One of the great things about becoming a parent in this age is all of the information available to us. It's instant, there is a ton of it, and it is free. I firmly believe in self education and that is why I love the internet. It can all seem overwhelming and it can take time to find good, reliable information. If you have internet access, however, there is no real excuse not to be educated about the decisions you make.
Now after saying all that, I do not claim these are the "right" answers. I know there are a million reasons why parents would make their decisions but here is a the great thing: they are your kids so you get to make that choice! These are just choices I have made based on my research. It may also help to note I have been a nanny for almost 10 years off and on, and so my choices are not totally based off fluff I found on the internet. I have seen a lot of parent/child interactions that have influenced my opinions over the years. I have also tried a ton of products and while some were fantastic, other I wish I simply hadn't touched.
I am also not saying I will never change my mind. But, without further ado here is my list:
Warning! I am a little crunchy/hippy so prepare yourself!
Exclusively meaning nothing else, no pumping, no formula, no pacifiers, no bottles of any sort. From talking to other moms in a similar situation, multiple lactation consultants, and doing plenty of reading, I have decided to go pretty hardcore with the breastfeeding. It is also what the World Health Organization refers to as the "optimal" way to feed my baby. I have the ability to do so, why wouldn't I?
I do have a pump. I'm glad I have it for emergencies but I plan on keeping it in its box. I will definitely be exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months unless a major problem arises. I have found too many reasons to do it, and not enough (and no proven) reasons to not. Yea, I know you think I'm crazy for not wanting to be away from the kid for more than a couple hours for months on end, and I know you think I will want a break. I might! The thing is, it will still be an option if I decide I need or want a break. Unlike formula feeding, breastfeeding means things can be flexible. If I formula fed for a few weeks and changed my mind, it would be incredibly difficult to switch back.
I've talked to a lactation consultant extensively about the subject and I think it is what is best for me.
Aside from all of the health benefits from breastfeeding I'm aware of (blog post in itself), it's also completely free. For me that's plenty of reason to breastfeed. In addition, I have a personal philosophy extending to all parts of my life that you cannot improve on God's design. I will be thankful for any and all assistance I need but I do trust my body.
(I feel like I need to make a disclaimer, I know there are plenty of legitimate reasons women choose to bottle/formula feed their kids. Same with working moms who pump. I am not trying to make them feel bad or like inadequate mothers. Like the title of my post implies, this is why I am personally making this decision. I know I already made a disclaimer earlier in my post but I feel like breastfeeding is a sensitive subject.)
Also, as side note on pacifiers, I have always felt they are unnecessary. They also have the potential to interfere with breastfeeding. I know that a paci can lower SIDS risk but the data shows this is more beneficial for babies in "adverse sleeping environments" meaning on a soft bed or not positioned correctly for sleeping. It is also a strategy for babies who are high risk, those exposed to second hand smoke, poor prenatal care, ect. My lactation consultant also told me this is more true for formula fed infants. None of these factors will be an issue in my house.
I have a couple samples of paci's stashed away if I get desperate. I would also consider using one in the car, after breastfeeding has been well established. For now though, my position on them is pretty strong. I dislike them and feel like they CAN be a parenting crutch. Part of this comes from my experience as a nanny. Part of this just comes from some instinct in me that just recoils at the thought of a pacifier. I am aware however aware that most parents use them and some couldn't stand the thought of living without them.
I think most people nowadays know that there is really no way to "spoil" a baby. An infant is simply not capable of manipulation. I believe that if an infant's needs are met they will be a more secure individual as they age while leading to more independence when the time is appropriate.
So, when my baby cries, no matter what time of night or day or how often I will pick him up. If he is hungry, I will feed him even if he ate an hour ago. If he needs a cuddle, I will cuddle him. I am under ZERO assumptions that I will be a well rested mama, or that I will never get frustrated. In addition to the kind of "brand" of parenting attachment parenting is, I also believe I have a perfect model of a parent and that is God's love. I intend on doing what is loving for my child and I do not think forcing my child to be scared, alone and learn to "cry it out" is very loving. From the very beginning, I plan to treat my child the way I want him to treat the rest of the world.
I always felt this way about parenting but when taking my child psychology classes while working on a nursing degree, I learned it actually has a name. Attachment parenting is also very strong on the "follow your instincts" mode of thinking. You can learn more about basic attachment parenting principles here.
No stroller/ Baby wearing
"No stroller? You want to CARRY the baby?" The looks I get when I say I don't want or need a stroller are parallel only to the cloth-diapering looks. There were several factors that influenced my decisions. I don't think there is the same amount of data to support this decision as my other ones, so this is a very personal decision. I love lists so I'll make one for you!
Why I don't like strollers:
- I feel like they are inconvenient to lug around.
- I couldn't find one tall enough at a reasonable price (I am 6ft + and so is my hubby. We were hunched over for all the ones we test drove while registering).
- I am a reasonably strong person and can easily lift and carry 35+ lbs. (I am a backpacker).
- Once the baby is too heavy, they can walk.
- I have several carriers meant to comfortably and securely hold small to large children. Here is a link to different styles of carriers.
- I don't walk in stroller friendly places, a lot of my walking is done in the woods, off road.
- Carrying your baby is great exercise
- It's good for baby's development to face me, see my face and be held. (click here for research on why carrying your baby is so awesome)
- I feel like strollers are so distant and far away. I feel like someone could much more easily mess with or even take my baby in a stroller than if attached to me.
- Breastfeeding in a carrier is very convenient. It doubles as a cover too.
Personally I will not be sharing a bed with the baby, my husband is a very sound sleeper and tosses and turns a lot. Also, we have a very fluffy bed, a huge suffocating hazard for infants. However, he will be sharing a room with us. He will be in a bassinet up against the bed until he either only gets up once a night or grows out of it. After that he will be sleeping in his play pen in our bedroom until we feel it is time for him to move to his nursery, which will probably be around the time he starts sleeping all night consistently. I think it is important that we have lots of options for sleeping, and I believe this will facilitate independence and foster flexibility more than a strict plan of action would.
Being a Stay at Home Mom
This is as much out of necessity as choice. I simply can't get a job that provides the income I would need in order to justify paying for childcare. I would basically be working for a very small hourly wage to pay for someone to raise my child. However, what income I can bring in I can do from home (or bring along the child). Whether it is graphic design, my handmade crafts, working festivals, gardening, or even the odd jobs I come across, there is cash to be made. I know a lot of moms who need to work outside the home to support their family and I am very blessed that in my situation I need to be at home because that is really what I wanted to do anyway!
This is another controversial topic. I am fairly passionate about it because I feel like a lot of the people who choose disposables would choose cloth if they realized the advantages!
The first, obvious advantage is cost. You can have enough cloth diapers to get through potty training for less than $400. Keep in mind this is a one-time investment that will not only get you to potty training, but can last through more than one child. In many cases the cost is much less (my current stash is still under $200 and I should have plenty of diapers. However, I did several DIY options in addition to a few name brand expensive ones.) You have to calculate washing costs too, but that still comes out WAY less than the average $800 most people calculate for disposable diapering PER YEAR. Mint.com did the math for us if you follow that link. I got similar numbers.
Another advantage is that cloth diapers are very low in chemicals and come in organic varieties as well. Disposables are well known for exposing your baby's butt to known carcinogens.
Aside from being adorable, a few other reasons to love cloth would be that it's easier on the environment, no trash to take out, and they really are not that hard to wash. In fact, you don't even have to rinse out exclusively breastfed poop. Just throw it all in the wash. Personally, I feel like running diapers through the wash is more convenient than going out to buy them and asking my husband 200 times to take the stinky trash out. I also have two large dogs that I would constantly have to keep out of the trash. Just my humble opinion! I will definitely have another, more informative post on cloth diapering soon. There is so much information out there, and it truly is almost a culture of its own.
Ah... last but not least.
Natural Birth-in a birth center.
This one is such a hot button topic, I think I will list my reasons and leave you with a list of links!
I think I will start by telling you there is only one reason why I am using a birthing center as my choice for delivery. That reason being, my insurance will not cover a home birth, and I do not have the funds to pay a midwife myself.
I believe birth is a natural, normal thing our bodies do. Complications DO pop up, and this is the reason we have OBGYN's and hospitals. This is also the reason we have interventions like inductions and c-sections. I feel great about the fact I live within 4 miles of a great hospital, I can get there so quickly if I have a problem.
However, I do not believe these institutions have anything to do with a normal, natural birth. Did you know, as a nation our hospitals average more than 33% c-sections? There is no way 33% of women's bodies are not capable of birth. Midwifes as a whole have LOWER c-section rates, and LOWER death rates for their patients. I think this points out an imbalance in the hospital standard of care. More c-sections are done Monday through Friday. I'll let you figure that one out for yourself.
Through your whole pregnancy you are told to avoid medication, alcohol, even coffee. Suddenly you have people (routinely) offering you narcotics? It just doesn't make sense to me. I believe medication should be used as intended: only when the benefits to involved parties (i.e. mother AND child) outweigh the risks.
Other than wanting to avoid an unnecessary c-section, I want to avoid pain medication and induction because they statistically tend to start a cycle that often leads to c-section. They also tend to have negative effects on both mother and baby. We have one of the highest intervention rates in the industrialized world, and we also have one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. In fact we are on par with Saudi Arabia, that means we statistically are as likely to die from childbirth as we would be in a country where cultural norms tend to restrict a woman's basic rights. Currently we are rated at 50th in the world. This means there are 49 other countries doing a better job than us. This is not according to some random source, this is according to the CDC (center for disease control, search "maternal death" in their search box if you want to know more). They're concerned enough about it to be running the statistics and refer to it as a "significant public health issue." What are we doing wrong? It's worth noting that the countries with better outcomes tend to use midwifes for normal, uncomplicated births.
In conclusion, I'm choosing a natural, un-medicated birth out of the hospital for two reasons.
- Frankly, I am scared of going to the hospital if there is no need.
- Once again I believe you cannot improve on God's design. I want to feel it, even knowing it will be painful. (And yes, I'm perfectly okay with you thinking I'm messed up in the head for WANTING to feel it!)
Here are a few links if you want to know more about natural childbirth and/or the state of the United State's health care system regarding birth:
The Business of Being Born - great if you like documentaries or don't want to read.
World Health Organization
An article about climbing c-section rates.
A breif summary of c-section risks.
Pitocin risks (the drug they usually do inductions and speed up labor with)
Ina May Gaskin-a midwife who has dedicated her life to changing the way we see birth.
Those should be enough of a start! I will probably so more detailed, informative posts on all of this later. However, I think most of this stuff explains why I am making the choices I am.
With all of the parenting advice calling from every corner, how does a parent know what to do though? I feel like the only thing you can do is listen politely because some advice is actually good. But in the end trust your instincts. I encourage parents to know that this is your child, your decision, do some research. We have never lived in a time where so much information is available. Make educated decisions! These things are important.