Parenting Style Choices

I have been a mother for 2 months, 1 week, and 3 days.  Both in this time and the time leading up to the birth, I have made some parenting choices based on my reading, the community of moms around me, and my own gut instincts of what feels write about mothering to me.  I'm enjoying these choices so much that I wanted to share them with you.

What mother wouldn't want to wake up to see her darling's face?
Do you have a crib yet? was the question that plagued my husband in his office.  His colleagues, most of whom are already fathers, thought he would only be prepared for fatherhood if the baby bed was purchased. Knowing my intentions to co-sleep, my husband took a crib we'd been given and adapted it so it had just three sides, with the fourth side left open and level with our bed.  He also stabilized the fourth side with an extra piece of wood and put hooks under our bed that connect the two bed frames (first he used poplar wood, but then quickly returned to the shop for oak instead).

My mother-in-law faithfully asks how often Ella sleeps in her crib, and she rarely does. Normally she sleeps right by my side, her nose full of comforting mommy smell.  More than the comfort for her of my presence, it makes for quick waking and attention from me during the night.  Often I awake to her gentle stirring, and as I see her shaking her head to see if the sheet has a nipple, I'm usually able to nurse her before she's fully awake, and we both quickly fall back asleep.  When people ask how she's sleeping, I'm not usually able to answer how many times she awakes in the night or how long she sleeps between feedings.  It just all happens so seamlessly.

One very influential book for me was The Politics of Breastfeeding (only $3.92 on kindle).  It's not a how-to-nurse book, but some things about effective nursing are addressed.  It is about the development of infant formulas, and I think it's fascinating for anyone interested in public health, healthcare, justice, societal wellbeing, 3rd world countries, and more.  It talks a lot about how formula was developed and why it was used at all.  It also more than solidified my commitment to breastfeeding.

There is nothing that can nutritionally compare to breastfeeding, and as was mentioned at a breastfeeding workshop I attended, the physical contact not only encourages the milk production, but it stimulates hormones that allow you to bond with the baby, and the positive hormones help you be a calmer mom in stressful moments.  It also hurts like crazy at the beginning.  There was a period when I would clench my teeth, wince, and jerk my leg whenever she latched.  Sometimes there were tears (from me, not her) and once there was a fever.  That may sound unbearable, but thanks to the support of mothers around me, I pushed through, and now there is no pain and I am so content to know that this little girl is getting exactly what she needs nutritionally from me.  (Did I mention that it's cheap and saves the hassle of washing bottles and properly boiling and cooling water for formula?)

(The wrap makes breastfeeding on the go possible.)

I was impressed by the strollers I saw when I came here.  It seemed main street was full of women with strollers with inflated wheels, cozy handwarmers, and sleek attachments against sun and inclement weather.  I so looked forward to owning one, and now we do have one--secondhand and in the garage.  In the flat we have three long pieces of woven fabric: wraps for babywearing.  At my wedding some close friends told me that their wedding gift for us hadn't yet come in the mail.  At Thanksgiving, I was presented with a woven baby wrap.  As the birth approached, I was lent one more and given another.

I expected to use the wrap mostly as moms use a stroller: for transportation; however, within Ella's first week I was wearing her around the home, breastfeeding her in it or using it to make her magically fall asleep.  Whenever Ella is crying and I can't figure out what she wants, I take out the wrap.  It comforts her, and both she and I feel better with the closeness.  It enables me to be able to do in the flat our out about without worrying about her: ironing cloth diapers while she naps in the wrap, breastfeeding, as I pick up groceries, walking her to sleep while reading my kindle.  All the while she can feel a closeness to me similar to what she felt in the womb.

Both my husband and I love it.  When we go on an evening walk to a nearby destination, we don't have to put a stroller in the lift, take it down the exit stairs, load it into our trunk, then unload it once we've arrived.  I take the scarf in my hands, put Baby in the carseat, and we go.  There's no worry about whether our path will be paved or wide enough for a stroller.  If she needs to nurse, we pause for a second so I can adjust her in the wrap, then when she's latched on, we walk on.  If I'm going into the city centre to meet a friend, I put baby on the front and a backpack on the back and walk to the tram stop.  I don't need to ask a stranger to help me lift a stroller into the tram and then avoid bumping into passengers' ankles.  My back doesn't have to suffer from craning over a stroller constantly to check if she's ok or to comfort her.  She sleeps comfortably and I feel confident that she's content and secure.  Not only does it make motherhood easier, but also I'm confident that the closeness we experience through babywearing is going to last.

Cloth Diapering
I made the decision to cloth diaper when I was a university student, mostly due to ecological reasons.  That's still one of the reasons I do it now, but there are also more:

  • it's healthy for the baby.  
  • the baby can feel when the diaper is wet, which helps awareness when it's toilet training time.
  • it's ecological (yes we use water to wash diapers, but how does that compare to the water and energy used in producing diapers and the thousands of diapers going into landfills).  
  • it's economical. For us, we received a lot of cloth diapers from others, so I made only a small investment into a few diaper covers, diapers, and liners.  However, even if we'd bought everything at the start, that initial cost would still be less than the cost of regularly buying disposable diapers. 
I did a lot of research before choosing what kind of cloth diaper to use and finally I went back to the traditional version: flats.  White woven cotton squares of textile.  Using some diaper origami, I transform it into a diaper shape, insert a thin disposable liner, wrap it around baby, fasten it with a snappi, and then I cover it with a waterproof diaper cover.  When it's time for a diaper change, I dispose of the soiled liner (it's flushable), toss the diaper into our covered bin to await washing, and clean up her bottom with a cotton square that I've sprayed with homemade wipe spray.  On goes the new diaper.  I wash diapers about every other day, and they dry quickly on our drying racks.
The bright pink is the snappi that holds the diaper in place.

On trips out, I just bring extra diapers, our changing pad, a bag for wet diapers, and a reusable sealed plastic envelop that holds cloth wipes soaked in solution.  On a weekend trip to Prague we decided to use paper diapers.  While waiting at the embassy, I experienced Ella's first blowout.  It soaked the nappy, her clothes, and the wrap I was carrying her in.  I've never experienced this with the cloth diapers because the waterproof cover contains everything.

Overall, I've found all these choices to not only feel like the best choices for Baby and I, but I've found these lifestyle choices to be ecological, economical, and deeply satisfying.


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