Sunday, April 17, 2011

I quit! (the books, that is...)

My favorite card...pretty much says it all.
I actually got some advice from a new mom while I was pregnant to "stay away from the books...cause it will make you crazy".  And I kept the reading to a minimum..I was after all still finishing my labor and delivery books, nursing books, and nutrition books.  Then, I was too busy treading water as a new mom to read much...that is until Xavi was almost three months.  Then I thought I needed to catch up on what I've been missing...I mean, how do you do this right?  How do you know what is normal?  And of course, how do I not make any mistakes?  (hee hee...yes, even I am laughing at myself right now)

As I've posted before, I love to read and always have.  It's how I like to learn and so here I was needing/wanting to I turned to books, advice or not.  I read about attachment parenting (breast feeding, sleep sharing, baby wearing, etc...), child development, and what finally broke me...sleep.  I read five different sleep books, all to learn how to help my child sleep well and eventually, independantly.  Xavi is not a "bad sleeper" but he is a cat napper, napping for almost exactly 30-40 minutes then waking up ready to party..only to need another nap in an hour or two.  Try to getting anything done on that schedule.  I once figured that I spent 90 minutes putting him down for 180 minutes of sleep.  At night, he was sleeping well but he slept with us still (and for that matter, slept great.)  The only time I could get him to nap for longer than one sleep cycle was if I napped with him and nap nursed him into another cycle or two.  So...I really wanted to see if there were "tricks" to help him do that on his own.  Did I really want to nap with him every day?  And of course then I heard plenty of..."better be careful, he's gonna get used to that and you'll be doing that for the rest of his childhood..."  In regards to the sleep sharing/co-sleeping..."we made that mistake with our first're gonna have to break him of that soon.  with our second, we learned that when they cry they don't die..."  Needless, to say I became frustrated and the books seemed to re-inforce my frustration instead of helping to alleviate it...because my baby didn't respond the way the books said that he would/should.   

I stopped reading the "attachment parenting" books not because I disagreed with it...if I had to call our parenting style anything...I would call it as such.  But the books reassured me that if I wore my baby in a sling...he wouldn't cry as much.  (ummm...I now own 5 different types of baby search of "the One" that would give me the content, calm baby that the book described if carried in a sling.)    Xavi has always wanted to be held...even now, he does not enjoy "independant" play time as much as he likes to be carried while I do household chores or our daily walks.  Rather than fight that, be frustrated, and keep him in a state of stress...I hold him, carry him in a sling, play with him...and yes, he still cries (sling or not).  But I decided that I'd rather be holding him as he cried than making him cry harder by forcing something that a book told me was the "right" way OR by trying to live up to some "ideal" put forth by a book.  I am an attachment parenting momma and my baby still cries for no reason.  I am (now) ok with that and can (usually) use my god given intuition to know what he needs. And sometimes that is ME.

As soon I was pregnant, I learned quickly that becoming a mom meant opening yourself up to solicited and plenty of unsolicited advice, both well meaning and annoying types.   But as an article I read recently pointed out, no two points are more discussed as breast feeding and sleeping.   (Yes, I still read...books and articles, too) Anthropologically speaking, babies are meant to breast fed until they are 6-7 years old and sleep with their parents at least until they are 3 years old.  Wow! Really?  Anthropology is a measure that Mario and I use often to gauge our approach to many things: nutrition, exercise, simplicity...etc, now child rearing.   What are we equipped for?  How are we "wired" to work ideally?  Our genes have not changed in thousands of years...our lifestyles/diets/child rearing have changed significantly.  Strange as it sounds to breast feed until they have a full set of baby teeth, we still need to eat, live, and rear children the way our far ancestors did.  Our culture, instead of taking care of the baby's actual anthropologic needs and trying to model childcare after what his genes are coded to seek, is trying to make a baby fit into our modern lifestyle requirements that may or may not be in the baby's best interest.

So how does that all fit in with what we are currently "taught" by other popular books and advice panelists?  Well, what I can ascertain is that we parents are being "manipulated" by babies who want to be in control of our lives and this is something that must be "broken".  (Excuse my Chris Farley "quotation marks" in this posting...I'd probably be even more animated if you were talking to me in person.).  No, I don't want to be that mom in the grocery store reasoning with her child..."Xavi, if you don't stop throwing a temper tantrum, you won't get any whip cream on your frappucino.".. but does my five month old really manipulate me?  Does he need to be "broken" in order to fit into what model he "should" fit into?   

I personally have decided to quit reading books and taking the "experts" word for it or trying to implement someone else's system...I still read and gather great information from many sources, including my sisters, parents, and friends, BUT I weigh everything against my own intuition and my own (still) developing parenting belief system. And I welcome comments, arguments...if only to test my own resolve.  I know that I will make plenty of mistakes and in hindsight, will recognize approaches that I would change.  But for now...I'll breast feed Xavi as long as it makes nutritional and personality sense (doubtful that we'll go until 6 or 7...kindergarten? yikes ;)).  And I absolutely love sleeping with him...and so, I continue to teach him to be comfortable and secure sleeping on his own, but will welcome him into our bed as long as it makes health, relationship, and personality sense.  I've also made peace with his not "normal" sleeping pattern of catnaps.  It is exhausting... but I keep repeating to myself that this is temporary.  It won't always be like this and this will pass.  Someday he won't want to be held and someday, if he is like his father, he will be able to sleep through just about anything.  It isn't necessarily what is most convenient for me/us and I'm pretty sure I'll seriously consider a boob job after I'm done...but it is what his little cave baby genes need at this stage of his life. 

Even their hairline is the same...look closely.  Same colic, same wave...
 What would I recommend for a new mom?  By all means, read...soak it up; learn and grow, however you do best.  But know that YOU KNOW BEST.  No one knows your baby like you do and you can't really be wrong if you listen to what your heart and intuition is telling you.  And what would I say to the veterans out there?  Give advice when asked, when needed...but encourage us "young" moms to listen to our intuition, to listen to our baby's voice, and that "this too shall pass". 

PS - I didn't mean this to be so long..but once I got going the words just kept coming. And I am not even frustrated...I finally have my feet under me and wanted to share my excitement!  Thanks for listening!

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