Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Guest blog #29: Minimalist parenting by Crystal Thrall, part 2

I left off yesterday writing about elimination communication and breastfeeding and baby-led weaning.  Today, I finish off writing a little bit about co-sleeping and babywearing.

I am going to take away all the fun of preparing for the arrival of a baby by suggesting that a nursery is simply not practical.  The nursery: an entire room and furniture to fill it suited to the first year of a baby's life.  Sure, that crib probably converts to a toddler bed, but I really think that even a crib is unnecessary.  Why not skip the tiny mattress entirely and buy your child a proper mattress she can use throughout childhood?  For that matter, why bother with a nursery at all?  Why not make a fun room suited to your child's interests, when they become apparent, as she ages?  Yes, I am implying that you share your bed with your child during the infant, and probably the toddler stage of her life.  To make co-sleeping practical for us, we bought another mattress to increase our effective bed size, and we put our bed on the floor.  I can hear you quietly thinking, "How do you ever have sex when you share a bed with your child?"  That's a fair point to which I respond: it is possible to be intimate with your partner without having your bed available. 

I was given many things by very well-intentioned friends and family that would help me put my baby down: an infant seat (a.k.a a Bumbo); colorful play mats with exciting toys that could stimulate many of my baby's senses; a swing and a bouncy seat--both of which played soothing music or simulated noises from the womb; and a stroller.  I happily and gratefully accepted these gifts and hand-me-downs thinking it would be nice to put my baby down every now and then to have free hands.  Little did I know not all babies willingly accept any distance from a warm body.  Call them what you want: high-needs, fussy, colicky...I was/am the proud mother of one of these babies!  It wasn't long before I realized each of these items was practically useless to me, and I thought I would never be able to put my baby down without having to listen to her scream.  I knew that baby carriers existed, but the options overwhelmed me and I couldn't decide on one. 

One glorious day, a friend of mine introduced me to a local babywearing group.  I was honestly quite intimidated by the vast library of carriers and the babywearing proficiency demonstrated by these wonderful moms and dads...but mostly moms.  Nevertheless, I knew this was the solution that would work for my husband and I.  My carrier collection started with a simple ring sling crafted by my mother.  I quickly learned how easy it was to just pop my daughter in and out of the sling and carry her hands free anytime, anywhere.  Finally, I was liberated from my stroller!  The burden of my baby gear load decreased significantly, and I would no longer be forced to awkwardly maneuver a stroller around any store.  I didn't realize how much I loathed the stroller concept until I acquired my ring sling.  You can see a picture of me and a passed out organic baby in yesterday's post.  Here is one of my husband, Brian, with baby Rae awake.

Brian, organic baby, and a ring sling on Main Street in Ann Arbor
Now that I could leave the house with a happy baby, my next babywearing goal was to free my hands for domestic duties.  I had to learn how to wear my daughter on my back, and for this I would need a wrap which is essentially just a very long piece of fabric.  Even more overwhelming than choosing a specific type of carrier was selecting a wrap!  There are various sizes, colors, fabric blends, and brands, and in the end I learned many people choose their first wrap based on the color.  After buying a wrap and learning how to back-carry, I could resume many of my pre-baby activities while providing entertainment for my baby.  My daughter especially enjoyed watching me sweep the floors as I wore her on my back.  She still does, but she would prefer to sweep the floors herself (especially after she's involved in a mishap...not really, but maybe some day!).  

That leads me to the semi-babywearing-related topic of toys.  In the first year, a child needs few, if any, toys.  At this age, babies can be entertained by things you already have in your home, or better yet, outside.  What's even more entertaining than things is mom and dad and the activities they do. 

Final thoughts
I must confess that I have simply summarized the concept of "attachment parenting" from a different perspective.  Attachment parenting is what works for our family.  Coincidentally, this parenting style achieves another goal of ours--minimizing our impact on the environment. 

While putting together this post, my husband said that I should discuss his perspective throughout this process.  Here goes: Initially, he was opposed to co-sleeping, babywearing, and elimination communication.  He reluctantly followed my lead, but became more accepting as we progressed into a routine.  When he observed how happily our daughter would eliminate on a potty, he was no longer an EC skeptic.  He also appreciates doing less laundry and going out with less baggage.  When he started wearing our daughter, he appreciated the increased closeness and interaction he didn't get with the stroller.  And he quickly learned that co-sleeping gave him the ability to sleep more during the night.  Eventually, his entire view on what parenting should look like changed, and he will not do it any other way now.  (Now, on to conquering the world!)

Attachment parenting is probably not the only environmentally friendly parenting style, but this is what works for us.  Ultimately, you have to do what is best for you and your family.  I am quite satisfied with how relatively little clutter there is in my postpartum home and how my daughter doesn't require much baggage when we go out.   If minimizing the baby gear in your life is your goal, then you might want to consider wearing, breastfeeding, pottying, and/or sleeping with your baby!

There's a ton of used baby things out there!  And always remember, craigslist is your friend!

Elimination communication
The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative by Christine Gross-Loh
EC Simplified: Infant Potty Training Made Easy by Andrea Olson
Andrea Olson's EC website:

Breastfeeding and Baby-led Weaning
Lactation consultant directory
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, and Teresa Pitman
So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide by Janet Tamaro
Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby To Love Good Food by Gill Rapley

Find a babywearing chapter near you here
Babywearing blog from my local Babywearing chapter

There are also plenty of instructional youtube videos available!


  1. Hello -

    I really loved your latest post on "Guest blog #29: Minimalist parenting by Crystal Thrall, part 2". I have gone ahead and added "Minimizing Entropy" to my Flipbaord. Keep writing awesome stuff, and I will keep reading it.

    Thanks again,
    Dante Smith

  2. my daughter's comfort (or god forbid, safety), especially not the awkwardness of telling the moms in Mom Group that Babs isn't going to eat their well-meaning gluten muffins. best double stroller

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