Philosophy Shmilosophy

Parenting books.  I’ve read them.  At first, when I was a newby preggo, all full of hope and promise, all naive and idealistic, I took these books very seriously.  I read Babywise and The Baby Book in tandem, which is probably the weirdest thing you could do.  I actually didn’t finish either of them because I quickly became confused, then frustrated, then angry about the contradictions between the two.  Put your baby on a feeding schedule, don’t feed your baby on a schedule.  Sleeping with your baby is healthy, sleeping with your baby causes death.  Wear your baby several hours a day, let your baby hang out in a swing.  Respond to your baby as soon as he needs you, teach your baby to “self soothe”.  Ugh.

After spending half my pregnancy going from one thought camp to another, I finally gave up and decided I’d just wait and see what my baby was like when he/she arrived.  I decided that I would instinctively know how to be a mother, and that I didn’t need an “expert” or a book or a philosophy to help me.

Enter Baby.  Maybe there are some moms out there who really do feel instinctual and confident from the very moment they set eyes on their newborn and from there on out, but I think most of us have a few (or many) moments (or days) in those first few weeks when we seriously doubt that we were cut from the same mommy cloth as all those other seasoned and successful mom heroes we know (probably the same ones we used to criticize for their oh-s0-imperfect methods).

In the weeks following Alex’s birth, I suddenly doubted that I knew anything at all and turned back to the books as I panicked about sleep and breastfeeding and diaper rash and sleep (did I say that twice?  good).   Again, the contradictions and completely opposite advice.  This book says to take your baby for a car ride every night to get him to sleep, that one says to put your baby in a crib and shut the door, another one says to rock your baby and put them down awake, and yet another says to crawl in bed with baby.

After reading through the books I started and then reading some other ones, and then some other ones, I finally came to the same conclusion that I’d had while pregnant: Screw the books!  Screw the philosophies!  Screw the advice!  No one knows your baby like you do, and therefore no one can be sure to give you the perfect advice for your child.  You have to listen to your baby, listen to yourself, pick and choose from the advice you’re given, and do what works for your family.  Safety and and eye for the future are, of course, vital parts of your decision-making.  It burns me up that parents are given so little credit that we are told to look up the “guidelines” from experts before we are encouraged to consult our own intellect.  I’m not saying that statistics and professional opinions are of no value, just that they aren’t a substitute for your own intelligent brain, your own intuition as a mother.  Study your baby and learn about them, because they are a unique individual, nonidentical anyone else’s baby and nonidentical any other baby you have had or ever will have.

I’d like to think that when it comes to parenting philosophies I take the best from each.  I have not yet read a parenting book that I completely agree with every way.  My favorites, though, are the ones that talk about the science and facts of baby development so that I can try to work with Alex’s natural trajectory, the path of growth that God meant for babies to take when he designed  them.  The 90 Minute Baby Sleep book, for example, is one that has been helpful for me because it talks about how babies (and adults too) operate on 90 minute cycles.  In babies, the end of the 90 minute cycle is that point at which they are most receptive to sleep.  Very young babies have no reason to be awake for more than 90 minutes.  Older babies will begin to string together more cycles and be awake for 3 hours or maybe 4 and 1/2 hours.  If you watch for your baby’s sleepy signs and begin to soothe them at that point, they should go to sleep very easily.  Again, not everything in the book has worked for us, but it has given me very good guidelines for sleep, and has contributed to Alex being a very well-rested little boy.

I don’t nurse on a schedule, but I do loosely follow a sleep-eat-wake pattern, compliments of Babywise.  I don’t plan to let Alex cry himself to sleep, but I do plan to do a bedtime routine as many of the “cry it out” books suggest.  I don’t plan to take Alex for a car ride every night to get him to sleep, but I do sleep with him next to me in my bed, something The Baby Book endorses.

To be honest, when I hear phrases like “attachment parenting” or “cry it out” or “schedule parents”, I want to hurl.  Some of you might get angry to hear me say that, but I hate those phrases and I don’t associate myself with any of the parenting camps that have sprung up all over the internet.   My husband certainly doesn’t either (he hasn’t read any parenting books, and that may be a  good thing).  I’m just Alex’s mommy, and I plan to parent him in a way that works with his personality and temperament, works for our family, and helps him to become the kind of man who loves and honors God, is close to his parents, is honest and courageous in his dealings with other men, and treats women with sensitivity and respect.  His spiritual outcome is of utmost importance to me, even more so than his physical and intellectual maturity.  I want to parent with those goals in mind.

That being said, I breastfeed on demand, co-sleep, and baby-wear, so I probably fall closer to the attachment parenting camp than any other.  Although I really didn’t want to say that because I also look for patterns and routines and utilize several principles that help to lend structure and predictability to our lives.  I also plan for Alex to sleep in his own bed at some point, though not until he is ready.  I just hate the label.  It puts a bad taste in my mouth, maybe because it gives me visions of children who are allow to run amuck with no order or discipline and a family where the father and mother sleep in separate rooms to accommodate extended co-sleeping.  I’m not really as militant and I may sound, but I have been feeling rather soapbox-ish and defensive lately, and posts like this result.

I guess if i have a parenting philosophy it is simply this: Alex is a tiny baby who can’t take care of himself, so when he needs me I’m going to be there for him.  I want him to know that he can count on his parents to help him.  As he is able to do things for himself, I want to facilitate that and help him grow into a confident and independent adult who still isn’t afraid to ask for and accept help and support when he needs it.

That is all.



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