By Nina Young
In many ways it must have been much easier to have a baby 30 years ago. The technology involved in the pregnancy and birthing process may have been medieval when compared to today’s standards, but at least one aspect of having a child back then seems more attractive, and that is the lack of choices.
Nowadays women are pressured to make millions of different choices, starting from day one of their pregnancies, and I for one feel overwhelmed.
When I announced my pregnancy a well-meaning friend asked me, “What kind of parent are you thinking about being?” Having no idea what she was talking about I replied, “A good one, I hope,” whilst nodding sagely.
It turns out she was asking about what parenting style I intended on implementing. Would I be a natural parent? An attached parent? A hover mum? Or even a tiger mum? I honestly have no idea, I’m only at the start of my second trimester; I’m still mourning the loss of sushi and my previously high caffeine intake. Besides, can I really start making parenting decisions about a baby I haven’t even met yet?
What can turn the frustrating problem of parenting decisions into a dangerous one is conflicting information coming at you from various official sources. Co-sleeping has been making headlines recently as the Victorian coroner, John Olle denounced it as a dangerous practice and linked it to the deaths of at least four infants.
An earlier 2007 study had found that of the 80 infant mortalities in Australia that year, over half were caused by suffocation due to an infant sharing a bed with an adult. Current SIDS recommendations also suggest that while a young infant should share a bedroom with his or her parents, they should not share a bed.
So that’s pretty clear right? Co-sleeping is dangerous, don’t do it. Well that message gets a bit less clear when various other experts start piping up. SIDS expert, Dr Peter Blair, a senior research fellow at Bristol University, said that Mr Olle’s findings were not put into perspective and that a blanket statement against co-sleeping was not practical.
James McKenna, a pediatric sleep expert and natural parenting advocate says that the benefits of safe co sleeping far out-weight the risks.
Once you’ve crossed that decision minefield, you can step straight onto the next one.
The parties on both sides will not budge and according to them there is no grey area. You’re definitely going to be judged harshly by someone no matter what you choose, and you’re potentially putting your baby at risk, which is something no mother wants to do.
Once you’ve crossed that decision minefield, you can step straight onto the next one. How about vaccination? Fifteen or twenty years ago there was no real question about vaccinating your children. You did it, and you were grateful to live in a country that gave you access to the medicines to keep your family safe.
Now the decision to vaccinate is far more complicated, and everyone has an opinion and no one seems to mind vocalising them.
Diseases like whooping cough have skyrocketed nationally in recent years, surging from 4863 cases in 2007 to 38,584 cases in 2011. Depending on whom you ask, this is either the fault of parents not being vigilant enough about keeping their vaccinations up to date (including regular boosters) or it’s the fault of the evil pharmaceutical companies that continue to push inadequate vaccines for monetary gain.
If you vaccinate are you a monster who enjoys pumping your child full of poison, or are you following sensible medical precautions? There is not, and will probably never be a popular consensus on issues such as these.
Once upon a time we wouldn’t have had these kinds of choices and we would have blissfully happy in our ignorance. At the very least we need to learn to respect a parents right to privacy on these issues; just because you wear your opinion like a badge of honour doesn’t mean that all parents want to.
Parents should be allowed to navigate through this treacherous path of decision making unhounded by well meaning advice-givers. Only then can they decide what is right for them, and what is right for their child.