Thursday, August 19, 2010

Real mom's decide for themselves (and hopefuly they make the right choice)

Recently a reader posted an unexpected question on my blog, one that really spoke to me personally because of all the criticism I myself endured when Nicholas was first born, and frankly will probably continue to have to deal with on my journey as I do things my own way instead of how everyone expects me to do them. The short version of my answer would probably read something like ,"Opinions are like assholes, everyone (god willing) has one and mine is the only one that counts". The longer version follows below.

Pregnant myself for the second time, I am trying to decide on Baby Wise vs. EVERYONE ELSE. Baby Wise says listen to your instincts as a mother. Everyone else seems to say, ask a friend, read a blog, or go against the doctors. My two year old son was a beautiful, independent premie, who is thriving today. I simply allowed my instinct to raise him. What would be the advantage of following these lifestyle guides of raising children that are being offered? It seems like, not only would I be raising a needy, clingy, always-wanting-mommy baby, but it also would take away the joy and pride of saying I did it my way. Will I really be doing it my way if I follow someone elses way, such as Attachment Parenting?

A couple of things jump out at me right away here. One is, dear reader, I would LOVE to live in your world where attachment parenting is the norm and is thus "everyone else". That's not the world I live in though. The crappy place I call home clings to misguided and inaccurate information on infants and assumes that you should treat your new family member very much like the family dog. Let me here explain that I am a certified dog trainer and in my training classes I teach my students that behaviors that are rewarded are likely to be repeated and behaviors that offer no reward will go away. So if you are teaching your puppy to stay in his kennel and he cries you ignore him. If he jumps up on you asking for attention you ignore him and walk away. These bits of advice are in direct conflict with old school training methods where you beat the living crap out of the dog with a rolled up newspaper, jerk on a coke chain, or spray it in the face with vinegar and water. That is called negative reinforcement and a lot of parenting methods are based on similar concepts. Those two dueling training styles alone are a good example of dueling parenting styles actually and I have seen more than one poor dog damaged as the result of negative training methods while my husband is a living breathing example of why "they other guys" shouldn't be listen to about parenting, bless his heart. New school dog training tends to focus on behavior modification via positive reinforcement and negative (meaning you take something away instead of adding a smack upside the head) punishment. Either way, basically in a nutshell, you are the boss and you have to show the puppy/dog that you are in control. Still with me? I hope so, because I said all that to say this - Infants even ones approaching their first birthday are and not even half as emotionally, mentally, or physically developed as an 8 week old puppy is. They are not capable of understanding the concepts that the puppy can at this stage. The average dog by the way is on the same intelligence level with the average 3 year old child if you are interested. The average infant is not. They don't even possess object perminance until sometime around 5 or 6 months usually. We as a society need to step back and stop treating babies like pets and stop parenting for our own convenience. We as mothers need to step back and take a look at how a baby benefits from our parenting instead of how we're going to benefit. We should start putting baby first and not worry so much about our hair and makeup and the fact that we didn't have time for our double latte' this morning.Once you have a baby life is no longer about just you, it becomes life plus baby and is really more about the baby.

I will here insert that I am an attachment parent b/c that is what mothers are hardwired to do, or at least I was. Society as a whole, at least in our country, promotes what I call convenience parenting and books and programs like babywise have an almost cult following. These are called infant management systems, the name alone should jump out at you. They aren't parenting guidelines, management and parenting aren't the same thing. I myself don't like some of the concepts presented in babywise, which was not written by a pediatrician, or other books like it. I am not a fan of a lot of the sleep training systems either to be honest.  I don't feel like anyone who doesn't have a MD behind their name or a PhD in child development has any business telling me what I should and should not do with my child. Being that I know my baby better than anyone on the planet I'm in the best position to parent than a book or a website no matter who wrote it. Am I prepared to bash a parent who does like these systems? Yup, but in the spirit of play nicely with others I don't and won't. :) Now I'm not gonna spout of tons of facts and figures and quote articles of this or that study that was done. You can find all that info on your own and I believe you should actually because what you learn yourself becomes YOURS rather than just advice from somebody. Seeeee killing two birds with one stone now aren't we? Doing that you CAN be proud that the style of parenting is truly your own. Just because I read up and learned more about so called attachment parenting or any of style of parenting doesn't mean I am not parenting MY way. My family can tell ya no doubt that I do it my way and only my way and they all sit there in awe.. oh wait no that's disbelief maybe at some of what I do. My stepmother and sister are in shock at my desire to cloth diaper. Come to think of it so is my own mother and grandmother but who cares? I did the homework and I made the call. Cloth it is. Just because I didn't invent the concept doesn't mean I am following somebody else.

I can tell from your question that you are concerned with some of the myths of attachment parenting. Mainly the one that I myself was concerned with at first too - the raising of a whiny spoiled over dependent brat who can't hold his/her own in the real world. I don't blame you. (BTW I studied child development and early childhood education on a college level while in high school and ALL the text books and studies agree that you cannot spoil and infant by attachment style parenting) Sometime in the 1890's children became a inconvenience (though usually a somewhat welcome one) instead of a blessing, pregnancy became a medical condition instead of a glowing joy, and tons and tons of advice was dished out about how to control and train your child and why you should. NONE of it was really based in scientific study because there were no studies at the time. Most of it was more about social graces when you think about it. Young infants were said to need discipline to prevent the manipulative little schemers from controlling their parents lives and growing up to be the above mentioned spoiled brats. Newborn babies and infants who remember cannot even see clearly much less understand the concepts of control of manipulation were put on strict schedules and parents were to let them cry when they wanted to teach them to be quiet such as at night or why they cried before it was time to wake from a nap or eat again. They were told to ignore them when they tried to get attention (especially via crying), and when they were being difficult to a parent was to show them who was really in control... Sound Familiar? Woof Woof. Previously mother's had been attachment parenting and breastfeeding and baby wearing for centuries and now all of a sudden that was out of fashion and motherly wisdom fell by the wayside and was bred out of us.

I think you should follow your instincts as a mom but first you might take a step back, and now is a great time to do it since baby isn't here yet, and examine what your  instincts are and what fuels them. Are they motivated perhaps by what is easiest and most convenient for you (and yes I am keeping in mind that you already have a child), or are they really geared towards what is best developmentally/emotionally for your newborn. Take paci use for instance. What exactly is the point? The point is to allow you to put the baby down and go about your business without interacting for a short while and without having to hear the baby cry. Why not put the baby in a wrap or a sling and wear them while you go about your business and promote a strong bond and pacify baby at the same time. Now that's not to say there isn't a time and a place for baby to sit tight and mommy to do something else but usually you can wear a baby and multi task. Plus all the extra calories you burn you get, get rid that baby bulge momma!! lol. Nicholas is sooooo visual and readily interactive partly, I believe, because he is always up and at almost eye level with everything in the world rather than down in a stroller or left in a swing or bouncy seat. He gets tons more interactions and he learns from them. How can that be bad for development so long as we don't let him constantly observe wanna be "gansta's" in the mall flashing gang signs to one another. A good point to make here is that while Nicholas is a high need hold me type baby the more I wear him the more confortable he is to have free play on the floor on his own. He also sleeps through the night and I don't have to nurse or rock him to sleep every night. I did at first and it was annoying at first but you know what I told myself to just keep at it and viola, sleeping baby no book needed. I put him to bed wide awake and don't hear a peep out of him for 12 hours.
Ask yourself why you are willing to do something VS why you are not. Thinking back to the spoiled brat we're worried about check out some of the more primitive societies who think we are a bunch of idiots for how complex we make parenting. Do they have clingy children. NO and their babies are worn all the time and breastfed and not left to cry ever. The ones who turn out wrong are probably fed to the lions or something but the fact remains that they don't have spoiled brats because of their attachment style. So if you do your homework and take the lessons to heart whatever they may be, and know when to back off with it and how you shouldn't worry yourself about the clingy always wants mommy kiddo. Dr. Sears writes in The Fussy Baby book that therapists offices are full of adults who need reparenting, meaning they were unable to get what they needed emotionally as a child. Interesting?

Bottom line; How I am going to parent is for me and me alone to decide, nobody else gets in on that. Are you a bad person for deciding to use some of the more extreme aspects of an infant management system? Maybe... ummm no, I mean of course not, it's your baby. You do what you think is best, that is all anyone can ask of you. Though believe they will ask you to do other things. I find myself having to stick to my guns and explain my beliefs and back them up with facts a lot. When I began setting my parenting beliefs in stone I made a list. For example with breastfeeding I did the old list of pro's lists of con's and I did the same for formula. I then looked at the facts and stats and decided to breastfeed. Should you get all your info from a blog.. No.. not unless it's this blog... LoL. :p Should you get all your info from a book. Nope, though I highly recommend reading be a good place to start your research. Should you go against your doctor?? That's a harder one to answer and the short answer would be maybe. You should question your doctor if you feel something might be off. Doctors aren't God and their opinions govern a lot of what they do even if they don't mean for them to. In matters of life and death, the doctor went to medical school and you probably didn't so step back and let them handle it rather than being a pain in the ass. Any other time ask WHY. Why do you want to use a medication, when we could try a natural alternative like eliminating certain foods from the diet. Never hurts to try after all. A lot of parenting skills are hard wired into us, don't forget that either. Though I call myself an attachment parent in, truth, I happily sample from other schools of thought. Mixing and matching is OK in my book. So while I don't allow my 6 month old baby to scream and cry at nap time I do allow him to fuss for a few minutes to see if he will settle himself down and go to sleep. I do what works for me and what works for Nicholas. As he gets older I evolve my parenting style to keep it age appropriate. He's allowed to work issues out on his own and if he can't I help him, but I give him time to try. I don't hover over him all the time going, "OMG he made a little peep pick him up!" which is what a lot of people mistakenly think attachment parenting is. When your baby is an older toddler THEN you can start the training :) THEN you can assume behaviors that are rewarded are repeated and visa versa. THEN you can introduce concepts of discipline. A baby though just isn't going to understand and you can't speed up their understanding by continuing to try it.

Real mom's look at all the available information and choose for themselves!! Here's to all the REAL MOMS out there!! We're all on the same mission really to raise happy healthy offspring that don't become serial killers or rapists or god forbid lying politicians. How we do it is up to us.

Useful links in my opinion
Attachment parenting international
Useful articles on babywearing 


  1. Very thorough! Thanks so much for your advice on this issue. It is interesting to hear different views and experience behind them. I am in TOTAL agreement with you on the thinking for yourself. I am still a bit unsure of the balance of putting baby first, keeping my two-year-old baby first, and my husband remaining number one in the family:) The Baby Wise vs. Attachment Parenting ideals aren't as different as I thought. Both allow baby to grow happy and healthy...I think I will follow your advice of mixing what "I" like :) I will have to try the baby wearing...but still need, for myself and family, a balanced schedule. I appreciate the time you spent...WOW!