COLUMN: Small things can become big issues when you are doubting yourself as a parent

By Louise Flanagan

Parenthood is the steepest of learning curves. Babies don’t come with a manual; we’re expected to figure it out as we go.

Trust your instincts, they say. And yet, there are loads of guidelines that we are urged to follow.


Yes, they’re in the best interest of our babies, but it can be hard to tick all the boxes all the time.

Letterkenny Babies Facebook page recently received a message from a mother who felt that she might be doing the ‘wrong thing’.

She wrote: “My almost three year old likes some milk before bed. I use the growing-up formula and she drinks it from a wee cup before bed.
“The last few weeks, she’s been going to bed earlier and then waking up in the middle of the night asking for milk. I kept offering her water but she would cry for milk. So I go and mix up the formula in a cup and she has a couple of drinks and sleeps again. I need to stop with this formula now and I don’t want this habit of milk during the night as her teeth will be ruined. What do I do when she cries then?”

My heart went out to this mum. It’s a classic case of wanting to do things by the book and feeling like you’re falling short when things don’t quite go to plan.

Thankfully, page members were at hand to reassure her. One wrote, “My wee boy is almost four and still takes a bottle of milk to bed with him, although it’s cows milk. There’s the odd night he would wake up looking for more. Just go with it; she won’t always be looking for it, don’t worry what other people say or think – she’s your baby.”

Another parent added, “My boy is six and has only recently stopped taking milk to bed. I don’t think there’s any problem with it to be honest. Wouldn’t it be worse if it was a fizzy drink?! Every child is different so don’t worry or judge yourself.”

There is definitely comfort knowing that other people bend the rules too. And that stress she felt has most certainly been experienced by other parents. One wrote, “I remember I stressed out so much for the same reason with my first. Then suddenly one day, of her own accord, she didn’t want milk anymore and I thought why the hell did I stress so much about it.”


A mum with an older child also weighed in to let her know that it would work out fine; “My son is 15 and has beautiful teeth. He did this until he was five years old. I used to meet him at the school gate at 2pm and have his milk in a cup in the car. If I didn’t, we were in for a roaring, crying car journey all the way home.

“He also woke at night for a small cup. I eventually started to water down the milk, little by little. Until one day he said ‘yuck’ and handed it back to me. So I said you’re a big boy now. We never looked back. I wouldn’t force it away at three though.”

Small things can become big things when you’re doubting yourself as a parent, so such anecdotes from mums who have been there and got out the other side can be so helpful.

Louise Flanagan is an admin of Letterkenny Babies Facebook page and the author of the children’s book series, Dragonterra.





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