Who's right when differences arise over baby care?
As a new mom I expected to receive a lot of advice. In fact I clamor for it at times when my infant son is displaying some peculiar behavior or has an ailment.
But what about when your idea about what your baby needs differs from others? Often it's as simple as saying thanks and forgetting what they told you. But what about when those who give you the advice are caregivers of your child?
A girlfriend and I recently had this discussion. She and her husband were planning a trip to Vegas and she was going to leave her 4-month-old daughter with her mother-in-law. She feared she'd return home to a
infant with a head full of barrettes, since her mother in law had been urging her to "do her baby's hair" more often. My girlfriend felt it best to let her daughter's hair be free save a little Velcro bow taped to the side of her head every now and then. But how could she tell her mother in law not to pull her baby's hair into teeny tiny ponytails? And how would she enforce it thousands of miles away?
Sure it was only hair, but it was her baby's hair and didn't she have the right to dictate what was done to it?
I don't know if the answer to that question is so cut and dry.
Yes, she does have the right to request that certain styles not be done to her child's hair, but is it really necessary to dictate that? What would the harm really be if her mother in law put a gazillion plats in her daughters hair? As long as her hair wasn't being pulled to tight, who would it hurt?
What about when the issues are a little deeper than hair?
I took my son to the babysitter for the first time a few weeks ago. I use a private caregiver who watches children in her home. She is very hands on and prefers a more back-to-basics traditional approach to nourishing babies. So it was with no surprise when she told me she wanted to put applesauce in my son's bottle. I didn't have a problem with it, but I generally wait for the doctor to tell me its okay before I begin things with my son. What was I to do? My heart felt like it was time for him to have something more than milk and rice cereal but I hadn't gotten the okay from my doctor. He was only 3 months old, not the text book age for solids. I felt silly asking her to wait until i spoke to my doctor.
I could have told our babysitter no, but I decided to give her permission to feed him the sauce. Of course he loves it and at his next visit the doctor said "'sure, he's ready for apple sauce."
Now when my babysitter suggested I slather my son in olive oil instead of lotion, I decided against giving my permission.
Still, there are lessons to be learned in letting go of control over your child when they're not in your care. We must all learn to do it. It's a tightrope walk between mother's intuition, trust in your caregiver and common sense. Because in the end a child is better off when they are able to experience various ways of doing things. As long as they're safe and taken care of, what's the harm?
-- Nicole Hutcheson, new Times mom