As you may have noticed, the title of every post on this blog references lyrics from a David Bowie song. Sometimes, when I listen to his music something pops out and inspires me and a blog is born. Sometimes, I write a blog and the title is something I rack my brains to fit with the space. But there is always a lyric. There is always a song. His entire body of work is better than any religious text in my humble superfan opinion.
The lyrics that this post belongs to, Absolute Beginners, is a song that I sing to Starchild a lot along with Kooks and The Prettiest Star. Oh and Dance Magic, and... yes yes we could be here all night, I know. But it strikes a chord with me. The lyrics are perfect for my vision of parenthood.
... As long as we're together
The rest can go to hell
I absolutely love you
But we're absolute beginners
With eyes completely open
But nervous all the same...
I believe that every parent should find their own style, that there are different methods because there are different people and different situations and more importantly different babies. After all, the method you choose might not be something your baby responds to. Aside from the CTFD method of parenting, my approach was to first research the holy fuck out of everything.
And I mean everything - even methods that I was certain I had already dismissed. I asked people to share their opinions and experiences and then firmly closed myself off from influence and judgement.
After all, what suits me and my lifestyle is hardly likely to be a decision that someone else can make for me.
I trust my instincts more than the experience of others. Even if I get it wrong, some mistakes you have to make for yourself to have a basis for measuring what does work. And thus, CTFD is the perfect response.
... As long as you're still smiling
There's nothing more I need
I absolutely love you
But we're absolute beginners
But if my love is your love
We're certain to succeed...
I have been using the singular "me" here, but of course all decisions have been made equally by my beautiful husband and I. I did the research, we discussed it and made some decisions. He is a very hands on dad (even though he works away a lot admittedly, he is by no means not present even when he is not present) and the most important thing in our opinion is that throughout our parenting journey (god that sounds wanky doesn't it?), we present a united front. There will be no playing us off against each other and no conflicting responses to each situation we encounter. We are very much a we and I hope always will be.
By far the most useful book that I have read about parenting has been the WonderWeeks book.
No matter what methods you choose, you can't argue with science and babies developmental leaps consistently come with a degree of regression before they progress to putting their new abilities into practise which can throw out everything you have got used to - feeding, playing, having the time to wash up without them screaming from the other room because they lost sight of you for a second...
Even though I had read the book before I even got pregnant and am well aware of when each leap will roughly take place, I am often caught by surprise by the sudden shift from Starchild enjoying his independent play one day and needing constant contact the next. Everything that I do is baby-led so I adapt our play according to his skills and interests and I structure our day around his moods. He has a set bedtime each night but other than that I don't believe in routine napping or feeding because one day he will be more physical than the next, it may be hotter or colder from one day to the next and therefore his feeding and napping will adjust accordingly. He knows how he feels and what he wants and I am merely there to facilitate what he needs. Even so, no matter how laid back I am, it can be very disconcerting that in the early months he would have a day where he just wanted to sleep or just wanted to feed and you do wonder - are they ill?
We chose two lifestyle approaches that I would like to explain in more detail here in order to refer the people in my life that ask about them. I am by no means saying that our choices are the best choices for everyone, they are merely the best choices for us.
Babywearing is, as the name suggests, transporting your baby in a sling or carrier instead of a pram.
There's this WONDERFUL scene in Away We Go where Maggie Gyllenhaal is militantly against using a pram. As she puts it "I LOVE my babies, why would I want to push them away from me!?"
Now that's not me. I carry Starchild because aside from the benefits for him which I'll go into below, there are also benefits for me. Leeds is not very pram friendly, I don't drive and I am all about minimalism. I like a small bag of essentials (I breastfeed so I don't need to take much with me anyway) that allow me the freedom to go wherever I want to with him - whether that's out for a walk, on a bus or to a narrow shop or restaurant that's up or down stairs. It's easy, it's fun and it's lovely and it works for us. The sling takes all the weight so it's very comfortable, he absolutely loves it and there are SO many styles and types to choose from.
With regards to the benefits of babywearing to him... (I'm using the male preposition purely because Starchild is a boy by the way) It's good for his:
1) physical development - a newborn leaves your body and the familiar sounds of your breathing, bowels, heartbeat, voice and the warmth of your body and is thrust into an enormous and confusing world. By babywearing, they adapt and adjust much more quickly, cry much less (Roughly 45% less in general but roughly 55% less at night which I'm sure you will agree is reason enough - as soon as he gained weight and got healthy after the initial ehhhrmaggerrrd premature scary stage he went to bed awake, settled himself and slept beautifully) and if they are having a clingy day, you have more freedom to get out and about with your hands free.
2) mental development - a baby, when carried is quiet, calm and much more alert which is the ideal state for him to learn. His senses are continually stimulated, he is at a level which allows him to see the world from a perspective that he will not whilst he is on his back or at knee-level in a pram.
3) emotional development - when carried, babies trust and are secure. Research shows that far from being co-dependent by being in close proximity to their mothers, they actually learn independence far quicker.When he's older and bigger, I will no doubt use a pram, though as soon as he's at that age he will be old enough to go on my bike so I suspect I will still babywear or allow him to walk for the most part.
Starchild is now 4 months old. Between 6 and 9 months (he was premature though of course so that means his developmental stages are recalculated to a degree) his body will be able to digest and absorb nutrients from the food that he eats, and breastmilk (and the iron stores from the placenta) will no longer represent everything he needs.
Baby-led weaning is an approach which allows him to begin to explore solid food in his own time, at his own pace. As soon as he is able to grab food, bring it to his mouth, chew it and swallow it he is considered ready to do so. The only influence I will have is to ensure that what he eats is suitable and healthy, otherwise it's all on him.
From around 4 months of age, the natural tongue-thrust reflex (which causes babies to reject a spoonful of food that they are force-fed or anything else they put into their mouth by activating their gag-reflex) begins to fade so whatever feeding method you choose, this is the age that most people generally agree that you should start introducing food.
At this age, whatever they do eat will likely pass straight through them without anything being absorbed, because breastmilk (or formula) gives them everything they need. At this age it's more about exploring textures and colours and flavours rather than nourishment. And that's why baby-led weaning makes more sense to me:
Feeding them puree, and then later lumpy puree does nothing for their development whatsoever. They don't need to chew, they don't taste the food properly - it is sucked right to the back of their mouth rather than plays on the tongue and a puree of different flavours is confusing to the palate. Eating individual items of food will allow him to distinguish different flavours and textures and choose for himself what he likes and does not not like.
It will also allow him to share a mealtime with his family and friends, I don't know about you but I LOVE my food, as evidenced by my food blog Everything Goes With Toast. I aint sitting there spoon feeding Starchild mush in a restaurant whilst my food goes cold and I'm not having separate mealtimes in the day either - he'll eat with us and learn the rhythm of our life.
There are a myriad of other benefits related to his relationship with food in later life, but essentially, that's why I've chosen this method. It fits in with my style which is to react to him and allow him to develop naturally rather than restrict him. Whilst the modern world has many fabulous advantages, instinct tells me that since the dawn of time we have carried our children and allowed them to learn to hunt and gather their own food so why mess with a formula that nature approves of?
But that's just me - everyone is different as I have been so careful to point out!
If you're interested in Babywearing I recommend looking for your local sling library so that you can be guided by a professional and experiment before committing to buying or renting something.
If you are interested in Baby-led weaning, I recommend the official website which will also link you to the book.
If you are interested in Wonderweeks, I recommend the official website which will also link you to the book.
And finally, enjoy the song. It's lovely.
Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.
Title: Absolute Beginners by David Bowie