I don't think I could have predicted my way of motherhood before actually becoming a mother. One of the best bits of advice I was ever given (and the only bit I'll give another mom unsolicited) is that "you have to do what's best for your own family." What works for one family, may not work best for another family- we're all so different! And even within a family, I don't think I parent my boys in the exact same way. I give them what they need as individuals, not what this book or that "family expert" recommend I do for all my children.
Along the way, I've found that Sandman and I follow more of the Attachment Parenting school of thought. Totally not where I thought we'd be! But we fell into it naturally without really realizing that we were parenting in the AP style. We're definitely not 100% AP parents, but I don't think we have to be in order to benefit from some of the approaches. I do realize that some of this stuff is purely our own opinion, and I have plenty of non-AP friends with their own opinions too....so this is not meant to make anyone upset. We are all different, and different approaches work better with different kids!
There are 8 principles of AP. We definitely practice some of these more than others, but I think they are all important.
Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
I read a lot of books. I chatted online with a lot of moms and pregnant women. I feel like I educated myself fairly well before experiencing birth, even though there are things I'd love to be able to do differently if given another chance. I think a lot of birth experiences are that way because there's always an unknown side of things that sometimes can't be planned for in the beginning. I had two hospital births, but I know a few other moms who have gone the birth center route. Maybe I'll be able to do that someday! We also felt confident enough as new parents, and we felt like we had a great support system. I think it's important for moms to know what's going on with their kids!
Feed with Love and Respect
This emphasizes the importance and normalcy of breastfeeding, though it encourages bottle/formula feeding parents to use that time to create secure attachments. I exclusively breastfed our kids on demand for at least the first six months of life, and this is one area where my two boys were very different. Buddy would eat every 2.5-3 hours like clockwork most of the time. It was easy to fall into a routine. Nugget was a little less predictable, and generally wanted to nurse every 1.5-2 hours...eventually making it closer to 3 hours when he was a few months old. We felt it was important to use feeding as a part of a routine vs. a schedule. I found it so much easier to follow a flexible routine than to watch a clock. I breastfed Buddy for 13 months (weaned while pregnant with Nugget...sob, sob), and Nugget is still nursing 2-3 times a day at 19.5 months old.
Respond with Sensitivity
We believe that when a baby cries, he's trying to use one of the only forms of communication he knows. So, we have chosen to not let our kids "cry-it-out" as much as possible. (Nugget hated the car seat FOREVER so we just had to deal with crying until he learned the car seat wasn't evil.) Their emotions are fragile, and responding to those emotions is important. Now, I will say that fussing, at least in our house, is much different than crying. Oh, and toddler-preschooler tantrums are not the same as a baby crying.....
Use Nurturing Touch
Babies are meant to be held! They need and crave that physical touch! Skin-to-skin contact is very beneficial, and I wear my babies a lot. Well, not as much now that they are bigger, but Nugget rides on my back when we're out and about. I love holding them close! And in my opinion, it's much easier to pop a baby into a pouch or sling than to lug that heavy baby bucket car seat around! As much your grandmother might warn against it, you can't spoil a baby by holding him. Big kids need this touch, too....reading together, or even watching a favorite tv show and snuggling or even just wrestling and being silly together are great ways to meet those needs for older kids.
Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
This is a controversial one. Many parents believe that a baby should be in his own room and other parents think he should be in his parents bed. We're somewhere in the middle, I guess. Buddy moved from the pack'n'play in our bedroom (and the early morning snuggles in bed with me) to his crib way down the hall when he was about 6 weeks old. We all did great. Everyone slept longer stretches at night. But Nugget was still in the cradle in our room or in bed with me by that age, and moving him to his room wasn't going to work at that time. So we ensured that our co-sleeping would be safe for him....no big comforter or foofy pillows, guard rail on my side of the bed, and he did not sleep between Sandman and me. He slept between me and the rail (which had a breathable mesh cover). There are ways to co-sleep safely, and I don't think it would get such a bad reputation if more people would/could be educated about the proper way to do it. Nugget did move to his room around 4 months old, though he would still come to bed with us somewhere around 2-4am. I think he was around 10-12 months old when I quit bringing him to my bed after those late night feedings. For me, I felt like I was recognizing his needs...learning to sleep all by himself, far from his parents...if he needed me for a few more weeks or months, I was willing to give that to him. He sleeps until about 7:30am now, so the fact that I had to get up with him for months doesn't mean a whole lot right now. And the transition was so much easier on our family dynamic than letting him cry himself to sleep.
Provide Consistent and Loving Care
Ideally, the sole care-giver is one of the parents. This isn't always possible, so the next best care-giver is one who knows the child well in order to form strong bonds with. I stay home with my boys, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be with them. I don't take it for granted. We also don't just leave our kids with anyone. I think this one really depends on the kid- Buddy could be left in the church nursery from a much younger age than Nugget. And there are still very few people that can put Nugget to bed at night without a fuss. We're working on this one....
Practice Positive Discipline
This one is tough- we are not anti-spanking like many APers, but we know there is a time and a place when it isn't appropriate. We try to reward and encourage the positive behavior as much as possible. We talk about behavior and good or 'wise' choices, and we try to let our kids make the choices (within reason, of course) to help with the inevitable power struggles that come as they grow older. One example is when Buddy was giving us a serious whine-fest about not getting some juice, we told him that he could have "Water or Ice Water" and the simple fact that he got to choose calmed him down. Ha.
Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
This one seems sort of silly, but in today's world, it is so easy to get sucked into the Rat Race of Life. I have two kids, two YOUNG kids, and we already feel pressured at times with our busy schedules. Over-scheduling activities isn't hard, especially when doing the Stay-At-Home-Mom thing gets monotonous and you want to get out of the house before someone gets hurt! I guess we try to make sure the boys have time to be kids...whether playing with their toys at home, running around the backyard, or (gasp) watching tv. I know they get weary when we lots of places to rush off to everyday, even if they are playdates, the zoo, a museum, etc. Sandman and I also try to not over-commit with our own activities. We all need time to be together as a family and also on our own.
I never really thought about this stuff until we realized we were 'doing' these things on our own. And what's good for us, may not be what's good for you, and that's fine. What works for Buddy doesn't always (read: rarely) works for Nugget.
Sandman says I'm a part-time hippy. Heehee. Maybe I am. But maybe that's because Nugget wears cloth diapers.....