When I was browsing in the book shop yesterday, I looked at all of the parenting books, especially those for babies. I was amazed at how many there are which seem to be focussed on enforcing routines on babies. There are a few great parenting books, and my favourite is definitely Robin Barker’s ‘Baby Love’. Robin Barker has lovely, sensible approach and manner to parenting.
Virtually all the other books in the bookshop essentially promoted various were ways to let your baby ‘cry it out’. They tell you what babies ‘should’ be doing and what they are ‘capable’ of doing. One in particular, which I won’t name, has rigid routines to follow from birth, and reading it horrifies me.
It seems that there is an emphasis on getting babies to fit into our lifestyles, rather than mother and baby working out a way of managing together. The books which emphasise routines are purely ‘parent-led’ routines: getting the baby to fit in to our lives as soon as possible. They tell you when they should nap, and eat, and how much milk you should express and from which breast so that the baby can have a bottle at night. They tell you that you shouldn’t give your baby much affection at night when they wake, and they will learn to sleep through. All of these things go against both my instincts, and my professional philosophy.
It’s probably true that these babies will sleep all night, but what are we teaching them by doing this? We teach them that there is no point in crying, as you won’t get what you need. Sadly, our society values children who seem to be self sufficient, and who don’t cry or complain. The opposite should be true: children should feel secure enough to cry if they need help, and know that someone will come and help them.
Babies will get into their own routines: our job is to support them in that. We need to recognise when they are tired and put them somewhere quiet to sleep, and we need to recognise when they are hungry and feed them. We shouldn’t be telling them when they should eat, sleep or play. I believe that babies will lead us into the routine that they need and want.
When we make the decision to have children, we are making a decision to change our lives forever. We can’t expect to still have dinner and watch TV in peace, and sleep all night, and have lots of rest. Deciding to have a baby means that you are inviting them to be part of your family: everyone has to fit around each other, and we should not try to mould a little person into what we think they should be.