'My 4-month-old is driving me crazy, she won't let me put her down. The second she is out of my arms, she cries. I mean there's NOTHING wrong with her, she's been fed, burped, changed and napped...'
Babies don't have 4 single needs. Imagine being told that out of all the needs you have, only 4 will be met. Nuts right? Babies are totally new (obviously) and every little thing that is normal to you is new to them. They are learning all about the world every single day, and where better to learn about the world, than from the safety of mommy and daddy's arms. They need to feel loved, they need to feel safe, they need to feel secure.
But now, many parents think that once the basic needs are met, any fussiness after that, is the baby 'being clingy' and I've even heard it being said that the baby is 'too clever and knows how to get his own way.' Seriously? You're telling me this tiny little person, who doesn't yet have the coordination to find his own nose, is manipulating me? So what answer are many of these parents given? Baby needs to learn how to self-soothe.
The only way babies can burn energy is through crying (seriously, are you nuts?) Baby needs to take a bottle. Baby needs to take a soother. The list goes on.
We recently moved to a new town, not long before my youngest, Aeson was born, so we had to register with a new doctors office.
When I took him to the doctor for his 6-week check up, I was pretty excited to see what the doctor had to say about him because he was putting on so much weight and doing amazingly. Every gram of his weight was from my body and my milk and after really tough breastfeeding journeys with his brother and sister, I was so proud and happy that things were going so well.
The doctor called me in from the waiting room and I carried Aeson into his office in his car seat. I sat down and the doctor ran through some questions with me. I said he was breastfed, told him his birth weight etc. Then it was time for him to be checked and this is when everything went wrong. I lifted Aeson out of his car seat and the doctor asked me to lay him on the examination table and strip him down to his vest and the doctor began his checks.
He started by checking Aeson's hips, rotating them and bending and stretching Aeson's legs. Aeson began to cry (as any baby would) and the doctor turned to me and asked did I have a soother and I said that he didn't take a soother. He turned back to Aeson, shook his head and went on to say 'you see, this is the problem with breastfed babies', kind of irritated, I told him that it was not a problem for me. He carried on through his checks.
Aeson cried and he continued to shake his head and tut. He said 'he is 6 weeks now so that is enough of this feeding on demand nonsense, he only needs to be fed every three hours. If he cries in between feeds, no harm done. Babies need to be left to cry.' I looked at him, totally horrified and told him firmly that 'Actually he does not need to be left to cry, he needs security and that is exactly what I will give him.'
He brought Aeson over to weigh him (he didn't even tell me the weight, I had to ask) brought him back to the table and told me I could dress him again so I dressed him and tried to soothe him The doctor then told me he had to check his throat, eyes and ears and that then he would be finished. He stuck a lollipop stick into his mouth and checked his throat and naturally, Aeson screamed.
Then things got really bad, he lifted my screaming baby up, brought him to his car seat and put him into it. I said that I would calm him down first and that I would put him in his seat. The doctor turned and said 'no no, crying will do him no harm.' and positioned himself between me and my baby. I stood up and went to rock the car seat and he pulled the car seat closer to him and said 'now, that's no good.'
At this stag, my blood was boiling.
The doctor told me to sit up on the table so he could check my c-section scar. I pulled the car seat from him, took Aeson out, held him close to me in one arm and lifted the car seat in the other arm. I told the doctor that I was leaving and demanded that he opened the door for me. I left the doctors, got into the car, latched Aeson on and sobbed.
Aeson was so upset that he couldn't even latch on properly and choked. In all the time since he was born, he has barely cried at all, the worst he has ever cried was while I changed his nappy and even then, I soothe him. I was so angry and upset. How dare this perfect stranger be so forceful with his views and opinions. Regardless of what letters come after anyone's name, they have no right to try and force their opinion on you.
Needless to say, he is no longer my doctor and I made a formal complaint about my visit with him. But what really has stayed with me, is this: this man is a doctor, he is responsible for the care of far more mothers and babies than just me.
How many babies has he treated like this and how many vulnerable new mothers have taken on his damaging advice? So many new parents rely on health care professionals for advice. The reality is, unfortunately, that we need to do our own research. We cannot always rely on the advice from healthcare professionals. We need to look at studies and evidence-based research and make informed decisions when it comes to how we care for our children.
Methods like cry-it-out and scheduled feeding are proven to be harmful and damaging, yet doctors can still advise it.
Let's just have a look at the facts.
Cry it out:
Research performed by Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine found that the sensitivity and responsiveness of a parent stimulates and shapes the nerve connections in key sections of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional well-being. The stress hormone cortisol (which floods the brain during intense crying and other stressful events) actually destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain. In addition, when the portions of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional control are not stimulated, these sections of the brain will not develop. The result – a violent, impulsive, emotionally unattached child. (1) (2)
A study carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex and at the University of Oxford found that the IQ scores of eight-year-old children who had been demand-fed as babies were between four and five points higher than the scores of schedule-fed children.
Furthermore, scheduling feeds for a breastfed baby can, in fact, be dangerous and could potentially sabotage a breastfeeding journey. Breastmilk production works on supply and demand. The more baby feeds, the more milk you will produce. If a mother forces intervals between feeds, the breasts will not produce enough milk to meet the babies needs. This then leads to issues with weight and baby not settling. At which point formula is almost always introduced.
So the long and the short of it is this: Do your own research. Make well-informed decisions and never let you or your baby be pushed around and most importantly, enjoy motherhood and enjoy your baby. Babies are small for such a short space of time, these long days and long nights are gone all too quickly. Before you know it, they're too big to curl up against your chest. Love yourself, love your baby, keep them close and watch them grow into happy, confident and loving little people. Treasure each and every moment.