Sunday, December 31, 2006

Balancing Official Recommendations With Your Instincts

My mother-in-law has said to me often that the problem with baby books is that the babies do not read the books. While it sounds silly, there is truth in this idea. Babies have no idea what the developmental milestones are that they should reach, and they change often even for the adults involved in caring for children. Some pediatricians will expect that all babies are on schedule on every developmental task while others allow for more flexibility. Moms, though, can find themselves panicking if baby is not trying to roll over when she should be.

Even if you have the books and have read them, though, you still have some sort of instinctive feel about what is right for your baby. We are not talking about maternal instinct here. Instead we are talking about your feeling that something just is not right. One of your jobs will be to learn to balance the instinctive feelings you have with what the current pediatric information says is correct.

One of the biggest issues that cause this dilemma for parents is feeding. Most parents have pediatricians who tell parents not to feed their children anything besides formula or breast milk until the baby is at least six months old. Even then, you should begin very slowly with rick cereal and move on to fruits, veggies, and meats, giving the baby only a taste or two. The problem with this decision is that many babies fuss more when they are hungry.

Babies who were big to begin with are less likely to be satisfied with just milk. Mom and Dad are left with a baby who cannot get enough without something more substantial, but the books are saying that the baby should not be eating. Many parents also want to give their babies a little cereal with milk in the evenings so that they can sleep through the night. While pediatricians claim this idea is a myth, parents know differently. A baby who has a full tummy will sleep better. Adults are the same way.

So, what do you do?

You have to decide what works best for you as a family and what will benefit your baby. While some crying certainly is okay for a baby, she should not be crying for hours on end. Doing so means that she needs something. Mom, too, may not be able to keep pace with a baby who wants milk every hour. While feeding on demand is a great idea in theory, it is a tough way to continue feeding the baby. You will have to decide if you can make the lifestyle changes required for these types of schedules or whether you should move to something that may not be advisable according to official guidelines but that works best for your baby.

This same concept applies to later feeding issues, such as whether or not to keep your child away from wheat, peanut butter, and seafood. The official guidelines on seafood, for example, say that you should shield your child from it until he is four. For families that eat a lot of seafood, that advice may not be the best, and if you have no known allergies, then you could make the decision that your child will be okay.

When you are comparing your instincts to what pediatric guidelines say, you have to keep a couple of things in mind. First consider why something has become the guideline. Understanding the why behind seemingly arbitrary decisions makes it easier to grasp them. Also think about any counter evidence. My son is small, for instance. Current thinking is that toddlers should not have Vitamin D milk because of the fat content, but for a little guy, that advice does not make sense. My son does not get junk food, which is part of why he is so slender, so cutting out the fat content in milk does not seem to work in our situation. Still, it is a decision that I made only after thinking about why doctors are saying about the fat content in the milk and why they are making the suggestion. It is important to educate yourself on these issues so that you can make the best choice for your baby.

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