Last week was half term and it was our turn to make the long drive around the M25 and south to see Grandma. Now, I utterly adore my Grandma, she is glamorous, generous, and great for a chat, but she actively disagrees with my parenting. She is old school. Put the baby in the garden. Leave them to cry. Their lungs need airing…etc. She fed my mum on tinned evaporated milk (they were stationed abroad – army family) when my mum was a baby because she was so opposed to breastfeeding.
When we arrived on Friday, as I offered Anna a breastfeed, she wanted to share with me about having watched a programme recently about a “child care expert” who has 40 years of experience, who gave advice to Zara Phillips (and therefore must be right!) and who has said “all modern mothers have lost the plot”. If the baby is fed then they can be left to cry. Mothers are making things all about the baby these days, and they won’t take any advice from previous generations.
So, I explained about a book I had just finished reading in the car. All about baby care from an evolutionary perspective. (amazing book here). Babies are hard wired to need to stay close. They do all they can to ensure they are fed and warm = survival. Prams and buggies, and even lights, are a relatively recent invention in terms of human history. We have babies who are born with the instincts to survive a dark and dangerous world. My baby didn’t know, when she was first born, that there were no wolves coming to eat her in the night. She knew that to stay safe she needed to be with me. Or laying on Daddy’s chest. That big thudding heart, and warm cosy arms made her feel safe and protected.
Grandma looked at me like I was insane. She disagreed. She told me it hadn’t done any damage to my mum’s generation I disagreed.
Maybe it’s out of a place of love she says these things. Maybe she sees that to have a baby attached most of the time is hard work, draining, exhausting. And she’s right, it can be. But the funny thing about her is she always wants a cuddle with the baby. She loves a cuddle. Somewhere, deep down, the oxytocin is getting to her too…maybe?
Anyway, we agreed to disagree (she said, “maybe we should stop talking about this now…”) and we carried on with the day. Me boobing and slinging around the farm park we were visiting.
Fast forward a day. It’s bed time, all the kids are asleep. Peace at last. But just as I sat down to my salted caramel chocolate fondant cake (oh.my.goodness. In the words of Mary Berry, sheer heaven on a plate) Anna woke up. She hasn’t been sleeping well. Teething, developmental leaps, whatever. Normally we just roll with it. Do whatever she needs. This time boob wasn’t working so I wrapped her and brought her downstairs so we didn’t wake the big kids up. And I had a melt down. I was cross. I was stressed, tired and felt down. I questioned what I was doing. Why oh why isn’t Anna asleep? Again. I snapped at my husband. (sorry babe). And then realised that it was because I had lost all confidence in what I was doing. I asked him, “am I doing it all wrong? Is it my fault she doesn’t sleep?”
Que a deep breath from him. (he has to reassure me a lot)
“No. You’re not doing it wrong
She needs cuddles
She needs you
She needs comfort
It’s mental development
It’s been a messed-up daytime
Don’t get stressed, it makes her more stressed
It’s not your fault, you are not doing anything wrong”
Shortly after I wrapped her and swayed and calmed down she drifted back off to sleep.
Grandma’s words HAD got under my skin (it happens every time she challenges my parenting, perhaps I should have learnt by now…). Even though I can be firm and confident in my reply to her, it shakes my confidence. I don’t think “perhaps I should put the baby in the garden”, but it just gets to me.
The thing is, I just listen to my baby. I listen to my body. I respond. I try and parent that involves the least crying and upset as possible. And I enjoy the cuddles. I did point out to Grandma that while she was telling me that I should be less attached to the baby that my 3 other children were off happily playing. Not attached to me. And they had been as babies. But now they have the confidence to be off exploring, enjoying and learning. Maybe I haven’t quite lost the plot yet.
The moral of my story? Have confidence, your instincts are pretty bloody amazing. Seek out reassurance, (come along to a sling meet, we’ll reassure you!) And remind yourself that more love, more cuddles is not doing anything wrong.