I have a parenting style/theory that I’d like to share with you. Although I can’t point to exactly where I got this idea, I don’t think I made it up myself. You see, my lawyer self has been reading MANY DIFFERENT parenting books and blogs for the past 15+ months (if you’re pregnant, I switched over from pregnancy reading to reading about baby around 34 weeks when the anxiety of I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO CHANGE A DIAPER kicked in!) but instead of following one particular book/blog’s style I took bits and pieces from all and created rules and a schedule that worked for us. Please feel free to do the same, take whatever is helpful from this post and create your own parenting theory; just make sure you share it with the rest of us in the comments! You never know what sleep deprived mama out there will benefit.. 🙂
Months 0-6: Focus on Sleeping + Bonding and Ease Up on the Rules, Mama ?
Going into this parenthood thing I had my goals clear: I wanted to raise an independent, happy baby who, except when over-tired or sick, was generally pleasant to be around. Sounds easy enough, right? HA!
I thought having defined goals would give me a leg up on #momlife but instead, at least in the beginning, I found that the goal of having Chickie be independent made it so I was hyper vigilant for spoiling her in a way that was interfering with our bonding time. No rocking! No letting her fall asleep in your arms! No binkies! No bottles! It felt like I was drowning in rules of my own making.. Don’t get me wrong, some rules DID work for us- especially those relating to her sleep/feed routine and putting her to bed drowsy, but not asleep (for more on this, I suggest this book– my BIBLE for our first weeks at home with baby!) but for the most part during those early days, rules were more stress than help.
My advice to you for those first months is this- when a baby is under 6 months, they REALLY need you! They need ALL the cuddles, ALL the love, ALL the attention… You’re forming a bond with them! They need to trust you, they need to know that you will come when they call you, that they are being taken care of and not forgotten in a corner. Coming when they cry and holding them tight when they want to be held is what makes you a good parent in those early months. As long as you balance this with whatever sleep training method/routine you choose to implement, you will be juuuuust fine. Where things get complicated is post 6 months when (according to yours truly, at least) the EXACT SAME BEHAVIOR that makes you a GREAT parent months 0-6, make you into a spoiling machine as baby gets older. Let me explain..
Month 6 and Beyond: What Do You Mean I’m a Bad Parent?
Right around the 6 month mark, babies start craving a different kind of attention; it’s not just about having mom or dad passively hold them anymore, that just won’t cut it. 6+ month old babies want your active attention- they want you to look into their eyes and interact with them, they want your voice to go up high and down low, its hilarious! It’s at this moment that your parenting style needs to adjust to your growing baby or you’ll become the dreaded spoiling machine PRONTO.
Let me spell it out for you- attention is attention; positive or negative it doesn’t really matter as your baby doesn’t know the difference. To your 6+ month old baby who is seeking attention, your praising him for eating all his food sounds, looks and feels the EXACT SAME as your reprimanding him for knocking your glasses over or pulling your hair. When you try to curb your baby’s more annoying behaviors by giving attention to the behavior and reacting to it (again, even if you’re saying NOO BABY NOO) you are actually encouraging the behavior; you are teaching the baby that if he wants to get Mama’s attention (which again, he does!) a good way to do that is by [insert annoying behavior here] the exact opposite of what you’re intending to teach him. Does that make sense? Still too nebulous of an idea? Let me break it down for you with a real life example.. FYI, this was one of my BIGGEST pet peeves with parenting books- give some concrete examples, people! Give me some actual steps to follow! Grr.. end of rant.
Real Life Example: Throwing the Sippy Cup Off the Highchair
Oh. Em. Gee. This used to drive me NUTS with Chickie Lou! Shortly after the Little Bird started solids she developed the bad habit of throwing her sippy cup off the highchair onto the floor. At first, every time she dropped it I would bend down, pick it up and put it back in its place. I was literally doing this at least 10 times which each meal saying something along the lines of “WE DON’T THROW THINGS ON THE FLOOR, CHICK CHICK.” It was driving me crazy! After reading and reading I came up with a plan of action: I would pick up the sippy cup three times and no more. After this, if she threw it on the ground there’d be no more sippy cup with her meal. Sounds like a good plan, right? Nope.. Didn’t work. I always ended up doing it more than three times and interacting with her in the process- again, this will only reinforce the behavior, blah! What DID work was this: IGNORING THE BEHAVIOR. Without looking in her eyes or talking or acknowledging her any any way, when she dropped her sippy cup on purpose I would bend down, pick it up and put it back in her tray. That’s it. It was the same thing I was doing before, yes, but this time I was doing it conscious of NOT GIVING HER ATTENTION. It took about a week but she learned the lesson- throwing your sippy cup on the ground is not a way to get mama’s attention. Soon after it wasn’t getting her attention anymore, she stopped doing it.
Real Life Example: Knocking Mama’s Glasses Off
Another bad habit Soph developed around month 8 or 9 that drove me crazy was knocking my glasses off my face, over and over and over again. Ughhh, I love my baby but BOY was this annoying. Again, I tried telling her no and explaining that I need my glasses to see. Without meaning to I was reinforcing the behavior by giving it attention. Bad mama! As soon as I stopped paying attention to her knocking my glasses of (this was quite challenging, as she was literally smacking me in the face!) she stopped engaging in the annoying behavior. This took a little bit longer, I’d say around a week and a half but eventually it worked!
It’s not easy ignoring baby’s annoying behavior, ESPECIALLY when you’re out and about. Letting the sippy cup fall on the floor fifty times is fine to do at home but in a germ-y restaurant, not so much. Take advantage of time at home to really nail down your Resting Mom Face and soon you’ll see those annoying behaviors are a thing of the past. Keep in mind though- when baby is sick or over-tired ALL RULES ARE OUT THE WINDOW.
Some Parting Thoughts on the First Year
The last thing I’d like you to keep in mind for baby’s first year is this: ALL BABIES ARE UNIQUE AND SPECIAL. ALL BABIES REACH MILESTONES AT THEIR OWN PACE. Putting your baby on strict timeline and comparing them to your friends’ kiddos will rarely be reassuring and will ALWAYS be anxiety provoking. Your baby is an individual and he/she will roll, crawl, walk, talk and hit all the other milestones whenever they are ready. Breathe. Relax. You got this, mama!