I’d like to thank my toddler for making this post possible. Had he not woken up at 4:30 am, I would not be sitting here in the dark at the dining room table killing time by writing. Thanks Micah Moo 🙂
The other week a friend was asking me what I considered to be the essentials for raising a baby; the ultimate registry list. I tend to tread lightly on this topic because every mom is different, every baby is different, every situation is different. There is not a one size fits all. However, I have successfully raised five newborns into toddlerhood, each one with growing confidence, peace and enjoyment, even though they weren’t easy. Are they ever easy? So perhaps I have something to offer.
My first was born while my husband was in Iraq, so I solo-parented (as in alone in my home with a newborn) the first 6 weeks, even taking a 4 hour road trip with a 2 week old to stay with friends who had just had their 4th! We both sat around nursing our babies all week and it was heavenly. Baby #1 was great at snuggling and sleeping and eating. He only pooped once a week, though, but the doctors gave him a clean bill of health and I didn’t complain about the absence of poop.
My second was born a year later and hated both sleeping and snuggling. The only way we could get him to sleep was by bouncing him up and down while propped up on a knee. My third was born the following year and took sleep deprivation to a new low. Oh, and there was colic for her and mastitis for me. Awesome. The fourth came along soon after and, well, I don’t remember too many bumps in the road. He had his siblings to entertain him, I was more seasoned/used to sleep-deprivation, and we were just smitten. He went through a brief biting stage while nursing, which I quickly remedied by firmly but lovingly tugging on a piece of his hair and saying ‘No biting’. Surprise #5 entered my life just as a dark season of grief entered, and much of the early days were managed on auto pilot and post-pardum depression and with much support from friends, family, and the midwives at The Birth Center.
I’ve nursed all my children till between 18 months and 2 years, and have basically been nursing for 9 years. And yet I’m not in the breastfeeding gang. It just worked for me. There were times my diet affected the baby and so I’d have to cut out gluten and dairy (utter sadness) and other times where they were unaffected by all the foods. I’ve nursed sitting, standing, sleeping, typing blog posts, cooking, kicking a soccer ball with the toddler, and every other scenario imaginable. But I’ve never tandom nursed. One at a time, folks. Once weened, they went straight to water. They never drank milk.
I owned nursing bras but never once wore one. Actually, I tried one once, but felt like the girls were locked up in Fort Knox. Not cool. But I found bras from Target to work just fine. Or a comfortable sports bra.
Though I carried a diaper bag with my first, I quit with all the others. I refused to feel like a pack mule. I’d throw some diapers and a change of clothes in my purse and boom! Done! I also rarely wore my babies (gasp!) I carried them in the womb for 9 months and that was enough for me! Though I did buy an ergo with the 4th out of sheer desire to protect him from the others. But nope, I’m not a fan. However, I found a sling to be helpful with a newborn. I think every one of my babies made their church debut in one of these.
I pumped on occasion, but only ever used a hand-held manual pump. For me, less was more, and simple was less stressful. I’d nurse the baby on one side while pumping one-handed on the other. The idea of hooking myself up diary cow style never appealed to me, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the brain bits available to read instructions anyway. Added bonus, a hand-held pump can easily fit in your non-diaper bag and be pulled out on date night for a quick pump-a-roo before entering the restaurant or movie theater.
I tried cloth diapers with my fourth because everyone else was, but I hated it. Come to find out, I liked the idea of cloth more than the actuality. With cloth, my husband drew the line and said he could not scrape poop out of cotton. What gives? So I lost my diapering partner AND had more laundry to do. Nope. Not gonna work.
My babies have slept in bed with me, in their own rooms, in swings (I went through A LOT of batteries)……in car seats… …propped up in boppies… …and ALL have slept on their bellies. And, get this- I rarely used a monitor! I found it to add more anxiety to my already little sleep; listening to every grunt and gurgle and wondering if they were ok. Their bedrooms were close enough that I would hear them when they really got hungry, but I could sleep through all the other little noises. Every minute counts!
I also didn’t change diapers in the night. It seemed to wake them up (and me) more than was necessary, and it took more time. Thankfully, we didn’t deal with skin irritations or I’m sure we would’ve had to change diapers more often.
Honestly, I write all of this battling a tinge of fear. Fear of being judged as having ‘done it wrong’ or not best. I think this is standard for all moms, right? We wonder if we’re doing it right. If we could be doing more. Better. I haven’t come across a lot of articles describing ‘good enough’ parenting. Though there are puh-lenty of articles listing the best way to handle nursing and feeding and sleeping and on and on and oh by the way here’s the top 1,000 things you need to buy. My hope in writing this post is that you might hear a voice saying, “It’s ok to try different things. To veer off the path and see what works best for baby AND you.” And that, then, all the other voices will fade until you hear yours and your baby’s loud and clear; working together, always communicating and course-correcting and finding joy and confidence along the way.