Parenting advice and childcare books have been around for nearly 100 years.
Truby King from New Zealand wrote “Feeding and Childcare” in 1913. In those days his focus was on baby/child nutrition and hygiene. Indeed – Health Visitors in the UK were originally employed to promote exactly that. Nowadays – we are all aware of basic hygiene – some would say too much. And we all know that “breast is best” or are able to substitute breast milk with formula which is as scientifically close to breast milk as is humanly possible.
So when did we start getting so screwed about parenting? Even to the point of worrying if baby doesn’t have the required amount of sleep/naps he/she should have for his age?
From Gina Ford to Penelope Leach to The Baby Whisperer all have a different opinion on child care. Which begs the question for confused parents – who is right?
We have been looking after parents and children for over 45 years between us. if you ask us what makes our job interesting it is that every family, parent, baby/ child is different and individual. So no one way will be right for all.
Of course it’s useful for parents to have information. The new government driven NHS Parents will help but the information so far has been very general – nothing that can’t be found on line anyway. Our email yesterday (yes – between us we have a baby who is five weeks old, purely out of professional interest you understand) talked about sex after baby. This will affect all couples differently. We have known of a dad rushing to the surgery for condoms when his baby was just a few days old and other couples who literally put sex “on hold” for a year. How different is that?
Penelope Leach and Sue Gerhardt would have us believe that to leave a baby to cry to sleep for 10 minutes (yes – just 10 minutes) will cause our baby’s brain to flood with cortisol and cause irrevocable damage. Whereas Gina Ford tells us that regimented routines (which no doubt involve crying) are the “right” way to parent. In the 1960’s babies were routinely “put out in the garden” for a nap and very likely “balled” themselves to sleep. Mum had to get on with other things like washing the clothes in the twin tub or God forbid, wring clothes with a mangle. Shopping, cooking and feeding four or five children was a full time job – no wonder mum needed her children to have a routine nap.
Parenting, including baby/child sleep has mostly been influenced by the societal pressure of the time. In large families of bygone years every child knew his bedtime. There was no fuss, no “just one more story”, it was given that when we were put to bed – we stayed in bed, that is until morning. It was part of the “unwritten” rules of the household. But we all knew. Today our children are precious, so precious. Financially most of us can only afford one or two children. We want them to be the best, have the best. We are torn between parenting the “right” way so that our children do not suffer long term emotional damage.
At a recent parent and toddler group we attended many mums admitted to lying about their baby/child “sleeping through the night”. They felt guilty, felt they were to blame and lied in the quest for the perfect baby. Society expects “good” babies/children to sleep like little angels. Hence the uprising of baby/child sleep guru’s – like ourelsves.
It is true to say that through research we have learned a huge amount about infant sleep in the last 20 years. And it is true to say that many sleep difficulties are caused by inconsistent parenting or parenting behaviours. In fact, at least 80% of infant sleep diffiiculties can be helped by behavioural intervention. Now we’re not saying we promise parents an angel sleeper – that is unrealsitic. But we can promise to significantly improve your baby/child’s sleep.
Parenting experts? Baby/child sleep experts? By all means listen to their advice but only follow it through if it feels “right” for you as parents.