You’ll make a rod for your own back

make a rod for your own back

To ‘make a rod for your own back’ is to do something that inadvertently creates troubles or misfortune in the future.
The expression is usually used when someone has done something which seemed like a good idea at the time but comes back to bite them in some unexpected way.

I now have children at college and in university and I have been reflecting on life as a mother and on those early days, weeks and months with my babies when I felt a bit lost, like I was doing it wrong and being told I was making a rod for my back.

Becoming a mother was a huge transition – as it is for most of us. I became more selfless and I learnt to trust my instincts. Before I became a mum I was never interested in breastfeeding or co-sleeping – in fact I mocked it when I went to antenatal classes.. 

When I was pregnant, I started reading and talking to friends who were mothers and they spoke positively – although fairly realistically – about birth and feeding and my thoughts started to change. I read well – Sheila Kitzinger and Ina May Gaskin – and I started listening to my instincts. I booked a homebirth with a birthing pool and I planned to breastfeed – still wasn’t convinced by the co-sleeping though!

Armed with good information, a supportive husband and a great midwife I laboured and birthed at home – it was harder than I ever imagined but I did it. There were no complications, it was straightforward and pretty quick once it got going. Breastfeeding was tough to start with – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or what to expect but two weeks in it clicked and we were off. And co-sleeping started on her first night – I had just grown her and birthed her, it didn’t feel right to have her anywhere else but next to me. 

But the next few weeks were a battle. My instincts were to soothe, rock, cuddle and feed my baby but the advice at the time was all about independence and routines – Gina Ford was new and popular back then. And I had so many comments saying “you’ll make a rod for your own back”, that I was spoiling my baby, giving in to her, developing bad habits. And I was asked was she a good baby?, did she sleep?, blah, blah, blah…

– “You’ll make a rod for your own back” –

When she was 8 weeks old, I was a bit demented. I felt like I was doing everything wrong, I was stressed and emotional. My husband asked what I wanted and I said I wanted to cuddle her and feed her and co-sleep and carry her – he said well that’s what we do then. I stopped battling with my baby and the world was a happier place. I still had all the “you’ll make a rod for your back” comments but, with my happier baby, I finally felt like I was doing it right and, as a family, we did it our way.

  • We co-slept – she never slept in a cot and she quite happily moved into her own bed in her room when she was ready
  • I breastfed and then combination fed her with a bottle and formula
  • I cuddled and rocked her to sleep
  • I picked her up when she cried and I carried her around with me

I did not spoil her or make a rod for my back and I didn’t create any bad habits by responding to her needs. And when my next baby came along 3 years later, I did exactly the same.

My daughters are confident and independent. They don’t need rocking to sleep and they been in their own beds for many years now! I no longer pick them up when they cry because they are taller than me so I cuddle them instead when they are upset because they are my children and I want them to feel soothed, loved and listened to if they are upset.

As my children have grown I have continued to trust my instincts, to follow their lead, to listen to them and know them and, most days, I feel confident in my parenting because it’s about winging it, making it up and doing our best.

Babies need to cling, they need to be responded to and interacted with, they need reassurance and to feel safe. With this they can thrive and become independent when they are able to.

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Working with parents since 2002

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