Unless you’re a parent (or possibly a pet owner), you probably don’t get the single greatest benefit my wife and I have enjoyed since last August: free advice. The only problem is, you usually get what you pay for. The advice comes from everyone possible–health care providers, other parents, random people on the street (including one old guy with a really bad sunburn who invited us to come sit on his “pink bench down by the creek.” Still not sure if that was some kind of innuendo, and I don’t plan to find out).
When it comes to parenting, there are rabid factions that make political zealots look nearly benign. My wife and I try to gather as much information as possible and then decide the right thing to do, but we still get plenty of input from all sides. There are a number of different “parenting parties,” and the big one in the news right now is attachment parenting, thanks to a recent Times article.
The nurses and doctors gave us a ton of information when Wolfe was born, including multiple talks about SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. It’s just the kind of feel-good pep talk you want to have right before you take a helpless newborn home for the first time. We were told under no uncertain terms to always place the little guy on his back to sleep, keep pillows and blankets away from him, and never ever sleep with him in our bed. Makes sense, I suppose.
Now, if I roll over on Wolfe and suffocate him with my gigantic buttocks, that wouldn’t be SIDS (because SIDS only occurs when there’s no explanation for a baby’s death). Great to know. However, there are people who tell us bed sharing is the way to go–and I know from holding Wolfe during the day that he sleeps better when he has human contact. On a couple of occasions, I have dozed off while holding him, and woke up feeling like some kind of criminal for jeopardizing his health. (As a side note, Chuck Palahniuk has a great book called Lullaby that’s about SIDS, sort of. Good read.)
The CDC and pediatricians recommend co-sleeping (sleeping in the same room, but not the same bed). So far this is what we’ve been doing, but now we have to worry that we’re depriving Wolfe of the best developmental experience in order to prevent something that might not be that big of a deal at all. And the best thing is, people keep giving us all sorts of advice–much of it conflicting. Keep him in bed, keep him beside the bed, let him sleep sitting up, put him in his own room ASAP, sleep with him strapped to you with duct tape. Anyway, if you have any advice or anecdotes to share about the best sleeping arrangements, leave them in the comments. Just more sleepless nights for us as we try to sift through it all and figure out which is the “right” thing to do!
I hate to end my rant with all that depressing stuff about SIDS (in all seriousness, it’s terrifying to imagine your baby could die for no discernible reason whatsoever). So I’ll end by talking about how Wolfe looks like he’s trying to bring back the hairstyles from the 80’s group A Flock of Seagulls. See, our son is going bald on the left side of his head. The reason? Whenever he’s in his car seat (another safety precaution we received much advice about–and the hospital won’t let you leave without getting it checked out first), he flops his head over to that side. Now, during our car seat lectures, we were told to remove the hilarious and awfully cute monkey car seat strap covers. Anything not included with the car seat, we were informed in no uncertain terms, was a hazard to our child. Again, we felt shame at being such awful parents and risking his life for a little comfort.
However, Wolfe does not yet have very strong neck muscles. He’s working on it–lots of tummy time–but he still has a ways to go. So, his head flops over like a wet rag. And it rubs the hair off his head. The thing is, none of this bothers him. He doesn’t get a sore neck, because he doesn’t have any neck muscles to speak of yet. He doesn’t care about his hair, because he loves Flock of Seagulls. People love to tell us to fix him, though. The last straw was when we were getting groceries. The lady bagging said, “Can I give you some advice?”
And, of course, we said sure. We’re resigned to it by now.
“You’re going to have to massage that kid’s neck when you get home,” she said. “That looks really uncomfortable.”
I don’t know if it made it better or worse that she was terrible at bagging groceries, but her comment still made me cranky. From now on, I’m just going to print out all the advice we’ve gotten so far and hand it to these well-meaning advisors. If it’s not in the booklet, then they can share with us. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear it. It will just make me crankier.