It seems like every parent has an opinion of the best way to rear an infant. When I had my child, I never really even gave much thought into parenting styles. I never purchased, “What to Expect When Your Expecting”. I watched the movie. Not very informative in reality, ha! I read the Baby Center updates, but when my daughter turned a year old, I stopped reading them. I decided the updates stressed me out. I felt I wanted to use my intuition to raise my child. Plus, one of my good friends was that kind of mom who read every article and was up to date on EVERYTHING, so I could always ask her anything. Using the help of my family, other mothers, and visits with the pediatrician I had most of my questions answered. The ones unanswered, I used Google for, a lot! Now, here I am, a mom who’s adapted more the the “attachment” style of parenting that I never expected. This post is to tell mothers out there to “trust your gut!”.
Geez there are tons of opinions. To get shots or not get shots? To co-sleep or not co-sleep? To breast feed until two (or three), or wean them at a year. One of the motto’s I have tried to live by is “do what is best and healthiest for my baby’s long term health and mind”. I wanted to write this post to share with you all how I found my own parenting style without ever really researching any of it. I wouldn’t say I am all “attachment parenting” by any means. I don’t even like that term, or fitting parenting styles into boxes. I simply found myself making my own decisions gradually as I parented based on my gut feelings, prayers, and support from family and friends. I do not regret any of it!
Just to say, when it came to shots the decision was easy. I really did not want to give her shots, because I balled my eyes out those first few visits. I wanted to punch the nurse who gave her a heel prick. Yet I had too many friends in the medical field who warned me that it is in the best interest of my kiddo to get them shots, especially for whooping cough (and some other nasty diseases). I have several good friends who chose not to vaccinate their kids, and they are all very healthy.
Other areas where more grey for me. Let me be blunt. My daughter is almost two, and she has never used her crib. Maybe for a few naps. Otherwise it is purely furniture. I am still breastfeeding her. She still wakes up multiple times a night to feed. She still has a pacifier. She is potty training, but I am doing it a little loosely. I have held her as much as I could. If I couldn’t, I didn’t. Sometimes I had to let her cry. But if I could hold her, I would.
I have gotten tons of critical feedback for this. Many pediatricians and friends have told me that co-sleeping is harmful for my kids sense of independence. Some people cannot believe I still breastfeed. They look at me like I am crazy or say in that tone, “wow, good for you! I could never do that. I wanted my body back”. I get tons of crap that I didn’t wean my baby off the pacifier at twelve months from family. She will need braces, she will get cavities, she will be clingy. All these things I might be doing to harm my child! Wow. Well that is a parenting guilt trip for sure.
It’s not that I don’t have a plan. I do. It is just a little loose. I never planned to breastfeed Lillian until she was two, but she loved it and it doesn’t harm anyone. In fact, it has benefited my health and hers. Sure, it is inconvenient, but not harmful. So, I kept on doing it. Do I plan to breastfeed her until she is three? No. So we have some work to do there.
As far as co-sleeping goes, I obviously planned for her to sleep in a crib since I registered for one. When confronted with many sleepless nights and the cry it out method vs. just picking her up- I picked her up. My Nana gave me sage advice at one point, “hold her as much as you can. They grow up fast, and soon you won’t be able to hold her anymore”. This came from a woman raising children in the fifties. They were old school at that time, and definitely let the children cry it out. Hearing that reassured me that it would be ok if I followed my gut feelings. I longed to hold and cuddle my child, so I did. And I recieved negative feedback from many, saying my child would be clingy and that I am too controlling.
As Lillian is approaching two, I have to admit, I don’t regret anything I’ve done in parenting. I am so thankful I held her as much as I could. I am happy I ignored the feedback from many people to do things another way. I trusted my gut. I prayed.
When push comes to shove, at some point all kids want to sleep in their own bed. It’s not cool forever to sleep with your parents. All kids want to use the potty like a big kid. All kids want normal food. All kids want to exert independence. All kids get too big to hold. (That part makes me sad!)
I truly believe children are smarter than we give them credit for. They cue us when they are ready for new steps. I think many of our parenting woes and stresses come from trying to fit our children’s schedule into ours. It is way more convenient to train our kids to fit their lives into our schedules, but it is also more of a headache in the process. Children are great at growing at their own pace and telling us their needs. Parenting doesn’t have to be so hard. There is enough hardship in discipline and teaching valuable lessons. All kids are pretty maleable and resilient and will be ok however you choose to do things. Heck, I was definitely a “cry it out kid” and in daycares all growing up, and here I am- a rather cuddly and clingy adult! I have a hard time making my own decisions. By following the models, I would have been raised by a mother who picked me up all the time and let me sleep with her forever.
Trust your gut, moms. Do what works best for you and your family. If you work and need to have your kid on a sleep schedule and in a crib so you can function, do it! Don’t listen to judgements from others. If you desperately want to run in and grab your crying baby, do it! If you want to stop breastfeeding, do it! I have heard so many women say they feel so guilty to stop breastfeeding early. If your child is three and not potty trained, its ok! I garantee someday they will want to use the potty on their own. If you are about to pull your hair out, put your baby in the crib, walk away, and let her cry it out for sure! I have had my moments where I just needed a five minute break, and she recovered just fine. Does your little one keep climbing into bed with you? It won’t happen forever.
Most of these decisions are not life or death. Many of them are truly up to the parents. There is not one way to parent correctly. All kids are different and have different needs. As I am nannying I see this. The girl I watch loves her crib. It is her safe zone. She never took to a pacifier. My daughter is the opposite. She hates being cofined while sleeping, and suckling is her favorite pastime. I have enjoyed parenting in a relaxed way. It has made it so much more fun and easy. I haven’t been super stressed out (not that I never get stressed), and I have loved holding my baby as much as I want, even if I get rebuked for it!
Parenting is so hard and exhausting. We need to be encouragements for one another as parents, not judgemental. It is such a joyful and fulfilling role, but also very demanding. We need to understand when others are not on a perfect schedule or maybe on a perfect schedule. We need to have grace for each other.
In sum, sure, research will support different things, but in the end, as long as you and your child are happy and healthy that is what matters. In my opinion, of course.
*I recommend Love and Logic as a practical parenting guide that addresses some early parenting strategies. *I believe every parent should make every effort to ensure their child is safe and healthy. “Trusting your gut” does not mean being lazy, negligent, or passive in parenting. For example, I still believe parents should do their best to childproof their homes, etc, and not hope for the best!