We are bombarded with childcare advice through the media. How to lie your baby down to sleep, when to wean, what to feed them. This imformation has constantly changed in the last 22 years. When Joe was born we were told to lie them on their tummies at night and wean at 3 months. Now it's "back to bed" and solids at 6 months. Needless to say, in another 20 years time it'll all be different again. Motherhood is not a science. It is instinctive, organic and everchanging.
My own personal view of mothering is that the baby is a little human animal. They aren't privvy to the latest W.H.O. guidelines. All they have is their needs. As a mum, I want to meet these needs in the most natural way possible. With Freddy, I have breastfed on demand since birth. He's never had to cry for a feed. He's never known hunger. He knows what he wants and I provide it. Obviously since discovering the joys of solid food and diluted fruit juice, his need for his milk has lessened but is still a big part of his diet and his comfort. At 15 months old, a lot of people think I should stop feeding him altogether, but I'm not in any rush. The alternative, cow's milk, seems like an unnecessary step at this time. I can provide perfect milk for him...and it's completely free! No need to stop yet...maybe after I've seen him through Winter. With all the germs that do the rounds, breast milk offers a degree of immunity and really does have magic properties if baby has a cold or a sickness bug!
In the same vein, I'm not a believer of babies needing to cry themselves to sleep. Using the little animal analogy, a crying infant would attract prey to the nest. The baby would lie close to its mother, safe in her proximity and with access to the life-giving breastmilk. OK, I know the wolves won't come if I leave Fred to cry...but why does he need to cry at all. I don't want him to feel afraid, alone or unloved for even a second. I know that is really emotive, and that babies forget in an instant, but for me personally, I just can't do it. I don't have to do it and I'm fully prepared to sacrifice my "me time" for the next three years to satisfy my methods! Luckily I have a husband who feels the same way. He has named this technique and calls himself an "N.C" Advocate (i.e. No Crying). We have co-slept with him since birth to no ill effect. He has his own sleeping area...a three sided cot against my side of the king sized bed. He is free to wriggle across to me for warmth, comfort or a feed and the disturbance to me and my husband is minimal. He wakes up happy. We know that this time next year he will be in his own bedroom, enticed by the lure of his own sports car bed. It's not for ever...just for now.
I guess our methods could be akin to the Attachment Parenting movement. The portrayal of this on the TV recently showed the parents in quite a poor light. They were almost mocked by the editing and shown to be weird New Age types. The families portrayed were quite extreme and militant. It's a shame therefore that most people would assume that someone who is raising their child in the Attachment method would breastfeed until the child is 8 years old or would let their newborn go nappy-less as a pro Elimination Communication fan. We don't subscribe to these extremes. We are two very normal parents doing what we personally think is best. I've never really conformed to the norm and like to do my own thing, this is no different. I'd never tell anyone else to raise their child like this. It is hard, time consuming, intense, limiting and emotionally draining at times. But I am dedicated to this approach and it is only for such a short time. None of my babies raised this way have turned into clingy children. They are very confident and self-assured. They are independent and happy to put themselves to bed without any fuss. Sometimes I do still feel guilty that I'm not more conventional...but this is when my husband simply says "You just have to look at our kids to know we're doing the right thing!" and I know exactly what he means.