Sunday, April 6, 2008

Touching on Parenting Philosophies... with a Ten Foot Pole

Rather than hash out which way is The One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Parenting Philosophy (I think it takes about 2 minutes of motherhood to convince any sensible woman that there's no One True Way for every family), maybe we can do it this way... what is your parenting philosophy and why does it work great for you?

Personally I lean heavily toward routines, and I was this way from the beginning. My epiphany came, as most of my epiphanies do, on the stairmaster in the gym. I was 7 or so months pregnant with my first baby, diligently reading La Leche League's "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" to learn how to breastfeed, which I knew I wanted to do. I was proud to be carrying a book with a cover that featured a baby latched onto a huge breast into the university gym where I was exercising.

Halfway through my workout, I came to a section about the sacrifices that nursing required, according to LLL. No pacifiers and no relief bottles. No time away from the baby, no babysitters. Exercise might increase the lactic acid in mom's milk and upset baby's stomach. And, worst of all, there were some gut-wrenching anecdotes. One written by a nursing mom about taking her baby to her yoga class to nurse her on demand. A couple other preachy ones about how nobody is entitled to a good night's sleep, and the sign of a maturing mom is that she can be awake all night nursing and soothing a baby and accept it with a smile.

When nursing and motherhood were put at odds with the outlets I knew I needed like exercise, some rest, and time out with my husband, I felt, for the first time during my pregnancy, unsure about motherhood. Once my wits came back, I recalled a passing suggestion from MaryAlice and Red about Babywise.

I devoured every word of On Becoming Babywise, scoffing along with Ezzo at the poor attachment parents who let their babies walk all over them 24/7; attachment parents who are themselves to blame for creating demanding babies (and bratty kids) who are poor sleepers and vomit constantly from overfeeding; attachment parents who go against Biblical principles of training up a child and directing his way by refusing to implement routines for their babies' well-being; attachment-parenting couples who allow the unreasonable demands of their babies to hijack the well-being of their marriage and their whole family. I was Babywise ALL the way, as a moral and spiritual imperative. WAY over the top, and MUCH mellowing has occurred since my first child was born!!! Funny how that happens : ) I totally believe that parenting style has to do with parental temperaments and family needs.

All in all, though, a Babywise approach has worked great with both of my kids. Bella was a good sleeper from the beginning and fell right into a pleasant routine, allowing me to finish law school with minimal stress caused by newborn unpredictability. Bean was tougher with sleep and colic and sensitivity, but I'm certain that the routines, such as predictable eating and bedtimes, have made his life easier. Crying it out is our sure-fire way to fix sleep issues, and neither child seems traumatized... only happier for achieving better sleep. Predictability (and getting some sleep myself!) have allowed me to maintain a sense of personal and family well-being while having kids close together.

But how about you? Do you love cosleeping and nursing-on-demand because it gives you a built-in chance to snuggle your babies all night after buzzing around busily all day? Because it delays the return of your fertility and gives you a sense of being a part of a greater mother-baby ecology? Or do you like the order of routines and sleep and feeding schedules so that you, the baby and the whole family know what comes next? Did one way of parenting catch your eye from the beginning--was Gary Ezzo the Babywise Guy your knight in shining armor, or did you ease naturally into a more La Leche League, ecological breastfeeding, baby-directed approach. Did your baby's temperament, your family size, your husband's thoughts, or anything else lead you to modify your style at any point? How do you incorporate good principles from the various styles to keep your babies and your entire family happy and thriving?

Style points to anyone who cites Sheila Kippley...


Maria said...

With my first, I started out with a vague attatchment parenting approach. I didn't buy into the philosophy, but planned on using most of the actual parenting techniques, like nursing, co-sleeping, babywearing. It's what my mom had done with seven of us so I figured that was what I would do.

Well, by the time my first was nine months old, I finally came to the conclusion that we would soon die in a fiery crash on the interstate if things didn't change soon. I was so sleep-deprived I couldn't drive more than five minutes without falling asleep at the wheel. A month of crying it out totally changed things for me. A happier baby, a happier mommy, a happier husband.

I used Babywise with my second child and found it a much better fit for me. I am naturally a routine-oriented person so found this approach to much better for me. Also, my second child had a much more laid back temperment and was happy to go along with my routine for her.

Now that I'm on my third, I feel I've found my own personalized parenting style that fits me. I nurse and use my sling daily, but I also use pacifers and an occasionally bottle. I co-sleep for the first three months, then move the baby to the crib and establish a sleep schedule. I try to tailor my discipline techniques to each child's temperment as much as possible while still never losing sight of that fact that I am the authority in the home. Most of all, I make my marriage my first priority (well, after my relationship with Christ) and my role as a mother my second priority. This can be very difficult, but I find it to be essential. Besides the Faith, the best thing I can give my children is a mother and father committed in a strong, loving marriage.

Maria said...

One other thing...I'm way, way over judging other folks' parenting choices. I really believe a mom and dad have to find something that works well for their temperments and their children. Obviously, this applies parenting techniques. I do have very firm opinions about the general concepts we should pass on to our kids (ideas about charity, mercy, justice, etc.), but I don't really care how someone feeds their kids or gets them to sleep or even instills those ideas. Feeding and sleeping parenting techniques are generally morally neutral so I'm not going to spend my time and energy getting overly attached to any particular way. I'll save that energy for the many real moral quanderies of parenting.

Katherine said...

My second is 4.5 months old and I'm still not sure what my parenting philosophy is completely.

I know I am a breastfeeding mom, since I firmly believe it is best for them and me. No bottles, no pacifiers.
I don't believe in spanking with the exception of if my child is about to hurt herself and simply won't listen to me - then a pat on the butt is a preferable option.
Sleeping continues to the secret that eludes me. with my first, she coslept, nursed all night long, and I was sore and overtired. I eventually, around 9 months, let her CIO in her own crib. She still has sleep issues sometimes.
#2 sleeps with us sometimes and sometimes in her swing. I can't get her to sleep in her crib yet. She cries her head off and I have a hard time letting it go very long and my husband has less stomach for it than I do. There are times when I feel I am in desperate need of the CIO method but DH won't tolerate it. Of course he also doesn't ever put her to sleep, so, in some sense, he doesn't need to. I think I would like to be able to cosleep the first couple of months when they nurse a lot and, being new, I want to snuggle with them all the time. But I think after 3 or 4 months I want them in their crib and I haven't figured out yet how best to do that.
As far as feeding, I try to keep them healthy with balanced meals but I'm not emphatically anti-sugar.
I plan to homeschool and am looking forward to it.

If anyone finds any baby-sleeping magic wands for sale, let me know!

"H" said...

Thank you so much for this post! I don't have a parenting style yet because my first child is still in utero, but I have been distressed for some time with the prevalence of Catholic books (including the Kipleys) and parents preaching attachment parenting as the "right standard" for Catholics. Not only does the idea of providing instant gratification for your children's every whim seem obviously incompatible with raising them to be self-disciplined and unselfish adults, but the one family who I know very well who has drunk the attachment parenting coolaid has a toddler with obvious problems caused by this parenting method. She's two years old and still co-sleeping and nursing. They have used nursing as an all-purpose pacifier, so she has always been a huge child who is about twice the normal weight for her age. Now she also eats everything in reach, including grabbing food off of her parents' plates, and has no sense of being satiated.

My husband and I have talked about these things, and we agree we'd rather take parenting advice from our Mormon neighbors whose 2-year-old is normal-sized with good table manners and social skills than from our Catholic attachment parenting friends. We also agree on not co-sleeping, though we plan to use a by-the-bed bassinet for the first couple of months to ease middle-of-the-night feeding. I'm glad to know that there are other committed Catholic families out there who also think a lot of the attachment parenting "rules" are really over the top and sometimes are not healthy for mother or baby.

Kat said...

I've never been big into reading parenting books, either before or after my kids are born, but I did read the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding before C (my first) was born, and found it to be a very helpful resource in navigating how to nurse my baby as a new mom. I looked to it when I had questions and found it to be very informational, and also encouraging. Before and after C was born, ET and I also met with a lactation consultant from our church who showed me the different positions and answered my questions, which was great for me! She was definitely of the attachment philosophy, and gave me the advice that I should nurse C whenever he was fussy - so that's what I did! :) C was actually always on the smaller side and wasn't very interested in eating much of anything until recently, and I nursed him until he was 14 months, so I don't think that there is much of a correlation between nursing and weight/eating patterns. He's also a pretty independent kid - that's just his personality, he's always been that way - so it doesn't seem like my "nursing on demand" style for the first 8 or so months of his life made him overly dependent.
Maria is now 5 months old and I feed her on demand as well, but she is a completely different baby! She's already put herself into more of a routine in terms of eating and sleeping than C ever did, and she's a much bigger baby than he ever was, too! What I'm trying to say is that I haven't done much differently this time around, and I'm convinced that each child has his/her own personality and that that's going to come through no matter what style of parenting you use. For me, the nursing on demand has worked well and it makes me a more relaxed mom. At 3 or 4 months I do let my babies cry it out for a while before naps or bedtime, just so that they can get used to putting themselves to sleep, but then there are so many things that mess with their sleep during the first year - teething, new skills like rolling, sickness - that I find myself needing to re-teach my babies good sleeping habits.

B-Mama said...

As with many things, we love going "middle of the line" on this one with a Baby Whisperer approach. Imagine a Baby Wise schedule mentality with a twist of attachment sensitivity. Tracey Hogg, the author and "founder" of Baby Whispering, is a wonderful, British "mum", who offers some wonderful, schedule-based approaches to raising a baby. I take some of her ideas completely to heart (e.g. E.A.S.Y. does it) and toss others out the window (e.g. lay the baby down 60+ times to get them to stop crying and fall asleep!)

Dr. Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (mentioned in previous posts) is an awesome book for mothers wanting to explore the biology behind children's behavior, while considering all parenting approaches as equals. I just love that I can open his book and find complete rationality that informs and empowers me, the mama!!

Overall, I love Danielle Bean's self-professed approach--"do what works for your family". I'll second that one!

Ellyn said...

Through all my years in La Leche League, the best thing I learned (and taught as a Leader for about 12 years) was to do what works for us and forget what doesn't. I was fortunate to never belong to any of the loopier La Leche groups I have heard about (and I hope I wasn't leading one..)

Six children have given me the perspective that:
what works for one child will not necessarily work for another
doing everything "right" is not a guarantee of perfect children.

(And I have been one of those dismayed mothers who has tried to everything in the best way possible and suffers paroxysms of distress when the results are not what the so-called experts baby is 14 and my spiritual director is still helping me through my 'mothering' concerns.)

Maria said...

Ditto Dr. Weissbluth's book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. While it is probably the worst edited book on the planet, it is really fascinating and informative. Plus it probably really did save me and my son from a fiery car crash due to sleep deprivation!

Juris Mater said...

Double ditto to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It's SO encouraging as a young mom to read a book (1) from a doctor (2) who is middle of the road and addresses those adhering to all the parenting styles (3) and, most of all, who acknowledges that getting babies to sleep is a worthy--and achievable--goal for every baby and every family. I have lots of local mom friends who seem unnecessarily overwhelmed because they're not confident that achieving sleep is a worthy goal. Their kids live in a frazzled, overtired state with inadequate sleep. They claim that their kids stop napping at 12 months, that their non-napping toddlers won't go to bed until 11pm and then wake up at 7:30, etc. I love that Weissbluth points out that under age 4 generally should be sleeping about 13-14 out of every 24 hours, and that good sleep begets more sleep. It's easy to feel bad about sticking to naps and reasonable bedtimes when kids protest, but the vote of confidence from Dr. Weissbluth plus having visibly happier, fresher kids is just what I need.

Maria, I hear you on worrying about that fiery crash while living in a totally sleep deprived state. Even more alarming for me is watching my very sanity slip away... as if I'm an outside party looking on as some poor, anxiety-ridden nut (myself) cries all day about the wretched existence I'm living and lies awake all night in a sweaty panic. No good at all.

Katherine, you must be so sweet at night if your husband feels OK objecting to cry-it-out! Your kids are lucky to have such a gentle and patient mom. I'm a bitter lunatic when i'm up for the 30th time at night, and my husband would sure rather let me take over with sleep training than any other conceivable alternative : )

Mary Alice said...

I was just re-reading one of my favorite newborn books, Mothering Multiples, published by the LaLeche League. I am sure that Sheila Kippley loves it, too :)

What I like about this book is that with multiples in mind, the approach is quite moderate because it acknowledges that every situation can be different, including babies in NICU, mom's dealing with the loss or illness of one or more multiple, etc.

Also, it categorizes nursing multiples as an "intense" experience. For me, all nursing, or even just existing with a newborn, is intense, so I apply alot of the advice to my single birth baby as well.

One of the great points that Gromada makes in the book is that mothers have different sleep habits. Some nap easily during the day and are refreshed by it, others feel zonked or even more tired, still others cannot fall asleep during the day. The same is true of night sleep, when some mothers can nurse and go back to sleep easily, some even fall asleep nursing, etc. These factors can make a huge difference in the overall sleep deficit that a mother is running.

I find that I am not a good sleeper to begin with, prone to insomnia, in fact, and so interrupting my sleep leads to really bad mood disorders. Recently my 3 month old has been waking once a night (only once), and just that loss of sleep accumulated over two weeks has seriously affected me.

I also find that my children respond very well to the plan outlined in BabyWise. We do it with flexibility, but I was able to exclusively nurse twins by combining the routine outlined in babywise with the nursing advice and support in Mothering Multiples.
I also used Weissbluths advice about naps and quantity of sleep, as well as bedtime routines and dealing with bedtime battles with an older toddler.

Now, with 5 kids ages 6 and under, the fact that they sleep well is a great source of joy to me and my husband. It is so pleasant to be able to give your kids a nice bath and a nice story and tuck them, happily into bed at 7 pm, and know that I have 12 hours of peace ahead of me.

The fact that we can usually add a new baby into this happy family sleep routine in just a few months is a large part of what has made it possible to be open to life.

That said, I have heard many say that AP involves a lot of sacrifice from the family, and I would say that all good parenting does. My baby does not nurse well in public, so I am finding that we need to be home for his feedings and naps, this is a lot of time at home for all of us! We are adapting.

stephmomof6 said...

I don't know that it is necessary to speak of mothering via attachment parenting with such negativity. I have known many AP families over the course of my life and, although I would characterize them as zealous (in the same way that I am zealously pro-life), I have never had anything but respect for them and their philosophy on child-rearing.

I have used AP techniques where I can and the best I could do where I could not. Having had six children ages 16-1, I can see that they are all different people. I have had two who never got up in the middle of the night after 6 weeks, 2 who did for about 6 months, and 2 who did for longer (including a 16 month-old who still does). Of those children, 1 of the always sleepers co-slept and one did not. One of six-monthers co-slept with us and one did not. Both of the extended ones co-slept, but only for about 6 months. The 16 month-old sleeps better from 3 am on and during his daily nap despite the fact that I have let him CIO for months and I wake him each morning at 7:30 am. He just doesn't want to go to bed at a decent hour! Aargh! Despite that, I really think that most children can be trained to sleep when you want them to, but a parent has to be willing to let a child CIO. I don't think it makes a person a bad parent if they choose not to. I do allow my children to CIO when they are a little older, if necessary, because I feel a bit more comfortable with that, but I know that every parent must make that cost/benefit ananlysis for themselves.

As for the behavior of the children of AP parents, none of my AP friends have the kind of children described in a previous post, but a couple of my Ezzo friends do. (I have seen some of this behavior at LLL conferences so I don't mean to imply that it never happens with AP, just that it doesn't have to.) I suspect that this has nothing to do with either AP or Ezzo, but rather with the parents themselves and their level of willingness to be consistent with discipline, whether gentle or not.

In short, I think that there is no one right parenting method for everyone, but I do think that there is something to be said for learning to respond to the NEEDS of our children over our WANTS. The disagreements between mothers regarding what is a need and what is a want are better left to each couple and God--much like our Church lets what constitutes "grave" reasons for using NFP to space children up to the couple and God.

God bless all of you fine women whether you AP, Ezzo, or tie them to a buckboard and hang them on a peg like some of the Native Americans ;LOL


Bethany said...

I have to admit, after three children and thousands of working hours in child care, I am ignorant of the various parenting styles that have been quantified in a plethora of parenting-help books. What little information I have gathered has been from posts on blogs such as this describing an aspect here and a rule of thumb there.

With that being said, all three of my children began their lives with me meeting their demands on request until around 2 to 3 months when obvious patterns emerged and we simply reinforced those patterns.

I essentially follow two main rules with my children:

Number 1: It is okay for an infant/child to cry.

Number 2: It is okay to tell a child(older infant) "No!"; then see rule Number 1

Where it all goes from there depends on the family's current lifestyle/environment factors, and more importantly the personality of the child.

On a side note: We are currently trying to get our 10 month old to sleep through the night again. She slept through the night from the day she was born until she turned 7 months and has woke every night since except for 1 brief but glorious week in February. She has her brothers stubborn genes (okay, mine too:).

Melinda said...

As I nursed my sixteen month old to sleep tonight I was looking at the bookshelf and smiling to myself - both Sheila Kippley and Dr. Weissbluth were represented! Of course, Kippley was bought during pregnancy number one. The Weissbluth was bought when baby no. 2 was waking 2-3 times per night at a year. I got a lot of great information out of both of them.

I thought the famiy bed sounded lovely, but at 7 months with our first there were three of us in the bed but NO ONE was sleeping. My husband, who's parenting philosophy is based on guessing what his granny in Ireland would do, sat on top of me on the couch while we sleep-trained our oldest. I think Dr. Weissbluth would approve! Now I mostly have to try not to be too much of a sleep-freak (as in, sorry, I can't meet with the Pope today, it would interfere with nap time).

I do think that extended breastfeeding (around 18 months or so) is really wonderful and has great health and emotional benefits for mom and baby. It definitely helps us with spacing, but I know it doesn't work that way for everyone. When my babies start clawing at my shirt and saying "urse! urse!" they start getting handed a sippy cup.

I guess we've settled into a rhythm that's part attachment parenting and part teaching our children boundaries. I breastfeed on demand until a year, and around sleep times until 18 months or so. I love my sling and my mei-tai. We teach babies to go to sleep by themselves in their own beds. We say no. (There is plenty of crying, so we must be doing something right.)

My husband keeps me tethered to reality. His Irish granny doesn't have a lot of time for touchy-feely philosophies, and anyway, a little trauma early in life makes for better poetry later on, right?

What I don't like about "Parenting Philosophies" is that sometimes I see myself or others sticking with something that just isn't working because they think they should. I definitely think all new parents should try to spend some time with older parents they like and trust, whether they are friends or family. I've been blessed with great friends and family who will talk "sleep" with me endlessly and who always give gentle advice.

But what can be more gentle than Weissbluth telling you that your child will be an incurable adult insomniac? Unless it's Kippley sharing with you that you can always ask your child if they would like to give up nursing for their fifth birthday if they don't want to give it up on their fourth.

B-Mama said...

lol Melinda! Loved the last bit!

Right Said Red said...

I was going to comment because I think this is such a great topic...bu then my comment turned into another post. Keep the discussion going ladies--I took a pretty strong position, I'm ready for some robust discussion among like-minded friends ;-)

Kathy said...

When I was at loggerheads with my 2yo daughter sev♦en years ago, someone suggested Greg Popcak's book, Parenting With Grace. This book transformed my parenting and my family.

I read through the previous discussion about AP. While Popcak, in PWG at least, certainly promotes AP, lays out the foundation of "Catholic parenting" as "donative"--self-sacrificing. I found his material for all stages of childhood (I also had a teenager at the time I read the book) exptremely helpful and turn to this book again and again for great advice.

I was very disappointed to see Builders speak so derogatorily of Mr. Popcak on this blog, not only because I don't think his views warrant the criticism, but his dignity as a human being deserves your respect whether or not you agree with him.

A public apology is warranted.