Thursday, 5 January 2012

Gentle Parenting starts before birth

This is (hopefully) the first in a series of "Gentle Parenting is..." posts. Quick disclaimer, this is what Gentle Parenting is to us, it's not necessarily a be-all-end-all definition. The crux of Gentle Parenting centres on the concepts of respect and informed choice not any particular technique, and those themes will come up again and again!

Baby BackRods is now over 3 months old, but we became Gentle Parents way before that.

For us, the two things we find most important in our parenting choices (especially when deciding what we will do) is to respect our child as a human with rights and feelings and then to do some research and make an informed choice. So how does that apply before birth?

Birth is already pretty traumatic for mother and baby (they don’t call it labour for nothing) and we felt it didn’t show respect for the process if we allowed any intervention, where medical professionals feel they have to get involved and hurry the process along. The baby will come out. They have to.

Informed choice does come in here, though, because the odds of something going wrong do increase with time - when you think about it, that's quite an obvious statement. At the same time, the dating process that doctors use is a little odd. It assumes a 28 day cycle and a gestation of exactly 40 weeks starting from the end of the last period. Neither of those are rock-solid assumptions. We chose to let nature take it's course unless something was obviously wrong.

We felt it would be disrespectful to our child to force them out with sweeps, inducement and instruments. It was either natural and normal and we could take our time over it or it was an emergency and it had to be quick. In all our research we could find no benefit (to us) to the heavily medicalised compromise between the two. Not everybody feels that way, of course, but it's why our son was born at exactly 42 weeks gestation without any undue intervention.

Unfortunately things exactly didn't go our way and eventually Baby BackRods was born by emergency c-section. But we had prepared for that, we had counted that as one of the options, we were open minded that it might happen, so we didn’t feel like failures. We didn’t need to, our son was born!

What I'm trying to say is, it doesn't matter how much we wanted a water-birth, how much I wanted to cut the cord, how much we wanted the placenta to be completely drained before the cord was cut, what matters is that we made our choices and we made our plan before the event. We had our birth plan to cover home or hospital birth, even our requests for the possibility of c-section. We were informed.

But it’s not just the birth itself, but then you also need to consider feeding, sleeping arrangements, transportation (i.e. pram or sling), and start to think how you will parent the child as they grow up. You can't just wait until you have a baby to think about these things, you need to start Gentle Parenting as soon as you become a parent (or even before) and not wait until you have a babe in arms.

I’ll probably come back to some of the other points in the future, but just for a quick rundown...

On feeding, we believe that formula is the 4th option for infant feeding:
  1. Breastfeeding
  2. Breastmilk in a cup, syringe or bottle
  3. Donor milk
  4. Formula
I won’t get into the Formula arguments, at least not now, but I want to make it clear that formula is an option, but not one we wanted to consider from the outset. It made more sense to Baby and Mrs BackRods to go for Breastfeeding and to do it on demand rather than to a schedule.

On sleeping, we co-sleep as this makes life generally easier, especially when breastfeeding.

On “transportation”, we babywear. Sometimes even when we’re in the house!

On parenting, we’ll be gentle and respectful...

As a couple we discussed many of these things whilst we were trying to conceive, we had discovered all these wonderful “alternative” parenting choices and ended up seeing how far the rabbit hole would go, and we’re still going! But that won’t be the case for everyone. Gentle Parenting can start any time, it can start before your first child or you can make the decision to change your parenting whenever. All I’m saying is that it can start before birth, not that it has to. :-)

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