Over in Japan it appears that another semi-accepted correlation has been disproven. Nursing mothers have been vaguely advised for years to avoid allergenic foods so their babies wouldn't become allergic to those foods (through exposure to breast milk after a mother has eaten them.) This new study says that the opposite is true: Women who eat eggs and dairy products while nursing are less likely to have babies with allergies, not more. Also, something about greasy food and dermatitis, which is both mind-boggling and queasy-making.
Seems like a lot of parents out there are quietly resisting the tyranny of the study. The New York Times reported yesterday that many parents are letting their babies sleep on their stomachs despite strong evidence that back sleep can prevent SIDS. Also, the breastfeeding advocates LLLI, have chimed in on the latest pro-pacifier/anti-co-sleeping recommendations from the AAP. They are not impressed (and even cite some studies to help explain why). These two organizations have more recently been very much in cahoots, especially with regards to the importance of breastfeeding. Maybe the warring officials are helping make way for more confident parental improvisation?
Via blogging baby a fine example of culturally-sanctioned messedupness about breastfeeding. An actual photograph of a baby breastfeeding on the cover of a Canadian magazine caused the issue to be recalled and slapped with a new cover: a goofy illustration of a baby NOT breastfeeding. Never mind that the image doesn't actually illustrate the article anymore since it's ABOUT BREASTFEEDING. At least it's not icky yicky booby stuff. Plus, the chick in the illo is really hot, looking kinda like a cross between Jessica Simpson and the Evil Queen from Snow White. The editor was supposedly fired for this, but it seems upon further investigation that she had already quit.
Two big bombs were dropped this week, shattering parenting paradigms from coast to coast. First Penelope Leach announced the results of her massive study on maternal versus non-maternal child care. Result? Kids who spend a large amount of time away from their mothers "tended to show higher levels of aggression or were inclined to become more withdrawn, compliant and unhappy." The second hit came courtesy of the AAP who, as a consequence of recent studies, have come out against co-sleeping and in favor of the pacifier.
The studies may be true to a point. And they may have valid things to say about these issues. But there's a larger question at stake here. How do we proceed as rational, informed parents with so much official and contradictory advice a Google search away?
When we read the Penelope Leach report, our hearts raced as we envisioned a future of after-school detention and delinquency court for our children. But then we wondered about those other "studies," the ones that informed us that the kids of working moms are more confident. What happened to that particular positive outcome of non-maternal care? Or is Leach's adjective "aggressive" the flipside of confidence? Our confusion deepens. Meanwhile, does anyone study the older children of working parents? Or the home enviornments? Or the circumstances of the childcare? Or kids' DNA? Maybe they do, and studies are out there, intersecting with each other, colliding, canceling each other out. Has anyone proven that a three-year-old who aggressively grabs a toy truck grows up to be a mean boss or a date rapist? Of course not. There are too many variables. So we search onwards, for more answers, from more studies.
Our first thought after reading the AAP announcement was how the recommendation for pacifier use contradicted their recently restated breast-feeding endorsement. We also wondered if all the benefits of co-sleeping (for both the tired breastfeeding mom and breathing rhythms of the baby) are now disqualified. What about co-sleeping under optimal conditions? What are the studies the AAP used to come to their conclusions? What were the parameters? As Sara Gilbert points out in her excellent rant against the AAP recommendations: "I just have a problem with the science behind these recommendations. It’s so murky, so imprecise, so much guesswork."
And so we Google some more. How do we resist the TYRANNY of the STUDIES while still reaping their benefits?
Maybe we just have to train ourselves to read them critically. To figure out what makes sense in the context of what we've been doing, what has been working and what hasn't. Your hunch may be just as reliable as the latest news from headquarters. If you feel like your mattress is firm and your family is sleeping, use that information to make a judgment. And your own powers of observation can tell you whether your caregiver is doing a good job. Besides, unless Ms. Leach is going to share her royalties with you so you can stay at home and cultivate your child's gentler side, you might not have much choice in the matter. Where you do have choice is in how to handle this endless influx of studies. We all want to be informed parents, but we can't spend our time panicking, running from one corner of the room to the other. No. When considering these studies we need to assess ourselves, our children, our lives as they exist on the ground. Then we can take what we need and scrap the rest. Besides, whatever you do, sooner or later a study will denounce it, followed by another one that says you were right all along.
The AAP just came out with a new statement on SIDS and sleep. The big changes: they're now explicitly anti-cosleeping. So much for our theory that Dr. Sears had hijacked the AAP, per their new breastfeeding policy. When they mentioned the benefits of maternal proximity in the February policy, we were half-expecting an endorsement of co-sleeping in this one. Au contraire. According to the new policy, Room sharing=good. Bed sharing=bad. The story on co-sleeping is awfully confusing. The stats on babies being suffocated are so scary, but we wonder...What if risk factors like parental smoking, drinking, and unsafe bedding were removed from the picture? Does a study exist that accounts for these variables?
The new recommendations also discourage side-sleeping, formerly presented as an alternative to back sleeping, especially for babies who wouldn't sleep on their backs. We both relied on side sleeping a lot in our babies' early days. Again, you can't argue with safety, but if side sleeping is discouraged because of instability, is it possible to define safe parameters for side sleeping, or are parents simply being asked to remove this entirely from their toolbox?
One tool that parents are being actively encouraged to use by the AAP is the pacifier. Pacifier use may be associated with lower SIDS rates, maybe because pacifiers discourage babies from entering the deepest sleep states (interestingly, co-sleeping is also associated with less deep sleep). However, the pacifier advice seems a wee bit unrealistic:
"Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime: The pacifier should be used when placing infant down for sleep and not be reinserted once the infant falls asleep."
If there is a parent in the world who has successfully trained a baby to use a pacifier to get to sleep but not to get back to sleep, please come forward. As far as we know, it's impossible.
Because the AAP is the ultimate authority on child safety, we often feel like we have no choice but to do what they say. After all, who wants to put their baby at risk? But our question is, how real are these risks in the contexts of our lives? As parents who make educated choices, are we obligated to follow these recommendations to the letter, or should we assume that they're coming from the same alarmist/paranoid better-scared-than-sorry universe that drives the whole freakin' medical industrial complex? We're at a loss.
Here's what some other people have to say on the subject:
As if it weren't already hard enough to travel around the city with a baby stroller, those damn terrorists had to go and make it just a little bit harder. The recent threat to the subway system reportedly involves, among other things, a plan to place bombs in baby carriages. Security measures include police searches, and, in a press conference last night, a plea from Bloomberg to avoid bringing strollers on the subway if at all possible. Not for your baby's safety, but for the city's. Everyone else should be taking the subway as usual. Is it riskier or safer to travel by train after a threat like this? Hard to know...but it's definitely a lot more inconvenient, especially for parents.
Katie is pregnant! Let's hope she takes those vitamins.
One byproduct of tecnological advances in pregnancy testing, according to some doctors in the UK, may be seemingly higher rates of early miscarriage. The theory is that since these super-sensitive tests can detect HCG levels even before a woman's period has been missed, she can then end up suffering the grief of a miscarriage when she gets her period after the pregnancy doesn't implant successfully. This may contribute to the perceived rate of miscarriage, but not necessarily the number of actual early miscarriages (since early testing wasn't available before, these women would theoretically not think they were pregnant in the first place.) The upside, according to another doctor, is that if this happens over and over again, it can help diagnose an implantation problem.