by one of our expert dads

Before becoming a parent, ideas about what you do and don’t want to do in the new role as dad may have gone through your head. The concept of what is normal and how is best to raise a child, is often a mixture of preconceived ideas built by the mainstream press and parental literature, and experiences through family and friends with children.

Here are a few parenting styles that attract increasing attention and a certain level of suspicion;

  • Baby-led weaning
  • Baby-wearing
  • Co-sleeping

Baby-led Weaning

According to BabyCentre, baby-led weaning (BLW) “… means forgetting purees and weaning spoons, and simply letting your baby feed himself.”

This is done by offering your baby a selection of nutritious finger foods suitable for his age.

The main argument against this practice is the fear of choking, however supporters of BLW argue that “as long as babies can sit upright, they should be fine. The fact that babies can handle and control the amount they eat, and move it to the back of their mouths when they’re ready, means the risk of choking is minimal.”

The benefits of BLW are well respected amongst advocates, as it “gives babies the chance to explore foods for themselves. It means they can cope with different food textures from the beginning of weaning.”

Many parents that have tried BLW are passionate about the benefits. Their babies eat anything and everything, which helped to take the worry out of starting solids foods.

Early parental life is often full of worry. When should we wean? Is he/she eating enough? Why don’t they want to eat? Is that soft enough?

You can read all the articles and hear all the advice that people have to offer, but in the end your baby is an individual and will barely ever do as you expected. Learning to treat your baby as the individual that they are, means you understand their own personal habits and not what a book says they should be.

Sling When You’re Winning

For a lot of new fathers, prams are seen as the mainstream choice and all that are really advertised. With an abundance of media coverage for the newest in buggy technology, the most fashionable stroller and high-end luxury prams, what would be the reason to carry them around in a sling?

Babywearing for some, isn’t solely about carrying their children, but more about the increased confidence in themselves as a parent and realising that a child isn’t a daunting part of life that they should fear. Wearing a child and having them close, allows the parent to chat with them as they go about daily business, and provide the added benefit of close contact, which helps build positive connection.

According to Sling Consultant Rosie Knowles, of the Sheffield Sling Surgery, “… using slings doesn’t just bring good things to babies – it can make a real difference to parents and other caregivers too.”

Using a sling “encourages bonding and deepening of a loving relationship via the release of the hormone oxytocin; having baby close heightens the parent’s awareness and can increase their responsiveness to their baby’s needs.”

An important element to sling use isn’t just the physical connection, but also the benefit to a user’s mental health. “There is evidence to suggest that sling use reduces post-partum depression, in part due to oxytocin release and in part due to increased bonding.”

Carrying children is not gender specific, not something that is purely mum-centric. “Fathers and other care-givers will be able to use a sling as well, increasing family connections and helping baby recognise more people by their voices and scent.”
Using a sling can be more than a practicality. It can help satisfy the need for closeness with a child and to aid in bonding, giving you space and time to be an attentive father.

Co-sleep = No Sleep?

Co-sleeping is a concept filled with risk and fear from parents who have not experienced it and is discouraged by the wider healthcare system.

BabyCentre state if “your baby is six months or younger, it’s safest for him to sleep in a cot next to your bed, rather than in your bed. This will reduce the chances of your baby getting too hot under your bedding. Overheating increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).”

However there are many parents who bed share on a regular basis with their babies. According to the NCT, “although most parents don’t plan to sleep with their baby, around half of all mums in the UK do so at some time in the first few months after birth.”

Parents co-sleep with their baby for various reasons, it may be for “part of the night or during the day so that they can get more rest. They might breastfeed their baby while they doze or sleep, for instance, or co-sleep because they find it easier to settle their baby this way.”

If you choose to co-sleep with your baby, the NCT offer some guidance about sleep safety:

– Make sure your baby can’t fall out of the bed or become trapped between the mattress and the wall.
– Keep your baby cool by using sheets and blankets rather than a duvet.
– Ensure bedding does not cover your baby’s face or head.
– Always put your baby to sleep on their back rather than their front or side.
– Babies don’t need a pillow until they are at least a year old. They should also be kept away from parents’ pillows.
– Never risk falling asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. If you’re feeling really tired and think you may fall asleep with your baby while feeding or cuddling them on a sofa or armchair, move to a bed (keeping in mind the safety guidelines above) or, if possible, ask your partner, friend or family member to look after them while you get some rest.

As a child progresses to toddler-hood, the numerous kicks in the back, feet to the face, being pushed to the edge of the bed may be more the realities you eventually have to face.

Of course, co-sleeping doesn’t work with every family and suit every situation. Each child is also very individual and have their own choices about where they want to sleep.

Everyday’s a School Day

Open mindedness is a lesson learnt over time. Through experience and relationships with other parents who have differing styles of child raising, your view of how to parent may change and may provide insight into methods that fit your family in a more natural way.

In the end open mindedness will make a better parent, because things rarely work out as planned.