By Christina VanGinkel
After raising three children, two of which are now competent adults and the third well into his teenage years, I can honestly say that picking up and holding a crying baby is not going to make the world fall off its axis! What I cannot tell you is how many times I was berated as a young mother for picking up one of my babies, even as they aged into toddlers, when they cried, or just because I felt like picking them up and holding or rocking them. Nursing a baby will also not rock the world, nor will feeding them a bottle. Both if done responsibly are acceptable ways to feed an infant, as long as you are comfortable with the choice. Moreover, that was the issue for me as a young mother, and one I am forever seeing other new and even not so new mothers struggle with some twenty years after I went through it.
The family that I married into had a strong belief that infants and toddlers should not be picked up each time they cry, that bottles, and not breasts, were made to feed babies, and spoiling a child was a given if you ever gave in to their demands, even as an infant. According to their beliefs, all three of my children should be nothing more than spoiled adults, led down that path by their mother who picked them up when they cried, breastfed them when they were infants, and then let them keep their bottles far past the age when it was acceptable by their standards.
I disagreed with it all of course and followed my own course, even though it was not the popular thing to do.
For example, I could see no harm in trying to feed my babies the natural way, even if it meant that I was an outcast amongst my husband's family. I do not even know where I heard that feeding babies was okay either way, but that if a mother was willing to try breastfeeding, it sure would not hurt. It might have been through our state W.I.C. program, which stands for Women, Infants, Children, and is a supplemental feeding and health program for women, infants, and children in many states. As a young mother some twenty odd years ago, I qualified for the W.I.C. program and attended meetings on such issues as feeding my children as healthily as I could on a budget. Breastfeeding was a topic that was the focus of one of the first meetings I attended as a young, and soon to be mother. That the first few days of life could only be improved if the child were given the chance to breast feed, even if only for a short time, not to mention the benefits for the mother, which included helping her get back to her pre-pregnancy shape quicker was discussed. It all made sense to me, so even when those around me frowned on the fact that I was breastfeeding, I nonetheless did it. I cannot say that I breastfed any of my children for a long length of time, one for about a month, the second for almost a year, and the third for five months. I then moved each to a bottle, and one of them kept that bottle for nearly three years. Unpopular to say the least, but he was not ready to give it up. My other two, numbers two and tree respectively, never showed much interest in their bottles and both had given them up close to the one-year mark. This meant that my daughter, younger than her older brother actually gave up her bottle before her older brother did. I tried to point this fact out to my husband's relatives, stating the fact that I was simply allowing each child to progress at his or her own pace, but I was met with reactions that stretched from I was doing it all wrong, to I was young and did not know any better!
As to picking up my babies when they cried, I did it all the time, at the slightest provocation, and I continued to carry them around past the point that it was probably prudent to do so. Now I am a grandmother of a three year old and I still do not hesitate to pick him up and carry him around if he is in the cuddling mood. Is it always convenient? No, not as much as I remember it to be, but I still do it, as does my daughter. With an infant, I see no point in letting them howl at the top of their lungs for long periods. Yes, they might be fed, dry, and warm, but some babies still fuss and I see nothing wrong with picking them up and holding them when they do. Maybe they are just craving a bit of personal contact, or maybe they like the motion of being carried in your arms or rocked. As they get a bit older, they might even become a bit spoiled for lack of a better word. Did it cause the world to cave in and collapse? Not at all.
Did I pick them up every single time they wanted to be picked up? No, I would not go so far as to say I carried them all of the time, just a lot. If I was cooking, I never held them, worried about splatters from the stove or having them reach their tiny hands towards the flame. Maybe because I never picked them up or carried them by the stove, as the kitchen was mostly off limits to them as infants and toddlers now that I think about it. Except for mealtimes when they were in their high chair or seated at the table, they learned that I would not pick them up or hold them when I was cooking.
What it all comes down to, is if you are a new mom, and your baby is crying, you have changed their diaper, fed them, all seems well, yet they still are crying, do whatever your heart tells you to do. If you want to pick them up, hold them, or sit and rock them, go ahead and do it. If you think they will settle down quicker by letting them fuss for a bit in their crib, and you are comfortable with the crying as many moms are, then go ahead and let them soothe themselves. Do not let someone else influence you on such a decision, no matter which way your decision swings. Either is right. As long as you are a good mom and love your babies, chances are they will grow up to be as well adjusted as any body else no matter your decisions about such topics as bottles, breastfeeding, and picking them up if they cry when they are small.