I discovered the Gentle Parenting Community on Facebook of all places. Many different groups grounded in the same "tool kit" principle. This allowed parents to share and find the right tools that work for their specific family's needs. It sounds so simple! Do what works for you, but do it gently and with kindness and love.
Maybe it is because I am an academic researcher by trade and curious by nature, but in general, I believe in a few fundamental facts based in scientific fact:
1. Babies are incapable of manipulation, crying to get your attention is crying for a "need" your baby NEEDS YOU!
2. Babies nurse for comfort, you cannot "spoil" or "over-feed" your breastfed baby by allowing him to nurse on demand
3. Babies do not need a schedule, however some parents do (and this is OK!)
4. Baby sleep is not like regular adult sleep, expecting them to understand this is unrealistic
4. Cry it out works for the wrong reasons, it works for some people but it isn't for me
5. Every single baby is different
For these reasons I choose to go to my baby when he wakes up at night. I choose to do it without complaint because I know that one day he will grow up and will not longer need to cuddle with me at night. Does this mean that I enjoy waking up for the 5th time since midnight? No, not at all. In fact, it is completely exhausting and makes getting through the following work day incredibly difficult. Do I judge the parent to makes the choice to get some sleep so they can work the next day? Absolutely not. I would never recommend anything that causes someone to feel anger or resentment. What your baby needs most is love, and if sheer exhaustion is making it hard for you to go on with the rest of your life, it is important that you get some sleep. I choose to allow him to occasionally sleep in bed with us when he struggles to fall or stay asleep some nights. I don't think that this will impact him long-term, or make it harder for him to sleep alone. In fact, he usually sleeps better after spending a night safely snuggled between mom and dad. Anthropologists agree that co-sleeping is not only safe (when done correctly) it is incredibly beneficial. However, the fact is I do not sleep well with my baby in bed with me. He takes his all night "on-demand" diner very seriously and because I am feeling a little extra cautious I tend to sleep very poorly. I sleep better having to get up multiple times for a midnight (and 2am, and 4am) snack. I cried when my baby grew out of his co-sleeper. I used it as a storage bin for many weeks until my husband finally said it was time to say good-bye. These factors are what let me to move Baby J into his own room (something I never would have done before I let go of the "Attachment Parent" label). It works for our family and our puppies are happy to be back in bed with us! I choose to "baby wear" while I get things done around the house and this does not mean my baby is "spoiled" or that he lacks the ability to be independent.
There are plenty of times he will play alone without being entertained. I choose to carry him with be because it makes us both happy, and he is able to learn so much about his new world from the comfort of my arms. I choose to put my child's needs before my own, not because I am a "martyr" but because what kind of example would I be setting if I told my children that my need to do x,y and z are more important than your need to be held, nursed, or rocked? Therefore, if you cry for those things you MUST be manipulating me into doing them for you.
I am not the perfect parent, and I don't claim to be. We make the choices that are right for our family at the time. Most importantly, we leave ourselves the opportunity to change as circumstances do. We don't feel as if we need to stick to some rigid set of "parenting rules". We simply follow our instinct to love and nurture our baby, and do the best we can do with what we have. If you as a parent can say that, I think you are doing pretty darn good.