I’ve always thought of myself as a semi-crunchy mama – whatever that means!! I didn’t know going into this exactly what would become important to me in the parenting journey, but it turns out that how I thought things would be is not always how they’ve turned out to be!
The things I associate with being A Crunchy Mama include: natural childbirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, baby-wearing, and baby-led weaning to name a few. Some of those things I’d never even heard of prior to having my own child (baby-led what?!), and some of them I just knew I wouldn’t be signing up for.
I also knew right off the bat that a natural birth was important to me, and indeed we were blessed to be able to have that. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I was able to for a year, although it certainly didn’t seem to come as “naturally” at times as I had expected. Within two weeks of having Valentina I was calling in the lactation consultants for help. She latched well and fed well, never dropping below her birth weight in those first few days, but I had oversupply, and found myself engorged, with blocked ducts and mastitis within the first couple of weeks. We navigated our way through that, thanks to an amazing breast-feeding class instructor, who actually came over to my house to show my how to use the pump, and an equally amazing lactation consultant, we came through the other side. We breastfed exclusively for seven months, then she started introducing some solids and supplementing with some homemade goat milk formula. I only weaned her at a year because we were trying to get pregnant and I thought that would make it easier (so much for that theory!).
We were soooooo not fans of co-sleeping in the sense of the baby being in the bed with us. For the first several night she slept in a Snuggle Nest in between us in bed, then we transitioned her to a bassinet by the bed where she slept for the first six months, but after that we were determined to get her sleeping in her own crib, in her own room. With our nanny’s help, that worked out ok and she seemed quite happy. However in the last few months, it’s all gone out the window. It started when she was teetching and waking up in the night in pain. At first I tried to comfort her and get her back down in her crib, but for several nights I would drag in these bean bag-type things that we have that fold out to mattresses, and we’d end up sleeping on those on the floor of her room. Soon enough, I decided it was much quicker and easier just to bring her into bed and go right back to sleep. Now, she goes down in her crib around 7.30, and anywhere between 2am and 4am I’ll hear her crying out “Mamaaa, Mamaaaaaaa, Maaaaaaammmaaaaaaa”. There’s just no way I could possibly ignore it or let her cry it out. So in the bed she goes. The thing is, I love it, and now I’m so attached to the snuggles I get with her, and I love waking up in the morning with her sitting 10 inches from my face waving and saying “Hi”. Thankfully, my husband is ok with it too, but if anyone had told us in the beginning that we’d be co-sleeping now I wouldn’t have believed them!
The cloth diapering just never got off the ground, I just couldn’t take that one on. We tried Honest brand diapers for a while, but found them to be too hard and crunchy (not the right kind of crunchy!) and they leaked a lot, so then we went to Huggies naturals and were happy with them. Not very crunchy at all, either literally or figuratively. But that’s what worked for us.
Baby-led weaning is something I really only learned of through one of my mama Facebook groups. We did it, but not on purpose – Valentina simply wanted nothing to do with purees of any kind (“mama, purees are SO infant” I could just hear her saying in her head at the ripe old age of seven months). We naturally adjusted and started giving her pieces of soft food, progressing as she got used to textures and flavors, and we let her navigate feeding herself to develop her motor skills and dexterity. I think our dog Harry Winston gained a few pounds during that time as he would volunteer for floor clean up duty.
Babywearing of course is one of my greatest loves, and has given me so many hours of pleasure and closeness to Valentina. She’s getting over it now as she’s so independent and wants to walk most of the time, but we still have our moments, and she still asks for “backpack” when she wants to go in the Tula.
I guess with parenting as with anything else in life it serves to be flexible and not too rigid in the way we think things should be. We have to adapt to the child themselves and their individual tendencies and personalities; we have to adapt to changes in life circumstances – for us we have traveled a lot internationally with her – she went to Australia twice and Italy in her first year alone.
To me the key is just to trust your instincts as a mama, and feel confident that the things you do for your own child may not be the same as other mamas at the park, or your own mother or sister, or your next-door-neighbor. We each have our own unique parenting styles, and that’s ok. It’s easy especially as a first-time parent to feel uncertain about things and to feel we need to learn everything from a book. I know in my case I felt I had to choose our parenting style – were we going to practice attachment parenting, RIE parenting, XYZ parenting, etc whereas in reality it has become more a fusion of many styles and ideas. I have half a dozen unread books on sleep habits for babies. We didn’t end up using or needing any of them.
I resonate with the term semi-crunchy mama because it’s fun and lighthearted, and it gives me permission to choose some things and not others, and not feel guilty or pressured about it. And as I relax into parenthood, I realize that a balanced approach is the best approach for us and leaves me with the greatest sense of peace.