Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How Rumors Get Started

I had my (first) wedding shower Sunday. It was awesome. Lots of my female relatives were there, as well as some good friends. I got tons of goodies, we ate cake, and talked woman-talk. Here's where the real "advice" started coming down. As we admired lingerie (AWKWARD, in front of my mother and great-aunts) and discussed my future children (again, AWKWARD, but fun), the wisdom of women, handed down for generations, started to appear. Picture the scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" where her mom says she was told on her own wedding day that women are tigers in the bedroom, and you'll see kinda what I mean (but not as gross, I swear).

These are educated, enlightened women, and I love them all, friends and family alike. I was slightly disappointed at some of the comments I heard, however.

1) "You have to get your son circumcised. It'll be one less reason for the other boys to make fun of him in the locker room." Now, I understand the sentiment behind this comment, uttered by a mother of 2 boys. She didn't want to give them any added disadvantage in life, and I totally understand that. At least she didn't say "It's healthier", or we might have had words. However, as more and more couples choose not to circumcise their sons, I doubt that locker room pressure will be such an issue.

As for the science behind the issue, there is as great a risk of complications from the circumcision procedure as there is risk of UTI in an uncircumcised child, and these risks are less than 2%. So, make your decision based on religious or aesthetic reasons, and leave cleanliness out of it. Besides, little girls have complicated skin folds that need washing, too, and no one is saying we should cut off their labia to prevent yeast infections. (People in countries who do practice FGM do so for other, more sinister (IMHO) reasons).

2) "You can't sleep with your baby. They have issues and never want to leave your bed." Oh, man. That's almost as bad as "You'll roll over and smother them." Is there a risk? Of course. However, a healthy adult would be awakened if they rolled over onto an infant. Do you roll over and smother your partner? Or your pet? If not, then you wouldn't roll over onto a baby. Who is at higher risk of smothering a baby? Obese parents and intoxicated parents. Smoking moms shouldn't sleep with their babies no matter what, as smoking increases SIDS. What actually seems to be riskier than you smothering the baby is the softness of your mattress and blankets. To prevent SIDS parents are encouraged to place babies on a firm mattress with no/few blankets and to keep them lying on their backs. So, to cosleep, you can pull the bassinet over to the edge of the bed, or you can buy a sleep positioner for the baby (which I'm sure you'll have anyway) and put it in a safe place in the bed, provided both partners are comfortable with the idea.

As for baby behavior, there have been studies discounting this theory, and probably some studies supporting it. Anytime the studies are 50/50, I tend to think other factors are involved, and I've read a possible explanation that sleeping habits enforce other behaviors in the home. If you cosleep with a dependent child, they'll be dependent, but they'd be that way in their own bed in their own room. Same for an independent child.

Do I think cosleeping is always right? No. I do know, however, that if almost every culture in the world besides ours does it successfully, then it can't be the evil demon that the crib manufacturers have spent a lot of money to make us believe it is. How sleeping with an infant for 6 months to breastfeed is going to make them a total Momma's boy forever totally blows my mind. In America, though, we want our children to be totally independent from day one, and we think putting them in their own room is going to make them "tougher" or something. I know I'm not putting this well, and my hands are too cold to go back and try to write more intelligently, so I apologize.

Another argument against cosleeping that I've heard is "it cuts down on our privacy". Again, I'm not even talking about sleeping with a 4-year-old, I'm talking about sleeping with (or near) a newborn for easy breastfeeding and bonding. A) For several weeks/months, mom is going to be too sore to appreciate any "private time". B) Since when is bed the only place we can be intimate? If you have a sleep disorder like insomnia, the doctor will recommend "sleep hygiene" to you, where bed is only a place to sleep. If you get in bed and don't fall asleep, they'll tell you to get up. Train your body to think bed = sleep. I do like the intimacy of sleeping next to my fiance, but our relationship is not just sexual, and I don't see how having a baby nearby is going to utterly kill our desire for each other. I think the lack of sleep is going to do that just fine.

Despite the almost angry sound of this very poor writing, I'm not. I love these women, as I said before. Most had more experience than I, as I have no children yet and won't for a while. Thus, I'm totally giving myself the chance to change my mind. I'm also giving myself the freedom to read the research on such topics, rather than solely relying on old wives' tales. However, they sure are fun to hear and debate.

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