Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We're not allowed to!

I have several friends who have recently had babies. Some are their first, others have been down this road before. Even for the practised Moms, every child presents new challenges. Sleeping. Feeding. Weight gain (or lack thereof). These are the topics that come up time and again.

In the UK (perhaps because new mothers get ousted from hospital within hours of giving birth), there are health visitors. These are people (usually women - I have yet to meet a male health visitor) who visit people like new mothers in their homes to offer support.

I have been somewhat perplexed, lately, by the increasing authority being imputed to these people. One of the new babies has a reflux problem. This is very common in boys and tends to clear up once they learn to sit on their own. But, until then, there's an awful lot of urking that goes on. My elder son had this problem and I chose to set him down to sleep on his side as a baby, using a rolled up nappy (diaper) behind him to prevent him from rolling onto his back. I didn't want him to choke in his sleep. When I mentioned this to the mother in question, she told me "We're not allowed to do that. We're supposed to put them on their backs, because of cot death." In an effort to reduce the reflux problem during sleep, the baby's cot has been slightly elevated at one end. I was somewhat puzzled by this. When you consider how small a baby is, the angle would have to be significant in order to make any appreciable difference. I asked whether she had considered letting the baby sleep in his bouncer 'chair'. Apparently, because of the risk to the baby's back, she's been told she's not allowed to do this, either.

I've heard this "We're not allowed to..." quite often lately and it bothers me. I'm not bothered that my friend doesn't want to set her baby down to sleep the way I did. I'm bothered that my friend is effectively being dictated to by the State regarding her baby's sleeping position.

When I was a baby, the recommendation was to set babies down on their bellies, and this was how I slept. Then someone identified the risk of babies drowning in any vomitus produced in their sleep, and parents were advised to lay babies down on their sides as I have described. By the time my own kids came along, someone had identified that the best chance of avoiding cot death was to lay a baby down on its back.

The thing is, as adults we don't like to all sleep in the same position, so why should the same be true of babies? Surely a new parent should be free to experiment with sleeping positions until they find one that works for their baby? If you look hard enough, there are probably risks associated with every position.

This relates obliquely to my assertion in yesterday's post about who is accountable to whom in the state/parent equation when dealing with children.

I can't help feeling that the business of parenting is being increasingly micro-managed by the state, to nobody's benefit. And, when parents have been inculcated with the habit of bowing to authority on how and where their babies sleep, when and what they eat and so on, it seems to me they are far more likely to adopt a stance of unquestioning compliance on the matter of their children's education.

I'm not suggesting there's a conspiracy, here, just that passive parenting is being fostered. We already see the fruits of the abdication of parental duty in our society. Sadly, that same society seems to be trying to increase legislative controls and state intervention to combat this.

My view? It won't work.

Parents need to step up the oche and resume the mantle of parental responsibility. We are society. It's our problem. We need to fix it. The government doesn't rule us, it serves us, the people in government are drawn from among us. They are, in fact, part of us!


V Yonkers said...

I also blame part of this problem on "scientific evidence." In the US, schools are not allowed to do anything unless it is backed up by scientific evidence. Now don't get me wrong, I think there needs to be a basis for our education. But what about the 5 or 10 or even 20% that don't fall into the normal range?

In the US, we are having the debate about mandatory immunization. My daughter had a shot which before given, I had a gut feeling she shouldn't have. Sure enough, she had a "psychotic" reaction in which she acted irrationally and was unable to sleep for 3 days after. She had never had this problem before and hasn't since. But the doctors quoted studies in which this was a very rare reaction and as such were not sure that was the cause of her problems.

I agree with you. We need to get away from "standardizing" everything so it all looks the same and move to guidelines that help us handle different problems in different situations. But then, who would we blame if there is no one to blame?

The upsycho said...

@Virginia That debate rages elsewhere, too - especially in respect of the MMR, which has been linked to autism. I didn't know of any such problems, so had my children immunised according to a state recommendation. In fact, now that I think of it, I had a little sheet that told me when to produce my child for which shots, and much finger-wagging went on if any mother failed to comply. I guess it's the same sort of thing.

V Yonkers said...

And how is "mother's intuition" or gut feeling quantified? Likewise, in the classroom, as with your son's biology teacher, only the test scores are perceived as reliable measures. A teacher's opinion or assessment of a student's ability (either that the student could be working harder and learning more or is learning a lot but not "testing" well) may be totally discounted if there are no standard measures to support their assessment.

The upsycho said...

@Virginia And thus we find ourselves once again facing those two doors marked quantitative and qualitative. Under the word quantitative, someone has scrawled 'proper science', while the grafitti on the other door reads 'unsubstantiated froth'. Sigh. Why can't we accept that we need both?

Rooney said...

I see what you're saying, but we also rely on the state to intervene to help us. Without the governments help we would all be dying from lung cancer after smoking too much for example. The sheer amount of research into matters as complex as baby health is such that no single person can be well informed enough to make the best choice in all areas. You have to take advice from experts.

The upsycho said...

@Rooney Taking advice is a long way from taking instruction. We should also be allowed not to take advice if we so choose. No matter how well researched something is, it is never one size fits all. Research may show an increase or a decrease in this or that, but we have yet to see something that results in a 100% change. People are being disempowered from making choices. We didn't sign up for that.

Rooney said...

I'm a student nurse and I think part of the problem in the case of your friends baby is the way nurses are. Old school nurses (Which health visitors almost always are as you need a lot of experience) can be rather militant. They see it as their job to impose what they think is best regardless of what anyone else thinks. The newer generation of nurses are mostly a different breed though.

The upsycho said...

@Rooney Good to know. Good to have your input, too. I think this is the first time you have commented on my blog. Thanks for taking the time.