I imagine new parents are inundated with advice - some welcome, some not. I tend to not be the disher of said advice, given my status as a happy-to-be-childfree type, but I have no problem giving advice to the advice givers, if that makes any sense. And my advice to them is this: Chill the fuck out. You need only take a twirl on Google to see why I say this. If you go online, the top, most-frequently mentioned advice sounds like this:
- ALWAYS BREASTFEED. BREAST IS BEST. FORMULA IS POISON. DON'T QUIT - IT'S ABOUT BABY'S HEALTH - NOT YOUR COMFORT LEVEL! BABY COMES FIRST.
- SIDS! SIDS! Your baby is likely to die at any given moment unless you do everything perfectly. And even then, he might still die. SIDDDDDSS!
- Run to your baby if he is crying. Every. Time. RUNNNN!
- Don't shake your baby - even if you really want to.
- Get medicated!
I found a "Do's and Dont's" when it came to baby from the same 1959 Best Wishes magazine that I recently mentioned on the blog. And the advice? Strikingly low-key. Calm. Reasonable. So incredibly opposite to the manic-fest that is 1950s cooking suggestions and 1950s homemaking schedules (open the picture in a new tab to see it expanded):
There are, of course, a couple funny things in there. The magazine is Canadian, so naturally there is a mention not to give your newborn beer and gravy. But those are our staples, eh? I imagine the French Canadian version has been further customized to remind new moms to avoid treating the baby to Quebec family favourites, specifically ketchup, Pepsi, and cigarettes, tabernac.
There's also a shift in advice when it comes to crying; while one modern website states, "DO respond to your baby's cries. You are not spoiling your baby by immediately responding to their cries at this age, so feed, change, hold, or soothe your baby when she is crying", the 1950s advice says something quite different: "Though he cries, don't pick you baby up if he is well. A good lusty cry is excellent exercise." I have no idea if cry-it-out or attachment parenting are right or wrong - frankly, I don't think anyone knows - I just love how enthusiastic the advice is: "a good lusty cry!" "Excellent exercise!" "Go watch some telly, mom!"
And there's one big piece of advice that I just love and wish it was in all the baby books and websites today:
Yes, the generation of women who were often viewed as being the "perfect mothers" and the "perfect housewives" were, in fact, not slaves to the other members of the household. Yes, a baby needs a great deal of care and attention, but you're a person who has needs too. Like rest. And personal time. And a break. Maybe that advice alone - to not be a martyr to your baby - curtailed the need for advice like "don't shake your newborn when you're frustrated" - which is strangely and sadly in all of the "Do's and Don't's" that we see today.