“By giving her a bottle of milk as a dummy to sleep, you are depriving her of the opportunity to learn to sleep on her own,” my very concerned health visitor advised me at the time of my daughter’s first-year health review.
Otherwise pleased with my daughter’s development, she was concerned about my one-year-old waking up a few times during the night.
She wondered why I hadn’t “trained” my girl to sleep.
Sleep training babies to snooze on their own without a cuddle or a milk bottle sounded to me like a perfectly logical yet peculiar process.
Logical because nothing can be better if a baby can be trained to sleep all night and peculiar because I surely hadn’t heard of sleep training from my cousins and friends who had babies in India.
I envied mothers who claimed their children slept from 7pm – 7am without a drop of milk in-between and tried to train my daughter as well.
However, impatience and lack of discipline on my part meant my efforts failed.
In all honesty, after getting through the chores of the day and a few work assignments, I lacked the heart and stamina to deal with a screaming child.
Giving her a bottle of milk was simpler. And so, my husband and I spent endless nights trying to put our little girl to sleep by turning the lights out early and lying down in bed with her.
My daughter would sometimes fall asleep within minutes, or sometimes after both of us had dozed off.
Family and friends back in India laughed when I discussed my sleep training conundrum and suggested that I should simply ensure that my daughter had a full stomach before bedtime.
I lacked the firmness of fellow western parents who had successfully trained their babies to sleep. I also did not have the patience (especially after listening to the health visitor) of a few other mothers I knew back in India who considered waking up during the night as normal for babies and were not thus looking for a solution. They simply felt that it wasn’t a ‘problem’ that needed remedying.
As a first time Indian parent raising a child abroad, I face conflicting parenting choices and styles at every step. Worse still, I feel uncertain about following one way completely while ignoring the other.
Take for instance, potty training.
Every other day my mother would Skype me from India and tell me stories of small children in her neighborhood who were all capable of peeing and pooping in the toilet unlike my one-and-a-half year old daughter who was still in diapers.
In my peer group in London, children were normally potty trained only after the age of two.
Mothers suggested how I should not even attempt potty training too early or else try using stickers as rewards to entice my daughter to sit on the potty if I were too desperate to train her.
My daughter turned two recently and has been sleeping through the night for a couple of months now. She is also potty trained.
No, I didn’t try any Indian or Western techniques this time but guess she was just ready for it. I know that my daughter will be fine but as a mother facing different cultural choices, confusion is going to be my life-long friend.
(Published on the UK Asian http://ukasian.com/conundrum-born-indian-confused-migrant-mommy.html)