I am very lucky that on occasions there will be four generations of women sat around together in my family. Indeed, Miss Rose has got three great grandmothers alive, and with her two grandmothers and various aunts, great aunts and cousins as well she and I both have access to a wealth of womanly experience across the years. Of course, the times have changed a great deal and the advice is often given in barked instructions as elderly relatives are shocked at your ignorance.
Miss Rose is 11 weeks old and I breast feed on demand. If she is hungry she’s fed whether it’s been ten minutes since her last booby or six hours. I have been told in no uncertain terms since the day she was born that this will spoil her. She should be forced into a routine. My grandma who normally sits in a haze of slight dementia barely acknowledging those around her suddenly becomes alert and militarily stern informing me I should train her like a puppy! My aunty who I love dearly has told me she fed her children every four hours regardless. If they were hungry they were hungry, if they cried they cried. Four hours on the dot they were allowed food. She says that way they learned they didn’t get what they wanted on command, learned patience, and learned to only want food every four hours so she got a break between times.
When this advice is given I smile and nod, explain that you can’t over feed a breast fed baby and she only eats when she’s hungry, there’s no advantage to letting her be hungry. It has meant she’s pretty chilled out and I’m pretty chilled out. She has no reason to be getting upset because she’s left crying, so I don’t have to get upset listening to a crying baby. Of course, soon she will learn to cry to manipulate, and then I will have to have stonger rules I’m sure, but whilst she’s so young this system has made both a calm contented baby and a calm contented mummy.
The other contentious issue for us has been co sleeping. Indeed, my own mum who is usually very “go with your instincts” was extremely concerned when I told her we’re doing it. My dad, who is usually very “these are the rules, obey obey obey”, couldn’t see the issue and said we should just do it if it makes life easier. It does. It makes life much easier. We all get to sleep in the night, she gets fed and cuddled, I get sleep. We both get what we want. Again, this will change and we will have to start moving her into her own bed, but for now it is working.
Generations have always done things differently, and I swear even health professionals struggle to keep up with the changing rules. Do they sleep on their front, back or side? In the bed our out of it? Top of the crib or bottom? Fed on demand or forced into a routine? Left to cry or picked up immediately? The rules change constantly, the advice changes between countries, and between areas within those countries.
Whilst the experiences of older generations can be fantastic and advice taken, also remember that it is just that; advice. There are no hard and fast rules. Parenting is not one size fits all. Listen to what others have to say and if it makes sense for you and your family then try it, if it doesn’t work try something else. Just because it was the “done” thing in their day doesn’t mean it is right now. Give yourself credit, instincts have a big part to play in parenting and trust yours. We want the best for our children, and if “training like a puppy” gives you and your family the best life then fair enough, my grandma would be proud and probably tell you off a lot less than she tells me off! Might pour her a nice stiff gin next time I visit.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!