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Sewing to Support Gentle Parenting

Gentle Parenting

In addition to the somewhat radical choice to be a Stay At Home Mom, Mark and I are not entirely mainstream in many of our parenting strategies. We have chosen more gentle ways than those prescribed by our culture, which in their zeal for promoting independence foster detachment and materialism. We are more concerned that Tim has a secure attachment now, as an infant, so that he starts out with a basis of trust in his parents, and by extension, the universe. We believe that he will naturally move towards independence at his own pace. Furthermore, independence is a far less important goal than empathy, and the ability to live in relationship to others. Too much independence, too much failure to consider the impact of our decisions and behavior on the lives of those around us, directly results in the disintegrating society we live in.

But fundamentally, I'm an optimist. I believe that when the chips are down, this culture will finally shift to a sustainable one. I believe that transformation from a world of greed and violence to one of generosity and giving will be as swift and complete as the "computer revolution". Today they may be primary foundations of the mainstream belief system, but greed, material possessions, self-centeredness, and dominion over nature will not be the drivers of my son's adult life. It would be cruel not to prepare him to live by the values of the sustainable culture I believe he will inhabit as an adult: equity, security, sustainability, responsibility, giving, and sacredness.

As Bucky Fuller has said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

My own favorite baby-rearing books are those by Penelope Leach and William and Martha Sears. While we may not practice all of the attachment parenting ideals, we have adopted most, such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and the family bed, at least to some extent.

(I wrote this when Tim was 6 months old... He's 27 months now, an independent toddler who still nurses but sleeps in his own room. I decided not to rewrite the rest of this, because it's hopefully useful to other moms with infants... At this point, Tim doesn't really breastfeed when we're out, so I no longer use special breastfeeding clothes...)

Tim has spent much of his life in my arms. We typically start our day at the computer, with him stretched out across my lap "nakking" (nursing at keyboard). When we were first learning how to breastfeed, he would lay on a boppy pillow, but he's too big for that now. I try to take him somewhere with me every day, whether shopping, to the library, to work for a meeting, or to visit friends. He used to ride in a sling, but lately has shown a preference for the Snuggli or a stroller. We take often naps together on the recliner, with him scrunched up on my chest.

Sometimes Tim sleeps next to us at night in an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper, and sometimes he sleeps directly in our bed. We don't use heavy bedding, don't have a waterbed or headboards or footboards, and where he sleeps he's only in danger of rolling into the Co-Sleeper if he should roll off the bed, a drop of about 2 inches. There is nothing to compare to the joy having the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning be your baby's gummy smile. Plus, the close proximity makes it easy for him to breastfeed, and he's good enough at it that he doesn't really wake me up. So Mark and I are not feeling particularly sleep deprived. I am extremely glad that we worked through all the problems getting the breastfeeding relationship started, because even though it wasn't more convenient than a bottle at the beginning, it is now. I had to give him supplemental formula at the beginning, but thanks to fenugreek and persistence, my supply has finally caught up. It's been a slow and gradual process, but as we get better at discreet nursing, I'm finding less situations where I feel I need to bring along a convenience bottle for feeding Tim in public places. Having clothing that is designed for discreet nursing makes it easier to choose the breast over the bottle when we are out. I am hoping to maintain the nursing relationship through the biting that usually comes with teething, so that he can choose his own time to wean. From my reading, breastfeeding can be a big help with defusing toddler tantrums. It certainly is with baby traumas, like getting a shot at the doctor's office.

Attachment Parenting Sites
Where to Get a Sling
Discreet Breastfeeding Tips and Ready-Made Nursing Clothes



Even though Tim sleeps at night in our room, we do have a nursery set up, complete with crib. But also complete with sewing machine (vintage 1970's Bernina 830) and ironing board. I put Tim in the crib for a little while during the day so he can practice rolling over and playing with his feet. Meanwhile, I stay in view of the crib and sew.

I've been sewing for about 26 years now, though for the last 17 the only sewing I did was few pieces of garb each year for my SCA hobby. I learned how to sew from my mother and grandmother, and got a pretty good foundation in the basic techniques when I was in 4-H (as a child). While I was working outside the home, I didn't have time to sew anything that I could buy ready-to-wear. It is only now, when nursing clothes are so expensive and hard to find in my size that I've been motivated to get back into sewing on a steady basis again.

So I'm sewing nursing clothes for myself, and clothes for Tim. I made his christening outfit that you see on his page, and all the renaissance faire garb for Tim, myself, and my mother-in-law. I'm just a hem away from completing a dress using an Elizabeth Lee Designs pattern 203. It's a fun and bright purple print for a casual summer outfit. Next up, a hawaiian shirt made with pattern 107 and some of that amusing retro hawaiian fabric out this summer.

When I finish that, I've got a stack of T-shirts I got from Hanes that I'm going to convert to Nursing T-shirts, using the instructions Beth Cortelyou put on the web. There's a similar procedure on the NMSL site. I bought a couple of her shirts right after I got back from the hospital. I also got a really nice T-shirt and sweatshirt from the Baby Diner, but those would be a bit more of a project to clone.


Nursing Clothing Sewing Projects
Sewing References
Pattern Company Web Sites



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Copyright © 2000-2002 Joan Schraith Cole.
Updated May 1, 2002
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