Parenting is hard. It is the epitome of extreme on the job training, and yet our most rewarding career. With the constant presence of social media outlets, I see other moms who seem to be able to balance it all! Facebook posts about moms groups and brunches and yoga, and blogs filled with contradictory information about what makes a good parent. HOW do they do it? and what information is accurate?
The truth is, it doesn't matter. None of it matters. If the mom down the street is able to fill her calendar with activities and you are barely able to shower- you're still a good mom. If you have to work full time to support your family, or if you're home with your kid(s), or if you have shared custody- you're still a good mom. I am a good mom.
Believe it or not, it has taken me a long time to get here. I have always had an inclination towards, what I would call, child-led parenting. To me, this meant- follow my child's lead. I have never believed in waking up a sleeping baby to feed them, or letting a child cry until they go to sleep, etc. You certainly don't come home from the hospital with an instruction manual, so I figured- they'll let me know what they need.
When my son was born 3 and 1/2 years ago, I was a typical first time mom, I had NO idea what to do with this little being they sent me home with- but I was going to do my best. And that's what I reminded, and continue to remind myself, of everyday. Everyone has an opinion on EVERY facet of parenting- and they ALL feel the need to inundate you with them. So I took everyone's advice- and did my best.
Inevitably, I learned from some mistakes, and when my daughter was born 6 months ago, I was a bit more confident and prepared. I would never, EVER let her cry in her crib until she fell asleep. I made that mistake ONE night with my son - torture by the way- based on "advice" from family members who said I would spoil him if I kept going to him in the middle of the night. He was about 8 months old. I will NEVER do that again. Ever. (If you're not so sure, read A Letter from a Sleep Trained Baby)
I would nurse more. I had difficulty nursing the first time around and was made to feel terrible for it- I would not let myself live like that this time. I would take whatever came naturally. Thankfully, nursing was easier (I did not say easy) this time around :)
But aside from those things- I planned to do a lot of my parenting the same. My son has turned out fabulous, if I do say so myself :) and so I felt a could apply the same principles to my daughter.
This time around, I also had some more time. My daughter was, needy to say the least (what others would describe as 'colicky'), so I was unable to return to work as I had planned. I needed to do some research. What was I doing wrong? We were co sleeping, I was nursing her, I was holding her, I was rocking her, I was loving her- so why was she crying all the time?
In my research I came upon something amazing... there is actually a name for what I was doing... my 'child led parenting' was actually called Attachment Parenting! And there were pieces I was missing out on! Like babywearing , and swaddling! Other cultures wear their babies all the time, nurse on command, and live with other family members (it DOES take a village to raise a child). North America? not so much. The ONLY culture that experiences colic? Ours. Hmmmm....
With a toddler at home I knew I would have to make some concessions, it certainly would not be feasible for me to nurse on command all day, but I did immediately purchase a Moby wrap and start wearing my baby whenever she was not sleeping or nursing. I invested in several more Born Free pacifiers , and a package of Aden & Anais swaddling blankets. I also consulted with my doctor, and after having done a dairy-free trial as well as eliminating the possibility of acid reflux, started using all my new parenting ammo :)
What do babies need? Well, first thing: every baby is different. What works for one baby is not necessarily going to work for another. My two children are polar opposites. That being said, there are some basic principles that truly work! Fussy baby? Swaddle it. Baby A cried at first, but by the time I laid her down that first time (at 6 weeks old mind you), she was silent. She just turned 6 months and this is only her 2nd day going to bed unswaddled. And yes, I let HER tell me when she was ready :) Babies like to suckle. Don't have time to nurse on command? Get a paci. They will not go to college with it, their baby teeth fall out, and it will not impede their language acquisition or speech if you use it for it's intended purpose and not as a crutch. And wear your baby. Skin to skin contact, also known as kangaroo care , is essential for every baby (particularly preemie's). The best benefit? You have 2 free hands!! I could suddenly do laundry, dishes, cook dinner, walk to the store, and take my toddler to the park without having a wailing baby in my arms. It was incredible! I could do a whole post on babywearing... actually, I just might :) , there are more options than just the Moby wrap- the Moby just happens to be my favorite! But I am also itching to get a Boba- so regardless which system you choose, science has proven that babies who are worn on a regular basis are smarter, calmer, and are healthier physiologically than those carried in a car seat. Plus, it is SO much easier than lugging around a carseat!
Science or not, within 3 days, we saw a world of difference in Baby A! I then made a commitment to myself and to my kids to start making the specific principles of Attachment Parenting part of our daily life. Nurturing touch, positive reinforcement, compassion and consistency were all things that were already part of my parenting style, but now I had some concrete guidelines... like an instruction manual! WHY do they not send you home with this??!
So now that you know how we got here, tomorrow I will be doing a book review of Attached at the Heart by API co founders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker. Every week for the next 8 weeks you will find a new post on each principle of attachment parenting, and how I have applied to my own life! Let me just end this today by making one thing clear- I am not the BEST parent. And I am, by no means, about to start telling others how they need to parent. I find these work for my family, and hope that others might find some solace in these ideas!
So, know a new mom? Or are you a mom who just wants to get caught up on your reading?? :) Your child-instruction-manual-must-haves are as follows;
Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp (also avail as an ebook- THINK environment! and it's cheaper :) )
Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker (see link above)
Mothering Magazine (digital subscriptions are only $4.95 AND are better for the environment!)
What were your new-mommy must haves??