Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Archive for February, 2012

If the shoe fits…

I mentioned before that one of the slightly more alternative decisions Alt.Father and I made was to keep our first daughter barefoot.  By which I don’t mean she was always running about urchin-like with no shoes on, although to be fair, she did and still does do a fair bit of that!  In fact, we choose “barefoot shoes”, designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, to give her feet the best possible chances in their development.

The first time I saw Alt.D1, when she was just born and being looked over by the medics, all I could see were her little feet, poking up from the rescusitaire.  I love those little feet, they are so cute, they were unbelievably tiny and soft, never having taken a single step.  I want to help keep them in as good condition as possible.

Foot health is something often overlooked by society.  Here in the West we are prone to far more problems with our feet than other cultures where bare feet are the norm.  It makes good sense then, to consider going barefoot.  For those just starting to learn about walking and gaining their balance, bare feet give the greatest amount of information to the brain, enhancing that learning experience.

Bare feet are best loved in the Ctrl.Alt. household!

“But what about support?” I hear you cry;
“Your feet need support when you’re learning to walk…”
Um, well, actually, no they don’t.  They will be strong and well balanced without stiff soles, and there is evidence to suggest that there are fewer ankle breaks and injuries among those who do not wear shoes. Pro-barefoot research here

The problem we faced as parents was the lack of available soft soled shoes in the shops.  To start with, we embraced the little leather slippers given by a family member when Alt.D1 was born.  They were brilliant, and she took her first tentative steps wearing them.  Easily available online, they were more than adequate for the first few months, both indoors and out.  This type has been a firm favourite, and since they are available in sizes up to a UK9, they have been useful house shoes even until very recently.

Then came the more adventurous days!   Something with a little more cushioning was required, so we moved on to the spotty pair pictured here.  They have slightly padded soles, two layers of leather rather than just one.  The ground is still easily recognised by the feet.  Alt.D1 would go scampering about on gravel with or without her shoes, sometimes confused as to why her friends would not follow!

The evolution of Alt.D1’s shoes continued according to her development.  We had her feet measured in the ubiquitous high street shoe shop, but instead of falling foul of the proffered array of glitter and pastels, we sought out online suppliers of soft soled footwear.  Surprisingly, this came out far more gently on the pocket than the high street, and gave us so much more to choose from in the way of designs.

Ordering the shoes online was not as intimidating as you might think.  The high street shoe retailers place a huge emphasis on the width fitting of their shoes, and in the stiffer soles they offer, this is of course important.  However, with soft-soled flexible shoes and a large toe-box for developing feet, the width is less important.  We are looking to let the feet grow, rather than to mould them into shape.  I just order the right size, and off she goes.  

It does run in the family, apparently…

Saying this, I’m not yet tempted by the slightly bizarre Vibram Five Fingers for myself!  There are other options available for grown-up barefoot walkers, although not so easily obtainable in the UK.  If you’re interested in keeping your babies barefoot, drop me a line or post a comment and I would be more than happy to give you the details of the shoe suppliers we use.  Alternatively, you can probably find what you’re looking for via google.  Many of them are priced competitively with the high street, and in some cases, half the price.

So, how does Alt.D1 like her shoes?  She seems to have developed something of an Imelda Marcos tendency, to the extent that I have to magic the old shoes away overnight, or we would have stacks of them round the house!  However I think the best testament is the way she takes them off. Shoes are optional to her.  If it’s cold or wet, yes please, shoes are great, but if she’s indoors or it’s summer time, the shoes are whipped off as soon as she is given the nod (and often without).  As you can probably guess from the photos, we wash feet more often than we wear out shoe leather round here!

Barefoot Brands: Robeez, Pedipeds, Bobux, Little Blue Lamb, Oxxy, Livi & Luca, Stonz, See Kai Run, Riley Roos, Hop n Squeak, Soft Star Shoes (also for adults)

All we need is

It being Valentine’s week, I have been thinking a bit about L O V E.

Next week, it will be four years since I discovered I was pregnant with my first child.  I can hardly believe that so much time has passed, and what a journey it has been for all of us over those years.  Someone very wise and close to me once told me: “all that a baby needs is a Mummy to love it”. 

When you think of all the paraphernalia that seems to go along with babies and small children in general, it might seem that’s not entirely true.  But when it comes down to it, the love I have for my children is like nothing I have ever experienced before, and could well be all that I need.

It was while I was labouring with my first child that I was suddenly hit by the enormity of what was happening.  A bit late, you might say! That fear, where I had previously wondered if I would be okay with the delivery, now extended to the baby and an all consuming hope that she would be safe.  It was, I suppose, my first taste of parental responsibility, and all part of the experience of becoming a mother.  Instead of wanting to hear the music I had carefully selected for my mix-CD, I was content to listen just to the sound of the baby’s heartbeat emanating from the monitor.  That sound told me that she would soon be here, and that she was doing fine.  It was all I needed.

I found a new appreciation for my own mother while I was giving birth, and in fact in the months and years that have since followed, that has grown with my daughter (and still more with my second daughter – how on Earth did my mum manage with 3, or Alt.Father’s mum with 5!?).  I have been watching “Call The Midwife” on BBC1 recently, and although I haven’t yet read the books, I was struck by something one of the characters, a new mother, said:

“I didn’t realise how much my mum loved me until I had her [the baby].  It is the kind of love that only goes one way:  forward” 

The writer of that line hit the nail on the head.  Every single one of us was once somebody else’s baby.  I look at my 3.3 year old daughter sleeping, and all the stresses of the day, all the frustrations of dealing with a intelligent, determined little girl who is just finding her way in the world come together and the love that I feel can’t even begin to be described.  I find it somewhat unbelievable but extraordinarily special that my own mother once looked at me in the same way. 

Now I don’t want this post to be overly sentimental, so I’ll freely admit that while I love my children dearly, there are certainly times when I don’t particularly like them very much!  It also seems that the 3.3 year old sometimes doesn’t like me very much either!  Yesterday, on being put in the supermarket trolley seat, she declared:

“I don’t want you to live with me any more, Mummy, I’m going to go and live somewhere ELSE!”.  

Ah the world is so unjust when you’re 3!  We soon made it up, though, I’m pleased to report.  “I love you sooooooo much!” she told me later the same day.

A fantastic book that I wish I had read sooner is “What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing” by Naomi Stadlen.  I found myself alternately laughing and crying, saying to myself, “this is exactly me!”.  It’s one I can strongly recommend.  That thing we’re doing, when it looks like nothing, is loving our children.

For my part, I would just like to say thanks to my own mum, you were right – all that a baby needs is a Mummy to love it. 

One size fits all?

Families, as we all know, come in different shapes and sizes, so there can never be such a thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to parenting.  Yet the general assumption is that we will conform to the perceived norm.  

Alt.Father and I never set out to be deliberately different.  We are not revolutionaries, far from it, we both come from “ordinary” homes and live in an “ordinary” small town in the South West of the UK.  But then, one day, we met an extraordinary person – our first child.  Before pregnancy, the only experience we had of children was that of other people’s.  Which meant that our only experiences of parenting were what we had seen other people doing.  They all seemed to be doing the same things – it couldn’t be that hard to find your way, right?


From the moment we discovered a baby was on its way, we were bombarded with information.  As prospective parents, you are a marketing company’s ideal… you haven’t got a clue what you need, but you think you might need all of it! 

So the first thing we did was buy a book.  It was actually pretty good, albeit quite textbook-like in style:

So now we knew what was physically going on inside, how about emotionally?

This isn’t a post to share all my experiences in intimate detail, so I’ll spare you the specifics for now, but let’s just say I’m not a fan of pregnancy.  More to the point, I’m not particularly a fan of my first pregnancy and the morning/afternoon/middle of the night sickness, high blood pressure and chronic backache.  Needless to say, it was a tricky time for both me and Alt.Father, and a time at which we were grateful for support and advice when it came.

Everyone seems to have advice for new parents.  My advice now would be “smile and nod”.  That is to say, take on board the things that others say, and then make your own decisions about how to process the advice.

Take for example the hundreds of different morsels of advice we were given on sleep.  They varied from the extreme – “put the baby at the bottom of the garden” to the misinformed “give the baby water to drink at night, that’ll teach her” (at two weeks old!), but the fact remained that our baby, my baby, hadn’t read any of the books, or listened to any of the advice from well meaning friends and family.  She was just being herself, and as her parents, we needed to figure out how best to take care of her, as an individual, and find solutions to our problems that best met the needs of our family.

And so, we discovered (eventually) the revelation that was co-sleeping!  My own father had said to me while I was pregnant, “don’t be afraid to take the baby into bed with you”.  It’s how I was cared for as a tiny infant, and it seems that my first daughter and I had more than a few things in common!

So there we were, bed sharing with our baby.  Not a piece of information I shared with others to begin with.  It was working for us, but I thought we were the only ones, and it wasn’t something to broadcast.

As the months passed by, we made other parenting decisions that seemed to go against the grain, such as using washable nappies, full-term breastfeeding, baby-led-weaning, keeping our daughter barefoot, baby-wearing, rear facing car seats…

By the time my daughter was a few months old, I was pleased to have found other families who were making some of the same decisions as we were.  Maybe the alternative was not quite so alternative after all?  Probably there are more parents raising their children in a style that goes against the perceived norm than we first thought?

I hope that for my daughters, the legacy of the parenting decisions we make for them will be that they continue to question the norm throughout life, and if the alternative looks like it might just be the right path for them, that they have the confidence to try it.

Parenting in the Alternative

Since becoming a mother, and my elder girl is now 3 years, my younger just 5 months, I’ve found that sometimes things I would consider instinctive are in fact considered by most around me to be the alternative.  

When the PC  crashes (and yes, I am a die hard PC user, no idea how to find my way round a Mac!) you can hit Ctrl, Alt, Delete, and start again, right?  How about in real life?  When it all seems to go a bit squiffy and not quite as planned, there is no reset button, and no Ctrl, Alt Delete.  We get one hit at it, and that’s all.  Time, I think, to take control, seek out the alternative, and trust the instincts of parenting.  Ctrl, Alt, Parent.

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