I was at a group recently where we were asked to consider whether we follow our intuition with our babies or look for outside information. After reflecting on it I started to think that the biggest problem that people in our generation have is having our babies without the village. You know the old saying “it takes a village to raise a baby”, well these days having a village isn’t always possible.
In the village you would be surrounded by babies, baby brothers and sisters, baby cousins. You would be absorbing by watching and responding to babies how your elders were parenting. You would probably go from having your younger siblings and cousins on your hip to having your own in a relatively short space of time. When you had your own you would be surrounded by willing help from grandmothers and aunts and sisters and cousins. You would never really have to stop and reflect on your parenting style.
I come from a large family. My youngest brother was born when I was 14 so I still remember changing nappies and rocking him to sleep (he is over 6 foot now!) I babysat frequently. Babies didn’t phase me in the slightest.
Then I had my first baby. I was living in Dublin away from my family, my village. I was thirty. So all the baby experience that I had seemed really long ago. I hadn’t held a baby apart from the odd friends child in over ten years. Most of my friends weren’t anywhere near having babies. I had no nieces or nephews. And I found it overwhelming.
I was alone in the house when my husband went back to work with this tiny baby and the responsibility was all mine. Suddenly intuition went out the window and I longed for a “complete idiots guide to babies”. I started to research how to look after my own baby, I googled everything.
And here is the problem with outside information; it is all conflicting. Your baby should be in its own room from day one versus co-sleeping. Feeding on demand versus routine feeding. Spoon feeding versus baby led weaning. You need to fit your baby around your life versus you need to fit your life around your baby. Whatever I was doing was not right by somebody’s standards. Cue, Mammy Guilt. Is your baby doing tummy time? Is your baby being stimulated enough? Are you reading to your one month old??
On my second baby I didn’t want to fall into that trap again and finally I gave in to my intuition. We moved closer to our village. I didn’t worry about her hitting milestones. I started her on solids when it felt right. I moved her into her own room when it felt right. I had gained the confidence and experience to allow myself to parent her as I wanted to. I relaxed.
And occasionally I googled.