I bought one parenting book when I was pregnant. A “ baby bible” of sorts written by a renowned parenting “expert”. I read the first two chapters, flicked through the remainder of the pages anxiously before deciding that the best thing I could do with this “expert advice” was to chuck it in the nearest bin.
I didn’t toss the material aside because I felt I knew better. I knew absolutely nothing about the “correct” way to ensure a baby settles into a good sleeping routine or what’s the best way to ensure a satisfactory belly burp. As I looked at the glossy cover of my now obsolete purchase, I did know that I had succumbed to two things; the power of marketing and fear.
So, I did what all good nerds do. I went to my bookshelf, remembering that I had another book that contained information about “the perfect parent”. This book was to become my go-to guide whenever I felt overwhelmed by the challenges of motherhood.
“Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – Chapter 5: “What makes the perfect parent?”
Levitt and Dubner discuss the contradictory advice given by parenting experts and the effect this has on new parents. By the expert sounding so sure of themselves and taking a firm stance on how an issue should be addressed, the expert engages with the reader’s emotions. Levitt and Dubner go on to state that,
“No one is more susceptible to an expert’s fearmongering than a parent. Fear in is fact a major component of the act of parenting”.
Damn right, lads! The fear starts before baby arrives. Fear surrounding labour and meeting baby.
“Will the epidural cross the placenta and affect the baby? What if the baby hates me?”
There’s fear about feeding.
“What if I can’t breast feed? What if I don’t want to breastfeed and people judge me? What if I do want to breast feed and people judge me?”
Don’t forget the health and safety fears.
“We’ll have to bubble wrap all the furniture and move into a bungalow so the baby doesn’t hurt herself! And no more hot drinks for fear of burning small hands!”
Industry smells this fear and senses your credit card vibrating with excitement because the fear is accompanied by the need to show how much you love baby. New fear-filled parents! Welcome to the manipulative and over-priced world of baby equipment.
Need a car seat, of course you do, you can’t leave the hospital without one. The midwife will actually keep the baby in the CUMH until they are old enough or tall enough to sit in a car without a babyseat if you don’t buy the latest, newest model on the market. You could buy other models which meet EU standards and are just as safe but this one is the best for your baby
Decorating the nursery, well, you could buy a chest of drawers from any furniture shop but that won’t reflect the depth of the love you feel for your baby, will it? And look, this one has drawer knobs that are shaped like teddy bears so you will get absolutely no use out of it afterwards.
Out and about, you’re going to need a stroller. You could get an average buggy but you’re not going to be an average parent, are you?. You need a vehicle for your infant that represents your lifestyle. Cup holder for your little one’s babychino. Built in ipad holder. Seventy five gears plus enormous wheels for off-roading terrain. When you arrive at playgroup, you’ll arrive in style and your stroller will need its own parking space.
And it doesn’t stop there. Now, we have to learn how to parent. Thankfully, there are more glossy books available on parenting that contradict each other in their advice that we may purchase at all leading bookstores across the country. Sometimes these parenting experts are on the tv, guiding us on our parenting journey from toddler to teen.
“Set the Skybox to record, for God’s sake! We might need those pearls of wisdom in eight years time when she is ten years old!”
So, as a non-expert, here’s my two cents worth.
When it comes to buying for baby, if you are on a budget, check out www.babymarket.ie and groups on social media that sell preloved baby equipment. If you want to buy new, wait until the end of a season line and buy a new item on sale. If you like an item in a store, compare the price with an online competitor to ensure you are getting the best deal.
Buy the bare essentials for your newborn. People will give you a lot of gifts and a lot of pre-loved items. As old fashioned as it sounds, babies really just want to be fed, dry, warm and loved.
Whichever way you choose to feed baby, breast or bottle, is fine. If you need support while breast feeding, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Grab all the support you need from breast feeding counsellors and parenting groups like Cuidiu. Likewise, if breast-feeding doesn’t work out or if you choose not to breast feed, don’t feel guilty. Do what you feel is right for you and your family.
Seek advice from an expert for matters that affect the health and well-being of your family, such as support from a GP and support groups if you or your partner may be suffering from post natal depression etc. Seek advice when you feel that you are unsure and you could do with some guidance from other supportive parents and from family. They’ll give you advice for free so it will save you a few Euro and you might even get tea and a biscuit with a nice chat.
Above all, believe in yourself and trust your instincts.