My advice? Don’t take my advice.
During my wife’s pregnancy we attended various parenting classes that covered many aspects of the imprecise, intangible vocation of parenthood. They covered all sorts of things from changing and feeding, the hard sell on the ‘breast is best’ campaign, and how to cope with the baby blues and PND. All very interesting and we walked into these sessions with an open mind, already decided that we would take it all with anything between a pinch and a fistful of salt.
There was one area that the midwives seemed to be pushing more than most, when they stopped trying to make every mother there feel completely inadequate if they weren’t able to breastfeed but that’s another story. The point they were trying to hammer home was that of feeding times.
Every. Four. Hours.
Now let’s think about this for a moment. Two brand new parents who had done plenty of reading and research were somehow swayed into believing that their child would face some terrible fate if it wasn’t fed exactly every four hours. OK, so we didn’t believe that but we abandoned our previous plans of supervised on-demand feeding in favour of this four hour rule. When our baby girl arrived, she was a sleeper. She’d had her first feed, the midwives were happy she was healthy, had the correct number of fingers, toes, arms, legs and various other organs and appendages and was ready to go home.
It wasn’t until about four hours after this that the trouble started – she was still asleep.
We called the midwives, a little worried now because we’d been told that the world would collapse in on itself if she wasn’t fed after exactly four hours, and to be honest, I wasn’t ready to be responsible for 7.4 billion deaths. We were told to bring her back in where she was examined and deemed to still be healthy with no missing digits since her last check a few hours before. My wife was forced to sit in the maternity ward trying to get her baby to feed when all that either of them wanted to do was sleep.
It wasn’t long before they were both getting upset and I made the decision to take them home. Still, we stuck to the four hour rule, waking her despite her protestations and making sure she fed, it turned out that this was a huge mistake. Her sleeping pattern was ruined, she became so used to being held and falling asleep whilst she fed that she wouldn’t sleep any other way. My wife and I ended up taking shifts. For six hours I would stay with her, then we would swap, only seeing each other in passing like ships in the night.
This continued for some time whilst I was on paternity leave until I was facing a return to work and we knew it couldn’t continue any longer and we made the decision to switch back to plan-A. This was much harder than it should have been as we had to retrain our little girl to feed when she was hungry and sleep without being held or rocked. There were a lot of tears, a lot of frustration and even some second thoughts but eventually, thankfully, it worked.
The way I see it, the advice given by the midwives was well intended but as they say, the road to hell is paved with poor parenting advice…I think. There’s no right or wrong as long as your child is happy and healthy, you’ve just got to respond to what they need and provide the best you can. As far as I know, that advice isn’t given anymore. Maybe our experience isn’t unique, but we learned from it and so I would say to any new parent that may read this; don’t take the advice I was given. Read as much as you can, talk to people, and don’t forget your salt shaker. Make your own decisions, take the advice you like and discard what you don’t, your baby will let you know if you’re doing right by them soon enough.