New parents are bombarded with information from their first visit to a medical professional, throughout their pregnancy and the early days of their babies’ lives. My daughter is only ten months old, and as far as I can tell, this doesn’t stop for some time.

The problem with this is that so much of your pregnancy, birthing experience and early motherhood is influenced and affected by the opinions of the person you’re listening to. And I do specifically use the word opinion, because being a doctor, paediatrician or midwife does not, in fact, make you an authority on any of these.

I think for example, of the doctor who told me that there was nothing wrong with me when I knew I was very ill (and was later hospitalised and was at risk of losing my daughter). Or of the health visitor who told me I had to force my baby to sleep on her back, no matter how much she screamed otherwise she would die of SIDS (she’s slept on her stomach since she was two days old and able to lift her own head). Or of the nurse who declined my request to become a milk donor as ‘milk has no nutritional value after six months’ (despite the World Health Organisation recommending a minimum of two years breastfeeding.)

I'm the MummyNaomi Stadlen in her book What Mothers Do especially when it looks like nothing, talks about how motherhood has been denigrated for decades to the point that mothers no longer feel confidence in their own mothering. Yet she states that a woman mothering her baby “is doing something that no professional person can do as well as she can”. She uses the example of professional child carers who frequently say how different having their own child is to looking after that of another.

“A mother’s knowledge of her child is unique” she says, and goes on, “In traditional societies this is a truth that is obvious to everyone, but in societies where women have achieved greater equality with men, this apparently so-obvious truth has been ignored.”

Stadlen goes on to talk about books for parents, or mothers specifically, ‘teaching’ them how to listen to their babies, or trying to instruct them with rules, schedules and plans on how best to make it through the baby years.

Unfortunately, following someone else’s plan or schedule is not allowing for the mother and child to really get to know each other, or to understand each other. Each child has their own rhythm and their own pattern, and whereas it is possible to bend the will of the child to the convenience of the parent, is this really desirable?

I’m not saying we should let children, or babies even, do what they want. Heaven knows I relish the four or five hours of me time, or us time, that we have once Ameli goes to sleep around 7pm. Routines are necessary, and beneficial to most children, but that routine should not be that of a woman or man who has never met me or my child!

I am so often surprised by mothers who follow the instructions of a doctor, parent, friend or ‘expert’ even though their gut tells them they don’t want to do it, merely because they don’t have the confidence to follow what their heart, and their baby, is telling them.

It should be our routine, worked out in these first months as mother and child. It should be a partnership, rather than a dictatorship by a stranger who has never stepped in to our homes.


Whose Baby Is It Anyway?

  1. I read a lot, listen a lot and then select the pieces of information I like and mentally ‘dump’ the rest. People from health professionals through to family members and other mums offer you all sorts of advice or their opinion but I stay strong to my beliefs and instincts.
    I always respect their opinion, their choices, their experiences, their training and knowledge though and if they don’t agree with me in one aspect of parents it doesn’t mean I would not listen to them about another. I think that is very narrow minded and niave.

    1. @Lynn Goring-Crook, I think respecting people’s rights to their own opinions and making their own choices is incredibly important, and how much I listen to anyone will depend on who they are, what their background is and why I’m asking them for information in the first place. I don’t tend to pay much attention to people who are incredibly dismissive of me or my practices, but I think that has more to do with the fact that they are not respecting my choices, rather than it being their views on parenting – I would be the same if they were dismissing my views on cars or good books. (If that makes sense) As you say, I respect people for their training and knowledge, but that doesn’t mean I would accept their input on everything, whereas a lot of people assume that having studied/had children/read a book makes you an authority, which I don’t believe it does.

  2. we live in a society that forces you to lie……..I believe that there are nurses out there that would happily pass your name on to child services if they knew you were attempting to ‘murder’ your child by means of neglect or plain ‘stubborn rebellion’ when you INSIST on co-sleeping, breast feeding,tummy sleeping and in my case accusations of possible child abuse for taking a child out of hospital after 3 courses of Antibiotics and still no improvement for pneumonia.I took her home and ‘fed’ her vitamin C. I never saw her ill again while in my home!

  3. You are so right! Before having Emily I bought a Gina Ford book and decided that it was gospel and that we would only raise our child that way so that we could get a routine going etc etc… well, that book went straight in the bin when Emily arrived and I realised that it was a lot of rubbish written by someone who doesn’t have her own child! We stopped seeing our HV at the first possible opportunity after she implied that I could not continue to express enough milk while I was at work (so I was basically starving my perfectly happy baby??). She told my husband that babies needed to double up on the milk by the time they were at the 5/6 months stage. Thankfully I have an excellent breastfeeding support group and they explained that yes, that was absolutely true for those poor formula fed babies but that human bodies were clever enough to provide the correct nutrition for the baby without them having to eat that much more. Stupid HV obviously had no idea about breastfeeding! Thank goodness for Emily’s sake I am stubborn or I would have listened to her professional advice and assumed that there was no choice but to move her to formula. I also don’t take much advice from anyone I know who stopped breastfeeding/doesn’t follow baby led weaning as I think that if they can’t do those things then why would I want their opinion on any other aspects of child raising! Thank goodness for the internet!!

    1. @Eleanor, lol! Thanks for the comment Eleanor! In that case I will consider myself flattered that you read my blog 🙂 I must say though – I’d hate to be on your bad side! Lol. No, I agree with you. People have to have a little more than ’cause my doctor said so’, ’cause everyone does it’ or ’cause I read it in the x-baby magazine’ to their arguments for or against something for me to really take note! Good for you, and for Emily, for sticking with it!

  4. I completely agree! Even books I agree with, like Dr. Sears books, can’t substitute for what I know about my own child. Luckily the good books and the good doctors all admit that they can’t replace me. To preserve this, I have sometimes fibbed a bit or withheld information from well-meaning doctors and nurses. I too put my baby to sleep on his tummy, because he was a very confirmed tummy sleeper from the womb, but I never tell the doctor that!

    1. @Sheila, You are so right. I just ‘avoid’ certain topics, or change the subject. I’m afraid I learned very quickly in this parenting journey that having a degree in something does not make you an authority on it!

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