Monday, 13 September 2010

Parenting naturally, but why?

When Emma asked me to share with you why I try to be a natural parent and how I came to it I had to smile. It's something I've asked myself a number of times and have even wanted to write about on my own blog, but have never really been able to find the words. So I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.

I didn't know anything about babies before I had mine. Yes, I attended antenatal classes, but they were as useful to the practicality of having a baby as sitting in a driving theory is to getting behind the wheel – you have to do it to know how to do it.

During my pregnancy I was very ill. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and my doctor didn't know what it was or how to treat it. In fact my mother diagnosed me over the phone from Australia and my doctor had to look it up in a book. After he ignored it and I ended up in hospital, I began researching the condition. This led me to researching childbirth in general and I fell in love with the idea of a home birth, which opened up a whole new world to me.

I began reading about 'Attachment Parenting' and the more I read the more it made sense to me. But, I refer you to the theory and practice argument. Liking it and implementing it are two different things.

When my daughter was born in a beautiful home water birth, we started off as the average first time parents, but within days she dictated a change in our behaviour:

  • The leading baby brands (which contain a product called SLS) gave her eczema, so we had to change to using all-natural products such as lavender oil in the bath and almond or saffron oil instead of moisturisers.

  • A leading nappy brand caused her to have bleeding nappy rash by five days old, so we switched to cloth (or actually bamboo) nappies.

  • She hated being strapped in (i.e. the car seat) so we carried her around in a sling

  • She suffered from colic, so we left her to sleep on her belly during the day which massaged out all the wind (the sling also helped with that)

  • We breastfed from moments after birth and have continued to do so (11 months at time of writing) partly because excluding a few times in the early months she has always and continues to refuse a bottle

  • Our first ever sleep was the three of us together in our bed, her nestled in the nook of my arm. We had a moses basket next to our bed where we intended for her to sleep at night, but it rarely worked. Night feeds were a breeze and we quickly became accustomed to side lying/feeding. Anyway, I was the most rested mother of a newborn in our baby group. People kept asking me how I looked so well and calm.

And so the list goes on. I kind of feel that Kyra chose natural, attachment parenting and we just had to follow where she led. I am grateful for it though. People say a happy mummy equals a happy baby, but I don't agree. I think a happy baby is much more likely to make a happy mummy.

Attachment parenting doesn't have to come with flowing skirts and flower power, but the moment we stop trying to train our babies and start listening to them, parenting becomes easier.

  • Breastfeeding and baby led weaning saved us a fortune on formula and purées. It has saved us hours in preparing bottles, sterilising equipment, puréeing and spoon feeding. It also enabled us to spend 8 weeks travelling with minimal additional effort.

  • A babywearing sling was much cheaper than a pushchair, especially since someone else could afford to give us one as a gift! It makes public transport easier to manoeuvre and frees us up to go anywhere at any time.

  • Co-sleeping saves on the average £4,000 new parents spend on nurseries. Cute as they are, we didn't need to redo a room that we'll just have to redo again in two to three years.

  • Using natural products such as lavender oil in her bath and her nappy wash (in place of conditioner) is better on her skin, better on the environment and better on our pockets.

  • It's about more than the money, though. Less stress about money means I am able to stay home with my little girl for longer, experiencing more of her firsts.

I could go on and on about the benefits we have found in attachment parenting, but I must be honest, being an attachment parent is easier. It is easier than so many 'mainstream' methods.

And let's face it - at the best of times , parenting can be hard, so why not do what we can?