Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Knowledge is Power

Today the British Medical Journal published a new analysis of data from five previous studies which found that sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

The results have understandably provoked a passionate response from many on both sides on the co-sleeping fence.  Many Mother’s feel that their parenting choices are being invaded, and that more specific research is required before scaring Mothers with statements like these.

I don't want to comment specifically on this article as I have not read it in full.  I instead want to tackle the wider issue of when parental guidance becomes dictated rather than purely informative.

In the not so distant past, a mother's instinct was something that was admired.  No-one knew what was better for a child more than that child's mother.  Now there seems to be a trend towards dismissing an individual mother's opinion in lieu of medical statistics.  The needs of an individual child are overlooked in favour of generic guidelines.  A mother who makes her own decision is deemed irresponsible and is frowned upon.

This has already had the effect of mothers losing confidence in their own decisions.  I include myself in this.  My own Mother finds it highly amusing that I am unable to run my daughter a bath without checking the bath temperature with a digital thermometer, instead of trusting my own judgement about whether it is the correct temperature.   Along similar lines, if I am away from home and forget C’s room thermometer, I feel I don’t know what to dress her in at night.   If it’s 20.1’c then I know she needs a short sleeve vest, long sleeve sleepsuit and a 1.5 tog sleeping bag, yet at 21.3’c I know she needs just the sleepsuit and sleeping bag, no vest.  Without this information I feel lost.  I should have the confidence to be able to make these kind of decisions on my own!

Instead of being frowned upon, a Mother’s instinct should be embraced and used alongside medical knowledge to provide the safest environment possible for our children.  Where a child’s health is at risk, it is vitally important that medical research is continually carried out and widely circulated to help Mothers and Fathers provide the best care for their children.  The studies carried out into SIDS in the 1990s have proved invaluable in reducing the number of cot deaths in this country and further afield.  

What concerns many is the research often appears generalised and provides dumbed down advice to parents without giving them all the facts.  For example, it is simpler to tell parents not to bedshare at all rather than go through the more complicated process of explaining what variables have been taken into account in the research and more importantly which have not.  What seems to have been overlooked is giving parents the full picture allows them to make informed decisions. After all knowledge is power!  

Going one step further, there have been instances recently where decisions have been taken out of the parents hands completely.  It is my understanding all retailers selling amber teething necklaces within the UK were contacted by Trading Standards last year and asked to remove them from sale due to the potential safety of the necklaces and the questionable health benefits.  These items have been used for hundreds of years and many Mothers swear by the health benefits, yet apparently now Mothers are incapable of making their own decision on this matter.  Now I am not a particular advocate of this particular item however it frustrates me that it should not be down to the individual mother to decide whether or not to use them. 

As a parent we have to live with the choices we make therefore it is important we feel comfortable with them and not pressurised into doing something that does not feel right! As a nation we should be empowering Mothers with the knowledge and confidence to make the best decisions possible for our children; not dismissing our opinion.  It may be hard for some to accept but in some cases a Mother really can know best!

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