Top 3 Accidental Parenting Scenarios

Sarah Ong Sleep Shaping

As parents, we have all been guilty of this to a certain extent because we prefer to go down the path with the least resistance. What is accidental parenting? It is when some parents go for the most convenient solution – a quick fix – because you don’t have the patience to see through the long-term solution.

For example, if you’re a working mom, you feel guilty for being away at work the whole day and when you come home, you’re tired and just want a calm and relaxing bonding time with your child. Most of the time, your child is overtired and cranky by then. In response, you take an action or start a practice in desperation without thinking it through because you don’t know how to do it any other way. So you end up rocking/nursing/cradling/patting your child to sleep. Thus, you are inadvertently teaching this sleep prop to your child. It’s fine when the child is a young infant, but when he or she turns 6 months and too heavy to rock and carry to sleep, you will regret this “quick fix” to put him/her to sleep.

Here are some of the common accidental parenting scenarios:

1. Sleeping in cot, then sleeps in parents bed.

I put this at the top of the list because it’s the most common one and it happened to me too! The cot was nicely setup in my bedroom next to me and I would put her asleep in it during the first few weeks. I was also adamant about direct latch day and night to establish my supply. Then accidental parenting occurred when I brought her into bed and nursed. It was never a problem for me in the beginning and it was the most convenient solution for me. Baby gets fed, I get my sleep. Now I’m not saying this is wrong, but this is a classic case of accidental parenting.

What I should have done, was to move Amelyn back to her cot after the feeds especially when she reached 8-10 weeks old. By then my milk supply was good, but I kept on nursing her to sleep and that went on until she was 16 months old. Of course, by 3 months old, she screamed bloody murder when I put her in her cot. She demanded for the warmth and suckle all night.

2. Baby is sick, then sleeps in parents bed.

During teething and ill times, I’m all for bending the rules about sleep. This is the time when your child needs your love and attention more than usual. More cuddles, more hugs and kisses, more time spent with them during wind down prior to bedtime. However, as much as we would like to baby them through this temporary phase, it is always best to keep to the same consistent routine. Babies are smart. When a little crying would get them into their parents bed, well then guess what? They would cry until they get into your bed every time. Even when you think “it’s fine.. for just one night” be very careful about the consequences and how it would be even more difficult to reverse to “normal” when your baby is healthy again.

I would suggest for you to go to them each time they call out to you, rather than bringing them into bed. Bring a sleeping bag or blow up mattress for the time being and sleep next to their cot. Just remember that any quick fix out of the ordinary routine will interfere with their long term sleep habits.

3. Traveling/Festive season, whole day routine gets thrown off.

When you’re on a holiday, or celebrating a festivity, it’s easy to get distracted or just let go of things. As adults, it’s encouraged to have a joyous times and not to worry about things during these times. For young children, this is a recipe for disaster!

Accidental parenting in this situation occurs when you need to do a quick fix, because your child is probably overtired and has passed the optimal time to nap. So you rock him until he naps. Overtired babies don’t nap well so they would wake up again shortly and still cranky. You try to rock him again but he would wake once you put him down. So you end up carrying him in your arms until he’s in deep sleep. By then, his nap would probably be too late and has disrupted the routine for his next nap or bedtime.

Try to keep to their routine for wake up – play – eat – nap consistent throughout. Even if you have to go back to the hotel room half way, please do so if you can. Plan the day of visiting or sight seeing to happen during your child’s optimal awake window. Protect your child’s sleep no matter what.

What accidental parenting situation have you been in? Share your experience and thought about it here. :)

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