So that's the story of how I ended up studying for three exams, holed up in my bedroom, while my Mother In Law took full-time care of my weeks-old baby. At my school final exams take place over three weeks, so I spent three weeks pretty much studying every minute to make up for the time lost from delivery. Ammi was wonderful, though, and single-handedly took over the baby responsibilities. The only issue we had was the bottle.
You see, Ammi was of the opinion that babies should drink warm milk and wanted to warm up all the bottles before giving them to the baby. I had decided that we would not be heating up bottles (based on things I'd read and confirmed was a fine choice with our pediatrician.) Since he was drinking cold formula well, and because warming a bottle could lead to him forming a preference for warm milk and refusing un-warmed bottles, we were adamant that Ammi should NOT warm up his bottles.
Unfortunately we were also sending mixed messages. I was pumping and freezing milk at that time, so we were warming up frozen milk. But only to bring it closer to room temperature - not warm! I even had Ammi feel the bottle to see how it was NOT WARM. And see! He drank it ALL! He's just FINE with cold milk!
I'm telling you, M and I tried and tried to stop her from warming up bottles. But she was alone with him for so many hours during the day that she had plenty of time to give him countless warm bottles without us knowing. By the time she left - when the baby was seven weeks old - he has hooked. Try as I might to get him to drink cold formula, he refused. We spent a FULL YEAR having to warm up every bottle he drank and it only stopped when he was a year old and making the transition to cow's milk.
I cannot count the number of times I was hindered by that. We travel A LOT. How do you warm up a bottle on an airplane? (Ask the flight attendant, who will stick the bottle in a pitcher of hot water from the coffee pot.) What about in a long car drive? What about in the middle of the night when you have to walk all the way downstairs to heat up a bottle? It gets old fast. And there was no reason for it. He was thriving without warming up bottles. M, Ammi and I all had a hearty laugh about it the first day Ammi was here. "Ha ha ha! Remember the warm bottles! How you made our lives difficult!! So funny!"
But that's all behind us, right?
No. It's not. Now I'm worried about sleep.
You see, the baby sleeps alone. In his own room. In complete and total darkness. As an illustration of how this is culturally different from how my MIL thinks babies should sleep, I will juxtapose my baby's sleeping habits with that of his cousin, my SIL's baby. My MIL has in part shaped the way my SIL parents (just as my own mother has shaped mine). My MIL thinks that my SIL's methods are preferable to mine. Let us explore:
My baby has a strict bedtime routine. He gets a bath and brushes his teeth around 7:40, followed by a book or two, a quick snuggle and rock in the rocking chair, and I lay him down in his crib by 8. It doesn't matter if he "looks sleepy" or not. He sometimes sings or talks to his doll, but he falls asleep pretty quickly. Even if he doesn't sleep right away, I don't go back in the room unless he really starts crying. He sleeps all night in there and wakes up fresh and ready for breakfast. He sleeps at least 12 hours ever night and naps at least 2.5 hours a day. (ThankGodThankGodThankGod.)
His cousin, only three months older, is put to bed by my SIL. She takes her to the bedroom and pats her back until she falls asleep. Often my SIL falls asleep too.
It's not that were nuts, though. The baby has slept with us before. Anytime he's sick and sleeps poorly we bring him into our bed. When we travel and the hotel room is too small for a crib, he sleeps with us. Often he'll wake up in the middle of the night, though, because it's so out-of-routine for him, and think this huge bed with these big sleepy lumps in it is just a big nighttime playground just for him. He'll start jumping around and sitting on top of us. I just take him back to his room and he falls back asleep just fine.
Kids (at least my kid) are all about routine, and this is ours. It's not that I think everybody should or even can have this kind of routine, but it works wonderfully for us and I just don't want to have to start all over at square one. My SIL seems perfectly happy to pat her daughter to sleep everyday, but that would not work well in my life.
(Crazy side story: M was once having a discussion with his uncle about the baby's sleeping habits and mentioned that he sleeps in a crib alone. The uncle said that in Pakistan, babies are patted to sleep, or sleep on people's shoulder and then said "Well, I guess that's why American babies don't love their parents as much....")
It's a big cultural difference. I think of a crib as a safe, calming place for my son. My MIL thinks of it as a jail, and asks my son if he's scared to be all alone in the dark. I think having a strict routine means the baby has a sense of comfort and order. My MIL thinks I shouldn't put him to sleep because "he's not even sleepy yet. Look! He wants to play some more!" I think being in the dark when you sleep is totally natural (after all, it was dark before he was born and he's always slept in the dark since. What does he care?) while my MIL thinks "he must be scared! Why don't you let him sleep with me instead?" I think that the more sleep he gets, the better, in part because of reading several books about infant sleep even before he was born. I think my MIL thinks he doesn't need that much sleep.
Here is my fear - this will turn out just like the milk thing. I am studying for a BIG exam. She will spend a lot of time alone with him. It is not at all unfathomable that she will forgo our wishes and our routine and lay him in her bed instead of his crib. She will pat him until he falls asleep, she will lay next to him and sing to him and he will get used to that. When she leaves we will be big-time screwed.
So far I have put him down for every nap and every night. Even a week into her stay she still asks about whether he's scared in there all alone. Last night at dinner she kept telling him that he should sleep with her that night. (And I cringed. And M pretended he didn't hear.) Perhaps that's just how it will have to be.