Sunday, August 14, 2011

Intentional Parenting. This Isn't About Me Anymore...

When I was pregnant, I got lots of advice. And I had a plan based on some of that advice. When I had a baby, I got even more advice. And then I stopped listening, because most of it wasn't for me and was based largely on what is best for mom, not baby. Most of it was mainstream stuff. Things that everyone hears for the most part. It's just the way babies are raised, I guess. When Char had sleep troubles, someone was there to give me a sleep training method. When nursing was frustrating, someone suggested a schedule. When she had a blowout, then I got "better" diaper suggestions. I've done this, too and I hate that I have done it. I do feel quite strongly about the things I do, but every baby is different, every mother is comfortable with different things and I need to remember that.

I have been intentional about my mothering ever since I turned off my ears, listened to my instincts, and began researching. I do things very differently than many, and I take a lot of crap for it . And I have had to begin surrounding myself with people who have similar attitudes simply because I can't handle defending myself anymore, and listening to the justification of practices that I, and many researchers, consider emotionally and physically unhealthy.

***I've already posted about my love for and belief in cosleeping. And here is some information that helped guide me toward this decision. When I found this information, I couldn't NOT share my bed with my child. Not only did she and I sleep better, but she slept physiologically safer, her risk of SIDS was down, her long term emotional health would be better, and I could nurse her more easily (which helped keep my supply up). I was not encouraged to cosleep by those around me.

***I love babywearing, as is no surprise! Not only do I love it, but I am an advocate because of the benefits here as well. Worn babies cry less. I started wearing Charlotte when she was just a couple of weeks old because she would cry, cry, cry in the evenings. Boy did I get suggestions about THIS one. But not one single person suggested wearing her to solve this problem (note: I was encouraged to wear her for other reasons). And this was what did the trick. The only thing. Mommies who wear their babies are better able to read baby's cues and stay in tune with their needs. Worn babies and children forge strong bonds with their carriers, whether they are Mom or any other caregiver. Wearing your baby makes other things you do easier! Worn babies learn more. They gain comfort and build trust. And, what babies need and want most, other than milk, is human contact.

***Extended Breastfeeding is something I hadn't originally planned on. And a lot of people think it's weird. Probably because in the United States, it doesn't happen often. But the benefits here are plentiful as well. Many people are under the impression that there is not nutritional benefit beyond one year. This is not the case. In fact, milk from mothers who are nursing past one year has higher fat and energy content than that from mothers nursing for less than one year. It also provides nutrients and vitamins including protein. Here is a fact sheet : . I took particular interest in the part of this fact sheet that states, "... babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers' and teachers' ratings of social adjustment in six- to eight-year-old children (Ferguson et al, 1987)." Many people think that nursing beyond infancy is socially taboo. I believe that stems from a long history in the United States of promoting child independence from a very early age, and the belief that toddlers don't "need" to nurse. Granted, it's not for everyone. But these are the reasons I will continue to nurse Charlotte.

Here is another helpful article :

***Nursing on demand came instinctually to me. I even went against my pediatrician's advice on this one (GASP!). Somehow I knew he was wrong. I just did. I nursed her whenever she wanted, whether it was for food or comfort. Both were adequate reasons for me. I felt strongly from the beginning that an eating schedule wasn't something I was ok with unless it was driven by my child. I got an earful on this topic, too. "But then she'll just want to be on your breast all day long." "She will get in the habit of snacking instead of filling her tummy." I'll address both of these. Being on my breast ALL DAY is, first and foremost, a total exaggeration. Also, if she wants the comfort, I will give it to her. Why wouldn't I? Why is there even pressure to deny an infant comfort from nursing? I believe that it's because it's inconvenient for the mother. For crying out loud, get a sling and you're both happy.

The whole "snacking" thing really got me. The US has a terrifyingly high obesity rate. And any nutritionist will tell you that if you want to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight, you should eat several small meals a day. I didn't understand why this is a habit we would try so desperately to negate from the get-go. Like I said, every baby is different. This includes their stomach size, and need for comfort. Nursing on demand will also help keep supply up, and minimize engorgement. and were helpful in making my decision.

***Sleep Training...oh man. Here we go. When Charlotte was only about a month old, I got some unsolicited advice about sleep training. And I considered it. Another one of those things that moms just did. And then I looked into this "method" and I was shocked and upalled. This particular method is in very large circulation and I heard about it from several other mothers. This method has been linked to dehydration and Failure to Thrive. But because of the religious context and background of its creators, many people use it and pass it on. Here's one place I got that information:
Other methods I was advised of required some level of cry-it-out. I simply could NOT do this, particularly at the age when I was being told to use it. I've said it before, babies cry for a reason. It is uncomfortable for me to know my baby is crying for me to pick her up and I won't. What exactly is that teaching my daughter? It may teach her to self-soothe, but what is it REALLY teaching her? That she's alone when it comes to this sleep thing, that I'm not going to comfort her when she needs it, that she can't trust me 100%. She was never let to cry by herself for more than 10 seconds. Sometime's she'd cry even in my arms, but I was there. She wasn't alone.

I also believe that sleep training too young is dangerous. And here is why: Many people will say, that this particular example is an exaggeration and there is no proven cause. But my conscience won't let me risk it. Training baby to sleep too deeply for too long, too early is not psychologically or physiologically healthy.

Cry-it-out methods cause some major problems. Here are some of them:

A great deal of the information I have used is from one website. And some will disagree with his methods and that's ok by me. I have found that someone who urges me to tend to my child, respond to her needs, and provides scientific research to back up such claims has earned my trust. I distrust any "professional" who urges me to do otherwise. There is a lot of information out there that will say X method "works" or Y method works. And if "works" means it makes life easier for mom, then they do. But this isn't about me anymore.


  1. Love this post, Mondria! You are an amazing mama and Charlotte is such a lucky girl to have a mama like you!

  2. This is fabulous! Thank you for being your baby's advocate!

  3. Brilliant!!! :) It needs to be said. And you are doing an awesome job mama!