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The Most Common Call

What would others say if they could see him sleeping outside of his bed?

It always starts the same.  I meet couples in my prenatal classes; we spend an informative 14 hours together (between prenatal and breastfeeding classes) and build a rapport.  I double check, at the end of our time together, that each couple has my contact email so that they can reach me if something comes up that wasn’t clear or if they just have a simple question and don’t have anyone else to ask.

Their babies come and I am the lucky recipient of pictures, stories and gushing about how wonderful it is to become a parent.  They are blissed out on baby love and they are running on pure adrenaline.  They have just come home from the hospital or their midwives are making the bi-daily visits to their house and everything is GREAT!

Then, a couple of days or weeks later the questions come to my inbox.  They are the “IS THIS NORMAL?” emails.  Ninety nine times out of one hundred everything is perfectly normal.  Why can’t they find these answers in the plethora of “baby” and “parenting” books that are out there?  Why can’t they get answers from family and friends?  Because everyone seems to forget the little stuff that make parents’ hearts pause.

I don’t mind getting the emails.  I REALLY don’t.  I wish that all of the “experts” would tell parents the stuff that they really need to know instead of trying to tell them how to make the baby sleep through the night (putting them at risk of SIDS/SUDS – see my SIDS/SUDS – Breastfeeding and more blog entry) and how to make the baby less dependent on his/her parents.

So, what are the most common questions I get?

1) “I read, in baby book “X” that I should be doing “xyz” with my baby and I tried it once or twice but it really didn’t feel right so I wondered if it would be too harmful for my baby if I didn’t actually do it?”  (I have to insert here that “xyz” is usually: putting baby to bed while still awake, letting baby cry-it-out or setting a feeding schedule for baby.)

ANSWER: If it doesn’t feel right then it isn’t right for your family.  It is important to know that some babies have different needs than others.  Some babies need to be snuggled to sleep.  You aren’t spoiling your child by loving them.  To borrow a phrase from Dr. William Sears, “babies aren’t fruit, they don’t spoil.”  Remember that only items which are left on their own, unattended, spoil.

2) “My baby used to sleep “X” amount of hours and now he is waking every “Y” hours.  Why? Are we doing something wrong?

ANSWER: How old is your baby?  Are you aware of the growth/development patterns for babies the same age as your child?  Is there a growth spurt which typically happens around this time?  Is your child teething?  Is s/he in the process of learning something new?  Did you know that babies struggle to go all night and not wake to practice new skills?  If you think about the fact that for your baby everything is brand new and that they have to work for many hours to develop a new skill it makes sense that they will wake every few hours to practice.  Wait until they learn to pull into a standing position and don’t yet know how to get back down.  I have heard of countless parents waking to the cries of a frantic baby only to get into the nursery to find their child standing in the crib absolutely furious.  They then watch the same, angry baby slip into a soundless sleep instantly as soon as the parents lie their baby back down again.  The child was just stuck in the standing position and was tired and needed the help of a parent.  It isn’t manipulation, as many would have you believe, it is a basic and fundamental NEED.

3) “Everyone tells me to leave fruit to the end when I am introducing new foods to my baby because otherwise s/he will never eat vegetables.  I thought breastmilk was really sweet.  Doesn’t it make more sense to start with food that tastes more sweet than savoury?”

ANSWER: You’re using your common sense here.  Yes, breastmilk has a very high level of lactose in it (human lactose, not cow’s milk lactose – the two are VERY different) and therefore it is often easiest to introduce fruit as a first baby food.  The “rules” about what foods to introduce were written when the majority of babies were fed artificial baby milk and so their food tasted the exact same; morning, noon and night.  That milk was flat and bland and so the fear of many careproviders was that the sweetness of fruit would be too much for babies and they would never choose to eat veggies.  What gets forgotten these days is that breastmilk changes flavour as a result of everything we eat and drink.  If our food is varied in its palate then the flavours baby becomes used to will be varied as well.  Most of the children I know, who were breastfed and were offered bananas, apples, pears, and carrots – all VERY sweet foods – as their first solid foods were more than happy to dig into a bowl of peas, beans or other less-sweet vegetables too.

There are always answers out there to your parenting worries.  Most of them are simple and common-sensical.  Is it okay to ask, even when you think you know the answer?  Absolutely.

Should you trust your instincts though?  YES!  You know your baby better than anyone else in the world.  The two of you are with this baby all of the time and are the parents of this child.  No one, not a book-writing baby “expert,” a careprovider or your own friends and family members, should have more say than you do over what is right and wrong for your baby.  Trust your instincts and follow your heart!

If you ever have any questions, just let me know.  I am happy to listen to your worries and help you come to the answer that works best for you.

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