Saturday, July 25, 2009

"If You Want Convenience, Get a Doll..."

Wow- someone read my mind! Then, traveled back through time, and wrote it down. That's my stance, and I'm sticking to it.

I stumbled across this article, originally written in 1994 and updated later, by Katherine Dettwyler. It describes exactly why scheduling the habits of a baby is detrimental to the baby (and perhaps mom as well).

She describes the phenomenon of scheduled feeding, which a lot of "mainstream" parenting "experts" like to champion. These "experts" (many of whom, oddly enough, are men and thus will never actually give birth, deal with the swirling, twirling and whirling hormones involved, and will probably never lactate. Unless they're dedicated enough to induce lactation. We won't go there.)

Dettwyler only focuses on breastfeeding (and touches briefly on co-sleeping, as it relates to nursing on a natural schedule) but one thing I have found with the "Baby Trainers" is that every function of a baby's body is somehow related to discipline. And by "discipline," they don't necessarily mean a practice or a form of guiding, but they mean a way to shape and mold a baby onto an adult's personal time table.

Let's define "Baby Trainer," first. Not everyone who writes a parenting book is a "Baby Trainer." Only those who guarantee that a baby will be compliant, complacent, and will fit neatly into the current 9 to 5 work week schedule, by ANY means, is a Baby Trainer. Someone who recommends particular foods or recipes, then, is not a Baby Trainer. Someone who states that if a parent does X, Y, and Z and that they WILL get the results of an infant sleeping all the way through the night, is a Baby Trainer.

The first three months of a baby's life are currently referred to as the "Fourth Trimester." Human babies, it seems, are born prematurely. Even if they come at 41 or 42 or (gasp- "How did your doctor ALLOW this???") 43 weeks, they are still about three months behind other primates at birth- they are very fetal in nature, prefer to be curled like a little bug, and still require the closeness, warmth, heartbeat, and constant nutrition of the womb. Only, mom gets to do this from the outside, now.

Gianna, at age 2 years and 1 week, is now doing the following:
- Sleeping through many nights, often in her own bed.
- Eating meals with us, and snacking sporadically throughout the day, depending on her hunger level. She is NOT a picky eater- she eats everything from marinated eggplant and pickles, to kale (white bean, carrot and kale soup is her favorite meal ever) to raw zucchini.
- Working on the potty. Two steps forward, one step back.
- Exploring the backyard while I hang out in the distance and let her do her thing, playing independently with many different types of toys, speaking to other adults and children, and showing empathy when other kids are sad, or get hurt, or are happy.

None of this was trained into her. God knows, we had some nights where I just wanted to poke my eyes out and run screaming for the hills- parenting is NOT easy. Nothing worthwhile is easy- every single thing in life that is worth having requires work. A successful career, a happy marriage, one's own health and well-being, etc. It doesn't just "happen," and it also can't be forced into place. All the time that I was nursing on demand (and at three weeks and then at three months, "on demand" meant, "May as well not even wear a shirt today," thanks to appropriate developmental leaps)... all the nights where she woke up every 45 minutes... every time she kicked me square in the eyeball in the middle of the night... she did not turn into a selfish monster, demanding constantly that I succumb to each and every whim. There are many parts of the day I don't have to entertain her- she does really well on her own. All of the "What if's?" and questions that the "Baby Trainers" bring up just did not come to pass.

Snake-oil salesmen. Professors of lies. Heretics, some of them, if they are writing that God intends for all children to follow a clock. Really, they're cheats. They grab the attention of parents desperate to do the right thing by their child, by using all the right words, and promising the moon. Parents who buy into this are by no means stupid or even necessarily abusive (to begin with), but want the very best for their child. These crooks are selling just the right magic beans.


2Shaye ♪♫ said...

Amen. You know, with our first and second babies we went from book to book to book...feeling anxiety because of all the contradictions and yet all of the authors who felt sure that their ideas and methods were "it." I'm glad we did the reading, but not so happy that we felt so pressured to comply.

I first read about the Fourth Trimester theory in The Happiest Baby on the Block and was immediately intrigued. If nothing else, considering the implications of this theory certainly made me stop and think about how much nurturing and support my babies need as they are discovering their own needs and developing their attitudes about MY responses to their communicated needs.

So yes, there have been many, many nights and days where life didn't seem convenient--especially when compared to the mainstream standards of what parenting a baby "should" be like. But I wouldn't trade it for the world...especially as I see my now 5-year-old with such confidence and assurance that her mommy and daddy are listening to her and considering HER needs along-side our own.

Why do I have to write such long comments? I blame you. ;)

Clara said...

I love reading it!