In a nutshell, the "interdisciplinary body of research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame," suggests that commonly-accepted modern parenting practices -- everything from cry-it-out sleep training to formula feeding to using a carrier or a stroller instead of holding your baby in your arms -- may be the reason record numbers of American kids are depressed, anxious, aggressive and just all-around fucked-up. That was not, by the way, the language used by sciencedaily to report this, but let's not dither around here -- that's the point. I mean, listen to this:
"Life outcomes for American youth are worsening, especially in comparison to 50 years ago," says Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology who specializes in moral development in children"I'm no expert but even I know you don't get more all-around fucked-up than worsening life-outcomes. And, as a side note, what the hell does specializing in "moral development" entail? Sounds vague and nebulous and already, I'm skeptical.
Do I need to pause here to clarify that the conjectures offered by this whole "body of research" pisses me off?
The reason I'm pissed is this: from what I can tell, almost every practice this study suggests as beneficial to kids is stuff parents already know to do. Mother know Breast is Best. Parents know babies need skin-to-skin and to be cuddled. We know that its good to spend quality time with our kids. We know that its good for a child to have a host of "supportive adult caregivers." Even responding to a crying baby is pretty intuitive -- sure, some folks may think its ok to let the baby wait a minute or two before rushing over, but that's probably because those folks have shit to do at that very minute and while they are wrapping that shit up, they reason that it won't do permanent damage to the baby for the baby to hold on a minute.
So I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the reason most parents don't do these things -- don't breastfeed or give their babies "near constant touch" or sleep in bed with their kids -- is that they can't, either physically or emotionally or for whatever reason. Maybe, for instance, a mother has to work. Going back to an office at 3 months postpartum, maybe to secure the insurance one needs to provide medical care for babies, which I've heard also aids brain development -- pretty much precludes doing many of the things advised by this research. Maybe you have a bunch of other kids to deal with. Maybe letting your baby cry it out, or sticking them in an exersaucer or pushing them in a stroller rather than holding them in your arms all freaking day gives you the sanity that allows you to be a good mother.
Because here's something else I know, and I'm pretty sure science will back me up on this but shit, I'm too tired from being up all night with my three kids -- baby with a cold, daughter with stomach virus and son with insomnia -- to find the info for you: Kids with sleep-deprived, angry, resentful parents end up anxious and depressed and aggressive and all around-fucked-up. Letting my baby cry it out for a few nights when she was five months old has made me a better mother, not just to her but to all three kids. Period. And not only that, but despite the fact that it may have damaged her beyond repair according to this new study, an OLD study told me that a good night's sleep is critical for baby's brain development. Critical. Dealbreaker.
Is it any wonder I'm pissed off? Yes, I'm defensive but more than that, this kind of shoddy science creates a culture of guilt and fear-mongering for parents that I find intolerable. And counter-productive, too. Because guilt and anxiety have never improved anyone's parenting -- and I don't need an interdisciplinary body of research to tell me that.