This is a sometimes controversial topic, there are strong opinions on both sides. From my perspective as a Maternity Nurse and Sleep consultant, I am definitely in the pro camp as I’ve seen the benefits for babies and parents many many times.
I have full respect for those professionals who have intricate knowledge of biology and neuroscience, in relation to babies, breastfeeding and nurturing. In fact, I agree with 90% of what they say having studied those elements as part of my training.
Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, parents are entitled to follow the experts who align best with their own beliefs.
Parenting is not easy!
Parenting is not easy. Becoming a new parent is a shock to the system in every way and added to the stress of that, there are a plethora of different views on how you should be caring for your baby.
Not everyone is a natural “Earth Mother” who wants to have her baby attached at all times. That does not mean she loves her baby less or that she is a bad mother. I meet a lot of new mothers and many tell me that they don’t enjoy the newborn period (shocking eh?). They are still amazing mothers.
Holistic as I understand it means considering the whole. My interpretation of that is that when a new baby comes into the family it has an effect on the wider family, which includes the parents relationship and also that with any siblings.
I have done several “troubleshooting” jobs for parents who have come to the end of their tether due to sleep deprivation. Their mental health and that of their relationship have suffered. A contributory factor to that has been the blanket advice given, to feed on demand, day and night. This advice falls down by tribute to the fact that they interpret every cry as hunger (that is fine and necessary in the early days I know) but they are not told that babies cry for many other reasons. For example, a newborn cannot stay awake for much longer than an hour, often less, if they have been feeding for 40 minutes they are probably exhausted and therefore unable to settle. This is just one of many reasons. If parents were educated more about what to expect in those early weeks long term problems could be avoided.
As a Maternity Nurse of many years standing I consider my method of working with families to be very holistic, respectful of the breastfeeding relationship and completely respectful of the individual baby’s needs for food, sleep and emotional nurturing. I do however believe in routine (not strict scheduling by the clock or ignoring a baby’s hunger cues). I set up a routine that fits with the baby’s natural rhythm for food and sleep. After the first couple of weeks which I believe should involve feeding on demand, it is entirely possible to set up a routine, which is beneficial for parents and baby; I believe in cuddling babies to sleep it instils safety and security and trust, I believe in feeding to sleep it is emotionally and physically nurturing. I also believe that a baby should fall asleep independently sometimes. It is possible to do all this within a routine, over 100 babies have been a testament to that; In addition, the vast majority of babies I help to care for are sleeping through the night by 4 months as a natural progression of having their essential needs met in the daytime, not because they have “given up” and been “abandoned” to cry. These babies are content and thriving in every way and the parents are well-rested enough to enjoy being parents. This has to be a positive.