There’s never been so much advice being thrown at mums from all directions.
If it’s not a relative telling you how they guaranteed 12 hours of sleep from birth with a shot of whisky (just nod and smile!), then it’s the health visitor bamboozling you with the epic list of NHS dos and don’ts.
As if we don’t have enough to contend with as it is after the full-body mauling that is childbirth, now our brains are being filled with orders on what we should be doing with our babies.
And these guidelines aren’t just about helping you settle in nice and calmly to parenting, they’re accompanied by the warning that if you don’t do this your baby will definitely die! This is a definite trigger for mum guilt.
Now we’re more knackered than we’ve ever been, filled with love for this tiny human, desperate to keep him/her safe and living in fear because of the “rules”. Break them and you risk a “tut tut” the next time you get a visit from your friendly NHS rule enforcer.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think we should be listening to the advice and acting on it. Advances in science and studies on infant mortality mean there is more accurate information than ever before. The “Back to Sleep” campaign encouraging parents to put babies on their backs rather than tummies to sleep, as had been the old advice, began in 1991.
This simple piece of advice caused the number of sudden infant deaths (SIDs) to plummet by two thirds in just a couple of years.
When it comes to bed clothes and blankets, there’s plenty of advice about how to make sure your child doesn’t overheat, which is a big SIDs risk. I think the thermometers and clothing charts that come with Grobags are the most helpful advice I’ve ever seen. It tells you exactly what your baby should be in depending on the temperature in the room, so should eliminate the worry about bedding.
Sterilising bottles for newborns is another one that I’ve always taken seriously. It makes sense to me that tiny tummies need to be protected from bugs.
When I was pregnant I took my folic acid supplement religiously. This is another piece of advice that has sound science behind it. Studies have shown if mums take the supplement the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida is reduced by 70 per cent. No-brainer, right?
However I must confess I have broken several of the “rules” with both my children. I’m sure I would receive a stern telling-off from the judgemental mum brigade that lurks on some internet chat rooms. But I’ve made my decisions based on the information available to me. I’ve taken all advice into account and combined it with my own commonsense and what I want to do.
The rules I have broken are:
Keep baby in your room for six months.
Ours were both evicted by six weeks. They were both seriously noisy sleepers and wriggled about so much in their sleep they made the Moses basket stand creak. However because my youngest has turned out to be a frequent nighttime terror, I’ve spent much of her first seven months in her room anyway. The official advice says putting a baby in their own room increases the risk of SIDs in the first six months. The medical community cannot pinpoint why this is. I decided a well-rested mum and dad wherever possible was important for everyone’s health and that we were acting responsibly with our babies’ bedding and sleep positions. We also always had the monitor on next to the bed.
Baby should be in the same room as you at all times even when napping.
While we’re on the subject my babies also napped in their rooms from an early age. For my youngest this was mainly because there was no way she could sleep with my toddler hurling soft toys around the lounge. So I weighed up what’s more important again. The baby needs sleep, proper sleep, for her mental and physical development. I can’t snap at the toddler to be quiet 100 times a day, that’s not fair on her. So baby went for naps upstairs in her room and I continually checked on her via the monitor.
Don’t let baby sleep in bouncy chair.
This is a SIDs risk and while I take it seriously and would never have left her in there overnight, my youngest did take naps in this in the early weeks. It was the only way to get her to sleep at times without her needing to be held.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is best.
I breastfed both my kids, but they also both had formula within the first few days of life. This was to make sure they were eating enough and to give me a breather. It did not ruin the breastfeeding relationship or wreck my supply. It made me a better mum because I had a break. I recall reading something amid the pile of health advice that said you’re detracting from the goodness of breast milk by giving formula. I hate this kind of guilt heaped on mums. Yes we know breast is best, but we also need to look after ourselves in order to look after our kids. Sometimes formula is needed to make life a little easier, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Happy mum, happy baby.
Some people may be horrified that I would ignore official guidance. But if you’re like me, you will think you have to make the right and informed choices that suit your family, with your baby’s best interests at heart.
Did you break any of the NHS baby “rules”? What do you think mums should do when faced with so much information and guidelines?