The Best Gift for Your Baby – Learn to Trust Your Instincts

iStock 000005013797XSmall The Best Gift for Your Baby   Learn to Trust Your Instincts

This post isn’t new, but I really wanted to revisit it today as part of the Green & Natural Mama Thursday linky at I Thought I Knew Mama.

As a new or expecting parent, what’s more overwhelming – all that baby “stuff” or all that baby advice?

I’ve been there. You have to weave through the living room to avoid the swing, pack & play, vibrating chair that plays music, activity mats, and toys designed to make your newborn smarter.  To tell you far “in” we were with the stuff, we actually returned a bassinet because the baby wouldn’t sleep in it… we thought it was the product’s fault our baby wanted to be with us instead of a ruffly box.

And then there are the questions and unsolicited advice.  As expecting parents…  ”You better sleep now ’cause it’s all over when that baby gets here,” and “Have you thought of any names?” Does anyone else think that’s just a way for non-expecting couples to stake claim on names they’ve thought of?

Or as new parents, we were often told to… “Put that baby on a feeding schedule.”  ”Is he sleeping through the night?”  and my favorite, “What does the doctor say about that?”

Generally the people giving you advice are well-meaning, but they can actually sabotage your confidence as a new parent.  By no means am I saying to isolate yourself… that’s a whole other recipe for disaster. If you read our blog often, you know we think life is all about balance.

Find a Support Network

Finding a support network with like-minded new parents can make a real and lasting difference in your ability to parent successfully.

When my second son was born, I was exceptionally blessed to have a network of Green Mommy friends who supported me during the early months of breastfeeding and attachment parenting.

But it still wasn’t easy.

After one of those first rough nights home with a newborn, my husband and I told my lactation consultant we were really hoping this baby would learn to sleep on his own and become independent faster than his older brother had. I can still see her face – with her head tilted to the side and her mouth open like she was thinking carefully before she responded to these two sleep-deprived people.  Then she said, “But your oldest is such a gracious and content child.  It’s no accident how he became that way.”

Hearing that from someone with an extensive background in birth, nursing, and child development was such an affirmation.

She told us that we had instinctively raised our oldest via attachment parenting.  We hadn’t actually realized it at the time.  She explained how he didn’t have to waste a lot of energy crying and worrying whether his needs would be met.  He was able to go about the process of adapting and growing.  She also gave us the science and studies to back it up.

But no one in my family or previous circle of friends talked about this when I’d had my first baby. No one but my copy of The Baby Book by Dr. Sears. Otherwise, I was surrounded by the mainstream views that the baby should be put on a feeding schedule, trained to sleep in his crib alone all night, and a bunch of other rules that my baby wasn’t born knowing.

That’s why your support group is critical.  With my second son, I was surrounded by nursing mothers, baby wearing, and attachment or Continuum Concept parenting.  And these days, you can even build your support network online.  I’ve seen so many helpful, insightful posts on Facebook and Twitter about attachment parenting, breastfeeding, non-commercialism, safe toys, organic foods, etc.

New mothers now can be plugged in at all hours of the day or night. Imagine just knowing somewhere another new mom is awake nursing her baby at 1:00 in the morning. What a relief to that feeling of isolation that can creep in when our new mommy brains are vulnerable!

With the right support group, you don’t have to be subject to only what your friends and family says.  Or even worse – the media.

The baby marketing industry has fed us a line of crap, convincing us (and we as nervous moms and dads-to-be, or sleep deprived new parents are so desperate to believe ) that if we have enough “stuff” then we’ll be equipped to handle the challenge of a new baby. Or that these “things” will make us a good parent.

We’re scared by those people who tell us during the last month of pregnancy, “Get your sleep now, cause you won’t get any when that baby gets here”  And all the woes of how awful it’s going to be to never have a life of your own again.

I loved an interview I read with a then-pregnant Sara Snow, where she was asked if she had a ton of eco-friendly gear all ready for her baby’s arrival.  Her response was something along the lines of, well, we have a crib and some cloth diapers… otherwise, we’re just going to wait and see what she needs when she gets here.

Now that’s the kind of mom I want in my support network!

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  • jimmyhaysnelson

    Amity! AMAZING post! LOVE IT! As a brand new parent (going on my 3rd week)- I couldn’t agree more with what you said. It is easy to get talked into what those first few weeks will be like- and what you are ‘suppose’ to do. Glad to know we aren’t alone in wanting to be as ‘stuff free’ as possible as we get to know our new little man! :)

  • Amity Hook-Sopko

    Thanks so much, Jimmy. You guys were wonderful parents before he was even born :) I’m sending you an article about how breastfed babies are less likely to become overweight through childhood and adulthood. With your background in health & fitness, I know you’ll appreciate raising a child who can self-regulate his feeding by recognizing when he’s full :)

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  • Victoria Gazeley

    As a fellow ‘attachment’ mama, I couldn’t agree more. Your lactation consultant’s response was so brilliant… no judgement, just an observation of fact. When our guy (now 7) was little, we had none of the ‘extras’ – no crib, no jumble of plastic toys, no brain development videos – all by choice. He was carried in a sling and backpack, slept with us for a good long while, and just had a very different beginning than so many little ones I see who are completely overwhelmed with the stuff that is buzzing and flashing around them. And don’t even get me started on ‘crying it out’, which for so long was standard parenting practice and we now know does nothing but create distrust of you in your child – not a great way to start out life. This is so important – thank you so much for posting this!

  • Victoria Gazeley

    Oh, and I forgot to mention – I think all our efforts with early attachment have paid off. As with your little guy, I have a happy, imaginative, creative, gracious, sensitive little boy who is an absolute joy and I love hanging out with. He’s turning out to be a fascinating person, and I’m thrilled to watch his unfolding as he steps into his life… Thanks again!

  • Amity Hook-Sopko

    This is such great feedback, Victoria. Always nice to hear from other parents who think “cry it out” is unnatural. I always thought the main drawback was that babies who are worn in slings or held often, can have a hard time coping with a car seat. They have no concept of law enforcement or safety yet :)

    Great to hear how well-adjusted your son is. I hate to see families that look like they don’t enjoy each other. There are very few people I’d choose to hang out with over my husband and boys.

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  • Kelli Johnson

    As a new Mama-to-be, I really, really appreciate this article. My husband and I have received some interesting looks when asked if we have everything ready for the baby yet — we have the basics and a lot of love! Thank you so very much for the support, tips, and encouragement that you’ve offered here — they are priceless and music to my ears!!!

  • Amity Hook-Sopko

    I love how you’re thinking, Kelli. Babies have been born since the dawn of time without a room full of stuff to stimulate and entertain them 24/7. The world itself is plenty of stimulation after you’ve spent 9 months in a warm, dark place!

    More pleasing to a baby than any noisy toy or bouncy seat, is Mama :)

  • Anonymous

    This is mazing suggestion to choose a gifts for a baby.It is difficult to determine that which gifts are best for babies. You give such a nice tips for it.
    Baby Gifts

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