So I was chatting with an expectant father the other day and he asked me how my “alternative parenting techniques” were working out. I answered that everything was fantastic and that the baby was so much fun…and she is now that she is out of that tiny newborn-overwhelmed-screams while getting diaper changed-attached to my boob 24/7-sleeps for maybe an hour at a time phase.
But then I thought, “alternative parenting” is what I’m doing alternative in some way? This friend claimed it was alternative by definition, so that got me thinking.* How can parenting be “alternative by definition.” First what does that mean? Well alternative means “existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system” (thanks dictionary!) In my mind that’s like the guy (or gal) who looked at tomatoes growing right side up in the dirt and thought “Bollocks! I’m going to grow tomatoes upside down without any soil” That was defying the established approach. So is there an established cultural approach to parenting? Is there such a thing as “mainstream parenting”?
Well there are “best practices” and guidelines established by entities like the American Academy of Pediatrics or the World Health Organization. And there is information from sources you personally trust. Whether that’s my grandma who’s nannied her whole life and helped raise dozens of children from birth to adult hood, or my pediatrician or my circle of friends. But constantly evolving safety standards aside (today we put our kids to sleep on their back, while twenty years ago on their tummy was thought safest) I think the only universal truth about parenting is you do what works for you, whatever that may be and be prepared to constantly change your strategy. In my limited parenting experience advice and guidelines and “mainstream” or “alternative” methods are all fine and good but you better do one thing- LISTEN TO YOUR GUT!
Here’s an example, before Aliza was born I “knew” that the best way to comfort an overwhelmed newborn and make them feel secure and back -in-the -womb-like was to swaddle them. My grandma said so, my doctor said so, the Happiest Baby on the Block video said so. And when she was born, she was soon after swaddled and she was a happy little bundle! So that confirmed all the advice I had been given. And peace reigned in my swaddled baby kingdom until Aliza was six weeks…then she fought and resisted and cried when swaddled and was anything but a happy bundle. For a while I panicked and told my gut, who calmly kept saying un-swaddle her and see what happens, to shut it because grandma wouldn’t approve. And then I finally listened and put her sleep un-swaddled, and miracle of miracles she was happy, and so was I.
*Mommy brain thinking is different from my previous attempts at cognitive activity, sorry it is what it.