06 September 2016

Bad Habits

"Careful or you'll create bad habits!"

Bad habits? What exactly does this refer to in the context of a baby? I can't think of a single bad habit a baby can have. They don't smoke, don't bite their nails, don't read trashy magazines or wear the same underwear two days running. Okay, they do fart in public. ;-)

But this is not the bad habit 'they' are referring to, is it? You see, your baby's need for love and attention from you, their favourite person in the whole world is apparently a 'bad habit' that you shouldn't 'give in' to. 

I wonder how one of my clients will feel if she emails me for the umpteenth time today and I tell her, sorry I cannot reply to you now, because I don't want this prompt responding thing to become a bad habit. She can learn to wait. Even though I am not busy with anything else at this moment. 

Or perhaps when my husband wakes up in the middle of the night and snuggles closer to me I should tell him to please go lie in his own bed as he needs to learn to fall asleep on his own now. I mean we don't want to be creating bad habits, now do we? He should definitely be able to self soothe at his age. 

How about if my mom asks for a cup of tea less than an hour after supper. I mean surely she can't need that cup of tea, her tummy should be full! She's manipulating me. I should nip that bad habit in the bud sooner rather than later, for both our sakes. 

Sound ridiculous? Yep. 

But when a baby wants to snuggle, or want you to hold them or talk to them, or sing them or wants some milk, if it's not according to some arbitrary schedule someone else prescribed, we are supposed to view it as a bad habit.

There are two BIG problems with this bad habit mantra. 

One is the self-soothing myth. 

Second is that there is a vast misunderstanding about how breastfeeding works. 

Let's tackle the first one. Self-soothing.  The supposed holy grail of child-rearing. Or is it? Is the main goal of parenting really to create a child that doesn't require human interaction? Sounds harsh when you put it like that, but isn't that the underlying thread in these parenting methods? Human interaction is good! It's the backbone of our society. It's what makes us tickle, it's what gives us pleasure, it's the stuff memories are made of. I don't know of a single granny who laments spending too much time holding her children when they were small. And there is another thing - babies are not capable of self-soothing. This is something that comes much later. And even when they are capable of it, sometimes they just want you. Is that really so bad? I would assume most adults are capable of self-soothing, yet most of us still prefer having a proverbial shoulder to cry on. Doesn't that tell us something about human nature?

Now let's move on to breastfeeding. Yes it's about milk. But oh it's about so much more. And it's this 'so much more' that most parenting experts and health professionals completely discount. It's one of the best mothering tools I've found over the past almost five years. Baby niggly and you're not sure what's wrong? Pop him on the breast. Toddler upset and inconsolable? Hi breasts! Naptime? Breastfeed! Teething pain? Breastfeed. Multiple wake-ups at night? Latch your child and go right back to sleep. It's the single most versatile tool in any mother's parenting kit, yet it's the thing we are most discouraged to do due to a lack of knowledge of the many nuances of breastfeeding. 

So go to your baby. Pick him up. Feed him. Love him. Feed him again. Hold him. Rock him. Wear him. Love him. Don't count the hours and the minutes between the kisses and the hugs you dole out to your child. Just love them. You will not regret it. Rest assured the only habits you are creating are good ones. 

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