But – is it normal?

As I sit here after just breastfeeding my 6 day old, with a 4.5 hour gap since his last ‘meal’, I read a truly interesting and bang on article. The article in question talks about breastfeeding, parenting books and discussing ‘What is normal?’. It talks about how so many times we are told that our children should have a certain timed gap between feeds, and that this should increase as they get older. But it discusses how, as adults, do we time between our sips of water? Between our snacks and meals? Of course not – that would be absolutely crazy.

With both of my children I like to believe I parent ‘intuitively’ and my best friend describes it as ‘free range’. No, my 1 year old isn’t allowed to walk herself to the park in no shoes while I watch from the window. But I don’t hover over her – she explores the backyard while I fold washing in the back room and keep an eye on her. Sure, as she grew from a tiny infant into a walking machine I installed some ‘routine’ bedtimes and mealtimes for everyones sanity – but if she falls asleep at 10am instead of her ‘scheduled’ 12pm nap, I let her go. Her body obviously needs it. Doesn’t sound too radical does it?

Even so, I am the first one to put my hand up and say I have fallen many times into the trap of ‘conforming to the norm’. It’s so easy to do, especially with your first, when all of your advice comes from varying sources.Maternal health nurse, your own mother, your mother in law, random strangers, best friends, ladies in mothers group – heck, your own partner is going to put his two cents in somewhere, and why the hell not!

At 15 months old Evie has one ‘bottle’ at a night time before bed. Just a month ago she was having up to 3 a day. My best friends son has ‘no bottles’. He does however have a formula based toddler milk drink from a sippy cup in the morning. Evie has a formula milk based drink from a bottle at a nighttime. Does this make me a worse parent because she isn’t ‘weaned’? Nope. I don’t think so. And I certainly won’t be changing her routine, or her normal until I think she is ready. If she hasn’t had much food to eat during the day, or she is sick, or she is just generally ratty I will make her a small bottle for a lunch time nap. So what? It’s not harming her. She isn’t going to turn into a psychopath because I allowed her to continue having a bottle past the point of what is recommended by one maternal health nurse is she?

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My mum is the first person to gently push formula feeding – because it worked for her and its all she knows. So what? She’s a brilliant mum and her kids are awesome (yep). My best friend goes through bouts of freaking herself out with Dr Google stats and figures about whats best for her son. So what? She’s a brilliant mum and her kid is awesome.

My views are nothing groundbreaking or even relatively new. There are hundreds of articles out there reminding mums to be kind to themselves on the breastfeeding v formula feeding debate. But I’m here to say to you, take it one step further and be kind to yourself about your own instincts.

So you’ve ‘just realised you should have started tummy time 4 weeks ago’? (My sister, this morning). Your child is happy and loved.

So you’ve had to move to formula feeding and your baby prefers to be on your chest than in a bassinet? (my sister in law). Your child is happy and loved.

So your baby is sick again with a virus, even though is home cared for and not in day care? (my best friend). Your child is happy and loved.

And your child, rejected chicken for dinner again even after she ate it last week? (me). Your child, is definitely happy and loved.

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I think its detrimental and seriously harming to install all of these crazy ‘normals’ onto mums, because not one single baby or one family or one set of circumstances is the same. Sure, we have to be sensible and have some guidelines of course – but just because someone elses child is eating home made meatballs at 10 months old and mine ate puree and porridge only until last month, doesn’t make her any worse off. She is what they call the ‘definition of thriving’, all 12-13 kilos of her.

Having a second baby has already shown me just how different 2 children can, even born into the same family. We’ve spent the better part of the night awake with Hunter because apparently he isn’t a fan of lying flat in his bassinet, but at 2am we tried his rocker that was slightly elevated and BANG, asleep for hours. Evie slept easily and without fuss from day dot, in her own cot, in her own bedroom.

Hunter has just fed on both boobs and on and for half an hour now. He seems full, but he’ll probably start sucking his hands in 10 minutes. And you know what? I’ll feed him. I’ve just had my second cup of coffee instead of the normal one cup, so why shouldn’t he have an extra boob?

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