Have you ever wondered why your friend’s 3 months old is peacefully sleeping in their crib all night while your 1 year old is still in your bed, waking up a million times? Have you ever wondered why your neighbor’s baby switched to sippy cups at 1 year without any problems and yours won’t give up the bottle even at 2? Why is it that all other kids are eating by themselves and yours still needs to be spoon fed? Have you wondered if your baby is falling behind?
I know I have! So if you ever catch yourself having doubts like these I have an answer for you – a big NO.
No your baby is not falling behind; your baby is exactly on time for his or her unique timeline. I learned this precious lesson in motherhood through the hard way. I spent many sleepless nights wondering what I was doing wrong and why my baby was so resistant to these transitions. When I was pregnant, just like every clueless mom to be, I imagined my baby to be so perfect…my baby will never be throwing a tantrum in a store, I will be putting her in the crib in her own room from day 1, she will not be walking around with a bottle after she is one, my baby will follow every recommendation by the book. I just didn’t know back then, that babies are not made with cookie cutters and babies do not follow the cookie cutter age based milestones.
Each baby is unique when it comes to readiness for these milestones. In fact, even your own two babies are very different in terms of needs and transitions. These sleep/feed milestones are meaningless in terms of development and you should not waste your time comparing your baby with others about these. I promise you that your baby will reach those milestones when THEY are ready, based on their own internal timeline. Love and encouragement is all they need, pushing them over these milestones before they are truly ready will only bring frustration to you and sadness to your baby.
We tried taking my 2 year old’s bottle at 1, at 1.5, at 2 years, but she would simple stop drinking milk and be sad. I didn’t understand why she was falling behind on this when all other kids had given up the bottles but my mommy heart refused to break her spirit over a silly cup. So we kept the bottles but always brushed her teeth afterwards to avoid dental issues. To me, this extra step was easier than taking her only comfort away from her. At 28 months I encouraged her again to dump the bottles and switch to the sippy and she did – without any tears or resistance. I was amazed at the smooth transition. I realized that the key is-THEM being ready and not you being ready. Each baby is ready at a different age and making them follow the same rules at the same age makes no sense.
We were also bombarded by the message that unless you make your baby learn how to self soothe (CIO) she will never learn to sleep on her own. Other babies were magically snoozing away all night in their rooms and here I was rocking, singing, feeding and co sleeping with my 1.5 year old. I was having serious self-doubts if she would ever learn to sleep on her own, but again, I wasn’t going to break her spirit over sleep. I won’t lie, sleep deprivation was a very difficult thing for me but now that I look back, I can barely remember the difficult part. I just remember how she wanted to cuddle me all night long and how much I miss that. At 18 months she started sleeping like a rock without us changing a thing. This is when she was ready and this reminded me again that it didn’t matter when I was ready. She is 4 now and has just started talking about sleeping in her own bed, in her own room. When they are ready, everything falls into place and magic happens.
As a parent we need to identify our child’s unique needs at each age and stop forcing them to follow the meaningless age based milestones. Following a child’s cues is what mothers have done for ages when there was no CIO, no guidelines on what should happen when. Nowadays, we over-parent and over-burden our babies, we expect them to behave like independent adults when all we need to do is to simply enjoy their beautiful baby phases and soak up the love. So hey, you sleep deprived mom, I promise this too shall pass and you will in fact miss those sleepless nights. Until then, trust that your baby is not falling behind and enjoy the cuddles.
Anu Jain is a Mom of two amazing girls working full time as a biotech scientist
Note: There are certainly some serious developmental and health milestones that you should never ignore and bring to your doctor’s attention immediately.