Tuesday, July 3, 2012

BabyWise or Attachment Parenting?

Kangaroo Care Day 3 as a mom

While pregnant we took the "Baby Wise" class.  I even read the book - twice, like a good mom-to-be.

The theory made sense to me, proactively meet the babies needs: a meal, a diaper change, sleep. If I could not meet those needs and baby was still upset, there was nothing else I could do.  Our baby would be a "welcome member of the family" and would not become a "selfish child."  

When she came, this proactive approach to meeting her needs really helped us to learn her signals: she scratches her face when she is wet, she wiggles and then goes silent when she has a bowel movement, she cries when she is hungry and she will lose it if your put her down while she is hungry.  

I followed my instincts and my body while I birthed her. I was unmedicated, we had the Christmas-tree lit, the birth pool was warm and comforting.  My husband even made me laugh in the heat of battle, as he assured me that we couldn't switch places because no man would ever be strong enough to give birth.  I delivered our daughter after 20 hours of labor, standing up because that is what my body told me to do.

Three days later, my daughter had lost 8 ounces.  Seven ounces would have been fine, but eight was too much.  I hadn't experienced engorgement and didn't think my milk had come in yet.  After only 48 hours in this world my daughter had her first bottle, six months later she still needs them.  I imagined offering my baby the first bottle a week before maternity leave ended, I imagined a struggle.  In reality she gulped down that half an ounce of donated breast milk, and I began pumping eight times a day.  I struggled with her acceptance of the bottle and my body's inability to meet this need for her.

I drank Mother's Milk Tea, I mad my own with Fenugreek and despised the scent of my own home.  I drank water, I avoided caffeine, I ate well.  I took Goat's Rue, More Milk Plus, Fennel Oil, Lactate Support, Chinese Herbs, Weekly Acupuncture, Nipple Stimulation, the works! My daughter still needs 3-4 bottles a day, and I can barely pump four ounces in 24 hours.

How did this happen?  How did the mom who trusted that she could birth normally and follow her body's cues decide that a book was the authority on her child? 

In my zeal to be a good mom, I fell for a plan that fit my society better than it fit my family.  I rejected my instincts to feed her because "it wasn't quite two hours yet".  I wanted a happy, convenient, well-adjusted child.  Babywise tells you flat-out that they don't support scheduled feeding, but somehow many parents walk away with that message.  Even with that disclaimer repeated, I felt like I was failing when I offered her the breast before two hours had passed.

So my story, is simply that.  My story.  It is not your story, it is not a judgement of your choice or any one else's.  It is mine and I believe MY choice to be "baby wise" set me up for breastfeeding failure.  

You may have heard bad things about babywise. Maybe you practice it.  One message etched in my mind from the book was that demand feeding will not increase your milk supply. Out of fear of mother failure, I tried not to feed her too soon.  

I resented my midwife's direction to feed her on demand, but I followed her advice anyhow. I fed her when she acted hungry, I changed her when she acted wet, I snuggled her when she seemed to need it and I soothed her when she had trouble falling asleep.  I loved it, yet I felt guility for it.

Everything I have read about producing more milk has the bottom line, breastmilk follows the rules of supply and demand.  The more baby demands, the greater your supply will be.  Babywise lied.

My assessment is that when you are babywise you mold a baby for western culture: stuffed with formula, falls asleep on it's own, learns to soothe itself and becomes independent.  Indeed, my experience as a babysitter agrees that babywise is great.  Feed them, get them ready for bed, turn off the light, close the door and watch a movie until mom and dad get back. Easiest twenty dollars I ever made.

I have concluded that a mom's instincts trump the experts, as most good pediatricians would agree.  Mom knows when something is off with baby and no textbook answer will suffice.  As a mother who values breastfeeding, baby snuggles and the privilege of caring for an infant, I must reject babywise.

As a responsible adult, I must admit that I chose that path and that it hindered my goals.  After six months of guilt and confusion, I decided I needed to commit the "sin" of reading "The Attachment Parenting Book"  

The AP book offered me peace and confidence.  It told me that I should follow my instincts.  My husband has beens saying that all along.  It took me far too long to get here.

I am not an AP mom, I am not a BW mom.  I am a mom.    I choose not to be defined by a style of parenting.  I am the expert on my daughter, if I am blessed with another child he or she will not be the same.  One-size does not fit all for parenting.  We parent people you see, and I haven't yet met two people who were exactly alike.

My daughter has needs: safety, nourishment, cleanliness, love, respect, compassion and touch.  I will offer them to her as I can.  I can never be there for her at every moment, just as my mom cannot always be there for me.  I will take care of myself, my husband and my daughter to the best of my ability.  I will trust that as a family, we can figure out solutions to all of the problems we encounter.

I choose to do what works for my family, not the nursery or the babysitter or the random old lady on the street who thinks I spoil her.  I choose to let go of my need to get things done and the self-esteem boost that my checklist offers.  When I am eighty, I won't care about the dirty dishes, the extra feeding that made me sleepy at work the next day.  I will make happy memories now, so that I can cherish them later.  I will enjoy my daughter, not win a mom-contest with her behavior.

Call me what you will, I don't care.  Well, perhaps I still do.  I just won't let myself be preoccupied by it.

What parenting style works for your family?  Was it the style you thought you would use?