Zero Tolerance Parenting

This post originally appeared on Salt + Nectar, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately as I tackle the same decisions with baby #3!

Cloth v. Disposable, Breast v. Formula, Co-sleeping v. Ferberizing...

These are the debates that keep us judging, keep us feeling guilty, keep us up at night

I remember reading and researching all these issues while I was pregnant with Griffin. I just knew it was imperative that I pick a side. It felt like sorority rush, once I revealed what jersey I had on there was no going back.

If I was going to breastfeed, I was going to breastfeed. Nothing but the breast for the first year as recommended by the World Health Organization! If I was going to use cloth diapers, then I better decide which brand was best and stock up so I'd never be caught without clean diapers. If I was going to co-sleep, then I pictured my snuggly little baby curled up next to me for the foreseeable future. 

Until I realized, I could do both...or neither...or whatever worked best for me that day.

My "aha!" moment came when Griffin was about two months old. I was reuniting with some high school friends. We had all had babies within the past year so motherhood and the surrounding debates were the main topics of conversation. One friend and I were discussing breastfeeding. She had breastfed both her boys, so I just assumed she was as hardcore as me. Then, she started talking about how much she loved a certain brand of formula. Confused, I asked her what she meant. Didn't she breastfeed?

"Yeah, but if we go out or something, I just leave formula with the babysitter." 

It was like I had been struck by lightening. Deciding to breastfeed didn't mean you couldn't EVER use formula!?! What a revelation! I hadn't signed some parenting contract. I could do what I wanted. It's sad to say, but I honestly hadn't even considered using formula until that moment. 

Suddenly, a world of moderation was opened up to me. I could use cloth diapers unless it was super-inconvenient like when we were traveling. I could Ferberize my six-month-old but still rock him to sleep when he was sick. Everything immediately seemed so much easier without (self-imposed) set-in-stone rules.

I'm not sure where my unyielding attitude towards parenting came from. I should probably blame Supernanny. I watched a lot of Supernanny before I even had kids and the emphasis was always on consistency. Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. However, somewhere along the way consistency became uncompromising perfection. Maybe it's because the stakes are so high. It's another human being we're talking about and no one wants to end up ... well, on Supernanny. 

And consistency is important. Don't get me wrong. Kids are vulnerable. They're shorter than everybody else. They don't really speak the language all that well. It's tough and treating them fairly and consistently makes that easier. In particular, discipline without consistency is just least in my experience. 

However, consistency in infant care? Not that important. 

Griffin had formula occasionally — so does Amos. They both seem to have survived. In fact, I'd say they're thriving. More importantly, motherhood felt like a much more manageable task when I had access to the entirety of tools at my disposal.