Hey you, the blurry eyed creator of that precious brand new life, what if I told you that I know the secret to raising a well-behaved child? I know the secret to raising a mindful child that fits into your life, behaves in a restaurant and never throws a temper tantrum in the Target check-out line. Are you ready for it? Ok. Starting the moment that you bring that baby home, simply go against your every instinct and always, always take the hardest road.
Not as easy as it sounds? Correct. As adults, our instincts have been honed to make others comfortable, create an easy environment, and not cause a stir in social situations. I mean, who likes drama? No-one. Let’s face it, if your bestie laid in the middle of the floor, crying hysterically because she wanted her juice in the blue cup, you would definitely fill that blue cup up and ask questions later. Your instinct is to give your child what they want, make them smile, and keep the peace. But the result is that you will raise the kid that no neighborhood babysitter will take on. With a baby, every time you take that easy road, you are traveling down the wrong path.
In order to adjust your instincts into parent mode, you will need to leave the no confrontation zone behind. Establishing right and wrong needs to start right away, as in the moment that a four-month-old reaches out for something they should not touch – the word NO is introduced. You need to take on the role of the denier, the mean one, the tough guy that goes against the grain. Even if it results in conflict with an angry baby. The point is, if you start saying no at four months, by the time they reach two, it won’t be so stereotypically terrible. But if you wait until two to start saying no, you are in for a no good, very bad year.
Ok, so you do have a cushion here to consider how you will approach your strategy and to prepare yourself for taking on the role of tough guy. After all, you just arrived home. Your bundle will surely not need to learn the word no for a few months, and in that time you can concentrate on establishing a bond and well…surviving. But there is something else to consider. And it is something that needs to be considered from moment one.
Being a new parent, I’m sure you have experienced the fear. You know, that terror that wakes you from a dead sleep, and makes you sick with worry. Chances are this fear has been with you through most of your pregnancy, and chances are good that you are not waking up at night worrying about the bad behavior that your child will display on a flight you will all take three years from now. You are awake and pacing because your first job, your real job, is to keep this baby safe. You are the protector of this fragile life, even before you can consider becoming the disciplinarian.
Who could have guessed that your first test as a new parent would involve something as natural and easy as sleep? The fact is that over 3,500 babies die each year from sleep-related deaths in the United States. This is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year old. As the protector, this should be on your radar. Some of these deaths are caused by SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and some are caused by accidental suffocation while the baby is sleeping in an unsafe environment.
Use these first few months as your first parenting test. Are you able to go against your instincts? We grew up seeing baby photos taken in an overstuffed crib. A crib chock full of hand-knit baby blankets, embroidered pillows, bumper pads, and stuffed bears. The baby in the photo was bundled up in heavy pj’s and was asleep on its belly. The nesting instinct is strong to make everything cozy, snuggly, and warm. But the truth is, removing every single one of these items from the crib and placing the baby in lightweight clothes on its back, will reduce that baby’s chance of succumbing to a sleep-related death by half.
Our instincts also tell us to never, ever wake a sleeping baby. If the baby has fallen asleep in the car seat or bouncy chair, our instinct tells us to just let the baby sleep there. Moving the baby will surely wake the baby, and that will result in disaster. That disaster scenario is exacerbated by the fact that this is the first quiet moment that has happened in two days, and Mommy and Daddy are completely exhausted. But, in reality, a baby’s chance of suffocation is far greater while sleeping somewhere other than on their back, in their crib.
Our instincts tell us that part of bonding with our baby is sleeping with our baby. We have all seen that photo of an exhausted parent asleep on the couch with their baby snuggled in close. And doesn’t it just make sense for the new, breastfeeding mom to bunk with the baby? It is so convenient, after all. Perhaps you don’t own a crib and have decided to save money by co-sleeping. Perhaps you slept with your parents as a baby and you turned out just fine. The fact is that half of the infants that have died in sleep-related deaths were found sleeping with their parents.
And when we lie down to sleep, isn’t our first instinct to roll over onto our belly? It is so comfortable that way, and we missed sleeping in this position so much while we were pregnant. It was so difficult to learn to sleep on our back. The fact is, yes the baby is more comfortable on its belly. Yes, the baby will fall asleep faster on its belly. And yes, the baby is twice as likely to die while sleeping on its belly. Just as we learned to sleep on our back while pregnant, the baby will learn to sleep comfortably on its back too.
Finally, our instinct to not tell our mom, our mother-in-law, or the professional at the daycare how to raise a baby is strong. But guess what? This is your baby, and you have developed a safe sleep plan that you have put a lot of thought into. It is important to you, and they all need to know that when your baby is in their care, they are to follow your rules. You are the mom. Period.
Let the parenting begin. You can flex those parent muscles now, and all sleep a bit more soundly. You can win this round, and then you can use it as the basis for the countless rounds to come. It’s as easy as ABC :
Always place the baby ALONE, on it’s BACK, in an uncluttered CRIB.
Here is another secret for you, we have all screwed up the tough guy act. You will too. We have all given the cookie to stop the public tantrum, cleaned up after them instead of teaching them to do it themselves, said yes when we should have said no. We rationalize it by reminding ourselves that there is time, so much time for teaching moments, that they can learn that particular lesson later. No one among us is a perfect parent. All we can hope for is the chance to try our hand at it. But don’t wait until later to protect your baby from sleep-related death, because that later might never come. Good luck tough guy. You got this.
Learn more about Safe Sleep by visiting our Safe Sleep Academy by clicking HERE.
If you know a family that is in need of a crib for their baby, please contact Cribs for Kids. We are here to help!