Monday, 11 February 2013
The Baby Led Life
I remember in the early weeks of Ethan Bear's life when I was getting my head around motherhood and feeling the overwhelming responsibility for this tiny person, I sometimes felt all at sea due to the wealth of advice from relatives and health professionals and just about anyone I met on the street. Health visitors were the worst, full of judgement and extolling themselves as experts. Maybe any person coming into the sanctuary of your home and telling you what to do is going to get your back up from the get go and I am sure their intention is just to do what they think is best but I found their advice made me question my instincts and try things that just weren't necessary. My health visitor told me the fact my husband was feeding our newborn baby once at night with expressed milk in a bottle would lead to nipple confusion and mean Ethan could not breast feed. I had just had a c-section and I think without that chance at a four hour sleep once a day I would have got much more run down. Ethan did not get confused or ever favour the bottle if Mummy was around and I fed him until he was twenty months old. I also committed the cardinal sin of co-sleeping.
The health visitor told me it was dangerous and I should put baby in a cot and do controlled crying. If hearing my baby screaming upset me too much I should go down the end of the garden where I could not hear him rather than tend to him as my heart told me too. I was making a rod for my own back apparently. Me and my husband took on board the health visitors advice and put Ethan in a cot and let him cry for about ten minutes before both deciding we couldn't do that to our child. It felt wrong to deny this tiny person anything. We continued to cosleep together until Ethan was about two, maybe a little older and showed signs he didn't need to be in bed with us anymore. Relatives told us what we were doing by cosleeping was unnatural and not right but it felt right for us and there was no painful period of adjustment when Ethan went into his own room as he was ready. We seemed to sleep better than those with babies in separate rooms as if Ethan stirred he was met by a loving cuddle before he'd even had the chance to wake properly let alone scream the house down and get distressed. We weaned Ethan from breastfeeding at twenty months as he was getting a bit rough with me and I found I was resenting him as a result. For the sake of our relationship I felt it needed to end. Daddy took over the role of night time pacifer and they bonded more as a result. That first night I felt a twinge of sadness that our breastfeeding relationship was coming to an end but it was just the beginning of finding new ways to comfort and love my boy. Ethan starting eating solids at six months old.
He ate lots of fruit and vegetables and whatever we were having for meals. People scoffed as I gave him curry or strong cheeses but Ethan has always eaten well and had a healthy relationship with food by being able to feed himself and try the wealth of flavours on offer rather than bland purees. I had a few tries with potty training Ethan when he was younger but it was obvious he wasn't ready. Some ridiculed that my boy was not trained before he was three but I just sighed and thought "once again we will take our own path led by Ethan on this". He turned three a few weeks ago and began showing signs of being ready. He has done really well in the past week with only a few accidents. He takes great delight in his new found independence and once again, the time is right. Potty training is not the nightmare I pictured but I can guess it would have been if we had tried to make him do it before he was ready. As a parent I have learnt to be very suspicious of self proclaimed childcare experts (who more often than not don't have children) or medical experts (who may be qualified in medical care but are not experts on my child) and grown a thicker skin as competitive parents scoff at my relaxed approach to parenting ("He still sleeps in your bed? He'll be there until he's eighteen at this rate! " "He is still in nappies? Our girl was trained at two years old!" ). I am not a childcare expert but I am the expert of my own child and will continue to trust my heart and my instincts about what is right for Ethan and Minnie.
I have been told this post has a negative air to it which was never my intention. My main point is that I just believe we should all trust our instincts more and act on love for our children not what others deem acceptable. Do not feel guilty or ashamed because your baby cosleeps with you (or vice versa), don't stress if your baby is the last out of a group of peers to walk, talk or do anything. Don't be goal orientated, live in the moment just like a child. I love being a Mum more than anything and when I had the strength to follow what felt right for me both me, my husband and my child we were all happier. Enjoy your children and let them be children, it won't be forever :)