Creatista

Image: VEER/Creatista

Of course, we now know that this advice was completely out of touch with the true needs of babies and their parents—and that this hands-off approach to parenting made the early weeks so much more difficult for parents and babies alike. Babies learn to trust in the world by having their needs met in a prompt, consistent, and loving manner. And parents grow in confidence as they demonstrate to themselves that they are fully capable of meeting baby’s needs. The reward, at least until baby’s first smile kicks in, is that baby stops crying when you pick him up. He is growing more attached to you and you to him by the day. The miracle of attachment is unfolding just as it should.

It’s when you try to work against this hard-wired instinct (hard-wired in both you and your baby) that the early weeks of parenting become such a struggle. Instead of making falling in love with your baby your top priority (and meeting the needs of your beloved your top priority), you listen to some voice in your head that’s telling you not to pick up your crying baby when every cell in your body is screaming at you to do otherwise.

It is so much easier to go with the flow: to accept the fact that you’re living in a baby-centered universe right now. That means meeting the needs of your newborn, taking the best possible care of yourself (you’re your baby’s support system, after all), and allowing other people to take care of you.

It also means being much more casual about things like clocks and schedules. Sure, you still have to get to your baby’s doctor’s appointment on time (the rest of the world is still out there, after all), but you don’t have to obsess about the spacing between your baby’s feedings (unless, of course, your baby isn’t nursing often enough, in which case you’ll want to check in with your baby’s doctor).

If you’re feeling frustrated and exhausted (as all new parents are at times), remind yourself that it won’t always be this intense. Your baby won’t always be nursing this often or waking this often. And the logistics involved in running a simple errand or meeting a friend for lunch will become simpler over time.

Take each day as it comes (each hour, if that’s all you can handle) and realize how much wiser you are than you were a week or a month ago. That’s one thing you can say about parenthood: it’s the ultimate personal growth opportunity. You’ll be a better person for these sleepless nights and frustrating days, I promise.

Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, and numerous other books about parenting. Follow her on Twitter: @anndouglas.