Guilt. All mothers have it. Often there is heated discussion about not making mothers feel guilty for their parenting decisions. Sometimes I agree with that sentiment if what the mother is doing isn’t wrong. For example, a mother shouldn’t feel guilty if she co-sleeps or doesn’t, because both are valid options when done properly. Neither should she be guilted for parenting responsively, however that looks for her family. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, as those with multiple children know, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
There are other times, though, when guilt is used as an excuse to refrain from giving information. How often have we heard that we shouldn’t make mothers feel guilty for bottle-feeding when we’re only giving information about breastfeeding and risks to not doing so?! Obviously such information shouldn’t be used to berate mothers, but neither should we refrain from giving information out of fear of offending.
So often, though, giving information about breastfeeding, CIO/CC, and even babywearing is met with hostility and exclamations of how they and their children survived such practices and are “fine”. Giving such information, though, isn’t intended to make people feel guilty, but just to ensure parents have the best information available. We all want to do what’s best for our children and we work with the information we have. When we later learn that a practice we were doing isn’t best, it is jarring. We don’t want to admit that our practice wasn’t best and was, in some cases, harmful.
For example, I introduced solids too early with Kieran and even gave him a little bit of baby rice. I hadn’t known at that time what the actual signs of readiness were, despite my intention of doing BLW (I hadn’t researched it as much then as I later have). I didn’t know about the pointlessness of baby rice, though I quit giving it since he didn’t like it. I didn’t know about the increased risk of eczema with premature introduction of solids, and Kieran ended up with bad eczema. Did I feel guilty? Yes, but I’m glad I was told these things so I could amend my practices in the future. I realised I couldn’t berate myself because I was working within the scope of knowledge I had, and with the advice of the Health Visitor. I am thankful Kieran’s eczema has disappeared, and now I know better what to do.
I could also feel guilty about having used a Baby Bjorn a few times with Kieran. I don’t, though, because I didn’t know the Bjorn is bad for the baby, physically. All I knew was that it hurt my back, so I didn’t use it much. Thanks to a friend I heard about the Kari Me wrap and started using it; not only was it better for him, but it was the first carrier I’d found that didn’t hurt my back (I’d also tried a non-stretchy wrap).
My point in all his is that, while there isn’t one right answer for parents, there are some things that are clearly better or clearly harmful, and parents deserve to have that information. Not to make them feel guilty, but to make sure the information is available so parents can make truly informed decisions.