Friday, January 24, 2014

Growing as a Parent

Dear Moms,

When I got pregnant with my first son, I was 19 years old, unmarried, and more concerned with keeping up with my social life than taking the time to learn about parenting.

None of my friends had children yet.  In fact, it would be several years before they had babies of their own.  At 20 years old I found myself with a baby  boy and no clue how to raise him.  I barely even babysat when I was younger.

At that point, where do you turn for advice?  For me, the only people I could look to with actual experience were my parents and the pediatrician.  My parents hadn't had babies in 14 years, but hey, us kids survived so they must know a thing or two.  In fact, I remember going out and registering for my shower with my best friend, Lindsey.  Afterwards, my step-mom talked to me about what I was missing, what things I really didn't need, and what things I should switch.  While that made me upset at the time, in retrospect, it was truly good advice.

So, knowing that my parents may not remember everything and also thinking I didn't like the way they did everything  - I turned to the pediatrician.  He was the doctor, so everything he said and suggested MUST be the way it is.  Little did I know at the time, that most pediatricians are NOT certified in infant nutrition, breastfeeding, and other areas of parenting.

After recommendations from the pediatrician, I started my older son on rice cereal, followed by fruits and veggies.  Now, at almost 11 years old, the kid hates most veggies and healthy food.  With son #2, I did more veggies first and he eats a little bit better in regards to veggies.

Back then the internet did not have information readily available like they do today.  If you wanted quality and researched information, you often had to get a book which you would only stumble upon if someone suggested it.

So, where was I, a young 20-year-old mom, supposed to learn about new information and recommendations?

Now, at 31 years old, the internet is much improved.  I have tons of friends with kids now who have tried a variety of different ways to parent and raise their children.  When I became pregnant with Baby B, I started reading and researching, something 20-year-old me would never have taken the time for.  I also let friends share their knowledge.

Have you ever heard someone tell you, "Once you get pregnant or have a kid, EVERYONE is offering advice.  Ignore them, do what you want"?  That little tidbit is horrible.

How do we learn new things if we close our ears to advice from other parents?

I used Pampers with my sons, but when a friend showed me her cloth diapers, I was a little curious.  I mean, isn't that kinda gross, washing poop in the same place you wash your clothes?  And don't you have to touch the soiled diapers?  And aren't they a pain to put on a baby?  Kristy showed me a variety of diapers, gave me her opinions and advice, and encouraged me to look into it more.  Once I saw the massive benefits of cloth diapering (less money, adorable patterns and colors, no worrying about running out, saving the landfills from more garbage, etc.) I was pretty much sold.  My biggest regret is not getting into cloth with the first two!  

The more I opened up my ears to my friends (and then looked into the research myself), the more I learned about how I can be a better mom to Baby B.  I have learned about Baby-led Weaning, a way of starting solids by just giving them food.  No mush, no puree's, no rice cereal.  Through research and reading I discovered the history of why rice cereal was being recommended by doctors and why it is no longer recommended at all and why starting sooner than 6 months is not beneficial. (You can get the information from this book, Baby-led Weaning.)  Now, with Baby B, we won't be starting solids until after 6 months and will be starting with a variety of veggies before anything else is introduced.

During the course of this last pregnancy and over the past 5 months, I have learned about doulas, car seat recommendations (I am APPALLED that I forward faced my kids as early as I did), screen time, co-sleeping, amber teething necklaces, baby-wearing, and tons more great information - almost all of it contradicting what I learned with my son's and all backed up with legitimate research.

Had I not taken advice and stuck to the thought that "Mom knows best" or "Doctor knows best," I may not have learned and been open to new ideas and methods.  When I look at my sons, I see one boy who struggles with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and one who has ADHD and struggles academically and socially.  There is no way for me to know if something I did or didn't do affected the way they are today.  All I can do is follow current information with Baby B and see if she turns out healthier than my boys.

I didn't write this to tell you other parents that if you listen to your doctor 100%, then you are wrong.  I wrote this to tell you to research and read for yourself.  I know you love your kid(s).  I know you want the best for them.  If we as parents do not look into the studies ourselves and just follow what we are told, we could be led down a path of struggles and turmoil.  

If you don't read those "annoying" articles that "crunchy" moms like me post about the safety benefits of extended rear-facing - how will you learn that you should actually be keeping your kid rear-faced for at least 2 years?

If you don't listen to your cloth diapering friend, how will you learn that the diapers with pins are a thing of the past and that cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposables?  

If you glare at that mom who is giving her baby a slice of avocado or broccoli instead of asking her (politely) why that instead of baby food, how will you learn about BLW?

If you don't take gentle advice from a stranger about how placing the infant car seat in the top of the shopping cart is very dangerous, how will you learn to put it in the basket?

So my advice to you?  Don't take my above information and do it or throw it out the window just because I have thoughts and opinions; take the information and look into it yourself.  Keep an open mind and really read the information and see if you learn something new.

Love~ Jen

Helpful Resources:
Car Seat Regulations and information from Car Seats for the Littles 
My favorite diapers, Bum Genius  
Benefits of Babywearing here and here  
Breastfeeding and all things Parenting - support from KellyMom