Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Bottle and the Crib

So now we get into some of my newer, more extreme views as a parent, specifically as an attachment parent. I'm a frequent reader and poster on several boards that talk about both breastfeeding and co sleeping, two things that I believe in very much. And I've come to a few conclusions recently in regards to bottles and cribs. Please, no one be offended by what I'm about to write. Every parent raises their child as they choose, and there is no wrong way to do so. The following are simply my views on observations on the general population of parents, in particular a type of parent I label the "convenience parent" which I know are not something that my friends are among. This will be explained in a forth coming parenting blog.

Both the bottle and the crib are creations of western society. Granted, the actual use of bottles dates back for many, many years, but until our society got ahold of the idea they were reserved for those that could not nurse their children for one reason or another, and never as a matter of choice. Cribs became popular in the 19th century, which is no surprise because at this time nannies, wet nurses, and really anyone else to care for the baby became popular. Sometime during this time, rearing a child as well as the way a child was to be treated became a very similar practice to today. Before this time, to separate a child from the mother at night would have seemed a very unusual practice.

First an observation on the animal kingdom. No matter your views on God/Supreme Being of your choice, you must at least admit to there being some connection between animals and humans. The fact that humans are a mammal influences my next comments. No animal is known to leave their young to sleep in another place. No animal is ever given artificial milk by vets or caregivers unless it is an absolute last resort. Marsupials live with their young inside a pouch until they are able to leave. Primates carry their young with them most of the time. All animals nurse their young until around the time the milk teeth fall out. If you've ever had a puppy or a kitten, the first canines they have are curved inward toward their mouths. These fall out about six to eight weeks and are replaced with regular teeth. About this time, this six to eight week mark, is when felines and canines wean their young, or their young self wean. Now, in humans, these milk teeth are what we refer to as baby teeth, meaning that natural weaning, when left completely unimpeded by society, will occur sometime before these teeth fall out. In general, this happens between three and four, with the baby teeth beginning to be lost around five to six.

I've heard it said that animals wean at six weeks so humans should as well. Well, if you take the lifespan of a cat, which we will say is in general 15 years, and the life span of a human, we will put this at 75 years, and then compare the two you come up with an interesting fact. Humans should nurse longer, relatively.

This "bottle" and "crib" both impose a barrier between mother and child. A plastic/glass bottle contains a manmade formula that tries to imitate milk, with an artificial nipple. Society deems this the appropriate way to feed because it is neat, pleasing to watch, and does not have to be done by the mother. The chore can be given easily to another, be it a nurse, nanny, father, parent, whatever. The crib becomes a tiny cage in which the baby is placed to sleep because it is "safer" than sleeping with the parent. My question becomes, how many cribs or bassinets have killed children? How many babies have died from suffocating because they've become entangled in a faulty crib? How many children have been injured? So the logic that the crib is "safer" is faulty in itself. And it is a physical barrier between the mother and her child. Not only is the milk delivered by an apathetic bottle, the crib likewise has no feeling toward the child, it is not warm, it is not living and breathing. So the child wakes alone behind bars that it cannot escape from, and it fears, because children develop life preservation skills early on. A baby's startle reflex is a protective reflex, and so are most of their reflexes.

People argue that sleeping with an infant is too dangerous. They may roll over on them. They might fall off the bed. They might... This is all true. However, as a mother, I also recognize that I have instincts. These instincts protect my child, causing me to wake at the slightest movement, and causing my own sleep to be light and easy to wake from. Now, I will admit to one thing: when feeding with a bottle, these instincts are NOT as strong. I have experienced both. The missing element is breastfeeding. Those hormones that are present during nursing are not there when a bottle is involved.

So to close this blog of my somewhat extreme views, I suppose my whole point is that I wish more women would realize that humans have been around a long time, and during that time, the normal way of raising children has not involved either cribs or bottles. The normal way of raising babies in other countries does not involve cribs or bottles. So maybe, we as a society should rethink our perception of both of these. Is it wrong to use a bottle? No, but it also should not be considered the norm. Is it wrong to use a crib? No, but it also should not be considered the only safe way for an infant to sleep. I guess my point is that our society seems to have it backwards, really. Things that are natural are pushed aside for the artificial, to the point of being considered dangerous. Life itself is not entirely safe, and no matter how you feed or sleep, bad things happen. I will return to this idea of sleeping with my blog on some theories on SIDS in today's society at a later time.

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