Raising Elves

As wild as nature. Myself, parenting and natural remedies blog.

Confessions of a parent-led parent


It’s mad. This is a fairly balanced post but am hesitating and fearful of hitting publish. So go easy on me in comments if you do not agree!

I was a parent-led-parent on Elf.

Parent-led-parenting is no longer the trend so I often find myself reading generalised sarcastic and judgmental comments about different elements of it.

I followed Gina Ford and even did the cry it out ‘method’. When I read criticism of crying-it-out it is usually portraying the method as abusive. I think when you imagine it you see a baby crying alone in the dark for hours and nights on end.

Now, I guess I only did the cry it out because it literally worked very quickly. I don’t think I could let it go on for nights and nights.

I also did it just because Elf was starting to wake every time her soother fell out of her mouth so it was becoming an awful issue of being woken every forty minutes to put it back in.

So I decided, for my sanity and for her to get a good rest, she needed to learn to sleep without the soother until she was old enough to put it back in herself.

The first time I tried it I couldn’t cope- I couldn’t leave her there in the cot- it sounded like she was choking to death.

So, the next night I settled her in the buggy after her 7pm feed facing me on the couch.

When she woke for her soother less than an hour later I let her cry.

Because I could see her, I could see that she wasn’t as bad as she sounded.

I rocked the buggy and gently cooed her back to sleep. She cried for twenty minutes but I felt that this had to be done because I could no longer cope with waking every forty minutes just to put the soother back in.

Those twenty minutes were hell. I was devastated, but I stuck with it.

She woke again an hour later but cried only for five minutes this time and was even less distressed than the first time.

The second night we did the same and she only cried for five minutes when I put her down- I continued to rock the buggy and let her know I was there with my voice.

On the third night, I put her up to her cot after the 7pm feed. She cried a little but I got to the door and let her know I was still there with my voice. She fell asleep and never woke at the end of a REM for soothing after that.

I guess the cry it out method just happened to work for us and wasn’t as violent as one might think.

I know that it is very unpopular nowadays because science says it’s not good for brain development. I think that if it becomes a prolonged thing then that means it is not working and time to look at plan B.

For us, she cried for less than an hour, spread out over three days. The result of which meant that she could go in to her cot half asleep and settle herself. She was a great sleeper thereafter. Elf loves her sleep although even to this day she will occasionally wake during the night for soothing. One of us will go in and just says something like ‘It’s OK, love’ and she settles immediately.

I suppose, what I am saying is that I think that sometimes parent-led parenting has a place.

Not only just for the baby but for the parents too.

I don’t think I was ever a full on parent-led-parent but even now that I am more relaxed and able for the baby-led-parenting I wouldn’t say that I am a full on baby-led parent either.

I think it is important to take what works for you and your baby.

Elf loved the Gina Ford routine. When I took her off it she became an unhappy baby. When I put her back on it, she was happy and rarely cried. The best piece of advice I was given about this routine was to take what worked and don’t be too ridged. Ford is constantly reminding you in each chapter to follow her guidance to a tee and it is very stressful as a first time parent veering away from this but it can be done if you follow your instincts.

This new baby may not be a routine baby but I certainly will give it a go because I am a routine mother. This is something that I often feel those critical of parent-led parenting don’t recognise. Not all parents are suited to baby-led parenting and many babies are content with parent-led parenting.

I will, of course, prefer to be flexible than force a non-routine orientated baby into one but my hope is that this baby will be as pleased with routine as Elf was.

I have titled this as a confession style to point out about how sometimes I feel judged and under pressure from some of my favourite parenting blogs (None of the IPBGers- for those of you reading!) or facebook groups because baby-led or attachment parenting has become so popular. To be honest, I really like the more gentle, relaxed approach anyway so in most parts I agree with them- hence why I am following their blog or in a specific group.

I also felt very judged by many people in my life when our routine didn’t fit in with them and what they wanted. I felt under pressure and judged because I gently woke Elf at the end of her nap by opening the curtains and removing her blanket rather than letting her sleep for as long as she wanted. I put her in to her buggy every day at five to twelve and went for a walk. She immediately fell asleep because that was her routine. Some people will say in a judgmental tone that that is ‘training’ a baby. I hate that word- you train a dog, not a baby. I don’t see it that way because Elf loved her routine and when she was kept away from her midday nap or was late going down she cried and cried that evening because her routine was knocked off.

For me, I wouldn’t call myself a baby-led parent although I would probably fit that box more than I would any other, despite the fact that I followed a very successful parent-led approach in the early days.

I call myself an intuitive parent. Sometimes I will pluck from the baby-led circle and sometimes I will pluck from the parent-led circle. I will try out what feels right and if that doesn’t work I will go for plan B until I find what suits baby and me.

I think the and me part is very important.

The parent-led approach suited me last time for other reasons although the no1 reason was that it kept Elf happy.

The reason why it kept me ‘happy’ was because I was so anxious and traumatised after my labour (not forgetting my childhood dog dying when Elf was four weeks old) that the sense of control a routine gave me helped me to cope and stay together at a time where I really needed to fall apart.

All in all, I suppose I am hoping that this post reaches the few that may be liberal with their tone and words when it comes to talking about parent-led parenting. Parent-led parents love their children just as much as baby-led parents. It’s not a war. Parents need to support one another rather than judge. Some are more confident than others. Some are more in tune with their intuition than others- don’t forget that. Not every person has strong instincts which is essential to succeed at baby-led parenting.

Anyway, these are just some thoughts I had earlier after reading a sarky comment on a breastfeeding blog about baby training. I’m trying my bloomin’ darn-dest to prepare for succeeding at breastfeeding as it is never mind feeling like crap about myself when I read these types of comments. I’m opening up my routine loving mind to the potential of being a relaxed, intuitive and go with the flow kind of parent but at the same time I just want to come out of the closet and say that parent-led parenting isn’t as cruel and violent as it is sometimes perceived.

A very happy parent-led baby credit: @myinternalworld

A very happy parent-led baby credit: @myinternalworld


6 thoughts on “Confessions of a parent-led parent

  1. Laura I love this post!!!!! Great piece and sums up how many parents feel. x

  2. I think the people who fall completely into one neatly defined category or another are few and far between Laura, and that most of us do bits of both, depending on what works for us at the time. I do lots of baby-led stuff for my baby girl, because it suits me. I tried to be more routine-led for my son (but I must confess now that in hindsight it didn’t suit me.)

    You’re totally right, and a little understanding would go a long way for most of us who are just trying to do our best after all.

  3. Perfect! Intuitive parenting is the way to go. I think a lot of parents/mothers are scared to trust their instincts these days and feel the need for a manual, and when they start to follow someone else’s instructions blindly without listening to their own gut – or even their baby – is when things can go badly. I hate the notion that you have to choose one way and never deviate.

  4. I like your post Laura because it’s honest. A little more of that is needed on the parenting circuit!
    I’m completely with you on the ‘intuition’ angle and think every family has to find their way taking into account all the personalities involved. What works in each family and even with each child is different but once your approach is based in kindness, love and respect and allows for a little flexibility then who is to judge.
    Blindly following any approach is silly. The advice is all there to be considered but at the end of the day we all have to pick and chose what works for us and our babies.

  5. Great post. Different people need different approaches to this – it makes sense. I needed a routine as I had twins and had heard if you don’t have them in the same routine, it can become a real nightmare. I used Ford’s ‘Contented house with twins’ I followed her timetable for naps and feeding and it worked really well for me. I could always anticipate what the babies wanted because of the planned schedule. Without it, I would have lost my mind as I was so exhausted and generally didn’t know what day it was! 🙂

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