Parenting is not black and white. I will say that again. Parenting is not black and white. This doesn’t stop people from talking about it like it is though.
Let’s take the subject of sleeping for example.
There is so much to consider here. Can you use crib bumpers? Should you use breathable bumpers? Should you co-sleep? Will co-sleeping lead to suffocation of your baby? How do you keep your baby on his/her back like they are supposed to be? What if they sleep better on their bellies? If I make the wrong choices am I a bad parent?
Personally, I don’t understand co-sleeping. This isn’t to say I haven’t done it. My youngest ended up in bed with me nightly from about 10 months old until she was about a year and a half. I don’t sleep well when my children are in bed with me. I love cuddling with them in the morning, but not during the night. I am a light sleeper and get hot too easily and they move around like they are trying to do an aerobic workout. I don’t consider us a co-sleeping family, but if it works for you… that is for you to decide regardless of my feelings about it.
I also (gasp) let Meredith nap on her belly from the beginning.
Breastfeeding (and feeding in general) is another great example. “Breast is best.” If you don’t breastfeed your baby, he/she is going to get every illness known to man. If you give your child solid food before 6 months, he/she will become obese. If you just try hard enough, your milk will come. If you don’t breastfeed, you have failed your child.
I will start by saying that I am pro-breastfeeding. I wanted to breastfeed. I tried to breastfeed with Nora. It wasn’t in the cards for us. For the first month of Nora’s life we nursed, she lost weight, I supplemented, I pumped, we both cried. There was absolutely nothing positive about the experience for either one of us. And so after a month of trying and still only getting 1-2 ounces of milk per day, I decided to push past the guilt I was feeling because of all of the pressure to make it work and I made the decision that ended up being the right one for us.
It turns out that was formula.
We both started enjoying feeding time, I could soak in all that wonderful baby goodness. My husband could share in that experience. We both cried less. And shock of all shocks… she is healthy. She is actually healthier than a lot of my friend’s kids who have been exclusively breast fed according to all of the “rules”.
My happy and healthy formula fed baby.
With Meredith, I didn’t even try and her newborn days were so peaceful because of it. And she is extremely healthy too, by the way. I am secure in the knowledge that this was ultimately the right decision for us. Would I have loved for my milk production to have been enough to even supplement the girl’s formula intake? Absolutely. But it wasn’t what ended up working for us. I am okay with that, but the hormonal new mother of a few years ago could have done without the societal pressure that made me feel like I was failing my kids for making the decision that I made.
I could go on…
Store bought baby food versus making your own? Should children watch TV? And if so, how much? Cry it out? Don’t cry it out? Baby led weaning? Pacifiers? Etc, etc, etc…
My point is that there are multiple sides to every argument and making decisions as a parent is hard enough without everyone telling you that you are doing it wrong or they would do it differently. I have some very strong opinions about some of these topics that have people polarized about what is the correct thing to do. And I will happily defend my position on those things. But, I really try to stay away from presenting my arguments in a way that make it seem like someone who disagrees with me is a bad parent because they are doing things in a different way.
We are all just figuring things out. I firmly believe that we need to trust our instincts as parents. And “listen” to your kids. Are they happy? Are they healthy? Do they laugh? Do they love? Do they learn? If you can say yes to these questions, you are doing a pretty darn good job.