Saturday, 8 August 2015

Baby-centered Parenting

I carry my son in a carrier, we co-sleep at night and he nurses on demand. Strollers, cribs and bottles are completely foreign to him. No, I'm not an attachment-style parent. I am a baby-centered parent. Baby-centered parenting captures the unique qualities of each child.
I followed my son's lead from the day he was born. Through careful observation, trial and error and allowing myself to get to know him, I have learned his likes and dislikes. I used strollers, bottles and cribs with my first born. Why such vastly different methods of parenting? Because my daughter is a different child with her own set of likes and dislikes. She needed her own space and never slept well beside me as an infant. She loved her crib. She took to a bottle easily and switched between breast and bottle feeding without difficulty. She preferred a stroller over a carrier and enjoyed being pushed for long walks. The exact opposite of my son.
Parents often worry that they will spoil their baby if they carry them too much or cuddle them to sleep. I get scolded by family members who are adamant that I am "spoiling" my son by nursing him too frequently and co-sleeping with him. They claim that he has developed bad habits and I will nurse him forever and he will never leave my bed. The reality is that it is NOT forever. One day, in the near future, my son will grow up and I will miss these early years where I had the opportunity to cuddle with him in bed and nurse him. I can already see huge changes in him. I used to have to go to bed with him at night and there was no way I could escape; he would sense my every movement and it's like we were totally in-sync. Remarkably, one night he decided he didn't need to be so close to me and rolled away. And now I can put him to bed and leave him to sleep. He did this on his own schedule without any sleep training. Some babies take well to sleep training, others don't. My son definitely did not. By following his lead instead of adhering to sleep schedules posted on the internet, I dropped all expectations and was able to take a more relaxed approach to parenting.
Each child is as unique as a fingerprint or a single snowflake. Only you, the parent, can learn exactly what your child needs to thrive. You are the expert. Not the books you are reading, not the countless family and friends that give you advice.  Not even Dr. Sears. No one knows your child as well as you do.
Here are some suggestions for how you can incorporate baby-centered parenting into your life:
  • You know your baby best.  Listen respectfully to advice, read books and get information, but ultimately, trust your gut!
  • Learn and track when your baby goes down easiest for naps/bedtime, when they are the hungriest for meals/snacks, and what calms them before bed.  Follow their cues to create an individualized routine. 
  • Try baby-led weaning.  Allow your child to choose food and feed themselves (within reason, of course!) and see how they eat when they're doing it independently.
  • Use baby sign to help you and your baby communicate.  It can be faster and clearer than using spoken language, and can help you to understand and respond to your baby's needs.
  • If you find you're busy, try scheduling some intentional one-on-one time with baby to observe and bond.
  • Try elimination communication and really get to know your baby!   We don't mean the potty-training part necessarily, but the part where you really seek to observe baby's elimination cues.
Things to keep in mind:
  • Keep in mind that this is a short period of time!  Co-sleeping, nursing, etc. don't last forever.
  • Safety first.  Educate yourself so you know what's safe and what's not for baby.  
  • Babies and kids thrive on routine. Just because you're following your baby's lead, doesn't mean you shouldn't provide structure.
  • Know when to ask for help if you need a break. Don't forget to take care of yourself:)
What do you think of baby-centred parenting? How would you describe your parenting style? Let's share our expertise so we can figure out this crazy parenting gig together!

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