Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Old Wives and Changing Rules

A conversation I have often with other moms is about change, as in how "the rules", or more accurately guidelines, change constantly. It's almost a running joke how unwelcome it is to new moms when we hear advice from our own moms (or moms-in-law), not to mention 'helpful' would-be grannies on the street or at the grocery store, because whatever those moms were told 10, 20, 30 or more years ago is just not what we are being told now.*

*Note that I don't say what we're being told is right and what they were told is wrong, because I know good and well that in 10 years (or less!) all my knowledge will be thought of as useless as well.

One example of this is the introduction of solid foods. A generation ago - so I'm told by the public health nurses - it was recommended to start solids at 3 months of age. Babies of this age were not able to chew, so it was necessary to puree all their food, and thus an entire industry of pureed/strained baby mush in tiny jars was born. Nowadays, we are told not to start solids until 6 months, at which point babies are better able to mash the food in their jaws (even if teeth are not present, which they sometimes are). Thus, foods don't need to be pureed, just mashed a bit into bite-sized pieces. We are advised to skip the jarred baby foods altogether and just feed baby whatever we are eating.

I can't help but think of how this isolates the generations from another, when we are taught to scoff at what the "old wives" have to offer. It just ends up adding to the feeling that we are completely on our own, floating in a sea of conflicting information, frantically trying to sort the good from the bad. Whenever a group of mommyfriends get together, we compare notes with a quiet desperation, seeking confirmation from others that what we're doing - in regards to sleep, feeding, play, bathing, discipline, language, and a host of other things - is similar to what others are doing, and is therefore tenuously "right".

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