In my last post, I spoke about the importance of determining a parenting philosophy in order to have victory in the “smaller” issues of feeding, sleeping, and generally ordering your baby’s day. In that discussion, what it is important to understand, is that your parenting philosophy is ultimately shaped by your faith, or your worldview. I spoke of the parenting pendulum, which has swung from one extreme, authoritarian parenting, to the other, child-led parenting. For those of us who are Christians, we recognize not only the inappropriateness of children being allowed to assume the role which really belongs to parents (one does not need to be a Christian to recognize this), but we also recognize the unbiblical state that occurs because of it.
There are a number of verses that are directly applicable. Consider the 5 passages of Proverbs that address the topic of being “wise in [their] own eyes.” One of them, Proverbs 3:7, says, “do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” In this passage, anyone, adult or child, who does not have a healthy fear of and regard for God will not have much success escaping evil, or wrongdoing. Children are simply too young to have true wisdom and maturity, so to allow them to decide for themselves what is best is inappropriate. (The other 4 passages are Proverbs 26: 5, 12, 16 and Proverbs 28:11.)
Another passage of scripture talks about the distinction between childhood and adulthood. Namely, 1 Corinthians 13: 11-12 talks about how when you are a child, you do childish things, and how you put childish things aside when you become an adult. This passage follows on the heels of 1 Corinthians 13: 10, which talks about the transition from what is in part, to completeness. The “partial-ness” of childhood is not the proper state in which to make important decisions, and be given major responsibilities.
Perhaps most importantly, Deuteronomy 6:6-7 stresses the importance of teaching the right things to your children; the model that is used for parenting is discipleship. More specifically, you are teaching your children while they are with you–at home, in transport, at night, and in the morning. Note that parenting is not described as a collaborative process; rather, the parent is clearly leading the charge.
As unnecessary as this discussion might seem, it is absolutely foundational to knowing what parenting philosophy you will choose for your own family, and why. You will be faced with numerous parenting challenges from one day to the next, and unless you have an unchanging standard by which you will continually make decisions, let’s just say that your parenting journey will resemble Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
So, now that we have established the importance of a parenting philosophy, let us turn our attention to the matter of how best to meet your baby’s basic needs. This is best accomplished by placing your baby on a schedule. Do not mistake this for the hyperscheduling introduced in the 1920s, when parents were instructed to use a rigid, non-flexible schedule of feeding for their baby every four hours. Rather, the concept of a schedule for a baby is that of understanding a general cycle. Every three or so hours, a young baby’s needs occur: to be fed, to be changed and kept clean, to sleep, to be held and have physical touch, and to occasionally have a good cry.
When I discovered this as a new mother, it was life changing. When I would wake my daughter up at 6 AM, I would change her, feed her, hold her, put her down next to me where she could see me (in an infant carrier, or swing/bouncer/etc), then put her down for a nap (by which time she was tired, so she cried softly–not screamed–for 0-120 seconds, then fell asleep for an hour to an hour and a half). Then I’d wake her and we’d repeat the cycle all over again.
I do not want you to think this happened like clockwork the very first time I tried it. Nor do I want you to think that every day went this perfectly. Some days we needed to go to the grocery store, so naptime would get rearranged. Or, when we would visit someone or someone would visit us, that would also involve a rearrangement of our day. Sometimes, were were just off. But in a very general sense, I had confidence that my baby’s every cry was not a cry of need or trauma.
This earned me a lot of criticism. Even some of my friends could not understand it, and openly criticized me to others. But the proof was in the pudding; my daughter was pleasant, content, rarely cried or fussed, fully nursed at each feeding (instead of partially nursing, only to want to nurse an hour later), and slept through the night. By contrast, my critical friends’ children were more fussy, only nursed for a few minutes at a time every hour or so, and did not sleep through the night until well into their elementary school years. I may take one more post to address such issues as, what happens if my baby falls asleep while nursing? Or, what do I do if my baby doesn’t stop crying?