As a doula, I not only help people vision their birth, or thrive through the first few months postpartum, I help people become parents. Seems funny, in a way, since I am not yet a parent myself. I credit my ability to guide people into parenting with the excellent upbringing I received from my own parents. Thanks mom and dad! Were they “perfect”? Of course not. But were they thoughtful, creative, sensitive, articulate, responsive, informed parents? Yes! I would consider my parents to have been conscious parents and intuitive parents. They did a lot of work on themselves, from therapy to self help, in order to heal past traumas and patterns. They read voraciously, and not just the typical parenting fair of the time. They read theorists like John Bradshaw and Alice Miller. They paid attention to how they interacted with each other and me–with an emphasis on open dialogues, bonding, creativity, and intellectual independance.
Today’s parents are confronted with a barrage of parenting “methods” and books. Everything from Attachment Parenting to RIE to Feberization. Many parents I work with enter this journey feeling as though they must label themselves or subscribe to one parenting style 100%. The books and methods sure make it seem that way too. “Do this” or “don’t do this” and your child will be “xyz” undesireable or desireable trait. Now, there are some good books out there, but there are so many that confuse, shame, and scare parents into going against their better judgement and trying techniques that often don’t feel right to them. One of my addages is “Your baby is not a book. Read your baby, not the book.” Meaning, no matter how great a parenting book may seem, there is no one size fits all approach to parenting. Your child is born with a personality, and part of early parenthood is learning who your child is. As a doula, I teach my clients how to read their babies and how to sort through all of the “experts.”
I work with many families who like the idea of Attachment Parenting, for example, as made famous by Dr. Bob Sears. I find many tenets of AP to be wonderful, particularly its emphasis on bonding and closeness. However, families don’t have to follow each one to reap the benefits of the parenting style. I encourage lots of families to use these techniques to their comfort level, and to the preference of their baby. I’ve worked with families who bed share and bottle feed, who babywear and the baby sleeps in her own room, who love their stroller but breastfeed until toddlerhood. Basically, there are no real rules. It’s all about finding techniques, sleeping arrangements, feeding methods, philosophies that work best for you and your child.
My overall approach is pretty baby-led. My research, and the evidence and studies I have read, indicate to me that following a newborn’s cues, keeping the baby close to the parents, and doing things like breastfeeding (if possible and desired), and babywearing, are healthy for babies and parents as they grow and bond together. But that looks so different for each individual family I work with. That’s the beauty of conscious and intuitive parenting. It’s completely unique family to family, and is all about finding what works for them, using an evidence based approach, and really dialing into a parent’s gut feeling. I think we too easily hand over our parenting to the experts. I think, in a way, it’s easier to. We hand over our responsibility by deferring all decisions to a book of techniques. But does that serve us, our babies? I’m not so sure. I see parents thrive when I see them listening to that inner voice that guides them. I see parents become excited about parenting when they discover what soothes their baby, through trial and error. I offer my suggestions, tips and tricks, favorite books or articles, all as a spring board for their path of discovery. I never want my clients to see me as an authority on the “correct” way to parent a baby, rather I hope they see me a resource, confidant, cheerleader, idea bouncer, and gentle guide. Afterall, I am there to help them become the expert of their baby–which only they can be.