Category: Babies

It’s Minimalism, Baby!

A couple of weeks ago, I read a book about minimalism and how it can be applied to having a baby. A minimalist lifestyle is essentially one that focuses less on stuff. Minimalists tend to focus less on what things they want and more on enjoying and using what they have. It helps save money, creates a lifestyle that requires less money, and thus allows people to live more freely. Spending time with family and friends and enjoying experiences together are emphasized over acquiring and spending money on material possessions.

When it comes to having a baby, the world tells us that we need a lot of stuff. It is absolutely essential that we have mountains of adorable baby clothes, fancy swings and bassinets, special pillows and seats and wearable blankets, the perfect stroller and baby carrier… the list goes on! Not to mention a perfectly coordinated nursery with matching furniture, bedding sets, and beautiful decorations. And those are just the essentials, they tell us. If we want to be really prepared, then we also need all of the newest, latest, and greatest gear and gadgets that promise to add convenience to our baby care routines. Planning to have a baby? Well then you’d better get ready to spend a small fortune on all of the stuff that you’ll surely need. That’s what the world tells us, at least.

Well, minimalists see things differently. The book I read gave this list of items that are actual essentials when it comes to bringing a new baby home: 12 newborn onesies or sleepers, 1 newborn hat, 6 receiving blankets, 2 bottles (if not breastfeeding), diapers, and a car seat (if you have a car). Personally, I would alter this list by removing the newborn hat, because babies really don’t need them once they leave the hospital or birthing center. I would also note that if you are not breastfeeding then you also need formula, and baby wipes should be added to the list as well. Finally, I would add some onesies or sleepers in sizes other than newborn, since some babies are too big for newborn sized clothes and nearly all babies will quickly grow out of them. But the point is, this list is pretty shocking when you compare it to the list of “necessities” that you’d find anywhere else. When it comes right down to it, most of what we consider necessities are actually just conveniences at best, and a waste of resources and space at worst.

Babies have several basic needs, of course, but meeting those needs really doesn’t require all of the complicated gear we think it does. They eat, they sleep, they cry, they poop and pee. A parent’s job is to take care of these needs and provide the essential ingredient of love. For a family who breastfeeds, co-sleeps, baby-wears, and uses cloth diapers and wipes, or even natural infant hygiene, the list of stuff that is necessary to accomplish this job is quite small. A safe place to sleep can be provided with some adjustments to the bed you already have, or if desired, a side-car sleeping arrangement can be created. Swings, bouncers, and other infant-soothing devices can often be replaced by a sling worn by mom or dad, since babies frequently find a parent’s embrace to be the most soothing place of all. Cloth diapers and wipes can be reused, eliminating the need to purchase seemingly unending supplies of disposables. Natural infant hygiene is even more frugal, since no diapers or wipes are required at all! Though this method will undoubtedly lead to many messes, in the end it results in a baby who doesn’t need diapers and later, a child who never needs to go through potty training. (I’ll write a post about what natural infant hygiene is later, but the point is that technically speaking, diapers and wipes aren’t even necessary). For a family that does all of what I just described, all that’s left to buy is clothing, a sling, and possibly a car seat. If this family also follows the minimalist approach to clothing, then they will only need plain white onesies, about 12 in each size. That adds up to only about $150 in clothes for the first year, or even less if they buy clothes at thrift stores. Add another $50 for a well-made sling, and $100 for a car seat, and the total cost for gear in a baby’s first year could be only $300. Compare that to the thousands (or tens of thousands) that most new parents spend on a baby in the first year, and the savings is incredible.

Now, what I just described is probably the most minimalistic approach possible, at least that I can think of. And while that may be an optimal approach for some parents, Cory and I simply aren’t that frugal. Sorry, we just aren’t. We believe in spending our money wisely and saving on things that we buy anyway, but we also enjoy our material blessings. Nice stuff is nice to have, and I don’t think that’s wrong. That being said, there is a balance to be found, and for us, the balance is somewhere between complete minimalism and complete excess.

Reading this book on minimalism inspired me to cut some unnecessary items out of our baby budget. Cory and I spent some time re-thinking our needs and wants for life with a baby. In the end, we were able to trim over $1,000 from our baby budget, and we’ve used some of that to make changes to our home that we feel will make it more fit for our envisioned family lifestyle. One of the major things that we cut from the budget was a nursery. We’d already been planning to co-sleep, so the room that we’d designated as Cody’s future nursery was going to get very little use. We decided to turn the room into a TV room and guest room, which has opened up our living room to be more welcoming and family-oriented. There is now plenty of space for kids to play and for people to relax and converse when we have guests over. An added benefit is that the television is no longer the centerpiece of our home. Child development experts recommend that children under age 2 not watch TV at all, and this arrangement will make it much easier to follow through with our no-TV policy. Finally, we used some of that extra money to spoil ourselves with new bedding and other refreshing changes to our bedroom. Since that is where Cory, Cody, and I will all be sleeping, we wanted that room to be a relaxing and pleasant space. In essence, we cut some things from the baby budget that would have brought our family very little benefit, and replaced them with a few purchases that have improved our home for everyone while still saving money.

Our recent baby gear re-evaluation also gave us the benefit of shrinking the list of what we still need to buy. As of right now, Cory and I are glad to know that we have most what we need for the baby. We could easily spend just a hundred bucks or so to buy the clothes that we need and then we’d be good to go. It’s refreshing to see it that way, after being told for so long that affording a baby is impossible! This new outlook is due mostly to changing the way we see what we need versus what we want.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still plenty of things that we want for the baby. A fancy swing would be nice, we’d certainly enjoy a comfy glider to rock Cody to sleep in, and an ergo carrier has definitely caught my eye. Some ridiculously cute baby outfits would not be the worst thing to have either! But hey, that’s what a baby registry is for, right? Cory and I enjoyed filling ours with fun things that it would be nice to have. And honestly, knowing that any gifts we receive at our baby shower or otherwise are purely for our delight and enjoyment makes it all that much sweeter. We don’t need them, they’re simply blessings to be thankful for and to add to the fun of having a baby.

Taking a minimalist view of preparing for baby has given us peace. We know that years down the road, Cody won’t remember or care that he didn’t have a nursery or that awesome new baby gadget. He’ll just remember that he was loved and cared for. He most likely won’t even think to ask for his own room until he’s past age 3 or 4, he’ll just be happy to go to bed every night safe and sound next to the parents who love him. And when we look back at his baby years, I don’t think we’ll be regretting that we didn’t spend as much money on baby stuff as we could have; instead, we’ll look back and treasure the memories of holding, snuggling, feeding, and playing with our little baby, whether or not he was wearing designer jeans and clutching a trendy giraffe teething toy.

Stuff comes and goes, but love will last forever; that’s what kids need the most. Minimalism in all of its levels is just one way to remind ourselves about what really matters. Not stuff, but love.

 

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

Our God-Vision for Parenting

As Cory and I wait and prepare for the next phase of our lives, we’re spending a lot of time discussing our ideal plan for parenting. While we know that we cannot fully prepare ourselves for the job, and that some things won’t be determined until we’re actually parents, we feel it’s important to think about these things ahead of time. We enjoy reading, researching, discussing, and analyzing various aspects of parenting, and deciding how we would like to do things. Throughout our discussions, we’ve started to discover a parenting vision for ourselves.

We have faith that our journey into parenthood is drawing closer now, so we decided to sit down and write a detailed “parenting vision” as a way to guide our choices and clarify our values in terms of how we’d like to raise our children. This blueprint gives us a way to organize our thoughts and begin truly preparing ourselves for the wonderful and demanding task ahead of us. At the same time, we realize that different aspects of our plan may need to be adjusted, amended, or even abandoned as we journey through parenthood. Our plan is something that will likely always be evolving and in need of further refinement. Writing down our parenting vision gives us a foundation to build on as we begin our parenting careers.

One sentence to describe our parenting ideal could be this: We want to raise our children in a way that is centered on God and guided by love, faith, respect, and wisdom. We have also found that the principles of attachment parenting mesh well with our ideals, and integrated them into our vision. Based on this, we created our plan for parenting with four different key areas in mind: putting God at the center, using attachment parenting principles, choosing an intentional lifestyle, and teaching safety and wisdom. Our parenting vision document is lengthy, but I wanted to share a summarized version of the aspects most important to us. In this post, I will focus on the first key area, putting God at the center.

Putting God at the center means that we view our parenting as a ministry, first. We believe that as parents, we will have the opportunity to raise up new members of God’s Kingdom. Our children have the potential to make huge differences in the world for God; they may grow up to be church leaders, people who help the needy, missionaries, healers, founders of world-bettering organizations, influential speakers or writers, or artists who bring more beauty into the world. They may grow up to be husbands and wives and parents to another generation; they will be friends, lovers, employees, employers, thinkers, decision-makers, and citizens. We have a huge role to play in how they turn out. Our job as parents will be to do our best to raise our children into adults who use their lives for God.

Not only is parenting a ministry, it’s a gift and a responsibility. We are entrusted with the care of impressionable, unique, and immensely valued individuals; precious children of God. When he gives us a child, it will be an amazing blessing. It will mean that he believes we have the ability to be parents worthy of the honor of caring for one of his children. What an incredible responsibility and opportunity to serve our Lord! As such, we want to do it for our God by keeping him front and center. Our parenting careers, and our children, will be dedicated to God.

There are many practical ways that we can keep our focus on God. We plan to pray for and with our children daily. We will read and teach them the Bible, and provide resources for each child’s individual spiritual growth. We will be a family involved and connected at church. Spiritual matters will be a topic we discuss openly in our daily conversations; we will answer questions, encourage curiosity, and help our children come to know God in a genuine, personal relationship through Jesus Christ. Overall, we will raise our children in an environment of love, grace, faith, and truth. We will also rely on God as our first and best source of help and success at the monumental task of raising members of the next generation. His supernatural intervention is what we ultimately rely on for the protection, provision, health, behavior, and success of our children. We can’t do it alone and we wouldn’t want to!

In my next post, I’ll share the basics of attachment parenting, and how we plan to use it in our parenting philosophy.

Parental Guidance Suggested – Part 4

Well hi there! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post— life has been busy lately. But I’m back now, and ready to continue my series on positive parenting. This week I’m writing about the special needs of infants and toddlers.

According to child development experts, infants are children under age two. That may be surprising to some people! I know that it surprised me when I first learned it. By age two, most children know how to walk, run, talk (with a limited vocabulary), and yes, get into “trouble” and throw tantrums. Yet children under two years of age are still considered babies! The significance of this is that parenting needs to be different for babies than it is for older children. Most importantly, infants cannot be expected to behave according to adult standards. Not only do they not understand the world the way we do, but they lack the ability to control themselves.

In other words, children under age two are essentially incapable of truly misbehaving. They don’t intentionally do things that we consider “naughty.” Instead, they act based on what they think and feel. They are actually incapable of understanding that we have a different point of view than them. In their minds, we and every other person and thing that they see exists only for their sake. The world quite literally revolves around them!

When I was a nanny, I did not always see things this way. Many times I felt positive that the little 11 month old boy that I was caring for did things intentionally to bother me. When he threw his bottle, it was because he wanted to upset me. When he didn’t want to go down for a nap, it was because he didn’t want me to be able to rest. And as silly as these thoughts may sound now, they seemed logical then! Why? Because even as babies, human beings are intelligent. I saw his natural intelligence and let it convince me that he was just a miniature person. But the truth is, while babies are people, they are not fully developed people. While they are intelligent, they are not capable of the same complex kinds of thoughts that we are. And babies don’t misbehave intentionally, because they don’t understand what misbehaving even is.

The point is, there is no place for discipline of any kind when it comes to caring for babies. Infants need responsive care and a safe environment to explore. Discipline can (and definitely should) come later, when the child is capable of understanding it.

So what is responsive care, and why is it so important? According to a famous developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, children go through two stages of psychosocial development in the first two years of life. The first stage is called “trust versus mistrust,” and it is experienced during approximately the first year of life. In this stage, babies must learn to trust in their caregivers and the world around them. They must develop a sense of security in this first year of life if they are to grow up with the best possible outcomes.

The second stage, experienced in the second year of life, is called “independence versus doubt and shame.” In this stage, young toddlers must develop a sense of independence in certain areas, such as learning how to care for themselves to some degree. Learning to use the potty, put on clothing, feed oneself, and explore independently from their parents are some of these important skills. If toddlers are allowed and encouraged to try to do some things for themselves, they will develop a sense of independence. If they are overprotected, discouraged, or shamed, them they will likely develop a sense of guilt and a lack of confidence.

Using these concepts, we can understand that the most important thing for parents to give young babies is consistent and responsive care. This means that babies should be picked up promptly when they cry, and their needs taken care of. Sometimes, babies cry even when they aren’t hungry, in need of a diaper change, or uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean that they need attention any less. In a way, it can be said that babies sometimes cry to test their caregivers. This is not intentional testing, of course, but it is the way in which babies develop that sense of security that I explained earlier. They learn that if they cry, and then receive attention, then they can trust their caregivers.

There is a method known as “cry it out” that some caregivers use, and I myself have used in the past before I began studying child development. When a baby is crying, the caregiver ensures that he is not hungry, has a clean diaper, and is not otherwise uncomfortable. After the baby’s physical needs are met, and the caregiver cannot find a way to make him stop crying, the caregiver will put him in a secure place such as a crib, and then leave him to cry. This is especially used when trying to get young infants and toddlers to nap. Unfortunately, this method ignores the psychological needs of the infant, including the need to develop a sense of security! As harmless as it may sound, I would not recommend using “cry it out” when caring for an infant. Although all of a baby’s physical needs may be met, she still has emotional and psychological needs that are important. Even if a baby continues to cry as you hold her and try to comfort her, the fact that you are trying is what’s important. Through the process of soothing the infant, you can show her that you will always be there to comfort her.

As babies grow older and become toddlers (still infants, technically speaking!) they need care that changes to match their needs. Toddlers need to develop a sense of independence, which happens best in a safe environment for them to explore. Since toddlers learn rapidly, they need a variety of interesting things to play with and space to freely explore. Since they are also innocent to the dangers of the world, they also need very close supervision and a caregiver who will ensure that the playthings and spaces the baby has access to are safe. Toddlers should never be scolded or put in time out, and especially not for getting into things that are “off limits.” It is the caregiver’s job to ensure that the baby doesn’t have access to such things. If a toddler does manage to get into things that are “off limits,” as a result of his natural and healthy curiosity, the caregiver should simply redirect him to something more appropriate.

As an infant approaches his or her second birthday, and then continues on through childhood, there is a period of transition in which caregivers must learn to gradually introduce positive discipline. Obviously, a child doesn’t instantly become mature enough to understand rules and discipline overnight on her second birthday. Instead, she slowly but surely becomes ready to accept guidance and learn self-control. Caregivers must patiently adapt to a child’s needs and growing abilities, introducing discipline when the child is ready.

In my next post I will write more about this transition period, including how to introduce proactive guidance techniques and begin to establish rules.

What do you think is important in infant care? What kinds of things have you learned from experience? Post a comment below to share your thoughts!

Baby Fever 2.0

I recently caught a new, severe strain of baby fever and have been battling this powerful virus for the past few weeks. Some of my symptoms have included researching baby names late into the night, “accidentally” walking through the baby section at target, and stuffing my shirt with a blanket to see what I would look like pregnant. Not to worry though, the prognosis is good; I know that I can fight it and I will soon be back to good health.

😉

All jokes aside though, I really do have baby fever. The fact that I’ve been struggling with insomnia for the past month or so hasn’t helped things. I’ve spent many nights lately just laying in bed thinking about babies, and all of that thinking has not done much to help matters. But don’t worry, friends and family members who are reading this; Cory and I are not planning on having children any time soon. We’re not ready for that yet, financially, and our sense of responsibility is strong enough to override any wishes that we may have for starting a family right now.

Still, I’ve been doing some research about baby-related matters and last night, I started to look into the debate about the “right number of kids.” My husband and I are considering having up to six kids, two of which would be adopted, and I was curious about what other people think about large families like that.

There are many passionate arguments for and against having so many children. Many people believe that having any more than two children is wrong because of the environmental costs. They argue that the world is already overpopulated and that having more than two to “replace you” would be irresponsible. Some even argue that having more than one is wrong, and having none is preferable, because we need to reduce the population. While most of these people are not basing their opinions on God or the Bible, there are actually many Christians who believe that our duty to protect and care for the planet requires us to limit the number of children that we have to a maximum of three (and many believe that one or two is better).

On the other side of the coin, there are those who argue that people should have as many children as they want to and can handle. Christians, in particular, often have some wild opinions about the matter. For example, many Christians argue that God commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply,” which they feel means that we have a duty to have as many children as possible. Some even believe that we should continue having kids even when we cannot provide for them financially, because it forces us to rely on God to provide. And of course, there is the belief that not having children is a selfish and sinful act, and that having as many children as possible is the most selfless thing a person can do with his/her life.

I rarely believe that any extreme stance on an issue is the best approach, so neither of these camps really felt right with me. As a Christian, I want to base every decision that I make on what God thinks. Part of how I figure out what God thinks is by figuring out what other Christians think, because the Bible doesn’t always spell out everything in black and white. Unfortunately, we are all flawed people and it isn’t always easy to tell what God thinks by looking at what people think. Often, this approach will lead to a less Godly decision than if we’d just tried to make it on our own in the first place!

So what is the right number of kids to have, and how can we make that decision based on what God wants for us? I don’t necessarily know the answer to this question any more than anybody else does. But, I do have an opinion based on my understanding of the Bible.

God’s greatest commandment to his followers is to love Him and to love others. Having children can certainly teach us to love Him more because it gives us a better understanding of His love for us! When you have a child, your understanding of unconditional love grows. That’s the kind of love that God has for us, except infinitely more! On top of that, having children can improve our ability to love others. Raising children requires sacrifice, patience, and many other Godly character traits, and it can refine these character traits in us as well. So yes, I believe that having children can be a tool for God to teach us how to love Him and others better.

God also commands us to take care of the planet that He created. We are responsible for protecting our resources, and God never intended for us to abuse them. But how does having children fit into this picture? I think the key is to focus on intention, not legalism. Having three children or more may negatively affect the planet, but so can pretty much everything else we do. It’s kind of like arguing that we shouldn’t do homework because using paper kills trees.

The fact of the matter is that we cannot control every consequence of every decision that we make; sometimes bad things happen as a result of good decisions that we make, but that doesn’t change the fact that the decision was good. The same idea can be applied to having children; as long as we raise our children in a way that teaches them to care for the planet to the best of their abilities, I don’t believe that having many children is wrong for environmental reasons. Children are a gift from God and created by God, and I don’t believe for a second that He would ever regret creating a child because he or she added to global warming. On that note, though, we absolutely do have a responsibility as parents to teach our kids the value of our planet. Christians especially have a God-given calling to work together to protect it and all of the people on it to the best of our abilities.

Different numbers of children are right for different people. There is no “right number” of children to have. Some people are called to raise many children, and some are called to raise none. All that matters, really, is that we strive to love God and others, and whether children are a part of that story for us or not is up to us. I honestly think that sometimes, God really doesn’t have a preference in what we do as long as our intentions are pure.

My husband and I feel called to have children, but only God knows how many we will end up with. We might have one baby and realize that we’re fine with just one! Or, we might continue to grow our family and end up with many more. Right now, we really want to have two boys and two girls, and we think that if after having four biologically we don’t have that mix, then we would like to adopt. Of course, we won’t know for sure until we get there. Either way, I know that my husband and I are excited to be parents one day, and I’m looking forward to that awesome adventure ahead of us.

Au Naturel

Recently, I discovered something about my birth control pills that alarmed me.

Hold up, did I just reveal something very personal in my publically published blog? Why yes, I did. But that’s ok, because I’m not shy about my views on or use of birth control! Well, at least not on the internet I’m not. And I know that this is a much different kind of topic than what I usually write about on here, but I think that this is something I should share. So if you don’t mind, let’s dive in!

Before I jump back into what I was saying though, I think a few things need to be addressed. First of all, I do have some very strong views on birth control, and because of that I usually try to avoid discussing it. The last thing that I want to do is to offend or get pointlessly angry at somebody. And believe me, I will get angry if the topic of abortion comes up and they have strong beliefs that are the opposite of mine. I just can’t help it; I’m that passionate about it. Of course, while abortion and birth control are related, they are not by any means synonyms. Still, it seems that these topics often go hand in hand in discussions, and people are either on one side of the fence or the other; they support a woman’s right to use birth control and her right to terminate pregnancies, or they don’t. If those are the two choices, then that puts me squarely in the middle of the fence.

Without getting too political here, I’ll just simply state that I do not support abortion because it affects not only the woman, but an actual live human baby. On the other hand, I do support birth control because it only directly affects the woman. I realize that some people argue that birth control is evil because it prevents the creation of life that would otherwise be, well, created. But to me, this is just ridiculous. It’s the potential for a baby that we’re talking about here—one egg and bunch of sperm. If preventing the potential for a baby from becoming the reality of a baby is evil, then having sex is evil. Each time that a man has sex, there is 100% chance that at least one of his sperm will die, which means that the potential for at least one baby dies. Yet nobody complains about that! So why complain about contraception? God didn’t create sex just for making babies, and it seems to follow that He is okay with sex that doesn’t make babies.

Now that that’s out of the way, I return to my original point. I recently discovered something unfortunate about my birth control pills. Hormonal methods of birth control prevent pregnancy in three ways: first, they prevent ovulation; second, they thicken cervical mucus (I know, gross) so that the sperm can’t get through; third, they thin the lining of the uterus so that any egg that did get fertilized would not be able to implant. This last property in birth control pills is called an abortient. That’s because it technically causes an abortion.

Fortunately, this last property is just that. It is the pill’s last defense against pregnancy, and in most cases it likely never happens. The first two safeguards would have to fail and the last one would have to work in order for an abortion to occur, which seems improbable at best. That’s why I am not saying that the pill is the same as an abortion. It isn’t. An abortion is a planned, deliberate termination of a pregnancy; the pill uses methods to prevent pregnancy from occurring, and could result in an abortion in unlikely cases. Because of this, I am not saying that taking the pill is wrong or evil. But for me, this piece of information made a big difference because I’m just not comfortable with it.

As a result, I’ve felt morally obligated to search for a new method of birth control. After weeding through all of the effective, ineffective, plausible, and implausible options, I was left with very few choices. The most effective method of course is abstinence—its effectiveness hovers right around 100%. But that’s not an option for a healthy marriage, in my opinion. The second most effective method is sterilization. My husband and I would like to retain our ability to have children one day, so that’s not a solution for us either. The third most effective methods include all of the hormonal options (which would do the same thing as the pill) and IUDs (which are too invasive for my taste). Everything less effective than those methods is not effective enough for what my husband and I are looking for.

I was searching for other options when I stumbled upon fertility awareness methods (FAMs), also known as natural family planning. I was happily surprised to discover that one of the methods of FAM, called the symptothermal method, is extremely effective and safe. It’s 99.6% effective when used properly, which is actually the same as or even more effective than the pill. The best part is I don’t have to take any medicine or put anything in my uterus! Thank God for that, right?

 

Some quick information about this method of contraception:

  1. Though it has the reputation for being a “Catholic thing,” it’s not just for Catholics. It can be for other Christians too! Only kidding—this method is for anybody who wants to do things more naturally or safely, or who has concerns about the morality of other birth control methods.
  2. It does take a lot of work. The woman has to tediously chart observations about her body throughout the month. This can be difficult if you don’t want to have to think about your method of contraception every day, or if you have trouble remembering to do things.
  3. It also takes a firm commitment on the parts of both the wife and the husband. This method requires periods of abstinence from intercourse, so if you cannot control your sexual desires for more than a few days at a time, then this one isn’t for you.
  4. It’s easy to stop! If you decide that you’re ready for babies, than you can try to conceive right away. No waiting for your body to resume its natural rhythm, removing anything, or surgery. How convenient!
  5. Hormonal methods of birth control can decrease your sex drive. Enough said.

Interesting in going au naturel? Do you homework first! You shouldn’t start any method of birth control until you understand how it works—take it from me! I may not have understood completely how the pill worked when I started it, but I sure wish I had. Then I wouldn’t have started it in the first place.

Anyhow, what’s done is done. From now on though, I’m doing things differently. No more pills for me!