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THE BEST ADVICE WE'VE BEEN GIVEN

(or, WAS YOUR MOM RIGHT AFTER ALL?)

Here's What You've Had to Say So Far:

What was the best advice you ever got, and who gave it to you?

Buy a sling! (you've probably heard this a million times, but it was a major life saver.) One of the best things in the early weeks for me was walking to a restaurant with my husband carrying Jack in the sling. By the time we got to the restaurant Jack was always asleep, and always stayed that way until we were done! Funny thing was that we thought having a baby would mean not going out to dinner, and in fact going out to dinner was about the only way we could eat a full meal in peace. Dr. Sears told me to! Also: Don't compare your baby to other babies. It's truly a waste of time. Jocelyn and Dr. Sears told me not to! --Tammy, mother of Jack, 4 months old

Love the best/worst advice section! I can't wait to see what comes in. I had people do something similar at Max's baby shower and that's where I got most of my best AND worst advice..."Take all advice you get with a grain of salt. Trust your intuition. You will know your baby better than anyone else, so do whatever you think is best for your child and your family." This from a friend who attachment parented her daughters before anyone had a name for it. Her high-need baby is now a teenager who is very independent, intelligent and well-adjusted emotionally. --Tonia, mother of Max, 13 months old

The best advice was recently given by my mother. Megan went through a spell about 2-3 weeks ago where she wanted her way all the time day and night (she also wanted held all the time). It was really wearing me down. I couldn't do anything without her screaming. Nothing I did was working. She went from sleeping 12 hours a night to waking up all night because she wanted to be with me (but wouldn't go to sleep, she wanted to play). My mom had a talk with me and told me I wasn't teaching her to be on her own that she needed to learn that she couldn't have her way all the time. That afternoon we got home and put her down for a nap (I know you are gritting your teeth right now) she screamed at the top of her lungs for 20 minutes. I went in there and told her I wasn't picking her up because it's nap time. She laid down immediately and went to sleep. Mom's advice in a nut shell was "If you give an inch they will take a mile." Since that day she has gone back to sleeping 11-13 hours a night, takes her nap, and doesn't want held constantly. --Becky, mother of Megan, 15 months old (Jocelyn's Note: Okay, as we all know [including Becky, as you can see from the "gritting your teeth" part] I don't agree with her mom's advice. Babies typically go through a stage of separation anxiety from 12-18 months, which can cause the behavior Becky described. Separation anxiety hardly qualifies as "taking a mile." However, I went ahead and included it because I thought what Becky actually did was pretty interesting, as well as Megan's response. I think it's important to point out that it's obvious Megan had a great relationship with her mama, and trusted her enough to believe that after her nap Becky would come get her. Attachment parenting adherents probably wouldn't want to attempt this approach, but on the other hand it might actually work for others. You should do what feels right for you and your child.)

My mother, who I think was totally baffled by the idea of a baby who would not nap for 3 hours, would not go 4 hours between breastfeeding sessions, and could not be put down, was nevertheless very supportive of our choices. (She had had four "easy" babies). The best advice I received was from her: FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS. I have come to believe that mothers are biologically programmed with many, if not almost all, of the answers, and yet we have tended to supress our own instincts, doubting ourselves and allowing doctors and other professionals to tell us what to do. Usually what feels right, is right. It feels right to pick up baby when she cries, to nurse her when she wants to nurse. --Lisa, mother of Emily, 15 months old

Best advice (from my best friend, who is single with no children) - When all else fails, trust what your heart tells you to do. When everyone was saying "Get the baby out of your bed" or "Don't spoil him" or "Don't love him so much, and answer his cries so frequently" - I couldn't help but feel in my heart that they were wrong. I am not such a softie that I don't know that there is a place for discipline in the home, I just instinctively felt that for this age and ESPECIALLY this child that was not the route to go. And I believe I was right. --Kim, mother of Ben, 6 months old

Cuddle her and love her, she is so tiny and innocent, and you never know if she'll be taken from you. She is only little once, and right now she needs you! My mom told me this, because she lost a baby at two mos. of age, before I was ever born. I keep this in my mind, when I feel like I am going to lose it!! --Jenn, mother of Madelynn, 3 years old, and Hannah, 6 months old (both high-need!)

Listen to your baby, rather than listenning to mother, family, relative or stranger in the bus. Your baby knows what is best for her. This advice came from my daughter's father and my life partner, Claude. This is what he was telling me again and again, when people were telling me: "Put her in crib, she will just close her eyes and fall asleep" (oh yeah!?) , "She's sick because you are breasfeeding", "She doesn't have a pacifier? What a bad habit!", "She's spoiled", "She's manipulating you", and so on... --Eve, mother of Ophelie, 7 months old

What was the worst advice you ever got?

If you feel like you're not bonding with your baby, be with him/her more (as constant as possible). Advice by Dr. Sears. Okay, maybe this works for some people. But for me, it did not help at all, I became even MORE restentful and fretful. I worried endlessly that I wasn't bonding with my baby. Well duh, all he did was scream! I think it takes longer to bond with a high need baby. So take those breaks so you can feel better, and don't feel guilty about it! On the other hand, I will say that the one thing that always "cured" me on my most depressed early days, was Jack. Other worst advice: Don't let your baby face out in a front pack carrier until he/she has total neck control. Given by manufacturers, and all well meaning people. I'm sorry, but Jack never got whiplash because I broke the rules a bit and let him face out after, geez, I think 6 weeks! It saved my life! He refused to face inwards in a front pack carrier, so instead, I put a little neck support cushion around him and popped him in the carrier facing out and it worked like a charm. --Tammy, mother of Jack, 4 months old

"Whatever you do, don't ever let your baby get into bed with you or they'll never leave." (If I had taken that advice we'd all be very miserable and sleep deprived.) Also, when I complained to a (low/need baby mother) about my son's 3-week to 3 month non-stop evening crying spells, "He's just manipulating you! If you let him 'get away with that', he'll just keep doing it. Show him who's boss and put him in his crib to cry it out!" (Thankfully, we didn't do that either. I just bought some ear plugs, played ocean waves on a sound spa, and rocked him in his sling and sang to him and said comforting things in a soothing voice until he stopped.) --Tonia, mother of Max, 13 months old

The worst advice was given by Megan's pediatrician. When Megan was born her pediatrician told us to wake her up during the night every 3 hours to feed her. He wanted to make sure she got enough to eat because she was preemie. It took me forever to get her off that schedule! NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY AT NIGHT. --Becky, mother of Megan, 15 months old

The general piece of bad advice you hear everywhere is "let her cry it out." This was never an option for us. Why would it be? Our daughter would just have felt worse and worse, and she would not have learned any lesson we truly wanted her to learn (why teach her at such a tender age that mommy can't be trusted to come when she calls?) Another not-so-great piece of advice came, surprisingly, from our otherwise very valuable midwife. She felt that I shouldn't nurse my daughter whenever she wanted. She was concerned about weight gain, suggesting that my daughter would not get any high-fat milk if she was not taking breaks between feedings. She also felt that my daughter would start expecting to be breastfed everywhere and anywhere, and it would not always be convenient to accommodate her. Well, in retrospect, I think life would have been just that much easier with a newborn if I'd nursed her more often. I've since learned that the very reason your body doesn't produce a lot of high-fat milk when baby nurses constantly is so that she DOESN'T get huge and fat from the overfeeding. Also, I don't think frequent feedings would have changed my daughter's expectations. She was fussy anyway when I wasn't feeding her, and ALWAYS expected to be breastfed, whether or not I actually did! So what difference would it have made to feed her more often when it would make her happy (and me relaxed)?--Lisa, mother of Emily, 15 months old

Worst advice (from almost everyone, doctors, through neighbours and well meaning strangers) Other people know better than you how you should raise your child because ___________ (Fill in blank - I'm a doctor, I've had five kids, etc.,etc.). --Kim, mother of Ben, 6 months old

Just leave her, she'll work it out on her own....Yeah, right!! No, she won't. She will scream for an hour (or more!) and then possibly vomit, or just fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. If that is working it out, maybe I should try it next time I don't feel good, just scream until I pass out!--Jenn, mother of Madelynn, 3 years old, and Hannah, 6 months old

Buy a sling! (And put her in a sling she will fall asleep) I know many people will say slings have made miracles for them, even save ther life. But it just doesn't work with my daughter. I had buy a sling while I was pregnant and I invested many hundreds of dollars in all kind of baby carriers after her birth, hoping to find one she will finally like. Like many high need babies, she hates close body contacts. I have tried for months to carry her in a sling: she's furrious, she cries a lot and finally turns violet and stop to breath. Please don't tell me to use it more often, so she will get used to it; It's just like letting a baby cry in crib and sounds like cruelty to me. I feel guilty of not using a sling regularly because it is a must of attachement parenting and some extremists have told I am neglecting my baby for not carrying her. But then, I refer to the best advice I have been given, "listen to your baby." --Eve, mother of Ophelie, 7 months old (Jocelyn's note--Some high-need babies are born with an aversion to being held. Sometimes if the mother persists, the baby learns to love touch and needs more of it than the average baby. Other times, nothing changes. I refer the reader to page 26 in Parenting the Fussy Baby and High-Need Child. This is in Chapter 2, Profile of a High-Need Baby, under the heading "Uncuddly." There is a touching story about a mother who taught her daughter to enjoy touching.)

What advice has your experience led you to give to other mothers of high-need babies?

Remember: This too shall pass. It always does!--Jocelyn, mother of Abishai, 15 months old

Be patient, speak softly, remember that having a mind of a 3 year old in a 15 month old body has to be even more frustrating for her. --Becky, mother of Megan, 15 months old

Learn from your baby! Emily has taught me more about parenting than any other person. I have let her lead the way in so many areas. Her "high needs" are fortunately very clearly communicated needs. And I think that the more a parent responds to her child's messages, the more in control, more confident and less frustrated the child feels. --Lisa, mother of Emily, 15 months old

Other than that, the one thing I can say I have learned actually comes from a basis of raising abused animals. Although obviously our son is not abused, his soul is very sensitive and he seems quite fragile some days. The one overriding thing I learned from working with the animals is that the power of constant, unending love is far more powerful than any of us can truly imagine. Not only does it nurture their souls but it provides them with a sturdy foundation on which to build their lives, an example that no matter what happens there is a place where they are truly loved and wanted.--Kim, mother of Ben, 6 months old

I advise to just hang in there, she/ he will probably always be strong willed and have a temperment, and you have to learn to deal with it, not try to smother it. It will one day be a great quality! Until then, cherish every moment, even the bad ones. THEY ARE ONLY LITTLE ONCE!!!--Jenn, mother of Madelynn, 3 years old, and Hannah, 6 months old

Forget about parenting theories. Forget about Sears, Ezzo, Brazelton and Dr. Whoever. Listen your heart, you cannot be wrong. If you are doing something that you feel to be wrong, don't do it again. Stop making things that make your baby sad and make things that make your baby good. The happiness and developement of your baby is more important than sticking to a theory, no matter how good it seems on paper. --Eve, mother of Ophelie, 7 months old

Interesting Link: Click here to see other parents' definitions of their spirited children, on Nurturing Our Families Online.

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