Thursday, July 22, 2010

30 Years Later - Have we moved forward?

Earlier in the year, my mother-in-law had a fire in her house. No one was injured, but it caused her to have to go through everything in her house. In doing so, she came across a lot of my husband's old papers, photos, etc. and gave him a big box of stuff. One thing she found and gave to us was his baby book. She kept really detailed information about his development until about the age of 5, which was so cool to read. She also included a guide that was given to new parents in the hospital, written by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I just wanted to share some of the information in this guide that was published back in the 1970s.

It begins with explaining how your baby is not a miniature adult:
  • The bones of the head are soft and rubbery. 
  • Your baby may have no hair - or excess hair all over his body. 
  • The face is asymmetrical. 
  • Your baby has poor vision. 
  • The neck is short and supports the head poorly. 
  • Extremities may twitch. 
  • The skin has a purple-red color due to poor circulation. 
  • Hearing is not present at birth, but appears within a few days.
  • Babies can lose as much as 10% of their birth weight.
  • Babies are born with their mother's hormones in the blood, which may cause swollen breasts, bloody vaginal discharge, swollen vagina/scrotum.
  • Respiration is irregular.
  • Spitting up is very common the first few months.
  • The bridge of baby's nose is flat.
  • Hiccups are common.
  • Sleep patters vary in infants. Some may sleep 18 hours a day while others 7 - 8 hours.
  • Bowel moments also vary greatly.
  • The navel may protrude.
  • The feet may turn in or out.
Before even mentioning breastfeeding, the next section is entitled "Formula Preparation." What?? Are we not even giving the mom a chance to successfully breastfeed? No information regarding the benefits of breastfeeding before promoting formula usage? This section discusses that it is no longer necessary to sterilize formula or boil water. You should use tap water to make 26 oz of formula at a time, which should be divided into 6 bottles. Scrub nipples with soap and water. Refrigerate. Warming the milk is unnecessary. Then it describes how to bottlefeed your baby and how to schedule feedings roughly while being open to feeding when baby is hungry. The only good part is that it specifically states "Never prop up the bottle and leave baby to feed himself."'s a highly-disturbing section (I think) entitled "Friends and Visitors" - "Do your utmost to keep visitors and especially children away from your baby. The newborn baby is best kept as much to himself as possible. He should never sleep with you or with anybody else." Again, WHAT?! So the baby's father, grandmother, siblings, aunt, etc. should not interact with this child? Everyone should be kept away, and this insecure baby with poor vision and hearing (as described above) should feel lonely just laying by himself all night and day? Oh, that's right...this is for people giving their babies formula, which does not allow the baby to share the mother's immunity as breastfeeding would, so the baby's immunity is compromised, and he should be ignored. Sigh...

Finally, on page 5 of this booklet, breastfeeding is mentioned! Phew... It opens with "For maximum milk production - - your baby will be brought to you every three to four hours around the clock." While that is very important, shouldn't it really begin with "For maximum bonding and health, you should breastfeed"?? Most of the other information is actually accurate and beneficial for new moms - how to hold your baby while nursing, how to get a good latch, manually express if needed, be patient, wear a good nursing bra, etc. It talks about how you should not sleep through the night until at least the 8th week. I am still waiting for more than 3 hours of sleep at a time, and Lydia is almost 11 months old. And for some reason, after all that, it says not to weigh your baby at home. That's just odd. Just turned the page and found the best part yet, actually (no sarcasm here for a change): "If baby cries you MUST NURSE baby ON DEMAND. IT IS NORMAL DURING FIRST FEW WEEKS TO NURSE 10 - 12 TIMES A DAY!" (I think I still nurse this frequently.) This is followed by a sentence about how you need to offer your baby lukewarm water once or twice daily, but it's okay if your child does not take it. I don't think Lydia was ever offered water until about 6 months of age. I couldn't imagine offering a newborn a bottle of water. Isn't the whole point to provide your child with nourishment, comfort, and weight gain? How would water help with any of that?

The next section is on baby care, and it is still accurate. Here's the really amazing part -- no mention of disposable diapers, only cloth diapers. Intriguing! It's all about how to properly wash your diapers (doesn't even call them "cloth diapers") or to use a diaper service. One other thing I like that was in here was to not over-dress your baby. Your baby only needs as much clothing as you need. I see so many moms who dress their kids in full outfits and then wrap blankets around them - in the summer heat in Florida!  UGH!

So to wrap it all up...The biggest difference of all between the 1970s and 2010? "Most babies prefer to sleep on their stomachs with the head turned to one side." Definitely not a recommendation anyone would make anymore! Amazing how all of us turned out okay and we all slept on our stomachs. Now babies sleep on their backs and need positioners that warn against plagiocephaly (flattening of the head).

What do you think? Is the parenting advice given in hospitals better now...or better then?


Musings of a Modern Mom said...

Amazing Post!

Emily said...

Not really sure the advice is better or worse some 30 years later.. just different. The sleeping is the one that kills me though, it's a wonder we are all alive! ;) I think the best part of looking at old vs current advice is realizing that advice from "experts" is always changing. Moms should do what feels right and best for them and not worry about the rest.

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Loretta.Longo said...

I'm not sure if it's better now, or better then. In 30 years we'll still relay some of what we're taught now... and some of what was taught then, plus new developments and insights.

Elita said...

A lot of that breastfeeding information is pretty terrible. I know that in the late 70s, only about 30% of women initiated breastfeeding in the hospital. But saying a baby should be only brought to its mother to feed every 3-4 hours is ridiculous. Thank goodness almost all moms are rooming in with their babies now. It looks like a lot has changed over the last 30 years which actually gives me hope that things will be much better by the time we have grandkids. Maybe by then nursing in public won't raise any eyebrows, there will be paid maternity leave and formula and C-sections will only be used for emergencies.

Huppie Mama said...

It just amazes me that so many details about formula were given, and yet the breastfeeding information was so minimal...and presented 3 pages AFTER the formula-feeding information. The fact that none of the benefits of breastfeeding were described is horrible as well. While I was far less than pleased with the care I received while staying in the hospital after Lydia was born, I was given a breastfeeding book as part of my "care package," not a formula feeding book. Definitely a sign that we're headed in the right direction...

Jennifer said...

Actually, a friend of mine who ended up supplimenting with formula (don't get me started on the LC who told her she had to do that...roar!) told me that no one ever told her how to mix it, heat it, what water is safe to use, how to store it, etc. That information is so important, and it reminds me of another story...

A friend of mine in college got pregnant and, though she tried, wasn't able to continue nursing. She told me once that when her daughter was over 50th percentile on weight, she thought that meant "overweight" and watered down her formula until her weight was in the lower percentiles. No one ever told her that could be dangerous, nor did her ped. ever explain how to read a growth chart or what percentile means.

Jennifer said...

oh and nursing ever 3-4 hours is absurd. Maybe by 6 months if you are lucky haha.

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