Saturday, February 9, 2008

who are "they"?

"They say you're not supposed to let a baby sleep on his belly". "They say that you're supposed to keep a baby on formula until a year of age". "They say that kids need to be socialized earlier than school age".
Who are "they"?
They most often are people with an agenda. With the 2nd and 3rd ones above, the agenda is a fairly simple and straightforward marketing one. They want you to buy more formula, maybe you're even duped into buying a "toddler" formula. They want you to sign your kid up to go to daycare, preschool, mother's day out, or some other form of high cost babysitting and feel you're doing the right thing, and people who aren't doing it are very wrong.
The belly sleeping thing is a harder nut to crack. I can't find an agenda there. Sure, the studies show a 50% decrease in SIDS when babies sleep on their backs. They have gone so far as to say that if you really want to prevent SIDS, the baby should sleep in his crib, on his back, with a pacifier, in your room. Now who sleeps? No one. But at least you don't die of SIDS. Don't get me wrong. SIDS is a scary thing. It's the ultimate "what if". If I'm wrong on an ACL tear or pneumonia your kid's not going to die as a result. 
One of my friends is fond of saying "to the best of the current knowledge" as the answer to the changes we accept as the norm in our lives today. Meaning: don't get too used to doing things a certain way, they're going to change the advice soon. Sort of like the weather, if you don't like it right now, just wait. That's the point with the back sleep thing. When I was raising kids we weren't supposed to let them sleep on their backs because they'd spit up, choke, and die. Seriously, that was pretty much the "current" thinking. Until 15 years ago when they ("they" in this case were some docs in Seattle) showed that SIDS occurred in about 12 kids out of a thousand if they slept on their bellies or sides, and only 6 or so out of a thousand if they were on their backs. Big deal if you're one of the 6 whose life was saved, but statistics have been used very cunningly in this "back to sleep" push, saying, rightfully so, that there is a 50% decrease in 
SIDS if your kid sleeps on his back. But looking at it from a reverse angle, that means a kid is not likely to die of SIDS on his belly 99.988% of the time vs. 99.994% of the time if he's on his back. Does it impress you as much? I didn't think so. It's like those Lysol cans that say "kills 99.99% of germs". Well, since there are billions and billions of germs, that leaves plenty of germs around to do harm if they want. It's all in how you use statistics and the point you want to make. 
Trust me, I don't want even 1 child in a billion to die of SIDS. If I came up with a cure for it, I'd be touting it, too. But we have to look at the bigger picture and consider the ramifications of a change in something. Remember the movie "The Jerk" with Steve Martin? Everybody loved his invention until they all started going crosseyed as a result of it. Actions have consequences. Nobody wants to admit that back sleeping has had bad consequences, but it has. Are they as bad as death? Doubtful. Are there many more "morbidities" (harmful outcomes short of deaths) from back sleeping than "mortalities" (deaths) from sleeping on the belly? When death is in the equation, as a parent, you don't want to take the risk. So you take out the bumper pads and you buy a positioner and you watch the news to make sure there's not something else "they" found that could kill your kid since yesterday's Oprah.
So, who are "they"? They are the nebulous "experts" that purport things on the TV or the internet or in old wives' tales and get enough exposure through the grapevine that their word becomes gospel and who are you to question "them".  Well, look hard at them before you buy their line of bs. Sometimes it's just that. Sure, sometimes it's real and dangerous and if you keep doing this or don't start doing that you will be endangering your child, but the existence of people out there without scruples who will spout nonsense just to see if someone is listening makes me cynical about "them" and "they". To listen to all the stuff that's out on "health watch" and other tv news fillers one should really be surprised that people still are alive and kicking on the earth given all the dangers. We tend to forget that we were created, "fearfully and wonderfully made" I think it says, and that until God decides to put His foot down, the myriad "theys" out there are for the most part just noisemakers in a party they're trying to crash. So, go with your heart, not "theirs". There's no set of absolute rules of sleeping position, no sleep police, no formula police (though formula reps would love pediatricians to espouse their notions and some do, as well as for sleep), no preK hit squad going door to door to make sure your child is being socialized in the (currently and politically) "correct" fashion. You do what seems right and reasonable to you given your experience and gut. Remember, you can find someone on the internet to tell you that everything you are doing is wrong or right at any given time. Forget Oprah. Maybe a little Dr. Phil is OK. But quit worrying about "them" and what "they" say. You're the only "they" your kids really care about, their parents. Look for the hidden agenda in fad thinking about childrearing. 

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