5 Choices Mums shouldn’t feel forced to make

It feels like mums are always being pressured into being one thing or the other.  And it’s all so black and white. Two camps that can’t find middle ground. I reject that. I think parents are bit more sophisticated. There are lots of grey areas in parenting. Not safety and not health but in lots of other areas there is complexity and opinions. There’s the absolute and there’s doing what you can manage.

Here are five areas where I think that a polarised approach is totally unhelpful and I urge you not to feel pressured to choose one or the other.

Pro-breastfeeding vs pro-bottle

Yes, of course, we all love breastfeeding and there are plenty of studies that show that it has health benefits for babies. There are also studies that show that some of the benefits of breastfeeding may have been overstated when scientists factor in the parents’ situation. But let’s not have that debate all over again! Let’s accept that most mums want to breastfeed if they can but some can’t do it at all and some can’t produce enough milk and some find it so miserable that it is not ok to keep putting themselves through it. Some breastfeeding mothers want their husband to do the dream feed with a bottle so they can get a bit of sleep. Some babies respond well to bottles and some don’t. And when you’re working in a job where your time is measured in minutes, sometimes expressing milk at work is really, really hard. So let’s be realistic about mothers’ lives and be kind to people about breastfeeding. It doesn’t help anyone to make people feel guilty about using a bottle if that is the choice they’ve made after evaluating the facts carefully.

Attachment parenting versus discipline

Attachment parenting gets a bad rap sometimes. People make out like attachment parents are crunchy hippies when what it’s about is encouraging bonding through natural birth, breastfeeding and baby wearing. Attachment parenting has a great set of principles to guide people which includes being sensitive to baby and providing consistent care. But when taken to an extreme, some mothers can feel like they have to do whatever their baby wants whenever their baby wants it and can’t have any time for them. At the other end of the spectrum are the people who are watching the clock and won’t feed until exactly four hours go by and who want to run their day like a military school. I feel like taking either extreme is so unhelpful. I’m not launching an attack on either approach here – what I am doing is opposing extremes. You know your baby best. Trust your own instinct. And try and find some time for you. You can’t be the parent you want to be if you are not healthy and happy. Your needs are important too for your baby and for you.

Controlled crying versus no crying whatsoever

It’s a false choice to assume there’s only cry it out or anything goes – and making that false choice prevents parents getting help they really need. I don’t advocate controlled crying or cry it out techniques but the truth is, all babies will cry sometimes; it’s their way of communicating! Babies cry to tell you things and sometimes they make noises as a way of winding down which aren’t cries but can worry new mothers. I don’t advocate crying as a way of teaching a child to self-settle and I don’t think they should be crying for any extended period whatsoever but if you have a child who never ever cries, I would get a doctor to look at that child’s voice and I would be worried about the pressure that is putting on the mother. Don’t let people put that expectation on you. If people say, “Why is she crying?” say, “Because she’s a baby!” People aren’t silent and neither are most babies.

There’s one other time that a baby will cry and that’s when their mother is so exhausted she is sitting on the floor outside their room with her head in her hands because she can’t settle that baby one minute longer without losing her cool. That woman needs help. She doesn’t need someone giving her strict rules about how long her baby should cry for or making her feel guilty for letting the baby cry in the first place.

Environmental earth mother versus pillage the planet

I know a lot of mothers care deeply about our planet and want to parent in a responsible way and in a way that leaves the world in a proper state for their children to inherit. And they want to teach those values to their children. It’s wonderful to watch how caring children can be with nature and it’s something to be treasured. But there are some mothers who make other mothers feel guilty for using even one disposable nappy or for chucking a tube of processed custard in the nappy bag. Give me a break. Life doesn’t always allow us to dry our cloth nappies in the loungeroom. Sometimes you need a fistful of baby wipes and you really want to throw them away.  Yes, you should think about your impact but you also need to get through the day.

Dummy versus no-dummy

Hands up who has received strong advice about dummies? I see people whose mums or aunts are telling them they MUST introduce one and others holding on for dear life trying to prevent their child picking one up at their cousins’ house. Some kids love dummies. The evidence about the effects is actually pretty benign. So let’s take the pressure down.

What I suggest!

So next time someone horrible is criticising your way of parenting, tell them you’re not going to make the choice they want you to make because it’s not that simple. And just smile, and leave it at that.

I was, and still am stunned at how easy and quick Jo’s method was for getting my daughter to sleep through the night. – BabyBliss parent

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