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Who knows how to raise baby? Depends on what year you ask


The "rules" of parenting change with each generation. While parents once put their babies to sleep on their bellies, experts now say that babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Credit: Fotolia

It’s been a long time since my kids were babies. But as friends and relatives have given birth over the years, I’ve seen trends in infant care come and go. And inevitably the comparison between then and now ends with the older mother exclaiming: “And YOU grew up just fine!”

I remember not so many years ago, there was a “rule” (“My doctor says .?.?.” was the refrain) that babies couldn’t be taken out in public for their first six months. I laughed at that, because my friends and I all packed up our sons and daughters and took them out in their baby carriages as soon as we could walk comfortably after giving birth. And they grew up just fine.

Most of us didn’t breast-feed, we gave solid foods early, (older moms, remember the promise? A little spoonful of rice cereal dissolved in formula in their bottles would help them sleep through the night, right?) and we put our squirmy wormies down for a nap on their stomachs in a crib with bumpers, blankets and toys. Whole milk or part skim or totally skim? Rock the baby, roll the baby, dance with the baby or let her self-soothe? Scheduled feedings or feeding on demand? To swaddle or not to swaddle or .?.?. What the heck is swaddling?

So when my son and daughter-in-law announced they were expecting, I braced myself for the inevitable changes and reminded myself to bite my tongue, keep my advice to myself and try hard not be THAT older mother.

Early signs of shifting trends started during the pregnancy. No Lamaze sessions were scheduled (I was such a good Lamaze student; I relaxed so well during my classes I fell asleep!), but there were birthing classes at the hospital. Yes to the obstetrician, but not to a midwife (I had just missed out on that trend with great regret; with my easy pregnancies, a midwife would have been a great choice for me). Yes to a doula .?.?. What the heck is a doula?

And no anxious grandparents in the hospital waiting room: “We’ll call you once the baby’s born and then you can come in and see her after she’s all cleaned up.”

Just because a baby-raising concept or theory is different doesn’t make it wrong. And if it’s wrong, it will soon change. I know that, because I’ve seen these “rules” come and go. And I know my mom had issues with my child-rearing. She once pointedly told me I’d waited too long to start toilet-training. To which I responded, “So you mean he’ll be graduating college in diapers?”

And not that I’m rushing things — or anxious for that yet-to-come trend — but I’m just interested to see the day when my granddaughter’s grown and her mom’s the one who can say, “And YOU grew up just fine!”

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