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May 01, 2006

Raising a Low-Maintenance Baby

Mariah and I never really thought about parenting styles very much or discussed them explicitely (though we both liked this book when The Guids was still in the belly). We tend to deal with things as they come up, and we usually agree on "a strategy" pretty quickly (if not on the spot, later that day when we discuss what happened and what we should do if it happens again). Anyways, this has been working for us so far.

By now we have made enough little parenting decisions that patterns are starting to emerge. The first of such patterns to emerge is one that I think is very important to us. I struggled to pinpoint what it was, and after much searching for the right terms, I have figured out that our actions, from the start, are often geared towards raising a low-maintenance person.

For instance: we never gave The Guids a pacifier. Ok sorry that's a lie right off the bat, on a few occasions we shoved that thing in his mouth hoping against hope that it would get him to stop screaming. As you can imagine, that never worked. Anyways, back on the subject: the main reason we didn't give him a binky wasn't for fear of long-term problems with the roof of his mouth or anything like that. Mostly we just didn't want him to rely on it for, yes, pacifying himself. What happens if he wakes up in the middle of the night and can't put the pacifier back in his mouth? Basically we didn't want the binky to be a crutch for him. He soon discovered that sucking on his shirt on left wrist was just what he needed, and he has been doing it since (and it's really cute too).

Ok, next: we never used a wipes-warmer. We always only used cotton pads (the kind people use to remove make-up I'm guessing) and room-temperature water (the commercial wipes gave him a rash, plus I heard they have anti-freeze in them). From the start, he knew that diaper-changing time was going to be a bit cold. He doesn't know any other way, so he is fine with it. So now when we need to change him in a restaurant/park/airport, it's no different than home. Again, one less thing he "needs".

Next: we don't lower our voices much around him when he sleeps. He sleeps through anything (a Muni train goes by his window all the time). We watch movies in the next room while he sleeps, no problem (though I think this has to do with his mom's genes more than anything, she's the original champion sleeper).

Next: his night-light in his room is pretty bright (it's just a regular paper lamp + a 5 dollar IKEA dimmer). Again, we don't want him to rely on pitch-darkness in order to sleep. Plus, when he wakes up in the middle of the night, we want him to recognize where he is and feel safe (and, the theory goes, go back to sleep).

What else...oh yes, the whole "going to sleep" subject: basically we want him to be able to go to sleep by himself: no rocking until he's asleep, no going for a walk in the stroller until he's asleep, no going for a drive either...well, I doubt he would sleep on the back of the vespa anyways ;) We just put him in his crib, tired but awake, and leave him alone. Sometimes he "has to go out with a fight" (that's how we describe it around here) by crying for 5-7 minutes, some other times he just plays and sucks on his shirt until he's out peacefully. For a while we were concerned that he needed the boobs to go to sleep, which meant that "we could never get a baby sitter!" (I remember Mariah paniking about this one), so we trained him not to need it. We'd keep him up until after Mariah fed him (tickling always works), that way he was awake when we put him down. Anyways, the idea is the same: we don't want him to rely on anything but himself to go to sleep.

And while we're on the sleep subject, I am a total sleep-training convert, mostly because I don't want him to rely on getting picked up in the middle of the night.

Another subject is the bottle: since we want Guido Jack to be low-maintenance and be able to hang out with a sitter once in a while, I have been feeding him a bottle at least once a day since he was maybe a month old (and boy it was a struggle at first!). That way he just is ok with taking a bottle. Now I'm a little bummed that he definitely prefers his formula on the warmer side...I'd rather get him used to room-temperature water, but you can't have it all now can you?

Which brings me to the one little nagging doubt I've had about this whole thing: are we being overly tight and depriving our baby of something he needs at this age?

Nah, I don't think so...we love our bug SO MUCH and we he gets lots of active play, hugs, kisses and snuggles. And as far as we can tell, he is a very happy baby.

Plus we're always a little flexible with things: for instance, last night when he woke up screaming at 3:00am I picked him up, fed him and rocked him back to sleep (whoa, tripple whammy). It was against my principles, but it was an emergency situation (poor Mariah hasn't slept properly in weeks because of her horrible allergies, plus he's teething and a little sick and yadda yadda yadda). Sometimes parenting is about choosing the lesser evil I guess. Oh! Look at that! The second pattern I notice! ;)

Posted by patata at May 1, 2006 08:08 PM


We are trying very hard to do the same thing - and it's working. We think our son is so flexible because he doesn't have a choice. We've taken him to Colorado, Florida, and Paris (we live in Germany) in his first 6 months, and I am quite sure that those trips were harder on us than they were on him. At times, we really wanted to get into his stroller with him. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Saskia at May 21, 2006 03:53 AM