Recently my husband and I were reminiscing about our pre-baby days. It suddenly dawned on me how much I have changed and how having kids has opened me up to a whole world of opportunities and choices that I never would have considered before. I remember having a picture in my mind of what kind of parent I was going to be. Of course I had no real idea of what was coming, none of us do. I remember turning my nose up when someone at work mentioned cloth nappies. And breastfeeding was really low on my ‘must do’ list, I was very much of the ‘let’s see what happens’ thinking. Fast forward 3 years and I am now a breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth nappy using, gentle parenting mummy. Or am I?
In the first few years of being a mummy I found it difficult at times to know what group I fitted into, what type of parent I was. It often felt that to truly fit in I needed be in it full swing. Don’t get me wrong, everyone who knows me will be able to tell you how much I love breastfeeding and babywearing and all the rest but I don’t do all of those things all of the time. As a result I often didn’t access support when I really could have done with some help or felt confident enough to ask other mums for fear that I’d be judged as not good enough.
The thing is, life isn’t all or nothing. I don’t shy away from jogging just because I’m not a marathon runner or never attempt to bake because I’m not a chef. Like most of us I’m not all or nothing, I guess I’m a bit of everything. And parenting is not any different.
So I breastfeed but I also give my son a bottle of formula occasionally, I’m a huge fan of natural term breastfeeding but I weaned my eldest off the breast at just over a year. I use cloth nappies sometimes but I also use disposables part of the time too. I love my slings and have a good sized collection but I often use the buggy too (you may even see me pushing an empty buggy with a baby in the sling or wearing an empty sling with a baby in the buggy!) I co sleep but only towards the end of the night. I aimed for baby led weaning but had a short stint pureeing everything. The list goes on.
I guess you’re wondering why this even matters? Why am I telling you all of this? It’s because there are so many options out there that are not mainstream, not available in high street baby stores, not the recommended option by health professionals. But they are options and for some they may be an absolute game changer.
The problem is that with all the negativity out there and labels, I think people can be put off trying them for fear of people judging them – if I go to a breastfeeding support group and say I give a bottle too, will I be judged for not being a proper breastfeeder? If I go to a sling library and admit I have no idea what I’m doing with this bit of material I bought, will they think I’m not a proper babywearer?
The answer to all of these worries is of course no, nobody expects people to commit to anything 100% and follow it to the letter. All of these options can be tailored to what works for you. And as fellow mums we know that children don’t much care for labels and follow their own path anyway.
So I say go out there, try something new and you never know, it may make the world of difference! I am now travelling that baby road again with my youngest boy but this time embracing the ‘bit of everything’, being confident in my choices to mix and match and not adhering to any particular labels.