You are your own expert

Posted on
Categories Infants, Sleep, ToddlersTags ,

At our last MOT club support meeting, one mom mentioned how she was having major sleep problems with her kids.  So much so that she managed to get an appointment with the one and only Dr. Ferber, who practices here in Boston.  I was intrigued, as I have been a vocal defender of the good doctor ever since we “Ferberized” at 6.5 months.  I know a lot of people object to his CIO method, but I thought it was wonderfully effective.  Then, I heard the advice he gave my friend and thought it was so far off the mark that I actually had a viceral, physical reaction.  I almost felt betrayed.

The specifics of the advice aren’t important, and I’m no pediatrician or sleep expert.  But it was illuminating nonetheless.  It really reminded me how we all have to pick and choose our experts, and what advice we choose to ignore and what we choose to accept.  There’s a million “experts” out there. Could be someone with a published book in paperback and a lot of acronyms after their name.  Could be your mom or a neighbor or even a blogger you read.  I think we all wish it was as easy as picking up a single book or asking a single person for advice, and having all of the answers nice and neat in one place.  But no matter how complete a theory someone claims to have, it never works 100% for every kid.

For instance, while I’m a huge believer in Ferber’s ideas about sleep associations and his CIO methods, I also think his suggestions for bedtimes and naptimes are ridiculous.  Maybe I’m more of a Weissbluth person… I follow his nap schedule almost to a T, and am strongly in favor of early bedtimes.  But I think he ignores sleep associations, and sometimes I think newborns just need to sleep in bouncy seats or swings and it’s not the end of the world.

And that leads me to the second thing I was reminded of: how strongly we sometimes hold to some of our core parenting beliefs. While I don’t think strict rigidity is the ideal, I do think it’s important to have a few things in which you believe strongly, that you prioritize over other things.  For some it might be a commitment to frugality or “going green” or positive discipline.  For me, I think the thing I hold to more strongly than almost anything else is a regular nap schedule and early bedtime.  Any suggestion of infants or toddlers going to bed later than 8PM is likely to give me heart palpitations.  (Mine are in bed by 7, religiously.)

Do I think an early bed time is the “right” thing?  Of course, or I wouldn’t do it.  But it’s not the only idea out there, and there’s people who aren’t going to place the same priority on that as I do.

Anyways, my point is this: you are the expert on your kids.  By all means, read up on the different theories.  See what the “experts” have to say.  See what your mother has to say.  See what your fellow MOT’s have to say.  But know that you’ll probably pick and choose.  You might love half of what someone has to say, but blatantly object to the other half.  Parenting and the millions of theories out there are just a big smorgasbord.  Think it all through, but only take what works for you.

So, readers, who are your favorite experts, and why?  And what bits of their advice have you completely thrown by the wayside?

Mom and two kids

Share this...Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Tumblr0Share on Reddit0Digg thisShare on LinkedIn0Email this to someone

17 thoughts on “You are your own expert”

  1. THE Dr Ferber?! He has helped us through a couple of rough patches at Case Casa. I always refer to him because of his insistence on schedule… even as adults, we keep schedules. Same bedtime, same mealtimes, work at the same time, etc. He helped me see the light on creating a schedule for even small babies and how a bad schedule can throw off nighttime sleep.

    But.. once we got past sleeping through the night, I didn’t pick him up again until we screwed up the boys’ schedule over Christmas break… two years! So I can’t say what I ignore from his book.

    (Love the pic)

  2. Thank you for this post. My two are having some nap issues, to the point somedays where all three of us are crying. Them, because they’re exhausted, and me because I can’t cope with the idea that I’m doing something wrong and I don’t know how to fix it.

    I have read so many parenting (and esp. sleep) books, and I think it’s almost doing me a disservice. I am not trusting my instincts. I can’t figure out what fits my kids or my ideals. But on the other hand, I’m so much a person who needs to be told what to do. I need a recipe. This parenting thing isn’t like that, and five months is not quite long enough to get that. So I continue to beat myself up over daily decisions, thinking I’m ruining my kids. But really, at some point, I need to just let it go, and totally accept the fact that they will be fine, and they will grow up and I need to spend more time enjoying them now instead of stressing about every little thing.

    And I’m not even going to think about my daily debates about starting solids. It’s been too long of a day.

  3. I’m reading Bettelheim’s “The Good Enough Parent.” I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but here’s what I love so far:

    The author points out that no confident parent is going to seek out or take advice that they don’t buy into anyway. We pick up the parenting books that fit the style and beliefs we have already developed. When a kindly stranger gives us advice that seems wrong, we ignore it. He then goes into the psychology of following your instincts – if you’re true to yourself, you children will feed off your confidence and feel secure.

    So far, an excellent read, and great for an overthinker like me.

  4. great post, liz.

    i think i gave up reading about any parenting techniques/tips after the first 10 months. it is not that i think i know better, just that i think they all know their stuff but it is not going to be very applicable to me. it likely worked for their kids and they got a book deal like all those other bloggers out there (snark). and i refuse to give up time reading blogs and trashy books (read: twilight series) to read about how to be a better parent.

    having said that, i get a huge amount of input from family, in good and bad ways. i take a lot of time to reflect on my current choices in parenting. i listen to tim when he suggests what he thinks they need. i read other mamas and their take on this whole mama thing. and we hold to the golden nap/bedtime rules in this house. because therein lies my sanity.

    i really do not think there are parenting experts. just parents. i am totally curious about what ferber said to her…i am so nosey like that. :)

  5. I don’t have toddlers yet (my girls are almost 9 months), but I totally agree. We used a variety of the popular sleep books and methods from every end of the spectrum and Weisbluth was our favorite. However, as everyone knows every baby is different and we must get to know our own babies. Even though we read the books, studied them, and put the strategies to use, there were always those moments when the book wasn’t going to give us the answer we needed. I don’t know how many times in that newborn stage I asked myself “what should I do?!” and frantically searched on babycenter and other places. The best thing we did was just simply trial and error with each of our babies to see what was going to work with them in the stage they were in at the time. Sure, we used the “experts” as a guide but there was no substitute for getting to know each of my babies and figuring out what was going to work for them. Sometimes it resulted in doing the right thing and they slept! Other times it didn’t work out so well. But, we learned and figured it out for the next time. Our babies have turned out to be generally good sleepers and we learned and grew a lot in the process (and are continuing to do so!).

  6. When my older son was born 7 years ago, and my sweet baby boy had no schedule and was up at nights, a neighbor recommended Babywise to me.
    I ignored that advice and read, but did not use the book.
    Fast forward to the birth of my twin boys in June 2007. I applied most of the Babywise principles out of necessity and it worked wonders in our lives.

    Because I could no longer cater to a single newborns every whim, and when the twins were born, I had another child with needs and a job and a husband and needed to function, I needed a fairly strict schedule just to survive and be able to still parent my older son. Babywise saved my life with the twins and enabled us to be a functioning family – but I don’t think it is for first time parents (IMO).

  7. Weissbluth, Weissbluth, Weissbluth. I still refer to it on a regular basis. My girls are four and we are struggling with the are tired enough to nap but then not tired enough to go to bed early (I’m with you Goddess….all about the early bedtime). But what I am always amazed with in his book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) is that I pick up the book and he says, “At this age, “X” might be happening.” And “X” is always the reason I picked up the book to read again. I just feel like it always addresses my issues from sleeping through the night, when and how to drop naps, etc, etc. I love it and recommend it to every new mom!

    I also liked Babywise for setting a schedule (eat, activity, sleep) that helped us set up day and night time and got my six week preemie twins sleeping ten hours per night by 3 months old (not adjusted!).

  8. “I am my own expert on my kids.” has just become my new favorite line to use on over-bearing grandparents and inquisitive, pesky, well-meaning strangers.

    To the point and not an ounce of rude. Thanks Goddess! :)

  9. Agreed!!! I must have read a dozen books before I had my twins, and I still refer to them on occasion, BUT the difference now is that I know that I know my babies better than anybody, and just because it works for somebody else doesn’t mean it’s going to work with them. I finally started trusting my own instincts and doing what works for us, as a family, around the five month mark. Now my husband and I talk through challenges and prospective changes on how we do things to see if we think it will work…and we go slowly. If it doesn’t work, we go back and start over.

    My grandma gave me the best advice of all. She said that for the rest of my children’s lives, motherhood would be trial and error and that there are no right answers. And she’s raised five children and eleven grandchildren, so I figure she knows.

  10. I was given BabyWise as a gift before the babies. I read a little but didn’t use it. I used our own methods of strict nap time and bedtime schedules. I am rarely out when its nap time. It has to be a very special occasion. Bedtime is always 8pm or prior to. I find this works well for the kids and for us.

  11. TOTALLY with you on the early bedtime thing. Some people gape in jealous awe when I tell them my two are down by 7pm every night. Some people think it’s ridiculous. Whatever, it works for us. All I know is that if I didn’t have my evenings to unwind and breathe, I don’t know what I’d do!

  12. This is an excellent post! Its really got me thinking.
    It’s true, there is no magic expert who will swoop down and solve all our child-rearing issues. If only! Also, what serves as good advice for some babies is complete rubbish for others. Had we realized this sooner, we could probably have saved ourselves months of torture and sleeplessness. But, live and learn. The book by Supernanny (who I totally idolize) “Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care” pretty much solved our nighttime sleep issues. Her methods are Ferber-esque, but with her own spin on things. In terms of naps, however, we weren’t even in the same universe. I’m just happy we reached a happy medium in the end, where everyone is more well-rested. I too am obsessed with early bedtimes. My girls are always in bed by 7 and better for it.

  13. We practice Attachment Parenting, so Dr. Sears, Elizabeth Pantley, and Karen Gromada are big names in our house. I’m also a big fan of Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block. However, I typically pick and choose what works for us and ignore the rest, even from those experts I trust the most. My biggest pet peeve is when I meet someone who tells me what I HAVE to do in order to survive or have well adjusted kids. Seriously people, we parent the way we parent because that’s what we think is the RIGHT way to parent our children.

  14. I LOVE this post! Somewhere in the second half of the girls’ first year I stopped googling everything, stopped reading all the advice books out there and I even stopped listening to our pedi (for some things at least). I think mamas of multiples -especially if multiples are your first – are quick to adopt the stance on parenthood that you typically only see in 2nd and 3rd time, etc… Moms. I find myself being SO much more lax about everything. Granted, I am a slave to the nap and the bedtime routine – but I learned early on that having twins was hard enough. I didn’t have the time or the energy to listen to what others had to say. I do whatever feels right to ME and to Jeff. We are their parents and no one knows them better. Folks have been parenting kids for thousands of years – most of which happened without the internet and without the rash of “experts” that are out there.

    Also – my # golden rule….I don’t push the girls to conform to any societal pressures – i.e. they weren’t off the bottle by 12 months, blah blah blah. I found out early on that parental expectations of a change are usually far worse that the actual change! Jeff and I pretty much allow the girls to do things in their own time. We found that pushing them only hampers their progress and makes things more difficult for us.

    Bravo on an awesome post!!!!!

  15. I love hearing all the different advice. We have always kept our boys on pretty strict sleeping schedules. Including naps. It’s like they have a friend over all the time so it seems like they are more tired than some of my friend’s kids? From the beginning people told me not to put them in the same “box” that the same schedule would not work for both and I just stopped listening. For my own sanity! No they are not the same, they are 2 very different boys but they can eat and sleep at the same times. Working so far…they are almost 8!!

  16. For sleep, I love Weissbluth. I check the book a lot less now that my kids are 2, but I do still look at it when we hit bumps in the road (and early bedtimes and no misssed naps are imperative in our house too).

    For general parenting advice, my favorite is John Rosemond. He’s into traditional parenting, doing it the way your grandparents did it. I have to hold my nose with the evangelical stuff he’s into in his later books, and he can also be snarky. But he cuts through a lot of psychological BS and his early books (Making the Terrible Twos Terrific and The New Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children) are for me spot on. I work in a library and see lots of parents wheedling and bargaining with (instead of removing) tantrum throwers who are way too big to be throwing tantrums anyway, and other parents *doing* homework for high school and college kids (yes, you read those ages right). I do *not* want to be there in 12-plus years with my twins.

  17. great post and on a topic that has been on my mind a ton in the last couple weeks as we near the 12 month milestone – not so much because of the birthday, but because the twins are exerting independence through their far differing personalities. I’m actually on a quest for books that at least, in part, “fit” with our frame of mind as it relates to parenting. (You are right, Sadia, we will always pick up what we tend towards anyway). But for us, as first-time parents and parents of twins, we really want exposure to different “theories” and “methods”, not so much to ascribe to any particularly one, but to take the best of each of them as it relates to our family. We know we want to be great parents, to raise independent and self-suficient, respectful, humble children. And we know we have to get through tantrums and polarizing personalities. But we want to absorb as much as we can from others so that we two moms end up on the same page. I consider us to be fairly easy-going, middle-of-the-road parents, but I am that way because I first made myself aware of the possibilities. I don’t need so much an answer as much as a general clue as to what to possibly expect. Interesting times we approach with toddlerhood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge