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It's OK to be a grey parent

It's OK to be a grey parent

Grey is all the rage these days: from home decor to fashion accessories to books about the many different shades of the color.

However, one area where grey isn't all too welcome is parenting. We're expected to parent in an all-or-nothing, black or white universe, fully committed to one philosophy, technique, sleep environment, feeding method, or disciplinary theory.

"If you're breastfeeding, you can't use a pacifier. If you like wearing your babies, you can't sleep train them. If you do baby-led weaning, you can't use store-bought purees."

In parenting, as in life, things are very rarely black and white. Yes, it's wonderful when you find a parenting philosophy that resonates with you, especially when it helps you to find support from other like-minded parents. However, it can be oversimplified to categorize certain parenting tools as "good" and others as "bad". For one thing, a system or choice that might work really well for one family would possibly not work for another family. Secondly, labeling certain choices as "bad" will "otherize" parents who are making that choice for their family.

This judgment that we pass on other parents who make choices that don't go along with our own parenting philosophy can lead to internalized self-judgment if we ever come to a place where we need to make a similar choice for our children. For example, a parent who highly values feeding their baby breastmilk and judges those who feed their babies formula is apt to be much less at peace if they ever need to give their baby formula, either by necessity or choice. 

Out of all of the choices we have, there may be a few that would work equally well. This is not to say that these decisions shouldn't be taken seriously, or that we shouldn't decide on our own family's values to guide our decisions. But there are only a few really, really bad isolated choices that can traumatize a child. The rest might be a toss-up! We need to give ourselves the grace and permission to change plans when one or more items in the set of parenting guidelines to which we've ascribed isn't working for us. It's not a slippery slope to get rid of a tool that is no longer serving you.

It's really wonderful to be able to consider all of the different theories and parenting styles, pick and choose the best of the best from each style, and build a pot-luck of tools that work for your family. Don't be afraid to consider a parenting choice that doesn't seem to align with the philosophy of your other parenting choices. Embrace the grey spaces so you can parent in full-color!

Top 5 must-have items for baby (a minimalist-approved list)

Top 5 must-have items for baby (a minimalist-approved list)

There are SO MANY baby products on the market right now! As a doula, many of my clients come to me for product recommendations and help with building their baby registry. Often, they ask, "How much of this stuff does a baby really NEED?" My answer? Not much! There are basically five categories of things you really, really need before bringing a baby home. The rest is lagniappe (I'll be listing some nice-to-have items in a future blog!) 

Here is the short list of things a newborn absolutely needs in their early days:

1. A safe place to sleep 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced updated recommendations for safe sleep. Included in these recommendations is a firm, flat, bare sleep space for the baby (not in the parents' bed). The crib or bassinet doesn't need to be anything fancy, but beware of buying these items used since some discontinued items are no longer approved by regulatory agencies. Buying new also allows you to sign up for alerts in case of a product recall. 

My personal favorite cribs are the simple, economical, sleek cribs from IKEA. Ours has gone through 4.5 years and 2 energetic boys and shows no signs of wear! Just to compare, our first crib we got was actually more expensive and started to chip paint after just over a year. 

2. Clothes

Sooooo many cute clothes. But what does a baby really use on a daily basis? Comfort is key; you can't beat cotton onesies and button-up footed sleepers. White is excellent because it can be cleaned easily! Depending on how often you want to do laundry, you'd want anywhere from 6-12 of each style and size. It's too easy to go overboard and buy so many outfits that the baby doesn't have a chance to wear each outfit before it's outgrown. Also keep in mind that grandparents LOVE to buy baby clothes, so it's highly unlikely that your baby won't have enough, haha!

3. Diapers

Babies poop and pee. A lot. After the first week, you can expect your baby to wet and/or soil 8-12 (or more) diapers daily. You'll need a good stockpile of diapers to avoid middle of the night grocery store runs! I would figure about 100 disposable diapers a week when calculating how many you need. When it comes to deciding how many to buy in each size, bigger (size) is usually better. Babies usually only stay in newborn size diapers for a maximum of a couple of weeks and some babies are born too big for size N. Size 1 diapers generally fit babies from 8-14 pounds. What age your baby will reach 14 pounds is widely variable, but it's generally safe to say that a baby won't double their birth weight until 4-6 months. 

For cloth diapers, you'll probably want disposable liners to catch those first meconium poops so they don't stain. You can buy specially sized newborn cloth diapers, or go with a one-size model. Keep in mind that most "one-size" cloth diapers don't fit babies really well until they reach around 10 pounds, but I have had wonderful luck getting Lil' Helpers one-size diapers to fit down to 7 or 8 pound babies! There are many websites that serve as resources for information about cloth diapers, plus FaceBook support groups. So don't be intimidated!

4. Food

Whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or a combination of the two, the baby needs to eat. The only foods that are appropriate for a newborn baby are breastmilk and infant formula. For breastfeeding, some supplies you might want to have on hand are comfortable nursing bras, a breast pump, and possibly a nursing pillow. For bottle feeding, you'll want to make sure you have bottles and an easy way to clean and sterilize them. Some dishwashers clean and sterilize, or you could simply wash them in hot soapy water and rinse, boiling clean bottles periodically to sterilize them. 

5. Car Seat

You'll need an infant car seat installed correctly before you leave your birthplace to take your baby home. The nurses and hospital staff cannot install the seat for you, nor can they buckle the baby in due to liability concerns. Therefore, you'll need to ensure that your seat is properly installed and ready to go by 36 weeks of pregnancy at the latest. Also, make sure you understand how to properly buckle a baby into the seat. A CPST can help you with both of these tasks. Lauren Standridge of Baton Rouge Birth Services recommends the Chicco KeyFit 30 and Britax B-Safe infant car seats.

 

I hope this list helps you decipher what items you really really must have from those that are just nice to have. Happy shopping!

I am not the mother I wanted to be

I am not the mother I wanted to be

There is a saying that goes something like, "Everyone is a perfect parent until they actually have kids."

Man, I used to be an amazing mom. I was in peak physical condition. I was endlessly patient and never had angry outbursts. My five imaginary children were dressed in smart, quirky, dapper clothes; they were quiet, polite, and well-behaved. They picked up after themselves, never pitched fits in public, and never ate McDonald's. Our house was not perfectly immaculate, but there was a place for everything and everything was usually in its place. We were always doing fun crafts and projects. I didn't have a job; instead, I stayed home and cooked them every single meal and snack. (I was also overly judgmental of other parents, but I'll save that for another post)

In reality, my house is a mess. There are dishes in the sink consistently. My three rowdy, spunky, pizza-loving boys live mostly in hand-me-down clothing. I work a lot. I yell sometimes. I haven't lost the baby weight.

But our messy house teaches them that there are more important things to us than making sure all the dust bunnies die. The used clothing helps us to be less attached to material possessions. My work enriches our family in SO many ways. After I yell, I have an opportunity to talk to them about how my brain is easily overstimulated and that it's ok to apologize when we've messed up. My softer body is a great excuse to plant the values of body positivity.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that trying to be the mother I always imagined I would be was making me (and everyone else in our family) completely miserable. I surrendered to the deeper knowledge of my own identity and began to recognize that for me, being something else (like a business owner, doula, and childbirth educator) didn't mean that I was less of a mom. 

I adapted. I grew. Our family adjusted. And we are all better off for it.

No, I'm not the mother I wanted to be. But I'm the very best mom for our kids.

 

Parenting as a Highly Sensitive Person

Parenting as a Highly Sensitive Person

"Mommy, do you want to play with me?"

My eyes won't focus. They are too tired, for no good reason. I haven't left the house yet today. Or yesterday. Or possibly the day before; I can't remember. Sometimes outside is too much. I want so badly to be able to enjoy the sunshine, the clouds, the caterpillars, the blades of grass, the flowers my sons pick for me. The chirping birds, the possibly illegal rooster down the street, the big trucks driving by, my children's singing.

But each of these things brings a pang of overstimulation, like a fuzz-covered knife to the sensory processing mechanism in my brain. 

For the first time today, I get down on the floor to play with my oldest son. The other two are napping, and this one is bored without his playmates. Yes, he should be able to entertain himself for a little while, but he also just needs his momma sometimes. The thought of playing with him fills me with dread, and a wave of guilt flows through me. I know we will have fun, if just for the 10 minutes my brain can handle it. But I also know that afterwards I will need to hole up in a dark and quiet room in an attempt to recover from the stimulation. By then, though, someone else will need me. So I make this small sacrifice. Not every day, but today, I say yes to his bid for playful interaction.  

I tend to view my sensitivity as a negative aspect of my parenting: a disability of some sort. I'm afraid that I pull back too much, or shush them too much, or don't play with them enough, or don't take them to enough parties. I get irritated too easily. I don't do enough crafts with them. I let them watch too much Netflix. I wince when they tackle me with morning hugs and kisses. I don't enjoy them enough.

But lately, I've been intentional to notice the ways that my hyper-sensitivity is actually an asset in my parenting. 

Part of the reason that highly sensitive parents are so easily overstimulated is because we notice more and feel more deeply. We understand them in ways no one else can. We can read their emotions and proactively prevent many frustration-based breakdowns with a few words of explanation. Before they become verbal, we intuitively know why they are crying (most of the time) and can show them that we will meet their needs, which leads to an abundance of trust. We fully see and honor their uniqueness and autonomy, and recognize that their feelings are as big as an adult's. We let our love flow freely. 

So if you find yourself beating yourself up because of the negative aspects of your parenting, become more aware of the ways those "negative" traits are actually beneficial. Look at the other side of the coin and realize that you are a gift to your children.