In early pregnancy, I thought the greatest debate I’d ever have to sit on was whether or not to get an epidural. This is now comical, as questions and discussions of deeper substance have shifted to the forefront of this new parenting gig I’m naively navigating. Here are today’s hot button topics that have taken me by surprise:
- Breastfeeding: I didn’t think twice about this being such a hefty topic until I started getting asked repeatedly if I was planning to breastfeed well before my bump even started to show. When I would casually say “yes,” I would get two reactions – either immediate invitations to support groups or cautious warnings that “it’s not as easy as you think,” and “power to me” if I plan on nursing in public. That’s when it opened my eyes that despite this being a natural process, it requires some learning and support. Not everyone embraces it today, creating hurdles outside the home – from lack of private spaces and facilities to outright shaming in public. Moms on both sides of the coin feel the heat of this topic, though, with those on formula often feeling guilt from today’s increasing pressure to breastfeed over bottle feed. Both choices come with challenges that I majorly under-estimated at first.
- Circumcision: I never expected circumcision to be something so boldly in the spotlight today, but it is. My surprise is likely the result of growing up in America, where it has been the cultural norm to do so, no questions asked kind of thing. But, the rate of infant circumcisions performed in our country has been on a decline as those against the procedure question its ethics and medical benefits, among other contributing factors to this shifting norm. It’s a decision that today’s parents of baby boys have to answer on multiple fronts – culturally, ethically and medically. It can be discouraging for us newbies just joining the discussion, as these debates can turn pretty vicious from what I’ve seen via online forums. It certainly generates passion in parents who have taken a firm stance on either side. Navigate the Internet wisely on this one and stick to reputable research tools.
- Co-sleeping: SIDS is a terrifying thought for any parent, and the recommendations for a safe sleeping environment continue to change. When I was a baby, the advice handed down to my mom was to lay me on my stomach. Today, the advice is to lay babies on their backs. It seems like everything is a threat when you come near the crib, from bumper pads, pillows, stuffed animals, and blankets posing choking hazards, to crib mattresses not being firm enough or the crib slats being too wide. Co-sleeping, or avoiding the crib all together and sleeping with your baby – whether in the same bed or bed-side – has taken on a debate of its own when it comes to ensuring a safe sleep environment for baby. Those who co-sleep find reward in the numerous benefits, but many will raise an eyebrow at all of the potential hazards that come with it. While it’s ultimately a personal choice, it’s worth researching as there are proven best practices for a safe approach to co-sleeping should you decide to try it.
- Vaccinations: I guess I’m not surprised by this one, as it has been in the spotlight so much so that even my non-pregnant self was pulled into its wrath. But now that I’m pregnant it is even more of a hot button issue as the reality of this debate’s consequences hits home. A mother’s instinct is to protect her baby, and while parents on both sides of this debate feel that they are protecting their children, science warns us that as more parents opt out of vaccinations in pursuit of their personal beliefs, we as a society lose “herd immunity” and see a comeback of deadly viruses. The decision isn’t always black and white either, in terms of vaccinating or not vaccinating; parents have to decide whether or not they want to abide by the current vaccination schedule or an optional “delayed” vaccination schedule, in which you slow and spread out some of the different shots.
I kind of miss the days when I was just starting my birth plan, focused on the pros and cons of that silly epidural. Parenthood is quite the learning curve.