People who know me well know my feelings on so-called ‘parenting experts’. I have been known to ‘relocate’ a certain publication which we midwives know and loathe to the ‘Facism and Nazism’ section in Waterstones (other book retailers are available) and would actively encourage any of you reading this to do the same.
It’s not that I have an issue with people offering advice, it’s a fact of life, especially when you are a new parent, and some of it you might even take! The issue I have is people who prey on the fears and insecurities of these new parents by offering them a solution to their perceived lack of knowledge, or a becon of light to guide them through the fumbling darkness in the form of….a book!
The idea of these books/baby bibles or whatever you wish to call them is that they tell you exactly what you should do, at what time and for how long etc and eventually you will end up with what television presenter Eamonn Holmes and his partner Ruth Langford described, after following a particular regime, as a ‘clockwork baby’ (which was, to them, a good thing).
Gina Ford published a strict regime in her “Contented Little Baby Book” encouraging parents to break their day down into five minute slots in order to get the newborn baby into a routine as soon as possible. Of course once you have actually had a baby you realise pretty quickly that achieving anything in five minutes is nigh on impossible (unless it’s a shower!).
The baby should be woken and fed at 7am, parents fed by 8am then the baby fed (in the nursery!) every 4 hours until the last feed at 6:15 whereby parents must not, under any circumstances, make eye contact with their child in case it gets excited! Seriously?
We, as a family when our first born child made his entrance into the world, failed miserably at the first hurdle. Rather inconveniently our son was not born with the ability to read so had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to be doing in regard to this regime. What he did seem to know, rather instinctively, was that he needed to feed more frequently than 4 hourly and certainly had no intention of fasting after 6:15 no matter what Gina Ford said!
Eye contact was unavoidable. Gazing into his eyes became a favourite pastime in our household and it soon became apparent that he was in charge and we, as his parents, were simply put on this earth to to cater to his every whim. Resistance was futile. Once we accepted and embraced that everything fell into place.
Babies are not born with the ability to manipulate. They only know what they need and when they need it. They are actually very accomplished communicators, you just need to tune in to what they are telling you and trust me, they have so much to say.
Watch your baby, talk to him and watch him mimic your facial expressions even from an early age. He is constantly learning from you and the early stimulation he receives from you will set the stage for how he learns and interacts with others in later life. Loving interactions with caring adults strongly stimulate the brain causing synapses to grow and existing connections to get stronger. Connections that are used become permanent, those which are not used ‘die’ and are irreplaceable.
Gina Ford also advises parents to leave their child to cry for up to an hour so it will learn not to always expect to be picked up. Why would we want our child to not expect to be comforted if he is upset or needing reassurance? The child that is left to cry doesn’t stop because he has suddenly acknowledged the error of his ways. He has stopped because he has become exhausted and realised that crying is futile because nobody will come anyway.
Parenting is one of the hardest ventures any of us will ever embark on. The pressure to be perfect is immense, after all if we get this wrong we risk our child’s future happiness/life chances/mental health…etc but do we need perfection and if so, who gets to decide what perfect actually is?
I have encountered so many parents who have been reduced to tears and left with huge feelings of inadequacy because they have been unable to get their two week old infant into a routine which includes sleeping through the night, and are having nightmares about their child becoming a future delinquent because they ‘overslept’ and gave the 7am feed at 7:30.
Parenting means to prioritise your baby’s needs above your own. It’s tiring and demanding but nobody said this parenting malarkey was easy. Feed your baby when he is hungry, cuddle him close, sing and talk to him and enjoy these interactions. These days pass so quickly and you will never get them back. Trust your instincts, and his. You know what you need and so does he. You know your baby better than anyone else and YOU are the expert on your child. Babies do not need routines, they need loving, responsive parents who nurture confidence in their child by providing the assurance that they are there to catch them when they fall.
Baby Whisperers have too much to say and they need to pipe down.