This summer, I realized that I was a newbie again. I have not been a newbie at anything for quite some time. The weight of this realization did not dawn on me right away. My epiphany occurred when I started reading about infant sleep. I wanted to know if I was doing the right thing for my baby. Was I putting her to bed at the right time? Was she getting enough sleep? How was I supposed to survive nighttime nursing when my baby was hungry every two hours and took forty minutes to eat?
Naturally, I turned to the internet and started reading everything that I could find about infant sleep. It was so completely overwhelming. The conflicting advise. The heated debates. Experience and tradition verses science-based and natural parenting.
Wait a minute. Full stop.
There is natural parenting? Where have I heard this before. And then I realized it. I am the new horse owner navigating a conflicting set of care and training philosophies. Do I put my faith in the experts? Which experts do I listen to? How can I tell who is genuine and who is just looking to make a buck? I had a new appreciation for what newbies in the horse world must feel: vulnerability, anxiety, and even fear of doing wrong by one's horse (baby, in this case).
This was not a parallel between baby care and horse ownership that I had anticipated. What did I do to escape the sea of conflicting advice and infant-raising practices? I asked myself, "what would I do in this situation with Harley?"
And then I knew the answer.
I listened to my baby. I borrowed aspects of philosophies that worked for us. I also stuck with information that was backed by science over tradition or societal convention. Even though I love evidence-based information, my gut was still a part of the decision-making process. I only practiced infant-raising practices that felt right to me.
I discovered that I am mostly what I am calling a "natural" parent. I breastfeed, I hold my baby a lot, she is cared for by her parents and family when we are away, and her crib gathers dust (i.e. We bed-share.). My baby has a routine (rather than a schedule) that is based on her cues to eat and sleep, although some clock-watching is involved so that she is ready to nurse when I come home. And to date, I have only been separated from her for a maximum stretch of four hours (half my work day). My husband and I work full-time, but my husband has changed his schedule to reduce the number of hours that we are both away from baby. My Mom takes care of Sweet Pea while we are at work; we are very, very fortunate. We combine baby-wearing with strollers for long walks. I am dedicated to nursing, even though this is very difficult while working full-time, and bed-sharing makes nighttime nursing about a thousand times more manageable than getting up and sitting in a rocking chair for an hour three times a night. I actually feel rested in the morning and I love the closeness that I have with my little one during the night and right into the morning. I feel that the biological and emotional needs of my baby and myself are being met as we traverse this very new life as Mommy and baby. Somehow, Harley has influenced that.
My daughter is now four months old, and I am no longer completely green. I am still learning all the time, but I am happy with my infant care choices thus far and am grateful that my life with horses has given me some invaluable perspective.
|My gentle beast, sweet husband (he is taking a photo, too), and baby.|