Share We were into birthing pools, feeding on demand and following our own instincts.
Doing it all 'naturally' was such a mantra it became as much of a tyranny as the over-medicalisation it was trying to defeat - previously doctors has dictated birth plans and baby rearing, so it was a movement against this.
My firstborn had what they then called 'three-month colic'.
Baby gurus of the time, Sheila Kitzinger, who wrote Ourselves As Mothers, and Claire Rayner, in her Baby And Young Child Care, assured me that if I listened to their advice quiet environment, gentle cuddles, a substantial feed and good winding session , plus my natural parenting instincts, our evenings would regain their former peace.
Many parents turn to books for advice on raising a child After the first week of endless baby screaming, I was sure I must be the worst mother in the world: Finally, I snapped, threw the books away and called a helpline at the NCT National Childbirth Trust whose counsellor spent hours with me trying to get the baby to 'latch on' and feed properly.
She came to the house and reassured me that it wasn't about instinct, there was a method that both I and baby needed to learn. None of it worked. In the end, I sent out for formula and bottles, and threw the NCT lady out, too. By the time son number two came along, I was becoming convinced that the books weren't necessarily right.
They lectured that 'breast was best', but I knew it was no sin to bottlefeed, even though the books threatened everything from a blighted childhood for my baby to a heightened risk of breast cancer for me.
They said dummies were out and thumbs were in dummies, they reckoned, could cause deformed front teeth and carry germs but I let James build up a collection of them. As a result - no colicky nights, no infections, and he's always had perfect teeth. He was born in , and there were two major fads at that time.
One was to 'throw' baby in the swimming pool: As a result, 'good' mothers like me queued up at their local pool for swimming lessons with their newborns. My mother-in-law, who was staying with us at the time, thought I was mad. Taking a baby of just 14 days old to a swimming lesson? She thought he'd pick up a nasty pool bug. But the book said it would be better for him to learn to swim now so he wouldn't drown as a toddler.
He looked cute at two weeks in his waterproof nappy, but he's no better a swimmer now than the others who learnt later. The other fad was for sheepskin fleeces. The experts said babies would sleep better on them.
There were books about them. Fleeces, they said, would keep babies 'breathably warm' and give them extra comfort and stop them fretting. It went with the prone position, of course. Baby was meant to sleep on his tummy, on a fleece, no matter how hot it was, outdoors or in. Anne Diamond and her son Oliver in Duvets had just become fashionable - as had cot 'bumpers' - all to look pretty and make money for the babywear industry. The 'experts' accordingly found sound medical reasons to recommend their use.
They would keep baby warm and well protected from draughts, they said. Later, others started to write that fleeces could cause overheating, and the fad was dropped.
I bought into both for a short while, stashing reading cards in front of my goggle-eyed three-year-old, and even buying a miniature violin for his first birthday. That's until the whole movement folded after a suggestion that it was all actually ruining childhoods. By the time I had baby number three, Sebastian, mothers were being taught to put baby on his stomach for a good sleep.
To me that is a massive age difference! Parent reviewers say it takes only about a half-hour to an hour to build, with beautiful results. These theories include that a baby's brain may not be developed enough to regulate respiration combined with an environment -- such as soft furnishings -- that aid asphyxia or nasal obstruction and simply that certain infants may just be more vulnerable due to genetics or physical traits.
This was preached by all experts at the time. It as even in the government's baby manual given to every new mother at clinic. And was dangerously wrong. So much of childcare is fad and fashion - and this one was the ultimate in bad advice.
There never was a scientific reason for it, though once it became popular, the reasons were 'babies sleep better on their stomachs', 'there's less risk of choking', etc. It is now thought it was a fad that came from the U. The popular image of the well cared-for baby was of the tiny premature infant, lying on his stomach inside an incubator.
Our childcare experts automatically thought that if premature babies did well as they still do in the prone position, then perhaps it would be true for all babies. And so they started to teach it. It was never tried-and-tested science. I'll never forget beaming at the sight of my baby sleeping soundly in his cot. He was lying on his tummy, his head turned to one side and his tiny thumb in his mouth. My own mother came into the nursery and whispered: We would never have put them on their tummies in my day.
Preferably, in the pram and outdoors, even in cold weather! Babies in the prone position run a much higher risk of cot death than babies lying on their backs. It was advice that was fatal for some two thousand babies every year in the Eighties and early Nineties - that was four or five babies dying every day.
We know this for a fact because, after the Back To Sleep campaign, which I led at the end of , urging parents to turn their babies over, the cot death rate plummeted by nearly 90 per cent. During her 12 years as a private maternity nurse, Gina Ford looked after babies By the time son number four came along, there were new baby books which keenly advocated cosleeping, such as Three In A Bed: So I compromised and bought a 'bedside bed' - a sort of three-sided cot which is designed to butt up against your side of the bed, so baby is right next to you but safe from being rolled upon.
It worked for me.
Co-sleeping is now actively campaigned against by government advisers, though many baby experts still believe it's great for mother-baby bonding. By the time son number five came along, I was too busy to read baby books - though I have been known to keep a copy of therapist Steve Biddulph's tome Raising Boys always within arm's reach. He has sensible, down to earth advice, especially for single mums of boys like me - though I see, however, that even he has recently done a total U-turn on early-years nurseries.
Where he once claimed they were good for socialising toddlers, he now recommends that under-twos are better balanced if kept at home with mum. I could have told him that. As much as anything else, this proves that baby care is an imprecise science. The best of parents admit they never stop learning, and get things wrong, too. Perhaps we all want to believe there really is a perfect way to bring up baby, and that's why we place gurus and experts on a pedestal from which we will inevitably shove them when we feel we know better.
Most baby books mean well, many are useful from time to time, but bibles they ain't. Share or comment on this article: Down with the nursery fascists!
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