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Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

Friday, 3 February 2012

To Give or Not to Give (Unsolicited Advice)

I fully expected to get lots of unsolicited advice from family, friends, and even complete strangers - from advice on how to dress the baby for the weather to when to start her on solids. What I did not anticipate was being told by so many that I was spoiling my baby by responding to her cries all of the time. As a new mom, I have a lot of doubts about my skills. I don't always know what her cries mean or how to soothe her. I don't always know whether I should let her nurse "just because", even when I know she's not hungry, and is just going to spit it back up. But what I do know is that when she cries, she needs me. She's not being manipulative or trying to control me. She's being a baby - a beautiful, innocent, utterly-dependent-upon-me baby.

Most pediatricians and experts in child development will tell you that it is not possible to spoil a baby. Attachment theory tells us that when an infant's needs are not met by their caregiver, they risk developing an insecure attachment style, which impacts upon all of their future relationships. When a mother is not available for her infant and does not meet his needs, the baby learns that his caregiver is unreliable and that he cannot depend on her. This is not the lesson that I want my baby to learn. I want her to know that when she cries, mommy will be there. When she is hungry, tired, in pain, or just needs a hug, I will be there to meet her needs. After all, I'm the one who signed up for this; she didn't ask to be brought into this world. I will not let her cry for  hours on end, in order for her to learn to sleep on her own. I will not wean her until she decides that she is ready. If she sleeps in my bed until she is four, or seven, or ten (highly unlikely), who is this hurting?

I found a cute t-shirt at Walmart the other day. It reads "My mommy doesn't want your advice". I mentioned it to my partner later that day, and he said to me "you should get it". While my initial reaction was to think "I couldn't, it might offend people", once I thought about I realized that no one was concerned about offending me by offering me advice on how to parent (or more accurately, what I was doing wrong). Please, if a new parent asks for help, for advice, for a shoulder to cry on, by all means be that for them. But don't offer them unsolicited advice on how to raise their baby. The way you raised your kids is not necessarily the best way (or even the safest!). Research has come so far in the past 30 years, and we now know a lot more about how infants grow and learn than we did when I was growing up.Chances are, things will change again by the time my daughter is ready to have her own children (assuming she decides to have children). But for now, all we can do is rely upon what the current research tells us about babies. Which is:

1) You can't spoil a baby by responding to their cries
2) Allowing your baby to co-sleep (sleep in your bed with you) does not mean that they will still be sleeping with you when they are 15.
3) There is no one right way to raise a baby

Take care,
M