When baby knows best?! Has it not been drilled into our heads that mother knows best? Well, I’m here to say that, sometimes, it’s not mama who should be calling the shots.
Our mother’s instinct is powerful and should often trump all. But, it’s hard for us to trust our gut, think clearly, or to step back from a situation when we are so invested. Plus, being bombarded with too much information and too many resources doesn’t help.
It took me awhile, but I eventually made peace with the fact that all babies reach different developmental milestones in their own time.
I was comfortable not pushing crawling, walking, talking, etc. on my daughter and to let her reach those steps herself when she was ready. When she showed signs of being ready, I was there to help guide her through the baby steps to get there. But what about other more behavioral milestones, such as sleeping through the night, weaning from breastfeeding or the bottle, giving up the pacifier, eating with a fork, potty training, etc.?
I actually was given “deadlines” for her to reach all of these behaviors and more. I was told that by 6 months, she doesn’t need to nurse at night (and, therefore, should sleep through the night) and that she should be copying the sounds I make. By 12 months, she should have a least a few words and be clapping and waving. By 18 months, she should be able to draw a straight line and play imaginary games.
Do these deadlines ring a bell? Anyone else have to endure these humiliating surveys at each checkup?
What’s worse is when the doctors are on board with these deadlines. At our 18 month checkup, when I admitted that she still used a bottle, I was given an order to get her off of it by the end of the month. Or else what? What was going to happen?
So, this is the kind of information that we, as mothers, are given for guiding our child’s development and keeping them on track. Should we follow it, even if our child doesn’t appear to be ready? Based on my experience, I say “no!”
Letting my child hit these behavioral milestones when she was ready in her own time has been just as successful as it was with the more physical milestones. I’ve been more comfortable not pushing her to meet them by the suggested “deadline” if my instinct told me that she wasn’t ready. I’m not advocating for a total hands-off approach – of course, we are here to guide them in the right direction. But I swear that helping her reach these advancements has been so much easier when I waited until she was ready.
In our case, with the bottle, I ignored my doctor’s ultimatum because it was still a very solid part of my daughter’s routine. Despite the warnings about dental health (and I brushed her teeth after taking the bottle anyways), I felt that she hadn’t matured enough to drop it. And you know what? At 20 months, she dropped it cold turkey… all by herself! I didn’t have to do anything, she was just ready and never asked for it again. It would have been so much stress on the both of us if I had pushed her to drop it at 18 months.
We had quite a journey with her sleep behavior and I tried sleep training her 3 times in her first year. It never worked until she simply got old enough to get it. Our 4th attempt at sleep training was quick and easy because she was ready for it.
She also weaned herself from breastfeeding on her own, even earlier than I had planned for! But, since she was ready, so was I.
I plan to take the same approach with her other habits, such as the pacifier (which, she has started to ask for less) and potty training. When I feel that she is showing signs of being ready to make the transition, I will step in to help.
If the mantra for reaching milestones is supposed to be “every baby eventually gets there,” why should it be any different for these other miscellaneous behaviors? Every child is different. I understand that the purpose of the surveys is to let you know generally where your kid should be, but they can be taken too literally, even by doctors (in my experience). This journey is yours and your baby’s and it might look a little different than the guidelines. We have got to get better at accepting that.