Having a baby can be one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives and often it’s something that many of us have had absolutely no experience in. Not a scrap of it. The learning that takes place is exponential. That, on the back of exhaustion, hormonal changes, financial stress, relationship changes and the feeling like your sanity is balancing on a knife’s edge, puts families in an extremely vulnerable position.
Caring for a baby is one of the most important things many of us will do. I would say it is the most important thing – and yet we get pretty much no up to date education on many of the challenging and vitally important aspects of this.
In the media the bulk of the content is either showing picture perfect families who don’t have a bother on them, or we see trivial, outdated and at times harmful ‘information’ around life with a baby.
They’re having a laugh. That’s what I’m thinking as I read a baby magazine waiting to see the Dr, and I bet my 4-month baby would be too, if only he knew what the ‘experts’ were advising. ‘Don’t rock your baby as you can’t replicate this in their cot…’ I thought to myself, how the heck am I supposed to get my baby to sleep without rocking or feeding him?
Are they trying to make me feel guilty or incompetent because I do this? Does this person know anything about baby sleep biology? Clearly not!
‘Do this’, ‘do that’ and ‘DON’T do this!’ What has parenting information come to? A prescriptive list of Do’s and Don’ts? It’s looks like a list of rules you’d give to your 15-year-old baby sitter.
In NZ mainstream media I think that the most prevalent advice out there falls under the banner ‘parenting for dummies, by dummies’. But here’s the thing – we are not dumb. We want up to date information and intelligent discussion around challenging aspects of parenting. Surprise.
I recently had the TV on in the morning and it caught my attention that they were about to discuss how to travel over the holidays with your kids. OMG. I braced myself and sat down to watch it. Of all the issues they could discuss they chose this. Do they think we are simple? Who does not know to pack food for their children on a long car trip, relax and have regular toilet breaks? Needless to say, I was pretty offended.
Being a parent of a 2 year old and 7 month old and working in the baby sleep industry, I have got my eyes pretty open to what it going on out there - and it’s not pretty. There is SO much guff around that undermines parents confidence in their ability to learn and grow with their baby, and to figure out how they are going to approach things in a way that optimises their babies health and growth, whilst encouraging them to do it in their own unique way.
I always wonder when I see sleep packages for sale with continuous pop up boxes showing you names and locations of parents worldwide that are purchasing this routine at that precise moment. There are just so many, as I start to feel like i’m the only one in the world who is not purchasing this, my baby is going to be I think - are these people even real?
Anyone who knows anything about health education or improving health literacy in an area of health care, knows that it’s key to empower people. We need to feel good about ourselves, our abilities and what we are trying to achieve, as well as understanding the key concepts behind what we are doing. Teach a man to fish! Handing out rules, do’s and don’ts and the like don’t help, in fact they can cause harm – they stop you thinking critically about your own situation, using your own common sense and applying it to your own situation.
With great education and empowerment parents can better understand baby sleeping, feeding and health and can use this information to guide their unique journey with their child.
I am so tired of reading and hearing advice that makes out our babies are born with an innate drive to make our lives difficult, and that we are quite helpless at knowing how to care for them. When you see headlines in popular baby literature like ‘why is getting my baby off to sleep so difficult’ or ‘why am I so hopeless at getting him to sleep’, ‘suddenly it’s not so easy to get baby to sleep’, ‘Your baby should be awake around 45 minutes to an hour’, ‘you need to teach your baby to self-settle’, ‘getting your baby to fall asleep’ and those examples are only from one article - avoid, avoid, AVOID!!
With all this ridiculousness, it’s no wonder we can end up confused, stressed and feeling inadequate. It is these kinds of outcomes that put women at risk of developing postnatal depression and increases the risk of family violence, let alone the poor outcomes for babies themselves due to poor advice. How sad is that?
Amy and Elspeth