Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Best Advice I Never Took

By: Heather Pohlabel

So, you are pregnant! Wonderful! This is the most wonderful experience of your life, whether it is your first or tenth child, so enjoy it and take time to prepare yourself for the major changes that will take place in your life from this point on. Brace yourself for the pain of childbirth, embrace the joy of motherhood, and most of all, beware of advice from the "experts"!

Here are some frequently offered, best intentioned pieces of advice that you should ignore:

"Put cereal in their bottle, and they will sleep all night"
This is wrong in so many ways. First of all, babies don't NEED to sleep through the night - the parents are the ones who find this a necessity. However, babies have tiny little bellies that empty much quicker than our big bellies. They need to eat more frequently, bottom line. Secondly, babies will stop getting up every few hours as they age. Around two months, they will typically only get up one time during the night as opposed to two or three times, so you ARE going to get more sleep during the night - just not a full night's sleep, and you knew this going in to your pregnancy. It does not last forever and is part of being a parent. Finally, those sleepy hours when everyone else is asleep is the perfect time to bond and play one on one with your baby without distraction. Some of the cutest smiles and loving gestures are shared at 3:30 a.m. while everyone else is fast asleep in bed. These days won't last forever, so even though you are tired, cherish them.

Babies have their own schedule, and you must adhere to it. Adding cereal to their bottles will not guarantee sleep and may cause your baby to have digestive problems or become overweight. Ask your baby's doctor if you are in doubt as to when to start giving your baby cereal or when and how much to add to a bottle if you are using it to reduce spit up or acid reflux.

"Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your child"
While this MAY hold true as far as nutritional value, there are MANY advantages to bottle feeding that breastfeeding advocates fail to recognize. Bottle-fed babies can be fed by ANYONE at ANY TIME. Dad can share in the bonding as well as siblings and grandparents. Many mothers are self-conscious about breastfeeding in public, and will suffer engorged breasts and fussy babies until they get to a comfortable place to feed. Bottle-fed babies can be fed anywhere at any time by anyone.

Current formulas are more enhanced to be more like mom's breast milk. There are nutrients and proteins in many formulas much like mother's milk. It is very uncommon to not be able to find a suitable, healthy formula for your baby, and you don't have to worry about what you put in your body affecting your baby. You can also sleep at 2 a.m. while dad gets up to feed the hungry baby!

Some women just are not comfortable with breast feeding, and that is OK and perfectly normal. Not every woman or every child for that matter was cut out for breast feeding. If so, there would be no bottles or formula available. Some mothers have inverted nipples and some babies have weak sucking ability. Other mothers have difficulty feeding their children and may underfeed them or view them as a burden. Breastfeeding is a very emotional and physical task, and not all women are cut out for it or want it.

Breastfeeding is best for some women, but not for all. Be comfortable with your choice, whether it be breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

"Let them cry it out"
While not every sound out of your baby's mouth calls for an immediate pacifier or bottle, some cries should not be ignored.

Sometimes babies are making noises to find out what their voices do, how you respond to their calls, and to test their own vocal abilities. They will continue to do this for years. If there are no tears involved, the best bet is that your baby is either trying to talk to you or just testing out her voice. There is no need to try to quiet your child; let her talk and enjoy the sound of her voice just as she enjoys the sound of yours!

A cry is different and needs attention. You should not let your baby just cry and cry unless you are frustrated with your baby and the sound of her cry. In that case, put her in a safe place and leave the room to calm down. Come back to her when you can comfort her. Most cries are due to hunger, pain, or needs. Your baby may be soothed with a bottle, a hug, or in more extreme cases, medication (usually under the advice of your baby's physician; however, gas drops can be given if you suspect your baby to have an upset stomach due to gas).

A pacifier and a swaddling blanket will often soothe a baby when nothing else seems to work. Rocking the baby in a rocking chair could provide comfort or placing her in a swing may take care of the problem. Sometimes baby just needs a relaxing, calm environment in which to rest. Try putting on a soothing CD and dimming the lights. Rubbing your baby's tummy or gently touching her face while lying near her may be what is needed to reassure her that she has a parent near and that she is safe. Never shake your baby out of frustration. This can cause irreparable damage to her brain.

These are three very common pieces of advice given to new mothers (and even returning veterans) on how to care for their babies. When people offer advice, they are doing it in the best of intentions (yes, even your mother-in-law has the best intentions when offering her two cents), but often it is not best to heed their advice.

When to ask for and take advice:
There will come a time when even your common sense is not telling you what to do with your baby. This is when you reach out and ask a seasoned mother for advice. Once you've exhausted everything you know to do, it's time to call in someone who has survived every possible child related incident imaginable. But always remember, you know your baby best, and you will make the best choices for her. When you don't know what to do, reach out to someone who has lived through it, but beware if they advice you to "put cereal in her bottle", if they make you feel guilty for not breastfeeding, or if they advise you to "let her cry it out". These are just classic examples of bad advice and should not be followed.

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