Trust Your Mothering Instincts!

Tuesday , 25, June 2013 7 Comments

WARNING: I’m going to be getting up on my Soapbox!

This post was sparked, in part, by discussions with contributors to this blog at our quarterly meeting.

As a “Mama on the Far Side of Childhood,” I get questions from younger friends about how I did things with my children. Having 8 month old triplets in our family, and helping with a friend’s 2 month old twins, I’ve become much more aware of current trends in parenting. I can tell you, I don’t necessarily like the trends I’m seeing!

You have probably seen  internet missives on “the good old days.” THIS is one of my favorites. Read it, and you will see why I believe there is a huge difference in the climate of childrearing today! (Be sure to click where the link says “see more,” to read the entire post.) Based on today’s safety standards, it is a wonder that my generation made it safely to adulthood!

Generations of common sense, traditions that have been passed down through families and cultures, and mothering instincts are now being dismissed as “wrong.” Of course, the changes are being couched and publicized as progress, but I’m not so sure. There seems to be a concerted effort to minimize women’s intuition and mothering instincts, under the guise of science and safety.  I fear that the the comment by the MSNBC host about children belonging to the community, not the parents, is evidence of the philosophy behind the government’s, and other organizations’, expanding efforts to influence every aspect of child-rearing, especially education.

What has happened to our American belief in personal responsibility? It is a parent’s, not some government agency’s, responsibility to monitor their own children. Small game parts are no more of a choking hazard than rocks, acorns, and some foods! Children can drown in puddles and buckets. As parents, we need to be constantly vigilant about all kinds of dangers that might affect our children.

Legislation, lawsuits, and bureaucracy encroach on our freedoms and stifle businesses with additional costs. Zealous bureaucrats and aggressive lawyers have shut down many activities that are inherently dangerous, by making it too costly to continue doing business. Many activities I enjoyed as a child are no longer available. Motels, which used to have slides and diving boards, now have mostly shallow pools, to avoid lawsuits from people who don’t use common sense in supervising themselves and their children.

In addition to the plethora of legislative changes, surprisingly, recommendations for mothering “best practices” seem to have changed a lot, too. I, for one, am not convinced all of the changes are for the better. I am more of a believer in “contextual practices.” I think we need to consider individual situations instead of settling for “one size fits all” solutions.

For example, today’s “wisdom” says that NOTHING should be in the crib with a baby. No blankets, sheets, toys, crib bumpers, etc., because the baby might smother. I’m sure that could happen, but it seems a bit extreme, when millions of babies have survived, with cribs FULL of items that are currently “prohibited.” (Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw my non-compliant friends under the bus!)

The current notion that babies must sleep on their backs to avoid SIDS may also be junk science. Several studies show that lack of quality sleep, developmental delays, positional plagiocephaly (flattened back of the head), scoliosis, and reflux, among other complications, are all related to back sleeping.  Juliane Pigeon wrote an enlightening article on back sleeping for Nickelodeon’s Parent’s Connect website.

My babies slept on their stomachs. They each had a sheepskin. When we traveled with the sheepskins, they literally gave every location a familiar feel for our children. Apparently, sheepskins in cribs are now verboten, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, even though Australians, New Zealanders, and Americans have continuously used them for many decades. Certainly anything in a crib needs to be scrutinized. That being said, if you believe your baby will sleep more peacefully with a favorite toy or blanket, or a sheepskin, trust your mothering instincts!

As for co-sleeping: Based on my experience, it is better for a sleep-deprived, nursing mother to have her baby in bed, than risk the baby’s falling out of a chair when Mama dozes off. Here and Here are articles that discuss the pros and cons of co-sleeping.

Some kind of oversight is probably necessary to shut down disreputable companies. I’m also sure that safety precautions like bike helmets and life-preservers have prevented injuries and deaths. However, I never knew anyone who had a head injury from riding bikes before helmets. Scrapes, bruises, and maybe a broken arm,  from helmet-less bike riding were expected when you were being a daredevil! I still have an ankle scar from getting my foot caught in the spokes of my bicycle (pictured below), while my BFF was towing me, as I rode behind her on the fender seat. I have the same general thoughts about the transition from metal tricycles to big wheels. There are certain things you just can’t do on a plastic tricycle–like turn the handlebars around so a friend can ride there while you sit on the seat and pedal!

Christmas Morning

Many of the changes I’ve mentioned seem reactionary to me. Often, the government and its related agencies are overreaching. Because of isolated incidents, they try to fix things that aren’t really broken. The majority are made to suffer because of situations pertaining to a few, without there being a real need for change. I’m sure  many recommendations are made with good intentions. I simply don’t think that means change is always necessary!

For example, if you believe that co-sleeping relaxes your baby, and gives you a better night’s sleep, use your God-given mothering instincts to make that choice without guilt. If your instincts tell you there is something wrong with your baby, after a doctor tells you he’s fine, get another opinion. You’re probably right. If you have a hundred year old cradle that you’re comfortable using, even though it doesn’t meet current bar spacing guidelines, use it!

If you really start looking at warning labels,  product safety guidelines, and consumer legislation, you will go crazy! You will also gain a startling insight into just how much control our government wants to assert over our private lives! In researching for this post, I  discovered that the Consumer Product Safety Commission says they need our help as a part of their “Neighborhood Safety Network.”

The first suggestion under how to get your Neighborhood Safety Network started is: “Assess the safety issues in your neighborhood. Identify potential partners that share the same issues. Detemine how you can collaborate to solve the problem.” Ummm, I don’t want the government encouraging neighbors to gang up and spy on each other, while assessing “safety issues!”  (Similarly, I don’t think the government should have access to the content of my medical records, e-mails, and phone calls!)

By all means, observe laws, consider the advice of your pediatrician, and use common sense. On issues that are not clearly defined, do your own research and trust your mothering instincts–WITHOUT GUILT. Nobody knows your children better than you! 

(Stepping off my Soapbox now! Feel free to comment!)


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  • Leslie says:

    Wonderful, WONDERFUL article!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS NEEDS TO BE SAID OVER AND OVER! Parents are so scared these days that if they don’t do what their pediatrician, hospital, school, govt says….they aren’t doing the right thing. Helloooo! Quite the opposite! It’s your God given gift to protect! No one elses!

    This needs to be spread, lots of parents need to read this. SO MUCH COMMON SENSE!

  • Emily S. says:

    AMEN SISTER! I had 2 severe reflux babies that had to sleep on their tummies. I always went by my mothering instincts and common sense! I have encountered so many moms who trust and rely on books and internet articles WAY too much and seem to have thrown their gut instincts out the window. Tune in to your kids, not the newest trends!

  • Wendy says:

    With my first child I was definitely a “by the book” mom, but as I had my second and third child I feel like I became more tuned into my mothering instincts and to my children. It was less by the book and more what worked for our family.

  • Sara says:

    I agree with most of what’s in this article, except what occasionally came off as a dismissive attitude towards safety guidelines and progress. That being said, most of the things mentioned in the article are guidelines, and not laws. Back versus tummy sleeping, for example, is merely a guideline. It’s hard to ignore the statistics that correlate back sleeping and an empty crib with a sharp decrease in SIDS cases over the past twenty years. Of course, there are cons to back sleeping, just as you mentioned, but many of the related medical issues are rare and temporary. Pediatricians do, and often, recommend tummy sleeping for a variety of reasons, including reflux, poor sleeping, among other conditions. I would listen carefully to the advice of the pediatrician and weigh your options.

    As for the bit about government intrusion and the requirement to wear bicycle helmets, I have two anecdotal bits to add to this. When I was six years old, I was riding my bike downhill on pavement when my shoelaces got caught in the pedals. When the pedal caught the end of my shoe, I was jerked over the handlebars and landed face first on asphalt while I was going about twenty miles an hour. Even though I was wearing a helmet, I broke seven teeth out and had a minor concussion. I shudder to think of what could’ve happened had I not been wearing one. I also worked as a paramedic for a time, and to spare you the brutal details, let me just promise you that not wearing a helmet is is no one’s best interests. Accidents can, and do happen. If a law has actually been put into place, such as bicycle helmets, car seats, or seatbelts, it’s because of YEARS of statistical analysis has proven that the lack of these can result in major traumatic injuries or death. And so often, they are easily preventable.

    The part of the article where you say to trust your instincts on recommended guidelines- I’m all for that, as long as due consideration and research has been put into them. I didn’t do everything completely by textbook. Besides, whose textbook do you use? There is so much information out there and a lot of it is conflicting.

    Just please consider that there are some guidelines and laws proffered for a reason- do the research and make your on judgment call. These are your children after all.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I have to agree with Sara on this one. While I see what point you were trying to make I think making comparisons as to how things used to be is silly and short sighted. Recommendations and rules have changed because their HAS been reason for them to. While you may not have known anyone to be seriously injured or, god forbid, killed from riding a bike without a helmet it happens every day. I think a better question is why wouldn’t you wear one? It doesn’t hurt you to do so but it can absolutely hurt you if you don’t. And, as my husband and a family friend both separately were in horrible bicycle accidents where their helmets cracked (which would have been their head if they hadn’t had them on) and saved their lives I am fully supportive of that law.

    Look, my kids have/had bumpers after a certain age. They have loveys in their crib. We do make the choices we feel comfortable with. But I do think there is a reason guidelines have been put into place and it is important to remember that.

  • Jamie says:

    Thank you all for the feedback! Civil discussion is healthy and educational.

    Just to be clear, though, this post is not about bike helmets! The point of this post is not to argue specific situations. The point it to make sure that people are aware of just how much their personal freedoms are in jeopardy! My purpose was to make sure that people don’t get so distracted over little things they fail to see the big picture!

    I acknowledged there is no doubt some good has come from legislation and guidelines. You get no argument from me that there are some children, including those mentioned, whose helmets saved them from far worse trauma. HOWEVER, I am troubled that all of this oversight is eroding our freedom in “the land of the free.” Preventing a few hundred, or even a few thousand, injuries strips freedom from MILLIONS.

    Because of efforts to dictate and legislate behavior, generations of children will never know the joyful sensation of the wind blowing through their hair while peddling like crazy on their bikes. They will miss the fun of jumping off a scarily high diving board, or any number of other things that, though inherently dangerous, when done carefully and with supervision, used to be a normal part of growing up.

    The point of my article is that it is troubling to me how “normal” activities, things we once had the freedom to enjoy, are becoming forbidden or politically incorrect. The government is going so far as to take the role of our “thought and behavior police,” with the help of our more liberal media and government educational systems.

    The things that are the principal cornerstones of the United States, such as freedom from tyranny, limited government, the right to worship God, the right to bear arms, and the belief that America is exceptional because of our Constitution, are under attack. Traditional thoughts and values are being undermined by carefully crafted talking points.

    I never imagined, that in my lifetime, in the United States of America:

    1. Preventing stray dogs from being killed would be more popular and acceptable than saving viable unborn babies!
    2. Citizens would not be totally and loudly up in arms that our private phone calls and text messages are being recorded and saved indefinitely by our government.
    3. The government would not allow the military to try to save our Ambassador in Benghazi.
    4. A government agency would be encouraging neighbors to take on the role of “spies and enforcers” against their neighbors.

    My list could go on and on. I fear that many Americans, especially the younger generation, are not really following, what is going on in our country. If you only get your news from the internet, and don’t investigate all sides of issues for yourself, you are getting a skewed and sanitized version of events, in our country and the world.

    I always wondered how so many people stood by in Nazi Germany while the government became more and more oppressive. Many good people just stood by and watched as Jews were targeted and then removed from their homes and businesses. Some heroic people risked their lives to fight against the injustice, but they waited too long to turn the tide.

    What I see, as a “Mama on the Far Side of Childhood,” is our country becoming more and more like the Soviet Union of my childhood, and the Nazi Germany before that. Russia and Germany were police states. The police/Nazis had absolute authority, and could do as they pleased, including taking citizens from their homes for political reasons.

    If you have been watching the news, you know that the NSA has been monitoring the e-mails, texts, and phone conversations, of private U.S. citizens, and the IRS has been targeting conservatives and Christians. Guns are being quietly confiscated under the guise of “martial law” during emergencies, and cleverly crafted legislation.

    This story about a baby being taken from its home when the parents sought a second medical opinion for the baby is especially chilling to mothers: This story from Seattle about the increasing presence of “Homeland Security” is even more disturbing:

    Russia had a “state store” named the Russian equivalent of GUM. You could only buy the goods that were available in that store. We had two men from Soviet Kyrgyzia stay with us through the people to people exchange program, The Friendship Force. They were ecstatic about our ready availability of goods, and our freedom of travel. Their talk about the absolute power and control of the Soviet Government, as the “Cold War” was coming to an end, was frightening.

    The trend in the U.S. toward super-stores has crowded out many small “mom and pop” stores, and many of my favorite brands and products. The increase in Union power, coupled with government regulations and taxation, are a death knell for the American Dream that anyone who works hard can succeed.

    What I am seeing in our country is like the story about how to catch wild hogs. You put out food with no fence, and let the hogs eat unimpeded. Gradually, you begin to put up a fence, but you leave it open, and let them eat. After the hogs are used to the fence, when they come in to eat, you close the gate. The gradual changes going on in the United States may not seem harmful in small increments, but it’s like the Joni Mitchell song, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone….” (Click or cut and paste this link to read the hog story.

    Once a government has the majority of its citizens dependent upon them to live, they inevitably ratchet up their control. Governments become more repressive as resources lesson, and rationing must occur. What has made the United States different from other countries is the checks and balances of our legislative and judiciary branches. These controls are being largely disregarded, in order to further various agendas. It is past time for our citizens to wake up, or it is going to be too late.

    This is not a Republican or Democrat or Libertarian issue, this is an AMERICAN issue. “We The People” are only as powerful as we decide to be. Don’t get caught up in individual scandals and issues. Look at the big picture.

    If the police can take someone else’s child, they can take yours. Innocent till proven guilty is about to become a thing of the past. Don’t rush to judgment on anything or anyone. Take time to do your own research and consider the long-term consequences, before we no longer have the right to do that. “All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

    This post and my subsequent response are my own thoughts. They do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or beliefs of PSMB or other bloggers. My thoughts are based on personal observations, my life experience, and on my being a “news junkie” who follows local, state, and national news, and related issues and legislation, via multiple varieties of liberal and conservative media.

    • Elizabeth says:

      To compare the current day US with Nazi Germany or Communist Russia does help your arguments, but sort of makes them sound like ideas a conspiracy theorist may have.

      I don’t have an issue with the government monitoring my emails, because I have nothing to hide. And I would sacrifice the wind blowing in my kids hair over and over again if it means they won’t have serious, or fatal, injuries if god forbid they ever got into an accident. I really struggle to believe that enforcing bike helmets or encouraging families not to use crib bumpers or whatever the case may be, are impeding on my freedoms. They are safety measures being put into place because, even with proper supervision, things can happen, so why not attempt to eliminate the risk as much as possible?

      But, at the end of the day, this is what is great about the US. You can have your opinions and I can have mine!

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