My best friend once asked me what our parenting style was. I said, “well, we feed her when she’s hungry, put her to sleep when she’s tired, hold her when she’s sad or lonely and play with her.”  Seemed straightforward enough.

I’ve noticed a lot of Kuwaitis shopping with their babies in tow — but in the arms of the maid. And the maids all stare at me and the Hubby in some kind of wonder as we walk around with Eryn in the sling.  Actually, we’ve been getting stares from everyone. It seems to be normal for many Kuwaiti families to put babies on a schedule and let the nannies take care of things.

To be fair, not everyone does this.  But yes, most Kuwaiti (Middle Eastern, Gulf) families rely on maids to care for their children.

When we arrived at the airport, I was feeding Eryn some Cheerios and pears, when baby Malaika toddled up to make friends with us. The two babies held hands and Eryn shared her toys — but the entire time, baby Malaika looked up at her nanny, smiled, laughed and held her hand while her parents stood in line for the visa. She once made a patting motion on her nanny’s leg — the same motion that Eryn makes on my shoulder or breast when she’s happy and comfortable. Everyone does, and should do what’s best for themselves and their family.  It just made me wonder how attached baby Malaika was her to nanny and not to mommy.

Hubby and I are children of information overload. We both remember the first picture we downloaded and how awesome it was to listen to the midi version of star wars. We’re both academics and love research. Naturally, we did a lot of reading during pregnancy to prepare for the little one.  We did too much reading.

Once Eryn was born, I found myself consulting multiple websites and books giving me advice on how to hold, shush, feed and train my new baby.  I went insane with all of the conflicting advice. I would feel sick to my stomach thinking about sleep training a month old. It seemed natural to me to put my baby in the sling and walk around with her.  Since breastfeeding was initially a challenge for us, it didn’t make sense for me to put her on a feeding schedule.  I was more than determined to succeed and found myself advocating breastfeeding to whomever would listen to me.  Eryn is a great sleeper, so it never occurred to us to let her cry alone in her cot.  And it really didn’t seem like a big deal to me to pull her into our bed on the nights she needed some extra comfort.  If it guaranteed that all of us would get 6 hours of sleep straight, why the hell not?

Then there was all of the (well meaning) advice from the in-laws and the parents. Lots of support — but lots of suggestions for training, early solids, not holding the baby (you know… to get her used to NOT being held), using bottles, introducing a soother, etc.  All really well intentioned advice that worked for them 30 years ago, but that jut didn’t sit right with us.

I drew the line when the Hubby brought home Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.  I flipped through Tracey Hogg’s EASY (eat, activity, sleep, time for YOU) formula and was completely turned off.  There’s a comment she makes in the breastfeeding section.  I wish I had it here to quote it directly, but suffice it to say, she makes a sarcastic remark about the dangers of being suckered into being tied down to your infant through breastfeeding. “Why, some even suggest that you take a nursing holiday and spend days in bed with your baby!” The horror. You certainly have better things to do.

Sadly for Tracey, I had just gotten off a nursing holiday (doctor prescribed!) to help increase my milk supply.  I had spent a relaxing two days at home, in bed watching 4 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, eating oatmeal and other comfort foods and loving Eryn.  I really don’t know what I else could have been doing.  Shopping in the mall I suppose.  Driving?  Hanging with my girlfriends (who are mostly single and only want to talk about how cute Eryn is anyway).

No.  After reading that, I threw everything out the window.  I realized that we had taken the best from all of our research and friendly advice, and were just doing what was right for us as a family.

Eryn is attached. Some would say too much, but that’s because she’s in a situation now where she’s in a new environment and there are a lot of strange faces around her.  It’s taken her about 2 weeks to get relaxed enough to interact fully with everyone.  The sad thing is that she’s part of a family that’s used to passing the baby around, and right now, she just wants to be with mommy.  I feel horrible that it’s taken so long for her to be held by her aunt and grandma.  But they hold her, and she’s letting them in to her close circle of familiar adults.

But who can complain when she’s sleeping 9 hours straight.  She doesn’t cry.  She’s growing and laughing and babbling new babbles.  She’s going to stand any day now and crawls like a champion.  She smiles and performs for strangers at the mall (as long as she’s being held), and she’s suddenly turned into an excellent self-feeder.

It’s very possible that there’s a nation of attached babies who have allowed their nannies into their close circle of familiar people. But it’s hard to imagine when over the span of a week, I’ve seen countless parents shopping while nannies deal with bruised knees, tantrums, crying fits and laughing fits and fun playtime.  I’ve even seen 4 instances of tiny babies between newborn and 1 month turn bright red in frustration and cry at the top of their lungs for what seemed like an eternity.  The longest was probably 10 minutes — and it was just because it wasn’t yet time for their bottle.  There is nothing more heartbreaking than hearing a newborn crying for food.  A good friend of mine told me that her Kuwaiti pediatrician instructed her to put her 1 month old son on a feeding schedule of every 4 hours.  He was breastfed and apparently was gaining too much weight too quickly.  um. really??

Eryn is a small, 10 month old baby — average and perfectly healthy. The Hubby and I are petite people, so yes, it makes sense that according to North American standards, she’s in the 25% for height and 50% for weight.  But here she’s a monster.  She’s easily the size of your average year old Kuwaiti baby.

So the problems with AP for me is that I see everything with hopeful, rosy lenses. And while I do believe that everyone should do what’s best for themselves, it breaks my heart when I see little bubs crying their hearts out.

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