During your pregnancy, topics like what to pack in your hospital bag, or how to put your nursery together, are usually top of mind. What you might not have considered until your baby is born are the heated discussions all new moms have at one time or another, such as should you co-sleep, or when is it okay to start solids?
There are many controversial baby topics which seem to get moms talking, and while a healthy debate is always a good thing, it’s wise to listen to all the views. But ultimately, to trust your instinct as a mom and remember that you know your child best, and what will work for your family. In fact, studies have shown that overthinking or overanalysing something can seriously hinder your decision-making process. So, the solution is, to keep things simple and trust your gut.
Here are a few hotly debated baby topics that keep cropping up on social media platforms, moms’ circles or WhatsApp groups.
Baby topic: Should you co-sleep with your baby?
Some moms swear by the convenience of co-sleeping, claiming it allows for more convenient breastfeeding sessions (your baby is right next to you so you don’t have to keep getting out of bed to fetch her). Others believe co-sleeping enhances the bond between mom and baby – and makes her baby feel more secure.
While the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) approves of room sharing with a child in the first year, a report in 2016 highlights that they don’t recommend bed sharing as there are certain instances where co-sleeping can raise the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Lori Feldman Winter, member of the task force on SIDS and co-author of the APP report says there should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause overheating.
Whether you choose to co-sleep or not, it’s always a good idea to ensure your baby’s sleep environment is 100% safe.
Baby topic: Is it okay to let your child use a pacifier?
Many parents rely on a pacifier to help calm and soothe a crying baby. “The mouth is full of touch receptors and the sucking motion is comforting for little ones,” explains occupational therapist, author and parenting expert, Meg Faure.
Mom of two, Alison Bown believes her daughter was able to sleep through the night thanks to the pacifier. “I could settle my child much faster with a pacifier, especially in the middle of the night. When she was around nine months old, she learned how to put her pacifier back in her mouth herself. I used to leave a few in her cot, so that she could find one in the dark – it definitely helped us all get more sleep.”
According to the AAP, kids shouldn’t be allowed pacifiers past the age of four as it could cause dental problems and hamper speech development. Some studies also suggest that using a pacifier too early, that is, while still trying to establish breastfeeding, can interfere with latching and feeding.
Do what works for you and your little one. If that means using a pacifier to encourage self-soothing, then go for it. Just be aware of the possible cons – such as your baby becoming emotionally dependant on the pacifier, to the point that it might be harder for them to give it up later. If you’re concerned about the pacifier interfering with your baby’s ability to latch and feed at the breast, consult with a lactation consultant who will advise you on the best way to use the pacifier.
Baby topic: When is the right time to start solid foods?
You might have heard of moms adding rice cereal to their little one’s milk to “bulk it up” to keep them fuller for longer. Or perhaps you have a friend who started her three-month old son on solids because he seemed to be constantly hungry. The truth is, many parents start solids before the recommended age of four to six months because they believe it’s right for their children.
In her guide to sensible weaning, author of Toddler Sense and clinic nurse Ann Richardson says there’s no need to start your baby on solids earlier than six months if she’s sleeping for one long stretch at night (6-8 hours). It’s also important to note that little ones’ digestive systems and kidneys may not be mature enough to handle any other food or drink besides milk before the four-month mark. If you’re concerned your child is hungry and not getting enough nutrients, speak to your paediatrician before you start solids.
The general consensus is that you shouldn’t start solids before your child reaches four months. Thereafter, Ann says it’s best to be guided by your baby’s sleeping and feeding patterns, as well as her weight.
Baby topic: Should you attempt cry-it-out methods to get your baby to sleep?
How it works:
The traditional cry-it-out method is based on the premise that you’re “spoiling” your child if you rock, feed or pick her up each time she cries – she should be taught to fall asleep without any of these “crutches”. The idea is that after three or four nights of crying it out, your child will stop because she’ll realise that you won’t come running.
Those against cry-it-out:
Many parents find it distressing to hear their babies cry and believe it’s negligent to not respond to their little ones’ cues. According to the La Leche League, there are many studies which prove that traditional cry-it-out-methods can be distressing for babies. The chronic stress of crying for so long, raises their cortisol levels, which can result in them experiencing abnormal stress reactions, an overactive adrenal system and behavioural problems, such as aggression, later on.
Cry-it-out methods are controversial, but they don’t always mean you have to leave your baby to cry for hours on end. Sleep trainer and Managing Director of Goodnight Baby Jolandi Becker says many parents assume sleep training involves traditional cry-it-out methods, when in fact, it doesn’t. The aim of gentle sleep training or coaching is to teach little ones to sleep well with your assistance, but to also put boundaries in place. For instance, you won’t rock your baby to sleep each night, but you’ll sit by her cot until she falls asleep. Sleep training doesn’t mean ignoring your baby’s cues or shutting the door and leaving her to cry. Instead, it’s about helping your child to develop self-soothing strategies, which won’t necessarily require your input all night.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.