Thursday, December 17, 2009

Plan vs. Reality (so far) parenting style 1

We've had custody of Baby J for over a month now, and we have been in Seattle with her for almost four weeks. We've been to church with her three times, and I have even made a couple solo outings with her to coffee and meetings. So has Andrew. We're beginning to get our bearings as parents, figure out what our baby needs that is unique to her and how that meshes with the things we believe about parenting and the ways we have always planned to parent.

You can probably imagine that I have done quite a bit of research into parenting techniques over the past year. I am, to put it mildly, obsessive about being informed. I've looked at/read up on everything from Babywise(full disclosure - I am not a fan) to Dr. Sears and most of the stuff in between. I have also tried to pay attention to what my friends and relatives who are parents of young children do, how it works out for them, etc. In all of this prep time one of the most important observations I have noted down for myself is that almost everyone's parenting plan changes after the baby actually arrives. My friend who lives deep in Babywise country ended up pretty much straight-up following Dr. Sears' attachment model because that was the most natural for her baby and worked the very best(baby is thriving). My friend who was sold on attachment parenting and co-sleeping ended up moving her son to a crib earlier than expected because no one was getting any sleep, including him! Her baby, turns out, just slept better on his own despite her plans(baby is thriving). My super-natural parenting friend couldn't breastfeed her little one, and ended up needing to supplement and eventually completely feed her formula, which was really tough for her emotionally(but, baby is thriving). It's almost like babies have their own preferences and personalities, despite the careful plans we have laid out before their arrival!

So, I kept this in mind whilst making my parenting plans. I thought it would be interesting to see how my ideals and schemes matched up with reality, and how my own intellectual preferences would play out with our real live daughter.

Parenting Style
The Plan
At our initial WACAP training, which included potential adoptive parents for both international and domestic programs, we talked a lot about parenting style. We also attended an extra class on attachment. What I learned there was enough to convince me that some degree of attachment parenting was the way to go. Experts recommend attachment parenting - co-sleeping, feeding on demand, baby-wearing,never letting them cry it out - almost exclusively for older adopted babies, and even suggest implementing the parts of that model that will work when adopting young children and even older kids. So, it made sense to me that if this is how healthy attachment is promoted with older adopted children it must be how it works for brand new babies, too. (Maybe even for children born into the family!) We borrowed a co-sleeper and bought a snuggle nest. I purchased a moby wrap and was handed down a sling. I researched adoptive breastfeeding and kangaroo care (skin-to-skin time).

The Reality So Far.
Baby J spent two weeks with Granny and Papa M before we met her. They subscribe to the Baby Whisperer methods of parenting. Granny M handed me a worn copy of the book the first day we were there and recommended I read it from cover to cover. I finished it within a couple days. There was a lot I liked about it, some things that weren't quite my style, and others that just wouldn't be possible for us. For example that book is absolutely hands-down against having the baby in the parents bedroom. Even if I agreed with this, which I don't, we live in a one bedroom. But overall it's a nice middle of the road sort of book - not on either the Dr. Sears or Babywise extremes. So - while we were at the M's I compromised some of my ideals. I insisted that J be in my room, but she was in a crib and not my bed because I had given the snuggle nest to Y. She slept fine there, and continues to sleep fine in her co-sleeper. As she has settled in, J has made it known that she does like to snuggle in bed with us, so she often starts the night that way, and usually ends up with us again in the morning for an hour or two of kangaroo care time. It's a nice compromise.

Maybe it's because of the way she started out, but J seems to resist being pigeonholed into a particular way of being parented. She doesn't want to be all the way in bed with us, but loves to nap there together. She falls asleep equally well in our arms or on her own when she is put down at the just-right-stage of drowsy. She tolerates the Moby Wrap and the sling but doesn't love either one. She would prefer to just be carried, thanks. And she is not down with adoptive breastfeeding, thank you very much, although there is nothing that comforts her quite like some time cuddled up to Mommy's (and only Mommy's!) chest. And while we are happy to feed on demand, J has developed her own little schedule of eating, playing, and then napping that is fairly consistant and predictable. Which makes anticipating her needs a little easier on us.

I find all of this fairly comforting. It's a good reminder to me that the best parenting plan is to pay attention to my child, respond to her needs, and trust that as we get to know each other I'll get better and better at it. This is real attachment parenting, I think, the process of being aware both of what I want and have planned and of where my child really is - and finding the best way for both of us to proceed from there. Meanwhile both parent and child gain confidence that the parent is ready and able to meet the child's needs, which promotes real trust and attachment.

Meanwhile, Baby J is thriving ♥. (latest stats: 10 lbs 1oz, 22.5 inches!)


  1. I'm so glad you've figured out what works for you and Baby J! Check out that smile.

  2. sounds perfect :)

  3. From a fellow information-obsessor, this is a fabulous post! Glad to hear you are feeling more confident.

  4. Am I the AP mama deep in Babywise country?.... wink, wink

    I love that baby J has found her forever home with such wonderful parents! And you are SO correct about having to adjust all of your preplanned notions of parenting once baby arrives. For the first two or three weeks we kept trying to get Laurel to sleep in her crib (or Pack N Play next to the bed) and she just was not having it. I was so nervous about her sleeping in bed with us, but after lots of research and careful babyproofing, that's just what worked.

    Sorry for the wordiness, but just wanted to let you know how much I love your posts (seriously, as soon as I see that you've posted something new, I rush over to read it!)

    And I'm looking forward to the post on adoptive breastfeeding (there's a women in my LLL who has attempted it and was semi-successful, but I don't really know her full story.)

  5. Did I know you lived in seattle?? I'm going to be keeping an eye out for that adorable little baby when I'm there for New Years! haha (Kidding, I promise not to stalk everyone that looks like you with a baby!, haha)

  6. This couldn't be more true! Kelly and I had all kinds of things in mind when we were planning for Phinney. While some of them have worked like we hoped (cloth diapers, he slept in our room for over a year, etc), other stuff didn't. But I think you are exactly right, paying attention to your baby, what she needs, and what works for all of you is the way to go. Glad to hear you are all doing well, we'll have to get together again soon. :)

  7. You don't know me, but I've been following your blog for a while. We are currently finishing our home study and are almost to the "waiting" stage. As an information-obsessive person myself, I am happy to hear you've been able to find a happy medium. I continually tell myself it will all depend on what our child is like, not to mention the reality of parenting, but can't help but obsess anyway! I appreciated your thoughts on the matter. Your baby appears to be, as you say, thriving (plus it doesn't hurt that she's adorable!). Tania.

  8. How great that you're charting a road together with your daughter--I like your plan to parent with feedback.

  9. In all my sleepless nights and requests for advice from others I don't think I've ever heard of the baby whisperer. I might have to check that one out, to see what we could have done.

  10. Very true, I have often thought of how our baby will "be", in regards of attachment parenting. I have not yet read any specific books per se on the subject of attachment parenting, in fact I have always assumed that we will "go with the flow" so to speak and that we will hopefully just somehow understand by trial and error what our baby will like. I know you are thoroughly researched and educated so it is very reassuring to hear your comments on these aspects. Thank you in advance for giving us this validation through you and Andrew's experience. We are getting very down again about our wait, and it was such a blessing to us to see you and Andrew in person again and see Jubilee before our very own eyes- and that there really will be a wonderful baby out there for our happy ending also--it meant a lot and we also are even considering cloth diapering after you two so inspired us! Oh, and any more pictures of your cupcake? +) She's adorable!

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  12. Plan verses reality is a good approach. I like it, and I might steal it, if that's okay. :)

    We've had some pretty hard core plan verses reality challenges here in the last 3 years, and it's something I think all of us this on this side of waiting can relate to.

  13. I read Babywise as well, and did not like it one bit.

    Kiddo sleeps on our room, and ends up in the bed with us from about 5am to 8am. I would never want to wake up any other way.

    What an amazing Mommy you are! But you know that already. ;)