I try to make parenting decisions based on scientific research. While I was pregnant, I read some of the scientific research behind attachment parenting, and never looked back. I decided to breastfeed after I discovered its myriad health benefits for both mothers and babies, and I made the same conscious decision to babywear. As our children got older, we researched the best methods to discipline them and landed on positive parenting, and I did the same when we decided to start homeschooling our children as well.
I know that to many, I’m an insufferable mom. But I have a reason for every parenting decision I make, and I think that what we did generally worked out well. That's why I have no compunction about offering other parents advice, based on our own experience. I'll gladly tell a mom that we found breastfeeding easier than bottle-feeding would have been, and I once told a mom that we didn't rely on the "cry it out" sleep training method because we co-slept with our children for as long as they felt they needed to, even though she scoffed that my husband and I must never have sex that way. (We do, and it's fantastic. Just not in the bed.)
So, I’m sorry, but I love giving other moms parenting advice. I know you hate me. I just don’t care.
Don't get me wrong — we're not perfect parents. But what we did has its basis in a lot of well-vetted, well-researched methodology, and we ended up with pretty good, fun, well-adjusted kids. We made a few mistakes along the way, like spanking our kids, and we’re also trying to work on not yelling at our kids. But we did make some seriously good decisions that made our lives easier. I would love for your life to be easier, too. So I will totally dump my parenting advice on you.
I'm not saying that co-sleeping will work for everybody, but I can say that it worked for us.
Take co-sleeping. While the American Academy of Pediatrics still maintains that bed-sharing is not safe for young infants, and that it puts babies at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), we found that it worked for us. In fact, there is some research that suggests that co-sleeping can actually be protective against SIDS, if all the risks are eliminated, such as the child getting caught in bedding. It also seems that co-sleeping mothers get more sleep than mothers whose babies sleep in a crib, according to a 2004 study from East Tennessee State University.
I'm not saying that co-sleeping works for everybody, but I can say that it worked for us. I never felt the dragging misery of chronic sleep deprivation when my children were tiny. That’s because when they needed to eat in the middle of the night, I just rolled over, latched them on, and fell asleep again.
I also love to tell new moms to wear their babies. You don’t need a stroller; you can strap your baby to your body, which will give her more stimulation and make her cry less, according to pediatrician Dr. William Sears, who is the de facto godfather of attachment parenting. We wore our first son from the time he was in the hospital, and we were able to resume our normal lives. We went hiking. We went out for dinner. We went everywhere without a giant stupid stroller getting in everyone’s way and running over people’s toes.
I firmly believe that we embraced the best possible practices for our children, so why wouldn’t I want to spread those practices around?
I steer new moms toward their local baby-wearing groups, and if they’re local, I offer to wrap them myself. I recently showed a local foster mom how to wear her new baby, and she was thrilled when I told her I could show her how to wrap. They now baby-wear all of the time, especially when the baby is fussy.
I’m not shy about telling people, especially new moms, why they should do something that worked for us. After all, I firmly believe that we embraced the best possible practices for our children, so why wouldn’t I want to spread those practices around? It’s important to me that your child has a good childhood, and grows up to be a decent adult. I don’t think what we do to and with children has negligible effects, so I don't feel bad about giving advice to people. I know that makes me a busybody, but I don’t really care.
I have my limits. I won't give advice if it's totally unsolicited: for instance, I won't accost strangers in grocery stores to tell them not to put their baby carriers on top of their carts. I do, however, tell people I know that they shouldn’t put their kids in carseats with their coats on, which can increase the risk of their harness protecting them in a crash. And I leave it at that, because if they want to know more, they’ll ask me for more details or Google it for themselves. I still probably came off like a holier-than-thou annoying mom. But I don't care. I think my kids are objectively safer as a result, and I want their kids to be safe, too.
I know, I know: it's obnoxious to dispense parenting advice. In the name of respecting other people’s choices, we’re supposed to keep our mouths shut. And some might say that it may stress new moms out to hear that they may be doing something wrong — say, if they're having a ton of trouble breastfeeding. But I think that’s unfair, especially to new moms. Being a new mom can feel totally terrifying and isolating, and I think most moms deserve to hear what worked for me and what didn’t, the same way they deserve to hear that, based on my personal experience, other forms of discipline work better than spanking.
So I’ll keep dispensing advice in the name of community. You can hate me for it. That’s OK. And maybe you won't take my advice at all. Or maybe you will, and you'll wear your baby, or breastfeed a little bit longer. Either way, I'll feel like I've done my job.