natural parenting styles [what works best for you?]

When it comes to being parents, the Mr. and I try not to over think too many things.  It seems like being a parent in 2013 may be harder than any other generation for one simple reason - too much information!!!  Don't get me wrong, I love that with a simple google search I can find the answer to anything.  And I also find comfort in knowing we have so many resources at the tip of our fingers.  So what's so hard about that, well, let me tell you, too much information can be a very dangerous thing. Parenting today is filled with so many decisions, because there seems to be a camp on how to do anything and everything when it comes to our children.  Do we vaccinate, yes or no, and when, how many at one time?  Do we co-sleep with our babies, or put them instantly in the crib, or bassinet? Stroller, or baby carrier, and which one, there are a thousand different versions.  When do you start feeding your baby something other than the boob, and do you start with cereal, or purees, or good ole' fashion "real food"?  Oh, and of course, there is the question about boobs: to boobie snack, or not boobie snack, that is the age old discussion.

While I was pregnant, we didn't have really in-depth conversations about how we wanted to raise this little baby of ours.  We wanted to go with the flow, let Everly guide us with what worked best for her, and us, and that led us to the parenting style sometimes referred to as "attachment parenting" or "natural parenting".  The funny thing about this style, that can of course take on a thousand variations, is this style of parenting is very unnatural for many American parents.  The foundation of this parenting style goes against what many of us have been told is the "right way" to parent, and so some resistance may ensue.  [No joke, I heard a public service announcement ad on the radio while on vacation that warned against sleeping with your baby because you will suffocate them, say what?!? This article is just one of many that supports the practice].  Even with some negativity around it, I do feel like the natural parenting movement is really catching on and becoming more mainstream, and that makes me happy.

The beginning of our natural parenting path started way before I was pregnant.  My mom had had a non-medicated delivery, and nursed both my sister and I, so to me, this was the norm.  I too was able to have a natural birth sans any medical intervention, and feel very lucky to do so, especially in a time when hospitals are not always supportive of these methods, but that would be a different post all together.  And thankfully, even though it took a lot of work, and some stressful times when it came to supply, I can proudly say that my daughter has been able to nurse for nine months, and I would not have had it any other way.  Sure, nursing exclusively, no bottles, no supplementing, can be challenging, and that's an understatement.  I am "on call" 24-7, and even though Everly is needing me less these days now that we've introduced solid food, I still share this body of mine with my daughter in a way no one else can.  And even though that may cut down on the "me time" right now, it is so worth it.  Not just the nutritional benefits for E, but the bond I have with her because of this experience.  For those close around me who have gotten to experience Everly eating could attest to the joy she gains from this connection, far more than any bottle I believe.  I will nurse her for as long as she needs me to, and fingers crossed this body of mine will allow it.

^I think I should have clearly worn a hat on this trip too, oh my^

When it came to sleeping arrangements, we purchased a co-sleeping basket for Everly to sleep in.  This basket is essentially supposed to make you feel like you are not going to roll over on your baby, and I'm sure for some it works wonders.  But for us, this thing was not a hit.  We tried it, every night for the first week, and Everly screamed.  From the very first night, Everly needed to feel human touch to sleep, and in fact, slept in my arms the entire night in the hospital [sorry nurses, it happened].  Looking back, I think she slept two nights in the swing at home, before we realized this was a fight that did not need to be fought.  Everly was new to this world, and needed to feel the comfort and warmth of her parents, and so we began co-sleeping.  Getting to see the progression of her sleeping patterns has been amazing.  In the beginning, she slept on our tummy or chest, then she mastered nursing on her side, and slept tummy to tummy with me for months.  Just recently, she nurses for a bit, then rolls onto her back, right in the middle of the bed, and stays that way all night.  She is needing us less and less at night, and after she turns one, we will begin transitioning her into her own crib.  Co-sleeping gave us a very happy, very secure, very warm, and very connected baby.  I know for a fact that if we had not "listened" to what Everly needed when it came to sleep, I would still be having sleepless nights, and I'm so thankful that our family of three was able to make this work for us.

It is truly amazing how much stuff parents are made to think they "need" in order to parent.  I walk through baby stores and realize we have a ridiculously small fraction of what they sell.  For our first year, we have taken the term "attachment parenting" fairly literal.  When we did not get the stroller we had registered for, we took it for what it was, and invested in a baby carrier instead.  Our daughter has not been in a stroller, and won't be for at least her first year.  As she gets bigger, and enters toddler-hood, we will re-look into the stroller option.  But for now, we are baby-carrying fools, and love it. Right now, we are rockin' theErgo carrier, and LOVE it.  Everly is always so cozy while being carried, and either enjoys the view, or takes a wonderful nap in it.  I think the baby carrying thing is the one part of our parenting style that we joke most about.  The Mr. and I love the movie "Away We Go", and Maggie Gyllenhaal's character always cracked us up when yelling, why would I want a stroller?  Why would I want to PUSH my baby away from me?  And when all was said and done, that was exactly what we decided was best for us.  Go figure.

About a month before Everly was born we decided we should probably take a parenting class, since we had zero experience with newborns, or babies.  Most of the information was fairly basic, but the one piece I really took to heart was that there is no such thing as spoiling a newborn.  A newborn baby can never be held too much, and letting the baby "cry it out" is hopefully a way of the past.  I remember sitting there, oh so very pregnant, and so happy to hear this.  You mean I don't have to do what I see on t.v. or in the movies?  I don't have to close the door to the nursery and listen to hours of a new baby crying?  Oh, thank, god.  It was silly that this had to come from a stranger, but it did for me.  Hearing this woman say these words made me so at ease.  Looking back, I do feel like these few simple words made me realize I needed to parent however the hell worked for me.  It was our decision as a family how to make this work, and no outdated manual was going to tell us otherwise.

And so, that's what we did.  We parent the way that feels right to us.  Sure, people may have passed judgements, or said that we were making mistakes, but that's fine.  We've been oh so natural and very attached to our Everly, and we just stumbled into it all.  I love realizing that what we were doing had a name, and countless other parents are doing some of the same things.

So here is to parenting our babies the way that works best for us.  Here is to parenting the way that feels right to us, and not letting anyone tell us that we should be doing things differently.  If you parent the complete opposite of me, guess what, we can still be friends!  Had a planned c-section, bought stock in baby formula, and live and die by a sleep schedule, have at it friend.  If it works for you, so be it!

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