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Should-ing all over yourself

Posted on May 20, 2010 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (1)

As parents we are told by so many different sources in so many different ways all the things we should do to help provide for our children and usually this advice is contradictory. They say if we don’t perfectly follow this advice our children will never overcome it. “My mom says I should let the baby cry or it will never learn to self soothe” “My pediatrician says I should feed on a schedule or baby will rule our lives” “My son’s teacher says I should give tough love or he will walk all over me” “My friends say I shouldn’t let baby sleep on me/with me or he will never learn to sleep on his own” “ Your daughter is X months/years old and she should be able to listen better”

 

Nothing undermines a new parents’ confidence more than getting shoulded all over. Instead as a society if we could model researched based best practices for babies and support parents rather than just shoulding on them their instinctive parenting ideals would kick in, they would tune into their child and make the best choices for their families. However as a society we don’t model best practices. We instead tell women breastfeeding is best and that they should do it, but provide little to no modeling or support in how to accomplish this. Then we tell them they shouldn’t feel bad about not being able to succeed yet making them feel bad anyway. While the true ‘blame’ if there is any to be given lies with society not with the individual parents. I truly do not believe the human race would have survived if 73% of mothers started out breastfeeding but only 30% were still exclusively breastfeeding only three months later and by a year less than 10% of babies were getting any breastmilk at all (See CDC rates of breastfeeding for 2006 http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/NIS_data/index.htm) However I do not attribute these staggering numbers to what the parents should or shouldn’t so…instead I would like to should all over society and say we should do a better job of supporting our new parents.

 

I know I am guilty of it as well. As a breastfeeding advocate I am quick to tell parents they “should feed on demand, feed from the breast whenever possible, etc” Now I do this because the research backs these techniques out but I need to be careful with my shoulding all over parents as well. I recently met with a couple who has worked out a system where he takes baby for so many hours at night while she gets some good solid sleep. When she wakes she pumps to replace the milk that was used during sleeping time and then nurses baby again. So far this system has been working great for them so who am I to tell them that they should do something differently. If they experience a problem later I can work through it with them but as long as parents are making educated informed choices who am I or really anyone else for that matter to tell them what they should do?

 

Who makes up all these rules anyway? Where did we get the idea that there was only one way to parent? A single one size fits all design? Who has ever had a baby that has had its needs met, was secure and confident in the world and never leaned how to sleep alone at night? In fact I would venture to say that most children stop sleeping in their parent’s bed at least by the time they move away to college and I don’t know about you but I still sleep better when my spouse is in bed with me then when he is not . Is it so awful to prefer human contact even through the night? And what about having to adhere to the baby’s timeline? What is so awful for the first months of their life to force your life to slow down and let your favorite little dictator have a say in how things are going to be done? Do all children really respond best to “tough love”. I know mine don’t so using that method really wouldn’t bode well for my children. They instead respond to gentle conversations and patience. What about yours? I’m betting your children have their own mix of nurturing and love that works perfect just for them. Any parent with more than one child can quickly attest that what works for one child most certainly will not work for another. So why do we get bogged down by all these “shoulds”

 

So today my challenge to you is to block out anyone who tells you what you should or shouldn’t do. Look at your child, connect on the most basic level with your child and see what your child needs you to do. They are the only people who should have the power to tell you how you should raise them. Don’t let anyone else should all over you.


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