Thursday, March 8, 2012

You're Doing Everything Wrong

“You’re doing everything wrong.”
Those words were directed at me from our Nairobi-based pediatrician during our 1 week well baby visit.  You know, just to knock us down a few pegs in case we were feeling a bit too confident about this whole parenting thing. 
And we were!  Our new baby was quieted easily by our expert use of the five Ss (sucking, shushing, sidelying, swaddling and unm...  I forget the fifth... it's not shaking is it?). 
We had a white noise machine.  We had swaddles at the ready.  We had that over-the-shoulder-gas-releasing-pat down pat.  And this: Our first baby never took a pacifier.  Never a bottle. Never found his thumb.  He simply used my boobs (and for 2 years) for nourishment and comfort.  This new one miraculously took a pacifier, and it worked like a charm.  I wanted to cry I was so happy. 
We took as much credit for soothing him as we liked.   Even at a week, we felt exceedingly adept at parenting our newborn, remarking cockily to anyone who would listen that things are “so much easier the second time around.  You know, you’re more experienced. More calm.”  We had things firmly under control.  We were superparents!
But then… “You’re doing everything wrong.” 
I had just put Emmet on the examining table for his first doctor's visit and, of course, he started to cry.  So, I stuck in that new miracle worker the pacifier and proceeded to change his diaper, wiping his little tush with dye-free wipes.  Done and done.  Clean and quiet baby.  But before I could pat myself on the back too proudly, it came…
“You’re doing everything wrong.”
Apparently, wipes are to be avoided (they can have bacteria),  Instead, I’m to use cotton and warm water.
You should never use a pacifier it could give them thrush.

Don’t dress them in an extra layer of clothing.  Let them wear pretty much what you would wear.
You should not eat chocolate or ice cream or chips (things I can been indulging in since.. well… I deserve it don’t I?  And I need to cram in 500 extra calories per day to keep the breast feeding going, right?) Garlic and spicey food are just fine.
"So, doc, what about drinking?  Can I have a glass of wine?"
“Sure, you can have a glass of wine a day. No problem.”
“Or a gin and tonic.  Whatever.”
What??!!  Is this opposite world?
I understand that merely having access to the internet alerts parents to the all the contradictory advice about caring for babies and raising kids.  But when you have 2 babies in 2 different countries even the local medical experts contradict each other.  This can be either frustratingly head-spinning or joyfully liberating, depending on how you want to see it. 
I’m going for liberating. 
No one said anything about not eating chocolate in the US and ice cream is encouraged (all that fat and calcium), so pass me a hot fudge sunday.
Who needs to “pump and dump?” Dr. Patel says I’m allowed “a drink a day, no problem!” Sp, pass me some pinot noir.
OK.  Most probably agree that there are drawbacks to using a pacifier, so we’ll use it sparingly but will reassure ourselves with the US-based research says reduces SIDS.  Now, pass me that paci.
And no more waking the baby every 4 hours to nurse and to neurotically record when and for how many minutes he nursed on each side (I have a notebook full of this data and never knew quite what to do with it anyway).  Here we are told, “Oh, honey, if he’s sleeping, he’s not hungry.”  Pass me a pillow.
At the end of the day we’re all getting different advice and our kids are turning out OK.  My mom got different advice than her mother. I received different advice from her.   Hell, I received different advice each time I had a child, and mothers around the world are receiving contradictory advice.  Despite this, we all manage for the most part to raise healthy, well-adjusted children just the same. 
I’m guided by this: I try to trust my intuition.  I pay attention in equal parts to research, tradition and friends and stick with what works for each child.  But most of all, I try not to obsess over what I’m doing wrong. 
Even if someone tells me it’s just about “everything.”
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What guides you? How do you choose which parenting advice to follow?  And anyone have good examples of contradictory parent advice across generations or across cultures?
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40 comments:

  1. Kimb -

    You hit the nail on the head- and you may have heard me tell you this - trust your instincts. Typically, I had to call on that for more serious issues than what to wipe the baby's bottom, but Mom's know what to do with their kids.

    Some of the advice seems a generation behind - I thought thrush was a hospital born infection. And, did he tell you to use sterile water?

    Do what works, feels comfortable and soothes your babies. As I used to say - theories about childcare changes, but babies don't.

    Love you,

    MOM

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    1. I love that - theories change but babies don't!

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  2. I always say to new mothers that I have just one piece of advice: Don't take anyone's advice; follow your heart. We (mothers) all know more than we realize and NO ONE walks in your shoes. As I have said before, you are an amazing woman, a wonderful mother, and a remarkable human being.

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    1. Beautifully said. And thanks as always for your kind words and enduring support from across the globe!

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  3. I think you got it right by saying you should just listen to your instincts. That's all. He might be a pediatrician, but I'm sorry, he's a man. You know your body and your baby.

    I remember a woman I worked with telling me not to reach up over my head when I was pregnant. She said it with this mystical tone, but I never did find out what the actual reason for that little tidbit was. Oh well.

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    1. Actually, I've heard about the reaching over the head thing too! Apparently if you do it too often it could cause the cord to wrap around the baby. Sounds like a lot of hooey to me.

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  4. You know your baby best, so you're the best person to know what's right for him. People can offer opinions, but ultimately, you're the one caring for him. So there.

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  5. Hey if the baby is happy and healthy and you're getting any sleep at all, i call that a success...

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  6. I can't even imagine hearing that in the Drs. office, but yes! I can so relate to this post! My first baby was born in the USA, but we spent most of her early years in Italy, where my second daughter was born, and now they're growing up in Japan. I don't think the parenting philosophies we've experienced are as wildly different as the ones you're describing, but EVERYONE has an opinion and ALL OF THEM are different. So I figure -- great! There's no way to mess this up! :-) (Right? Right? Enter: secret compulsive worry...)

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    1. Ha! Yeah, as much as I have this "i'll just pick and choose from the array of available advice" philosophy, that "secret compulsive worry" somehow creeps in...

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  7. I can sooo relate to this post! Following your gut, heart, instinct is always the best route to go. It just took me a while to figure that out. It's amazing how much conflicting advice we get. And the guilt! No one told me how much guilt I'd feel as a mom. Anyway...I loved this post. I wish I had it when I had my first baby.:)

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    1. Oh lord, the guilt! You said it all. Who knew there'd be so much guilt and self doubt. I wish I just had a playbook with all the answers sometimes...

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  8. Oh god. When my baby (now 12) was tiny I was sitting in the lobby of a hotel and he was a bit fussy so I was patting his back and trying really really hard not to let my pospartum depression get away with me and cry along with him when some mean old lady sat down next to me and had the AUDACITY to say, "You're hitting him too hard." Not patting. HITTING. Had I not had my precious baby in my arms where I was apparently beating him I would have 'hit' that mean old lady. I say IT'S YOUR BABY.

    ~The G is Silent

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    1. Holy crap. People say such outrageous things. I would have said "shut the fuck up." But with my eyes. Because it's hard to say that kind of thing outloud to little old ladies - even if they are rude bud-inskies.

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  9. Following your instincts is the way to go. When son #3 wasn't babbling and pulling up etc I started pushing for evaluations and interventions. I fought so hard..and got sick of hearing "give him time" I am an early childhood educator and he is my 3rd child-I think I know what I'm doing! Finally when we was 16 months old we were able to get a diagnosis and therapies.

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    1. Agreed. Especially by #3, your instincts are honed enough to be thoroughly trusted. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. There is nothing more right in our world than Mommy Gut. Follow that and all be good ~:o

    Side and unrelated note... My OB is also Dr. Patel but not anywhere near Kenya.

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    1. About 1/2 the docs here in Nairobi are Dr. Patel. My OB and pediatrician were both Dr. Patel, and I had to identify my OB by BOTH initials since there were so many other Dr. Patel OBs at the hospital. Does Patel literally mean "doctor"?

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  11. I loved this! I wish I would have read this about 7 months ago so I could have had my chocolate and wine daily!!

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  12. Instinct is an amazing thing. We got all kinds of conflicting advice from doctors, surgeons and specialists when our son was an infant. He was born with a chromosomal disorder that required what seemed like a neverending amount of medical appointments and tests. But in the end, I had to go with my instincts and decide what was best for my kid. He's a healthy happy 9 year old so I guess my insticts work after all!

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    1. Glad to hear you had a good outcome trusting yourself. Not always easy to do when people with lab coats tell you something that goes against your instincts!

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  13. I agree with exactly what you already are doing: following your instinct. Mothers know what's best for their babies. It must be crazy to be getting such conflicting information from the doc there, but it sure sounds to me like you are doing everything right! Way to go following your gut :)

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  14. yes! just keep doing it all wrong for some, as long as it feels all right to you...you are going to end up on the wrong end to someone, so it might as well be to those, perhaps, well-meaning people that just ooze advice you didn't ask for. Be right to you and your baby, oh, and take that one drink a day. That's a given ;)

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    1. That's my plan. Since I was given an "all clear" for a gin and tonic a day, if I abstain from that I'll feel relatively modest having an occassional glass of wine. ;)

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  15. Advice is fleeting. Think of how many times we've been told eggs are good for you, then they are bad for you but 5 mins. ater they are good again. Parenting is at least 95% instinct.

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    1. Definitely! And why is this so much more true for parenting advice than for other areas!?!

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  16. That would really be hard - having 2 babies in 2 different countries and then getting completely different advise for what is "good" to do! I love this line though - "I try to trust my intuition. I pay attention in equal parts to research, tradition and friends and stick with what works for each child." I really think that's the best thing for the whole family. Great post!

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    1. Thansk Anna. It's so much easier said than done though. I definitely have regular pangs of doubt. But I'm striving for being the woman who write that post in a moment of self confidence. ; )

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  17. Wow, I'm glad this is your second baby. Can you imagine your reaction if you were told you were doing everything wrong with your first? You would have needed the whole bottle of pinot and needed to pump and dump for hours. Or at least I would have. :)
    The take-away for me? Thank goodness babies are resilient because we all seem to be perpetual amateurs at raising them. The constant re-invention of the wheel. I applaud you for your resilience and your level head. Ellen

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    1. Great point. That's exactly what I told myself (that children/babies are resilient, thankgoodness) when I experimented with letting my first "cry it out" (which broke my heart). I couldn't have done any permament damage, right? Babies are resilient! I've since said that mantra - children are resilient - any time I think I've done something stupid.

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  18. I get soooo frustrated with doctors sometimes! I think you have exactly the right idea. Trust your intuition and ignore the rest (so much easier to do the second time around). You are doing a great job and I'm thrilled for you that your baby is so easy to soothe!

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  19. I've found I'm easily the best mother when I quit listening to what everyone else says - if only that were as easily done as said! Yay for common sense and pacifiers!

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  20. It's also just totally different from the 1st to the 2nd to the 3rd to the.... you know.

    I love hearing your experiences with raising your children in such different circumstances. I still giggle about the scene with the bris. Phew!

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  21. After being 2+ years into this parenting gig, I've learned that if you ask 100 people (doctors, lawyers, garbagemen, whatever) about parenting, you'll get about 150 different responses. Whatever works, works. Have to take it all with a pound of salt.

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  22. Amen sister!
    I think there are only a few absolutes with parenting. Besides the fact whenever you think you've figured your kid out they'll change, but everyone has advice and it's constantly changing!
    I say go with that mommy gut, it's quite powerful and usually correct!
    BTW, I never pumped & dumped. My OB & ped both gave me the advice that if I could drive a car safely then I could BF!

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  23. Oh Kimmy! you have an almost perfect son (Caleb) PUT YOUR TRUST IN YOURSELVES, I don't know much about the wipes but pacifiers are definately the way to go from a dental perspective. You can cut it up and throw it away when the time is right. What are you gonna do to get rid of the thumb??? Alot of money has been spent on braces because of thumbs.

    How about some new pic's of the kiddos?


    Miss by train buddies

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  24. Kim my children are all grown now. It struck me when they were babies how much advice I received and how contradictory it was. You seem to be an intelligent woman go with your gut and see what works for you. Once my children slept through I would have the occasional glass of wine timing it after their last feed for the day.

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