If you're having a baby, you can guarantee one thing in abundance: advice. We asked mum-of-one, Jill Lim, to give us the lowdown on why not all advice is good advice...
In the months leading up to having my daughter Lily, my search history consisted of ‘what do I need in my hospital bag’, ‘must-haves for newborns’, and ‘things I bought but never used‘. After having Lily, I realised most of the basic baby tips from friends, family and experts just didn’t really apply to me. Here’s what I mean…
Five common baby tips that just didn’t work for me
Baby advice #1: Have the baby follow a bedtime routine so they get used to a pattern
You’ve surely read about this – boob, bath, book and bed. I was determined to make this a routine because I didn’t want Lily to be dependent on feeding to fall asleep. Unfortunately, the moment it was 6pm, there was nothing anyone could do to keep this child awake.
I tried starting with bath first, so it would keep her up for boob and book. She’d just sleep through her showers, and I’d end up dream feeding her. This stressed me out a lot! Where was the routine? How would my baby know it was time to sleep? Will she always need a boob to sleep? Will she be smart? She’s never awake for a book!
Another popular acronym came up in my search. EASY. Eat, Activity, Sleep, You time. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Not even close! When you’re a first-time mum, you get tunnel vision easily and often don’t see the bigger picture. Thankfully I had my mother point out the obvious. “Jill, she’s dead to the world at 6pm! That’s all that matters! Enjoy the rest of your evening”.
Baby advice #2: Keep the room dark, cool and quiet, so the baby sleeps better
Right off the bat, this is a conflicting one. Doctors tell you that it’s noisy in the womb, and the baby is used to the loud wishy-washy sounds inside you, coupled with all the external noise going on outside the womb. While having a lion dance happening at nap time isn’t ideal, it shouldn’t be pin-drop silent either.
Most young Singaporeans, like myself, live in HDBs. My particular HDB is an older resale, so fully air conditioning the house is out of the question because of building regulations. As such, I made the call to air-condition the master bedroom and the living areas, since we entertained often. I didn’t grow up in an air-conditioned room, so I thought Lily would be fine.
Our room also faces the multi-story car park, where motorcycles are aplenty! Cool room? Quiet room? I don’t think so. The unpredictable and usually untimely revving of a bike did nothing to wake Lily. Much like my dogs barking. Lion dances? She was barely four months when it was Chinese New Year and slept through those she did. Realistically, we don’t live in the American suburbs, where it would likely be quiet, so we have to make do with our local ambience.
Baby advice #3: Baby-led weaning
I’ve seen the valiant effort parents (let’s face it – mums) make at the start of the baby weaning journey. Many of my friends start Instagram pages of the wonderful colourful meals they make for babies. Many have hashtags of their baby happily playing with the food and exploring textures.
I’m sure there are ‘super mums’ who work a full day and still find the time to make meals for their family and then separate food for the baby. I am not one of those mums. I may attempt that on the weekend, and even so, if this is the food I made; you finish it all! Baby-led weaning felt like I was in competition with other mums; my child’s needs were secondary. It didn’t help that Lily would break out in rashes because she’s allergic to yoghurt, eggs, wheat, and sometimes it seems like life in general.
Making matters worse, I wouldn’t know how much of the food was actually consumed, meaning I would be woken up in the middle of the night by a crying, hungry baby. I’m sorry, Lily was sleeping through the night at four and a half months – baby-led weaning was not about to mess that up. Like many, I reverted to the good old Asian porridge. Rice, fish, tofu, spinach, carrot, made in a pot that will last baby a week.
Baby advice #4: White noise machines and other things I bought and never touched
In just about every YouTube video, they mention the white noise machine and a Dockatot. Lily had soul crushing colic in the first couple weeks of life, and I was desperate for any magic that would work. Frantically searching for both items to be shipped to Singapore immediately was a sky-high price I was willing to pay!
But the next colic filled day, lightning struck. What is a white noise machine? Does it just play sounds? I picked up one of the many iPhones lying around, YouTubed white noise and played it on loop for Lily. Nailed it! Dockatot was basically bumpers that made the baby feel more snug and secure. I swaddled her and placed the good old Asian beansprout pillow on her for some weight, so she didn’t jerk in her sleep. It worked like a charm. Cheap, effective and no need for a special white noise machine OR a Dockatot!
Baby advice #5: Baby sign language
This one was tricky. Every generation feels like they’ve cracked the code on parenting. The not so latest trend? Baby sign language. I definitely think it has benefits and is a great way to ease frustrations for both baby and mum. However, sometimes it just doesn’t work exactly as it should.
For example, I was out with a mum group, and everyone was using baby sign language, and all their babies were responding and giving very accurate replies: “Enough”, “more”, “milk” it was fabulous! Then there was Lily… I read to her every day – countless books! Yet, all she seemed to say was “ga”, “duck”, “car”, or “star”. Mind you, she started saying these words at eight months, so naturally, I thought she was a genius! Forget signing; my child speaks! Unfortunately, that’s where the words stopped. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get her to say anything more nor get her interested in signing.
While at the table, she would utter, “gaker,” which was her way of saying, “water” – I knew it. Still, I felt embarrassed that she couldn’t sign for it. She would rest her head on the table when she was full or tap my arm and point at my food to show me she was still hungry. I knew all these cues, but why did I feel like she wasn’t at the same level because she didn’t use the proper sign? Tunnel vision. Signing didn’t work, but what mattered was I still understood her needs.
My baby advice? Take a breather and think things through
What I’ve learned from being a mother for just over a year is that being overwhelmed is the main cause of poor parenting: too much information, too many opinions, and too much second-guessing. We Google and rely so heavily on reviews and, dare I say it, ‘influencers’, and when it comes time for the magical product to be used and it doesn’t work? We are just lost!
Logic and the obvious just don’t occur to us right away. Also, sometimes old school works best. As much as we want better for our children, we weren’t exactly raised poorly either. It never hurts to look back and see what worked on us as children and try it, ideally on your own children, so you can work it out before your mother says, “I told you so!”.
At the end of the day, it’s what works for you and your baby – no one else.
What was the best (and worst) advice you had as a mum? DM us and let us know!