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Archive for June, 2012

I had a moment of weakness today.  I typically try to avoid things I know will get me worked up, but today I lapsed and, having come across a link to this Tizzie Hall “Baby Whisperer” person, I clicked it.  And sure enough, it ticked me off.  Enough to write about it.

Her book is called “Save our Sleep” but it should also have the subhead “by Endangering our Babies”.

I had a browse through her website and pretty much the first line is this: “Do you have to rock your baby to sleep every night?”  Oh, the horror.  Imagine, having to rock your precious, sweet baby to sleep day after day.  I knew I was in for it then.

"Love you Forever" by Robert Munsch

Another bestselling book… about a woman who understands that rocking your sleeping baby is a gift so precious that it’s worth driving across town to do.

I persevered a little further into her information and three things became immediately clear: 1) some of her advice is just plain bad parenting 2) whether her advice is good or bad, she has no right to be offering much of it 3) she cares more about selling you stuff than she does about your (or your child’s) well-being.

1) When you take parenting advice from a teenage babysitter, don’t expect it to always be good.

It turns out that Tizzie started giving parenting advice at the ripe old age of 9.  She tells us all about the thousands of families worldwide who have sought her parenting advice, and that’s great for her.  She also tells us that her credentials – her only credentials – are babysitting.  That is not a recipe for excellent parenting advice.

Let’s start with her take on why you shouldn’t assist your baby to go to sleep, ever.

Let’s say you find rocking your new baby to sleep an easy option. What happens when your baby gets too heavy for you to rock?… What happens if you have a second baby before your first starts to self-settle?… At some point you will have to stop the rocking. But at what age will your new baby understand why you have stopped rocking her to sleep?

So if you follow the babysitter’s logic, you also shouldn’t breastfeed because at some point you’ll stop.  You shouldn’t permit your child to take dance lessons this year because next year or the year after you may not be able to afford them.  At some point you undoubtedly will lose your patience and yell at your kids, so it’s important to start yelling routinely now to make sure they aren’t surprised by it later.

Tizzie isn’t unique in this view, of course.  This kind of “you might not always be able to do things well so it’s best to just to do them badly in the first place” mentality is common throughout baby programming literature.  It’s also fear-mongering.  Did you notice how the last sentence of that paragraph tugged on your heartstrings?  No one wants to hurt their new baby’s feelings.  But that sentence misses the point completely: your baby is a new baby today, not 2 or 12 or 20 months from now.  If withholding comfort will upset her after she has those 2 or 12 or 20 months of life experience (and trust in you) under her belt, how on earth do you think it will make her feel today when she actually is your new baby?  If something that works today doesn’t work next month, then you can change it next month.  Parenting is not a prison.

Another bit of bad parenting advice that we get from Save our Sleep is to give food as a reward for behaviour that pleases you:

I get a lot of clients contacting me when their baby is sleeping until 6am. I always tell them don’t make your baby wait until 7am for the feed. They have done so well over night, and should be rewarded with their feed.

This actually goes beyond bad parenting to bad humanity.  Food is a basic human right.  Prisoners get fed even though they are literally living in the government’s naughty corner.  Babies should get fed because they’re human and they deserve it, not because they’ve performed their parent-pleasing circus act correctly.

2) Opinion-sellers have no business giving medical advice.

As we mentioned above, Tizzie’s credentials are as follows: babysitting, recently parenting 2 children and almost 2 decades of selling her opinion.  It does not appear, or at least she doesn’t mention, that she has ever sought any sort of training or education to back up the opinions she sells.  No intro psych class, no ECE certificate and certainly no medical degree of any sort.  That should, by any moral or ethical standard prevent her from giving medical advice.  But it doesn’t.

I recommend that breastfed babies should go no longer than three hours in the day and five hours at night without a feed.

That right up there ^^, that’s medical advice.  And what’s more, it’s bad (read: dangerous) medical advice.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the CDC, Health Canada and just about every other group of people who are actually qualified to give infant feeding advice recommend a minimum of 8-12 feedings per day, on demand, with no more than a 4 hour interval.

Restricting the frequency and duration of feeds (which she also recommends) is not how you feed a baby, it’s how you wean a baby.  If you take that initial bad medical advice, you’ll put your baby at risk for hypoglycemia and poor weight gain and yourself at risk for low milk supply (not surprising, since that’s kind of the point of weaning).  If that last one happens then you may also end up having to follow her next piece of bad medical advice: starting solids prematurely.

Not only does she recommend starting solids at 4 months, she recommends you make that decision based on your baby’s sleep pattern rather than developmental cues that actually have to do with feeding.  (In other words, she’s once again telling you to use food as a way to manipulate your baby into an approved behaviour.)  But it gets better – she says that the World Health Organization agrees with the 4 month recommendation.  That’s a flat out lie.  Since 2001, the WHO has recommended exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.  They recommend it so strongly that they even recommend it for HIV positive mothers.

3) Make no mistake, she wants to sell to you, not save you

Point number three may sound harsh*, but a 5-minute browse of her website makes it undeniable.  But let’s first talk about the fact that she makes her living selling books, just like thousands of other authors.  Fine.  She has a right to make her living in any lawful way she chooses and I won’t criticize her for that, but most of her website has nothing to do with sleep advice, including many aspects of her own advice.

In addition to selling you sleep advice, she also sells instruction for (diagnosing and treating) allergies and eczema, GERD, pool safety, plagiocephaly, Down Syndrome, dermatology and decorating.  All of this with only the previously discussed babysitting background, remember.  And she also endorses/recommends/sells you everything else from toys to test strips for checking the alcohol level in your breastmilk.**  But again, I’ll admit that marketing associated products is not totally out of the ordinary.

What is out of the ordinary is inviting your clients to share their information with you, and then charging them for the privilege of doing so. If that does not strike even the most obtuse observer as unethical, I don’t know what will.  No, that’s not true, I do know: that fact that she recommends you let your baby sleep with a blanket over his face, even though it might kill him.  Oh ya, and she’ll happily sell you the blanket.

Can you say suffocation risk?

What she does not recommend are soothers, even though they are recognized to reduce the risk of SIDS, because they rouse the baby from sleep (incidentally that’s precisely why they prevent SIDS) and that undermines what she’s trying to sell you.  She’s very aware, by the way, of the SIDS-soother relationship, but here’s her take on it:

Dummy use appears to reduce the risk of SIDS, however I feel when you look at the side effects of using a dummy the reasons to not use a dummy outweigh this fact.

The side effect she goes on to list is ear infections.  Now let’s see, ear infection… dead baby.  Ear infection… Yup, as a parent, I’d probably opt out of the dead baby.  But of course, then her program might not work so well, so she won’t make as much money.  Maybe that’s the side-effect she’s actually concerned with.

If all of this doesn’t break your heart enough, I suggest you check the book’s reviews on Amazon.  Obviously, there are good reviews – any method will work for some babies.  But even the positive reviews frequently said that the sleeping came at the price of being completely stressed out by the rigid routines, or that success was only achieved after modifying the routines.  Other reviews talk about needing to wean in order to make it work, increased crying along with the increased sleep, and worst of all, failure to thrive.

There is literally nothing else I can say, except that I’m so glad that there are other books out there that advocate loving your babies and treating them with dignity.  Even books that advocate driving across town in the middle of the night to rock your fully grown baby back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Because those are books I can get behind.

 

For some thoughts on finding your way through the long nights with thoughtfulness and respect, check out my long overdue follow-up post here.

 

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*I had a really hard time not naming this section “Her brother died of SIDS, now she wants to sell your baby the same fate.”  But I was trying to be a tad less jerky than that

**In the interest of fairness I’m going to point out that I did NOT find any actual bottles, nipples or formula advertized for sale on her website.  However, the WHO Code was violated by recommending spoons for babies under 6 months.

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Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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My wish for both of my births was an unmedicated homebirth after spontaneous onset of labour.  The birth I envisioned in my head didn’t include wires, tubes or beeping of any kind.  In fact, my fantasy birth may not even have been a ‘home’ birth, so much as ‘backyard’ birth.  In other words what I wanted was completely and utterly primal, unencumbered and NATURAL.  That was categorically not what I got.

Both of my births were in the hospital, both included continuous monitoring, IVs and artificial membrane rupture.  I had an induction, pitocin and an epidural.  And in the course of two births, I was required to give 8 people entry visas to my ladyland, and viewing privileges to 14 others.

To say that none of that had featured in the scene I had created in my head – you know, the one in which I quietly pushed my darling babies onto a carpet of bluebells (daisies would be too banal, of course) next to an English cottage while my husband stroked my hair and our midwives brewed a pot of tea inside the house – is putting it mildly.  (The fact that we do not live in either a cottage or in England spells out just how ambitious ludicrous my birth goal really was.)  But I realized after my daughter was born that if you look closely, most of the elements I most desired were there in at least one of the births.

With our son we missed out on the happy, safe, empowering pregnancy that we ultimately had with our midwives the second time around, but after much (MUCH) discussion with our OBs, I did manage stave off induction and feel the excitement of going into labour on my own.  That turned out to be lucky because the next time around I would need to be induced on very short notice when my blood pressure shot up at the end of my pregnancy.

With both babies I got to spend my early labour at home which, although devoid of flowery meadows, did give me the sense of privacy, freedom and agency I so deeply desired.

For Little Man’s birth, going to the hospital was the undoing of whatever remained of the plan.  Hours in triage and a staff that believed I should adjust my behaviour to serve the limitations of the monitor meant I had no capacity to labour effectively.  Augmentation, more augmentation and drugs followed.  But with Lady Fair, I got those missing pieces back.  Our midwives protected our space and fiddled constantly with the machine while I moved freely, doing the work I needed to do.  Her birth didn’t start the way I wanted it to, but at least I got to progress on my own, feel my labour get more intense and feel her move through my body into the world.

So while neither birth was singly perfect, between the two of them, I can run down the natural birth checklist and tick off most of the boxes.

Having the perfect birth is a pretty narrow target to hit.  It becomes even harder when you see perfection as having to be linear – perfect from start to finish.  When I knew my second birth wasn’t going to start the way I wanted it to, after my first had ended so far off course, I felt as if my goals and hopes for birth had gone totally out the window.  But it turns out, that if you look at it moment by moment, you can fit the pieces together into a really great birth.  It might be a bit of a patchwork perfection, but it’s perfection nonetheless.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)

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Cosleeping already, awww.

If you look closely you can see the head of his baby triceratops poking out of the pajama bottoms that I rigged into a sling. He wanted his baby to be “nice cozy like baby sisser”.  That dino has also been nursed on several occasions by me AND Little Man 🙂

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