Monday, April 02, 2007

Not Crunchy! (Just a little bit crisp...)

Those of you who follow my husband's blog know that I've been "zinged" several times in his latest entries and he has implied that I'm just shy of spending my spare time chaining myself to trees. I want to go on record saying that I have no problem with crunchy people. Some of my dear friends fall into this category and I have learned much from them. I respect those who care so much about the world we live in and deep down I do aspire to take more responsibility in preserving it. Having said all of that, I feel that I am "not worthy" of being classified that way.

As a researcher, I naturally spent a good deal of time prior to Grace's birth researching different parenting methods. I learned that there are two extremes: The "Babywise Strict Schedule Fit the Baby into YOUR Life Parents" and The Attachment Parents whose basic tenets include breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, cloth diapering, and positive reinforcement instead of physical discipline. Though there are large groups of people on both extremes, the majority of parents fall somewhere between these two extremes and adjust their parenting style based on what works for their children. Prior to Grace's birth, I declared my allegiance to the Babywise group. OUR baby was going to fit into OUR life, she was going to know who the leaders of the pack were and work herself into our schedule. I had the EASY schedule memorized (Eat, Activity, Sleep, YOU time) and it sounded GREAT in theory. I read several different books with similar themes and I was an expert on raising babies on a schedule (or so I thought).

Then our sweet baby arrived and little by little, I found myself moving to the other extreme...

Yes, I breastfeed.
I ALWAYS had one foot firmly planted in the attachment parenting camp in the fact that I was COMPLETELY committed to breastfeeding. With my first son, I thought breastfeeding was a "natural" thing and did not commit to learning anything about it prior to his birth. I knew I wanted to do it, but figured mothers had been nursing babies since the beginning of time without help from lactation consultants or breastfeeding classes, so as a semi-intelligent person, surely I could pick it up on the fly. I remember the nurse in the hospital telling me breastfeeding babies eat every two hours in the early days and thinking "yeah right. Not MY child!" After 5 days of a screaming baby who couldn't latch, I reluctantly went to see a lactation consultant. Everyone around me was telling me to give the kid a bottle, but it went against my instincts. There were resources available to me and I wanted to make sure I had exhausted all of them before giving up because I HAD done the research to know of the endless benefits breastfeeding offers babies. The lactation consultant was able to help us resolve our issues and I went on to nurse him for 10 months despite working full-time. (And for the record I was right...MY child didn't eat every two hours during the early days. He went an hour and a half tops before being ready to eat again!) live and learn.

Luckily, I learned enough during Tyler's infancy, to be much more confident and secure when Grace was born. There was never any question about whether or not I would nurse her. She picked it up like a little champ and continued until early in my pregnancy with Noah when she chose to wean (which was an emotional roller coaster for mommy). Despite my commitment to Babywise prior to her birth, what I learned during Grace's early days is that the strict 3-hour Babywise schedule can be detrimental in the early days of breastfeeding when babies really need to nurse on demand to establish a good milk supply. My guess is that many moms abandon breastfeeding early on thinking they don't make enough milk because they have preconceived notions of how often babies should eat and only feed at those times. So, my commitment to breastfeeding caused me to generally toss Babywise to the curb before Grace was 2 weeks old. Having said that, I have found that the EASY system does work great for helping babies learn to fall asleep on their own and Grace did eventually fall into a modified version of it. She is now a fabulous sleeper so there is some merit in the basic idea. I just don't think it is realistic to expect a newborn baby to fall into a "grown up" schedule right off the bat.

On the same topic, YES, I am vehement about a woman's right to feed her child. To temper my crunchiness though, I will say that I do the best I can to be discreet and not make those around me uncomfortable. I understand that nursing a child is a wonderful, beautiful gift that is in no way sexual, but I also understand that no matter how enlightened I am, there are others who are not comfortable with public breastfeeding. Being the mother of an 11-year old boy, I also understand that it is unreasonable to expect that all people of all ages to "get" the beauty of it. We do the best we can to help Tyler understand it, but some things just come with maturity. Having said that, I think every woman has the right to feed her child in the way that is comfortable for her and her baby. I fed Grace on airplanes, in the middle of the mall, at soccer games, and even at the buffet at the Aladdin in Las Vegas. I never once heard a complaint from anyone around me, but I also made sure that I was as discreet as I could be while still allowing my baby to breathe and eat normally. I will admit though, that I have a serious problem with myspace allowing some of the most vulgar images and advertisements I have ever seen, while deleting images of children breastfeeding. To me, that is pure ignorance, therefore I am (modestly and discreetly) participating in the virtual "nurse in." It's that simple -- not the dramatic revolution Aaron alluded to in his blog -- just me standing up for something I believe in in a manner consistent with my values.

Yes, I co-sleep.
Whew, that is the hardest one to "type out loud." I know many who read this are gasping as they do so because in our society, co-sleeping is not generally thought of as socially acceptable. This makes our society different from most of the rest of the world where co-sleeping is accepted and widely practiced. For me, it's totally a convenience issue. As a working mom who needs to be alert during the day to take care of now two babies, keep the household running, AND have conversations with and conduct work for clients, I need my sleep. As previously discussed, breastfeeding babies eat often and I found getting up every two hours to feed to be more than I could handle. With the baby close by, we ALL get enough sleep and are happier as a result. I should say that well before her first birthday, Grace was sleeping through the night in her own crib and continues to do so. About the time she stopped nursing, she decided she had more room to move around in her own bed and just started sleeping there.

Yes, I am TRYING to learn to "wear" my baby.
Again, for me this one is more of a convenience thing. While I know babywearing promotes all kinds of good things for baby, I have two children under 18 months of age. I don't have enough hands to deal with them on my own. I NEED to wear one of them to be able to do the things I need to do with the other one. Having said that, I now own 4 different types of wraps/slings. I wish Aaron and I had thought to videotape ourselves as we tried to figure out how they worked, wrapping ourselves in yards of fabric and then trying to figure out where in the heck the baby went. I'm just not coordinated enough to "work" some of them, but I have found two styles that I think are going to work with a little practice.

Yes, sometimes I cloth diaper.
I'll admit it. This one even took ME by surprise. If you had told me even 6 months ago, that I would use cloth diapers, I would have laughed in your face. But, a friend of mine introduced me to today's cloth diapers and frankly, I decided to give them a try because they were so darn cute! It turns out they are not much more of a hassle than disposables and given their cost efficiency, environmental friendliness, and the fact that they are better for baby's skin, I couldn't justify NOT using them. I've mentioned that we are currently staying with my parents and in order to not overtax their washer and dryer, I haven't used cloth much while we've been here. However, when we are back home, I plan to jump back into it.

Yes, I am an attachment parent.
As they say, "if it looks like a duck..."
I'll admit it, over time I have moved closer to the attachment parenting extreme. Why? Because it works for our family. In 11 years of being a parent I have learned that it is less about research and facts and more about following your God-given instincts. I want my children to be secure and to know they are loved and the things that "feel right" to me just happen to be in what is considered the "crunchy" camp. But MY "crunchiness" is completely centered around my children. I don't recycle like I should, I don't buy organic food or natural cleaning products, I wear leather, and I don't spend NEARLY enough time outside to be worthy of the crunchy label. I'm just a busy mommy doing the best I can!

Just a side note for those who may be wondering: The "zingers" tossed from blog to blog between my sweet husband and me are all in good fun. We are the most loyal followers of each others blogs and both understand that the "teasing" is good natured.


Aaron said...

Honey, the Nature Valley people are here to talk to you! And Che Guevara called and wants to lead the next nurse-in.

moms4mitt said...

Aaron - that was good. Where on earth is YOUR blog anyway? I have GOT to see this...;)

Melissa you really surprised me with some of the claims on this post! I am both proud and shocked to call you my friend LOL Fascinating stuff, really I am surprised!

Seriously though, you are an incredibly thoughtful mother with an amazing writing talent. PLEASE send a link to your blog to a couple of mommy mags and get yourself a column!