Caring for Baby: Diapers, Sleeping, and Feeding

Since I’ve been watching little Rose five days a week since she was about 2 months old (she is now 14 mo), I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would do things differently and what I’d do the same as when my kids were small (they are now 20 and 16).  This is not an attempt to make anyone feel guilty for not being super-mom, it’s just that I’ve reconsidered some of the decisions I made then.

I think in nearly all cases there are plenty of “right” ways to raise your children, and not very many “wrong” ways.  You have to decide what’s best for YOUR family.  Sometimes it’s hard to not let other moms get to you when they tell you you’re doing it wrong.  My intention here is not to start a fight, because a lot of these topics can generate pretty volatile “discussions”.  I’m just considering what I might do differently if I were raising a kid now, instead of 20 years ago.

Diapers

I used exclusively disposable diapers for my kids.  At that point in time, nearly everyone used disposables.  This was a phenomenal expense, but it was a burden mostly borne by Rob’s grandparents.  They would constantly stop by after a shopping trip with a huge box of diapers.  I felt at the time that I simply didn’t have time for cloth diapers, and they weren’t all that good then anyway.

Now I’ve seen some of the new-fangled cloth diapers out there, and I think that if I were an at-home-mom with a new baby, I would probably give them a try.  It’s a lot more work and the initial cost is high, but in the long run it saves a lot of money.  And let’s not even talk about the literally TONS of diapers I’d be saving from the landfill.  I think it would be a lot harder to keep up with them if I were working full-time outside the house, though.  And I can imagine I would carry disposables in the diaper bag as back-up for emergencies while I’m out and about.

Napping/Sleeping

Although I didn’t really get into the co-sleeping thing at the time, there were many times that my babies fell asleep in my arms during a nighttime feeding in the recliner.  I didn’t sleep with them on the couch (which carries a high risk of accidental death), and there were probably only a few times that they fell asleep in my bed (usually during those nighttime feedings).

While I have posted before on the power of touch, and I’m a huge proponent of physical contact with the people we care about, I’m not sure I’m sold on the co-sleeping thing.  A large part of my concern with it is that the baby gets so used to having you right there beside them when they go to sleep that they get to the point where they HAVE to have you right there beside them in order to GET to sleep.  Even if you are committed to co-sleeping, there are times when you will want to try to accomplish something while the baby is napping, and if you’re out somewhere you obviously can’t just lay down with the baby.  I’m really not sure how I would deal with this issue if I had another child.  Perhaps someone who has tried co-sleeping could offer some input.

As for the timing, I pretty much let my kids dictate their own schedule, within reason.  I tried to encourage them to be awake during the day and asleep at night.  But I wasn’t a tyrant about making them take their nap at exactly the same times every day.  That I would probably do the same.  While it’s good to have a general schedule, and definitely better to have them sleep more at night and less during the day, I can’t see myself being inflexible about bedtimes.  Sometimes life happens, and not being able to go with the flow just causes unnecessary stress for both mother and baby.

Feeding

Not being able to eat wheat means you can’t just throw together a PB&J sandwich.  I wasn’t aware of my wheat sensitivity when my kids were little.  Knowing what I know now, and considering that there are MANY people on both sides of our family who are gluten sensitive to some extent, I think I would wait as long as possible to introduce wheat into her diet.  Part of the problem is that most “beginner” foods contain grains.  We have been told over and over how nutritious whole grains are, but if you can’t digest them properly, you simply can’t get the nutrients out of them, no matter how many nutrients they may be purported to contain.

I did breast feed for the first several months with both of mine, and I still think that is best whenever possible.  It is the balanced nutrition that babies are designed to thrive on.  But I’m not one of those who feels compelled to shame others for NOT breast feeding, or not breastfeeding long enough.  Breast feeding for “too long” is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with nutrition; I’m not going to open that can of worms here.

It’s when we start to introduce other foods into baby’s diet that things really start diverging.  When it comes right down to it, grains are hard to digest, even if you’re not overtly intolerant.  Out of the grains, rice is the easiest, and least likely to produce an allergic reaction, but whether you are feeding your little one breast milk or formula, the reality is that either one has everything they NEED, nutritionally speaking, so adding in other things just supplements and gets them gradually used to the other foods that they will soon be eating more regularly.

As soon as they were ready, we started giving our kids smashed up bites of tender fruits and veggies from our own plates, along with the standard jar foods.  I didn’t have one of those magical food processors, or I probably would have made a lot more of my kids’ first foods.  But we didn’t really eat as many whole foods, fruits and veggies as we should have in those days.  I would definitely try to get more veggies in their diets as toddlers than I did.

There’s a nice “back-to-basics” list 0f first foods here.  It’s markedly different than what most doctors are recommending, but then they’re also recommending that adults get 60% of their calories from carbs, and most of those whole grains, and that’s not best either.

All in all, I think I would do most things just as I did, if I had it to do all over again.  Not that I think I am the perfect mom, or anything, but it seems that they managed to survive all of my shortcomings.  I guess that’s the best bit of encouragement I can offer to new moms–don’t overly stress yourself out over every little detail.  So many things are a matter of personal preference, and even more have to take into account the individual child’s personality.  Don’t beat yourself up about being “imperfect”.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect human being.  And don’t let other moms guilt you into thinking you’re a failure because you’re not doing something the way they would.  Unless it’s a matter of threatening a child’s physical or emotional well-being, rest assured that there is more than one “right” way to raise your kids.  And the “best” way for another family may not be the “best” way for yours.  You will also find that parenting involves a whole lot of trial and error.  Even things that worked well for one child in your family may not work as well with the next one.  I think the most important thing of all is to love them like crazy, and let them know that you do, often!

I have several friends with little ones, so if you have any input, I’ll be sure to pass it on–I encourage you to comment! Civilly, please!

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