The first five years of a child’s life are filled with milestones. From sleeping through the night to starting solids to crawling to the terrible two’s, the milestones come thick and fast one after another.
And with each milestone comes the well meaning advice from friends and family alike.
In the early days of coming home I had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding M. He refused to latch on without the nipple shield and I had people suggesting I don’t offer milk if baby doesn’t latch and others suggesting I switch to formula milk. Worst were the people who told me that maybe he wasn’t latching on because I didn’t have enough milk – arguably one of the worst things you can tell any new mom.
All of this led to me spending much of my precious free time doubting myself and wondering if I’d ever be able to wean M off the nipple shield or if I’d have to accept this as the norm for the next two years of breastfeeding. In the end, all my worry was for naught as M latched onto my breast directly once and then proceeded to ditch the nipple shield shortly thereafter.
While this drama was still going on, I started baby wearing and taking M for daily walks when he was about 20 days old. And, once again the advice started. His spine is too soft for him to be worn, he will get too hot stuck to you, he cried the first day you wore him, why put him through the torture again and my favourite, he is too small to be taken outside in the fresh. I heard it all. Strangely though, never from any professional like a doctor or baby wearing practitioner who were actually qualified to talk on the subject.
Then, M turned 4 months old. Suddenly, the same relatives who spoke about milk now started urging me to start feeding him food right away. There was so much talk of purée vs mash that on many nights I dreamt of being drowned in puréed spinach or mash potato. The World Health Organization recommends that kids be exclusively breast (or formula) fed for the first six months. Try explaining that to family members however and the snide remarks of how they turned out perfectly okay start immediately. And, when I said that I didn’t want to feed either mash or purée but practice baby led weaning, I was met witha completely new set incredulous gazes!
These are just three instances over six months where self doubt has plagued me.
After visiting many forums online and being a part of many What’s App groups, I have realized that I am not alone. Mothers are questioned (and often ridiculed) about each of their decisions everyday. This needs to stop. Sure, you will say that ultimately the mom can do what she wants but it sure would be great if her immediate support system had a little faith in her abilities.
And while we are talking about faith, as mothers we need to extend this same faith to our children too. Let’s not compare their growth and behaviour to other kids and let’s allow them to meet their developmental milestones at their pace. Let’s have faith that our child – even if they are only six months old – has the innate ability to recognize their body’s cues and also is an individual in his/her own right.
I have come to accept already that I am always going to worry about my child. But, it has taken me this long to understand that once I take a decision to do something – be it babywearing or breastfeeding in public – I must have the faith in myself to stick to my decision. Importantly, I must always have faith in my relationship with my child to know that if something truly was wrong I would be able to sense it.
I am after all his mother and as I never tire telling my mom, mothers do indeed know best.