Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bad reasons for discouraging things

(Posted late because I didn't want this to be my first return post!)

There's something that's been disturbing me about child-rearing advice and discussions, and I feel I should write it out.

I keep coming across statements by various experts (even including Brazelton) saying they don't encourage various baby ideas because they're not convenient for all parents.  I understand perhaps saying they don't push them, or don't want people to think they're obligatory, or want to make sure people who can't do them don't feel guilty or like failures, but actively discouraging parents from doing things because other parents can't is misguided.


Saying the emphasis on breastfeeding is wrong, because it's difficult for women who go back to work. (Difficult, yes; impossible, generally not.  Yes, an electric pump is expensive (a manual one's not!), but not more expensive than formula! There are enough women who pump at work for over a year to demonstrate that it can be done. (See note below, though.))

Even better: saying it's wrong because it makes women the primary caregiver, and it discourages men from taking parental leave instead of women (I hear this most from people in European countries where leave is available to be divided between parents as they wish).  Well, yes, but if it's that important to you that the mother goes back to work and the father takes leave, you can pump and he can bottle feed.

(Now, this is not to say that there isn't unnecessary guilting going on - on's breastfeeding articles, whenever they put the statement that "of course, breastfeeding is best, but it doesn't work out for everyone, so you shouldn't feel bad if it doesn't work for you," there are terribly nasty people in the comments who say "this must be sponsored by a formula company," or "it's nonsense to say it won't work for everyone - if you don't breastfeed exclusively, you're a terrible parent who wants only your own convenience and don't care about your child."  It's people like that who caused some serious depression in two of my friends who tried very hard to breastfeed but simply couldn't - and who cause much guilt among people who make a rational choice not to, due to personal health issues, medications, etc. 

And don't even get me started on the people furious about Piri Weepu, the football player in the ad bottle-feeding the baby, because it shows bottle-feeding and not breastfeeding - it's people like that, who say that a baby should never be fed by anyone but the mother and never be fed any way except straight from the breast, that would make it difficult for women to be away from the baby *at all* (more than 2 hours, at least, to say nothing of work) and to share parenting time with the fathers. 

Plus, not everyone can do the pumping thing. It’s all well and good to say businesses are required to provide pumping locations and opportunity, but not all jobs work that way – there are a lot of doctors among my friends and family, and good luck finding a hospital who will let a surgeon take a half-hour break every three hours when a single surgery can take many more hours than that – and good luck finding a surgeon who’d think that’s a good idea anyhow!

There are valid reasons not to breastfeed - but still, not enough to stop pointing out that it's best in general!)

Other things, that don’t go nearly as much to baby health but are simply parenting choices: Elimination Communication or other early potty training – apparently some people are opposed to it because it requires a caregiver to be on top of things all the time (and within quick reach of a bathroom). Daycares generally won’t do it, and not everyone has a one-on-one caregiver for the child, so those people who do have that opportunity shouldn’t, as it makes the others feel bad. (For what it’s worth, we’re doing moderate EC – as in, we do it at home, but I don’t cart a potty chair around with me or rush to take her to the public restrooms when we’re out. I figure, each diaper that doesn’t get soiled is a benefit to us and the environment, whether or not it “works” when done half-way.)

And baby-led weaning – or even diy baby food (or even cloth diapers!) – if daycares don’t do it, or they just require more attention than the store-bought option, then nobody should do it.

The Today Show was talking today (May 11) about the Time Magazine cover with the woman breastfeeding a nearly-four-year-old boy – and, more generally, about attachment parenting. Dr. Sears was on, and he was the one voice of reason: when they said, “but this isn’t feasible for everyone – what about working mothers, etc.? Won’t it make people feel they’re bad parents?” he replied, in effect, “do what you can – when you get home from work, do your babywearing, for example. It’s about balance; whatever you can do is better than nothing.”

If it makes you feel guilty about your own parenting to see me staying home with the baby rather than paying what would amount to my entire salary (librarians don't make much) to a nanny to do it for me, or to see me breastfeeding rather than giving formula, or to see me doing cloth diapers and putting her on a potty chair from three months, or to see homemade baby food or even healthy whole foods (BLW) rather than jars from the store, or to see the husband taking her for walks in a baby carrier, or to see her in handmade cotton dresses rather than the storebought polyester ones we've been given (and admittedly sometimes wear to church or parties, because they're fluffy and cute, but take off quickly, because they're slippery and hot)... well, if that makes you feel guilty, that's not my problem.  If it's justified guilt because you are truly lacking in your parenting - and many of us could name acquaintances (or celebrities) who don't seem to care about the children except as status symbols or somebody else's job, or people like the recent article on French parenting who don't breastfeed simply because it hampers their fashion sense - then perhaps you need to rethink things.  If it's guilt because you feel like you're doing the best you can, but it's not the way I do it - then you may need counseling for PPD, or simply to realize that you're doing the best you can, and everyone's style is different.  I've got no problem with pacifiers and I don't use all organic food, and I watch a lot of TV with her in the room (albeit generally facing away from the TV).  I'm not perfect, I just do things my way ... and I don't think someone else's misguided guilt is enough of a reason for me to stop.


  1. I think you are absolutely awesome.

    I had to go back to work since my job provides the insurance. I pumped for over a year and nursed for over three years. I'm proud of that. And yes, my four year old still cosleeps. And it's all okay.

    I have tried to surround myself with people who emphasise that it's okay. There are pros and cons to every situation, and you do what works for your family.

    Your daughter is amazing, and so are you.

  2. It's funny how many people think nursing a baby is inconvenient. I for one found it WAAAAYY more convenient. I didn't have to mix anything when tired and didn't have to lug around a bunch of bottles. My response to anyone who criticized breastfeeding and co-sleeping was: this is what he needs right now. Or, it works for US. The best by far was the extreme opposition we got when we co-slept. Both babies needed us but by 18 months, they were in big boy beds (no cribs). Totally debunked the myth that co-sleeping means forever. I kinda miss the co-sleeping days. It went by too fast! I hope you don't mind me posting... I checked our your link from my Sew Mama Sew giveaway :)