Before I ever became a parent, I had plenty of opinions about parenting. I was glib in a way that only the childless can be, with an answer for every problem.
It all seemed so easy to me: You can’t get your baby to sleep in her own bed? Maybe you should have started her sleeping in the crib in the beginning. You don’t want people staring at you nursing in public? Maybe you should go to another room — or pump to bring a bottle with you when you’re out.
There were so many things I thought I’d never do when I became a parent. Yet only six months into being a parent, I’ve already broken a number of those “rules” and flip declarations.
I swore I wouldn’t let my baby sleep in my bed. Yet she hasn’t slept a single night in her crib. Not even in the hospital. We realized on our first night that she wouldn’t sleep if she wasn’t sleeping with us. We would get her to sleep then lie her in the bassinet, and she would wake up immediately and cry.
We quickly learned that if we wanted to sleep, she was going to have to sleep with us.
Before I had my baby, I thought I might breastfeed for “at least six months — maybe a year.” I started with charts to maintain careful schedules, certain that I was going to get my baby on a sleeping and eating schedule as soon as possible.
Quinn would scream and cry, and I thought, “Well, she can’t be hungry. She JUST ate!” We endured two weeks of inconsolable screaming and crying before I realized the solution: Breastfeeding on demand. It didn’t matter if she ate five minutes before — all that mattered was that she wanted to eat again. I shut out my pediatrician’s warnings about her using me as a “pacifier,” and just listened to my baby instead. Then the most amazing thing happened: My baby became a happy, contented little Buddha who pretty much never cried. She smiled at everyone. She rarely fussed. She quietly studied strangers who held her.
Once I dismissed my previously misguided notions, I started looking into the new choices I was making to find out the conventional wisdom. What did the experts say about co-sleeping? What were the recommendations about feeding on demand?
What I found is that the research backed up my decisions. Co-sleeping and breastfeeding on demand help parents develop a more secure attachment with their babies, creating happier, calmer, and more content babies.
Co-sleeping helps babies to regulate temperature, heart beat, breathing rhythms and other functions, helping to promote development and to reduce the risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding offers a large number of health benefits for both babies and mothers.
Co-sleeping and breastfeeding were just the start for me. The more I read, and the more I experienced for myself, the more my old notions of what parenting would be like and the decisions I would make fell away.
I’m looking forward to the next six months and all the months and years after that — and I’m curious to see how my parenting philosophies will change even more over time. The one thing I do know for sure: It will be an adventure.