I’ve been working in the early childhood education field about twice as long as I’ve been a mom, and if there was anything that I learned early on that I most definitely transferred to motherhood, it was to trust your baby. We as adults spend so much time staring at the clock as a gauge for our workday, schedules and routines, but our babies don’t come with this skill. So much of what society has taught us says that children need strict schedules, and it just isn’t so.
While this is my favorite bit of advice, it’s usually the most difficult for new parents and new teachers to accept. Letting go can be extremely hard! Here’s the thing though, it’ll make life SO much easier. Consider a few things:
1. As adults, we don’t typically have the same appetites day to day. Some days we may be less hungry than others, and some we feel the need to snack around the clock. This applies to infants and toddlers as well. It can be so stressful making sure our kiddos are eating enough, whether that’s in the early days with breastmilk or formula, or into toddlerhood when they might eat a bit or two off their plate. Small amounts almost constantly for a bit and then full, ravenous meals after? Completely normal, with the exception of some extreme circumstances of course!
Trusting them to take in what they need, however often they want it is important. They don’t watch the clock for feeding times and neither should we. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “but he JUST ate,” while nursing my boys. Normal!
2. As adults, we may sleep better one night than the next, or have a day where we have much more energy than the day before. Infant and toddler sleep comes in waves that coincide with brain and body development, as well as illnesses and teething. Some nights will go swimmingly, and others will have you dreaming about coffee before the sun even thinks about coming up. The same goes for naps during the day. Typically infants and toddlers will fall into their own routine with naps, but needing more or less at times (or full on refusing them) is a normal part of their development as well. Bedtime falls into the same sometimes as well, much to our dismay. Some kids thrive on a strict bedtime routine, but some don’t and that’s ok too.
3. As adults, we have mood swings. We just do! We have days where we feel more motivated, happy, energized, passionate, fulfilled, etc. This applies to infants and toddlers too! We can have the best activities and plans for the day that may go amazingly, and the next we might get nothing done with our kids because they’re fussing or more tired or need more snuggles. My favorite example of this was a few years ago when I got both boys ready to go to our weekly playgroup and they fell asleep right before we pulled into the parking lot. We missed playgroup that day. I got myself some coffee and drove around while they got some much needed sleep. I just imagine the nightmare it would’ve been if I had decided to wake them instead and attempt playgroup.
My point really is to let go of the reigns a little bit and remember that our tiny humans are humans! They didn’t come with a manual or instructions for a reason. Forcing them to grow up too fast and abandon developmentally appropriate behaviors helps no one and is most often the source of stress for us as parents. Time frames for naps, feedings, developmental milestones, and so much more are going to vary child to child so try to get in tune with what your kiddo is telling you. If it’s feeling too hard or too stressful, chances are that you’re pushing too hard for something they aren’t ready for yet, or you’re simply packing too much into your day. Take a breath and meet them where they are. You’ll all feel so much better for it!
Parent Connection Coordinator
Infant Toddler Nursery Supervisor