This week my mother-in-law sent me a tragic news story about a baby suffocating inside a baby carrier. When she messaged me the link she commented that this must not be the same type of stretchy wrap I use, but it was the same thing, just a different brand.
I am not scared my babies will suffocate when I wear them in the wrap, however. Thanks to Babywearing International (which I link to over in my Pregnancy and Baby Resources page) and a plethora of information available online, I know the rules of safe baby wearing and can do so with confidence.
The mom in the story, unfortunately, was terribly uninformed and she and the author of the article blame the carrier for her child’s death. The sad fact is that she was breaking every babywearing safety rule in the book.
I am absolutely heart broken for her and am not in any way trying to shame her. My guess is the poor woman didn’t even realize that there are such things are babywearing safety rules.
I am still, however, bothered that the blame is being put on the maker of the baby wrap which was being misused. I feel like there is this growing trend of casting the blame of anything on the “bigger guy”. Doctors need to carry such high liability insurance and there needs to be endless tiny fine print before doing practically anything these days because if someone gets hurt, people are eager to place the blame and often sue, even if they are at fault.
All of this got me thinking how we need to have a cultural shift in what we are telling new parents is important.
Nursery Colors and Registries Are The Little Things
Preparing for a baby’s birth is so exciting. Finding adorable little outfits, starting a collection of story books, arranging new toys, and decorating for baby are really special and wonderful things. It’s great to enjoy those projects and savor them.
But from the moment a new mother announces her pregnancy, she is bombarded by our consumeristic society to research all the stuff she “needs” on a shower registry, as if once the nursery is decorated you are “ready” for baby.
What rocking chair you buy, which stroller you choose, or the color you paint nursery walls are, in the long run unimportant in comparison to evidence based knowledge on pregnancy, birth, infant care, and parenting.
However, when a mother lets others know about what they have been researching, they are often made fun of with snide comments about medical degrees from Google U and naiveté for attempting to learn anything without being in the trenches of parenthood yet.
We are a society that talks all about liberating and empowering women, yet those same women are expected to unquestioningly trust doctors, hospitals, and manufacturers with the safety of and best choices for their babies, so often becoming passive parties instead of active participants in many important aspects of caring for their families.
You’re Exaggerating How Uninformed Parents Are
I am often stunned to read women’s comments online in various mommy groups I participate in. At a shocking frequency I will see conversations that reveal mothers who have researched or learned little to nothing about the biological process of their own body growing a baby, giving birth, feeding a baby, parenting, safety etc. completely trusting doctors and manufacturers to take on much of this for their families.
Once again, I am not saying this trying to shame anyone, come off as oh so enlightened, or act like I’ve got it all figured out, because I don’t. I also fully realize accidents happen and I could very well have a tragedy happen in my own family. But I would still argue there is definitely a problem with how much we entrust to others in regards to our children without doing the research ourselves, thus causing more tragic incidents than would otherwise occur.
I think that an environment where new parents are highly encouraged to research and educate themselves more instead of making fun of them for it could help prevent many accidents or issues from happening in the first place.
But Isn’t The Hospital Going To Take Care Of This Stuff?
New parents should look into the risks and benefits of any sort of medications or interventions during pregnancy and birth, routine procedures, circumcision, and vaccines, without just relying on what their hospital recommends.
I say this not to vilify doctors and nurses, but because these are incredibly polarizing topics with consequences and professional advocates on both sides that need to be thoroughly researched to determine what is best for your family, and also because the wheels of change turn incredibly slowly in the medical field.
For instance, did you know that delaying the cutting of the umbilical cord of a newborn until it stops pulsating is incredibly beneficial for baby? When it isn’t cut immediately, a baby receives all of their blood that was in the cord, increasing their volume by a third, practically eliminating anemic babies, and providing a host of other benefits, especially for premature babies.
Yet, even though delayed cord clamping is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists… it still isn’t standard practice in many hospitals. In fact, when I brought this up at a hospital we interviewed when we were first expecting Philomena, the CNM actually dismissed my insistence on this as unnecessary. Had we chosen to birth at that hospital, I absolutely would have had to compile my research on this and been firm, knowing that it is my job as the parent to inform myself about routine procedures.
The same goes with nursing… there is a lot of out-of-date, inaccurate information about breastfeeding that circulates around.
Bad nursing practices like spaced feeding schedules, gauging milk production by pumping output, or paying attention to the length of feeding times instead of the number of wet diapers can lead to so much unnecessary stress for new mothers. Misinformation can cause a mom planning to breastfeed to start supplementing with a bottle before necessary, leading to a baby who refuses to do the extra work of sucking at the breast later on, and a potentially incredibly beneficial nursing relationship is practically over before it began.
Despite this, so many moms I meet have never done any research on breastfeeding in advance and just plan to let the nurses at the hospital help, even though they may be operating off of out of date information.
So What Can Be Done?
Learn, learn, learn.
Talk to parents you know who you really admire and ask them about what resources, health care professionals, or products they recommend and why. I feel like having so many friends get married and have children before me really helped me because I learned from their experiences. My friend Sarah who I was talking about in this post here gave me wonderful, informative books that helped me learn a ton about birth and parenting.
Think about what you are hoping to do once baby is born and learn everything you can.
Wanting to breastfeed? Get some books on it, ask a friend to let you watch how to latch a baby, or even go to a La Leche League meeting. They’re happy to have expectant mothers come! Don’t just plan to wing it when baby comes, or rely on nurses to help.
Want to babywear? Look up and see if there is a Babywearing International chapter near you, ask an experienced mom to show you how to carry, and start watching videos on Youtube to learn how to safely wear using various carriers. Learn the basic rules of babywearing and you can help prevent a tragic story like the one my mother-in-law sent me.
And when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum tests, medications, interventions, nutrition, and other practices, ask as many questions as you can of your health care providers. Educate yourself and don’t be afraid to be an active participant in the medical care of yourself and your children. While the expertise of the professionals in any field of course should always be valued and taken in to account, we also need to not be afraid as parents to look at the evidence and research of anything ourselves, confident that our final decisions are informed ones.
Whether you are a crunchy mama like me, or as mainstream as they come, the responsibility is on us to know the hows and whys of what we are doing with our children. A shifting attitude of focusing on researching these really important things over just worrying about the top rated Amazon gadget would greatly help parents new and old to learn how to better care for themselves and their kids.