Mom and Dad know best

Ever since my pregnancy of Klaas I have been surprised about all the tips and advice, most of which seem more like urgent requests, that flood you as a young parent (to be). How do you find your way in the jungle of possibilities if you have no idea where to begin? Which pieces of advices do you follow and which, perhaps more importantly, do you ignore?

In December 2016 we went to the midwife for the first time. We had already gone through fertility treatments, but let’s put that aside (speaking of ‘advice’ and ‘tips’). Our journey as mom and dad started with a baby the size of a pea. Can I still play sports, and if so, how much? Can I really not have a single drop of alcohol or will a piece of tiramisu be harmless? And what about oysters, because you van wake me in the middle of the night for a plate of those. I found myself looking up a lot of stuff and then checking it with my father, a general practitioner, how does it really work?

Near the end of the pregnancy we ended up in a breastfeeding course of the local lactation consultant and we felt like we were on shifting sands. Higher chances of leukemia if you don’t breastfeed? Is it ridiculous that there is a depiction of a bottle on the baby-themed stamps?
That night ended with a laptop on my big round belly sifting through the WHO-rapport to find an explanation for these theories.

Even now as a young mother I catch myself regularly on (Googles (academic) research database) looking for studies to debunk advice that is presented as fact. Last week I asked myself; where does it go wrong?

Last week I asked myself; where does it go wrong?

In the beginning of the 20th century there was no other option then to breastfeed, but you could do it yourself or get a wet-nurse (a woman that breastfeeds someone else’s child, usually for a fee). Around the 1920 baby formula increased in popularity and with that came the decline of wet-nurses. Unfortunately, because of contaminated drinking water and the not yet refined composition of the formula, a lot of things went wrong in those early days. More children were getting sick and doctors came to see it as their duty to advise and guide mothers how to feed, bottle and breastfeeding. Feeding on demand was seen as unreliable and both breast and bottle-feeding was monitored carefully from birth. Mothers had to feed according to a strict schedule and in time the time-per-feeding was regulated as well. The result of this was a loss of knowledge about natural breastfeeding and less mothers succeeded in properly breastfeeding their newborns.

This history of breast and bottle-feeding is a perfect example of how the natural process of having children, becoming a parent, and pregnancy have become bureaucratic processes. Because with this desire to monitor our natural processes have been put into a single protocol. Children, however, and everything that comes with them, is one of the most natural processes in our life.

Because with this desire to monitor our natural processes have been put into a single protocol.

So, does this mean we should stop with the monitoring? Where is the line between good advice and too much supervision? I think our caretakes, and everyone really, should develop their critical thinking. Rules are there for a reason, but being able to bend them slightly to your personal situation would benefit a young parent. And for young parents: Have faith in your primal instincts, your mother (or father) instinct are usually right, and yes, you don’t have to worry about that one piece of tiramisu, even when your pregnant.

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