Abby is a little over 4 months old now. I marvel nearly daily at how "easy" she is. I plop her in her crib, wide awake. I pat her on the back or the tummy, depending, and say "night, night Abby". And then I walk out of the room. That's it. It really is that simple. She may grunt or chant a few times, but then she's out like a light. It's amazing. I feed her when she's hungry. She sleeps when she's tired. She's putting on weight like a menstruating woman with a chocolate addiction. She's generally happy and usually goes about 3 hours between meals. Many nights, she sleeps up to 8 hours. Sometimes, I wake her up to eat because I am uncomfortable.
When Caleb was born, Don and I went through "Prep for Parenting" classes. We learned all about scheduling. We learned about how much easier our lives would be if we would just schedule our baby's life into specific increments of eat-play-sleep times. We learned to never rock him to sleep for fear of creating a "sleep prop" and to never, ever bring him into our bed.
With Meagan, we followed much the same rules, though our experience in parenting gave us a little more courage to not get too bent out of shape when things didn't work out like the books said they would.
By the time Abby came along, we figured that we'd try something new. We often brought her into bed with us at first. She just slept better. It worked. She's not still there because she doesn't need it anymore. No damage done. She eats when she wants. No, this didn't result in 24 hours of nursing like the experts said. It just means that it may be 2 hours, it may be 4 hours, but I don't need to hold her off for fear of disrupting the entire schedule for the day. She still gets the good "hindmilk" and she still has settled into a fairly consistent "schedule" on her own. I can't necessarily say that at 6pm, she'll be eating. But from day to day, I can know that, for instance, she'll most likely be needing to eat within the next hour or so. And since her food is always with me, it works. And even though we've rocked and patted and walked her to sleep, she still knows how to do it on her own. Imagine that.
I'm not saying that "Prep for Parenting" is bad or wrong. I know that it gives lots of first-timers the confidence they need to get started. And it does work. It made me panic just a little when, for example, Caleb would start crying a full hour and a half before his next scheduled feeding and I had to make decisions. But all in all, it was fine. (I do know that people can become a slave to the schedule. I've seen a mom hold a red-faced screaming baby watching the clock. At exactly 11am, she said, "Ok, now you can go down for your nap." I don't think that is the fault of the program any more than it is the fault of the gun when someone gets shot. Anything can be used inappropriately.)
All I am saying is that it certainly isn't the only thing that works. And maybe that is my age talking. I'm not the inexperienced 23-year-old that I was the first time around. But maybe, just maybe, it doesn't have to be so hard. Maybe you can just follow your instincts and the baby's and enjoy each other to your heart's content. Maybe.