Alternative Parenting?

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.

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4 Responses to “Alternative Parenting?”

  1. Jessica says:

    Oh my goodness, are you onto something here. I completely identify with being branded as an alternative parent. I’ve grown alright with it, I think. Well. Depends on the day. It is funny that most Americans don’t adhere to the best practices of the WHO but still consider our country to be the foremost authority despite the high number of premature births, high rate of mortality, ad infinitum. Golly. Parenting is tough. It is funny to me that the Happiest Baby on the Block was given to me during pregnancy to sort of lay the groundwork for not trusting myself… Along with all the other books LOL.

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much for visiting Jessica! I think what’s funniest about mainstream vs. alternative is that “mainstream” really means “in the last forty years or so…” because how alternative is doing what has been done for thousands of years anyway? Beats me! I think we should all figure out how to listen to our gut. Of course I say that and I swear to you my gut tells me to eat ice cream instead of lose the pregnancy weight….

  2. IM says:

    Love it!!!

  3. I have to agree with your comment above! ‘Mainstream’ is NEW! Everything we’re doing as ‘alternative’ is what was done for many hundreds of years! I must admit, when I’m feeling judge-y I call ‘mainstream parenting’ ‘convenient parenting’ which is always better for the parents, and not always better for the babies!

    As for the sleeping on the back thing – my daughter was born, swaddled and put on her back, and at 2 days old she would not stop crying. I gave her ‘tummy time’ – ie let her lay on her tummy for ten minutes during the day, as the health care worker told me to – and she stopped crying. I put her back on her back and off she went, screaming. Back on the tummy, quiet, on the back, screaming. Since then my daughter has slept on her tummy – even now lying here next to me, fast asleep on her belly. (But I hasten to add that she has also been able to lift her own head since birth)

    Follow your gut, not the instruction books – thats probably the best advice I could give anyone.

    Great post.

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