Saturday, July 23, 2011

Straying From The Mainstream Path

In the US, there seems to be a set of  'rules' that a parent must follow. These 'rules' include but are not limited to:
  • Do not co-sleep.
  • Do not breast feed baby in public where, God forbid, someone might see you!
  • When beginning solids you must start with bland rice cereal, followed by pureed bland veggies, followed by pureed bland fruits. No spices.
  • Let baby cry it out.
  • Sterilize EVERYTHING
  • Don't let baby touch anything that is not specifically approved by some high ranking authority.
There are tons more, but you get the picture. This is the common practice in the US these days and if you don't follow these 'rules' to the letter, then there's someone who will quickly point out what a horrible parent you are. And to those people I say...ahem...Pfffffffft.

That's right. I'm a Rebel Mom. I co-sleep, I breast feed anywhere and everywhere, I practice baby led solids, I don't let my baby cry it out, the thought of sterilizing everything makes me laugh and I encourage my children to explore and touch different things. Oh, and I baby wear. Why do I do these things you might wonder. Well, it's simple really. I do these things because this is what works for us.

When my oldest son was born, weighing a whopping 10 1/2 lbs, we started out placing him in his bassinet. And he liked it. He was a great sleeper and wanted his own space so he got it. We did keep him in our room though. When my second son was born, oh my goodness this child could not have been more different! From the very first day he refused to sleep on his own. And when I say very first day, I literally mean the very first day. He would scream his little head off anytime he wasn't attached to me. I'd put him to sleep, and as gently as possible lay him down. As soon as I broke contact, he would scream. You see, my son is what's called High Needs. The only way he was happy and would sleep is if he was with me. So we began co-sleeping. Oh you can imagine the things I heard."Don't start that stuff, you'll never get him out of your bed."  "That is so dangerous." But, it worked for us, and contrary to what many people believed, he was in his own bed at 16 months old. When my daughter was born, I once again attempted to putting her to bed in a bassinet. Nuh uh. She was having no part of that. So, we began co-sleeping again. You can easily find studies that claim co-sleeping is dangerous, but I can find just as many that say it isn't and in fact reduces the risk of SIDS. The truth is you can find a study to support pretty much any claim.

Breast feeding in public is unfortunately often viewed as wrong or scandalous. Why? Boobs are made to feed babies, that is their purpose. I'll admit this is the fourth time I've started this paragraph. This is a topic that I feel very strongly about and I could, and will, make an entire post dedicated to it. For the purpose of this post and in the interest of keeping this below novel length I'll just say the following. I nurse where ever and whenever my baby needs to eat. I will not force my infant to wait or confine us to some smelly bathroom. My baby is not going to suffer because someone can't handle a breast being used for its intended purpose.

When it comes to solid foods, I admit I followed the 'rules' with my first baby. I didn't know any better. ;-)  And he didn't object. Today, he's an extremely picky kid. My second baby was started on rice cereal at 3 1/2 months by his doctor in an attempt to help his reflux. He hated the stuff. He wasn't on it long before we switched to oatmeal. He wasn't a big fan of that either. We began giving him some pureed fruit and veggies and he wasn't loving that either. We made it about halfway through the second foods stage before we chucked the bland purees. He was much happier eating table food with actual flavor. Now, this kid eats everything. His favorite foods include mussels, spinach, goat cheese, beans and jalapeno Cheetos. Now, with baby number three, we skipped rice cereal entirely and tried oatmeal. She didn't like it. We tried purees and although there were a few fruits she would tolerate, like mango, she rejected those as well. But she loved our food. At 7 1/2 months she eats what we eat and the more flavor the better. Oddly enough the only things she doesn't like are bananas and watermelon.

I do not believe in letting baby cry it out. Honestly, when I hear of a parent letting their very young infant just lay there and cry, it breaks my heart. Babies cry because they need something, even if what they need is just to be held. Babies need attention, a lot of attention, that's just how it is.

The idea that you should, or can, create a pristine world for baby is just ridiculous to me. The world is not a pristine place. Now, I'm not saying you should grab that binkie from the mud puddle and stick it back in baby's mouth, but I don't believe in putting them in a bubble either.

Babies need to explore, it's how they learn. Sitting baby down on a clean patch of grass or letting them play in the sand at the beach is not going to hurt them. They need to do things like this. Handing baby a clean plastic spoon and letting them bang away on their high chair is great fun for them. Sure, baby toys can be great, but would you want to play with the same thing all day every day?

The way the US raises babies is so different from other countries. Nobody in Paris objected to me nursing my 18 month old. No one in Egypt batted an eye. The truth is breast feeding, even over the age of one, co-sleeping and feeding baby from the table are the norm in other countries. Quite frankly, many people from other countries find the US's practices strange. Apparently, so do I. But, the bottom line is that you have to do what feels right to you and what keeps your baby happy, healthy and safe.

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