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While writing a guest blog post for My Zero Waste it struck me again how having a baby has become such a huge consumer and marketing event over recent years.Expensive baby?

Even 14 years ago when I had my first baby, the range of products was tiny compared to those that new parents are bombarded with now.

The undesirable side effects of this at first thought are pollution, waste and the financial burden on families at what is already often an overstretched time.  However, dig a little deeper and another worrying idea emerges.

Every time new parents see a ‘vital’ piece of equipment such as a playpen, nursery swing, pushchair, steriliser or baby monitor does it chip away at the value of the parent?  Here is a piece of equipment that only costs X amount, yet will do the job of nurturing, feeding or being with your baby as well as you can.

Is it any wonder that the role of full time mother or father is so undervalued?  Apparently we can replace them so easily and so relatively cheaply.

We see women who have no money spending what precious little they do have on the newest pushchair or designer clothes for their babies.  Instead of pointing the finger and criticising, maybe we should look again with a caring eye at the reasons why.

These mothers are so often criticised for not being ‘good enough’, for having children too young or without the money to support them.  When we as a society value ‘things’ over ‘parents’ then it is not too difficult to see why anyone struggling with money would buy ‘things’ to show that their baby is not going without, despite what people think.

If we valued the role of mothers and fathers sufficiently then maybe everybody could see this stuff for what it is – a marketers dream.  An unnecessary mountain of items that no baby would choose over their parent’s loving arms and a smiling, interested face.

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I can only assume that there has been some big weight-gain initiative for Health Visitors and Midwives lately.  Stories I am hearing over and over again from new mothers are that they are being advised to top-up their breastfeeds with formula more frequently than I have ever come across before.  In most cases completely unnecessarily.

Why do I say completely unnecessary?  What makes me think I know more than a health professional?  Well…

In virtually every case the baby is thriving, alert, has wet and dirty nappies regularly, is developing normally and the mother senses there is nothing wrong. However the baby may not be putting on weight at the rate that the charts say that he or she should or has lost slightly more than the 10% that is the norm after birth.

Surely any advice on such a crucial issue should take into account all factors, not just the stark figures.  Everyone knows that something as simple as being weighed after and then before a feed or a dirty nappy can have a significant impact on the apparent weight gain.  If you take into account that the baby is doing perfectly well, as mentioned above, then no further action should be taken.  However this seems to be when the top-up crew really get to work.

Planting the seed of doubt into a new mother’s mind.  The seed of doubt turns to anxiety, which can turn to an actual delay in let-down and a seemingly unsatisfied baby which could mean…. well could the midwife be right?  The seed of doubt grows and flourishes and before you know it a first-time mother who is just feeling her way and learning about her baby suddenly doubts that she is able to nourish it.  Maybe a bottle of formula would help this poor baby that she loves so much.  Everyone around is telling her that formula is fine these days and there is nothing to be guilty about.  This all chips away at her confidence in herself to provide the perfect food for her baby.

Before long the baby will be breastfeeding slight less often or for shorter amounts of time.  The critical supply and demand system that is so important in breastfeeding reacts accordingly and the mothers efficient body does start producing less milk.  This may be proof enough for the unsupported mother that she can’t make enough milk and more bottles are introduced.  Before long breastfeeding ‘just didn’t work out’ or she ‘didn’t make enough milk’.

All that was needed in the first instance was that oh-so-difficult-to-find attribute: common sense.  If a HV or MW sees that the baby is thriving then why can’t they leave well enough alone?  Or why not give the mother some tips on increasing supply along with a well-earned pat on the back?  Mention skin-to-skin, upping the mothers fluid levels, eating well and so on.  And tell her what a fantastic job she is doing nourishing and nurturing her baby who is clearly doing so well on it.  Bolster her, she will get enough of the negative comments from everyone else.  When will health professionals become the guiding light for new mothers instead of the additional burden?

If I hear another mother telling me they had to top-up with formula as their perfectly healthy baby had lost 11.5% of their birth weight – instead of the regulation 10% I think I will scream!

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