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Sense and Nonsense: To sleep on back or on stomach: A critical dilemma

June 12, 2013

By Lynda Hollenbeck

Recently, as I spent some time in the waiting room of a doctor's office, I flipped through a copy of "Parenting" magazine.
At this juncture, I'm perusing this journal out of curiosity, not to glean wisdom as I once would have done.
It can be enlightening to find out all the mistakes I made when I was bringing up my children. They're all alive and well and are productive, functioning members of society, but the experts would say that's somewhat of a miracle because of all the things I did wrong when they were were in their formative years.
When you look at the overall "rules" on raising children, it's amazing that anyone can get a child grown.
First off, the most obvious "no-no" committed by all of us in my generation— and by that I mean everyone who had children during the time I did — was that we didn't restrain our children in car seats or with seat belts. We bounced them all over the place and, miraculously, they survived.
I had a car seat of a sort for my children, but they climbed out of it with regularity — particularly Paul, Child No. 1. It served simply as a boost to give the kid a better view of the outside world as we were driving from place to place; it had no safety value whatsoever.
The middle child, my daughter, was more willing to stay in the seat, but there was no real restraint to it. She just happened to be a cooperative child, much more so than her older brother had been.
By the time the third kid arrived, I was beginning to be apprehensive about all the movement going on inside the vehicle, so I rigged up a back-seat "jail" for him (and he, of all the bunch, truly needed one). It was actually a portable crib that I partially disassembled to keep him quasi-confined.
By no means am I saying here that parents shouldn't properly restrain their children in approved car seats that are available today. I'm an absolute advocate for protecting the little ones; I'm just pointing out that somehow the Almighty must have helped get us through those years when we didn't have enough sent to realize we were doing it all backwards.
My kids were infants during the years when we were told to train them to sleep on their stomachs, which is now verboten. It's interesting to me to recall now that my mother was opposed to the stomach-sleeping position because she was of the put-the-baby-on-his/her-back school of thought. She told me I was doing it wrong, that I should put him/her on his back with a pillow.
The pediatricians in those years forbade back sleeping, and I went with that mindset. All of us plopped them in bed on their stomachs and they thrived.
If Mamma were around today and heard the "put- them-on-their-back" edict, she'd be quick to tell me, "I told you so."
And then she'd give me "the look."
Parents nowadays are instructed not to feed any solid foods to babies until they're several months old. I remember introducing mine to cereal at six weeks of age, and they loved it.
Contemporary experts would give me a demerit for that one.
It was my theory that the baby would sleep through the night sooner if he/she didn't wake up hungry after a few hours.
I'll give kudos to the people making the rules for the car seats and maybe some of the other modifications, but I'm still in favor of the cereal early on. All of my babies tolerated it well, they slept through the night sooner, they didn't wake up ravenous and fussy, and it did nothing to discourage nursing.
The latter is one of the arguments against it — that some mothers will stop breastfeeding sooner. I can't speak for every mother, but in my case, that wasn't so and I stand by my convictions.
New mothers get lots of unsolicited suggestions and they much conflicting advice. It's no wonder that many feel bewildered at times. I certainly had my moments, but there was one constant I could count on: Dr. Benjamin Spock.
Truthfully, I raised my children on the wisdom of Dr. Spock. His "Baby and Child Care" got me through many an anxious moment.
The pendulum swings back and forth between what's right and what's wrong in child-rearing. What's in today will be out in a decade and so on.
The main thing, I believe, is to just love them, enjoy them and use common sense. And it wouldn't hurt every now and then to stop and ask God for some guidance.
I think even Dr. Spock would agree.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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