As our world’s technological advances continue to occur at astronomical speeds, do you ever wonder how baby gadgets can actually undermine our intuition? Even though we find so many advancements that make our lives easier, we worry about how we’re taking our own mothering power away. Things that separate you from your baby tend to discourage natural, attached behavior, so how can we maintain balance and make the best of our mother’s intuition and the gadgets that help us mother?
New moms are surrounded by baby gadgets, commercials for baby gadgets, and friends telling them what baby gadgets they need. We admit it; we’re often sharing the best of everything for mothers because we are all in this together and want to do all we can to help the sisterhood of mothers we are part of thrive in ways we never have before.
And, if we are honest, we need all the help we can get and sometimes that help comes in the form of a gadget. To deny that truth seems to mock the many women and mothers who have created things to allow us to have better quality time with our babies and to raise them as we’ve always dreamed.
But let’s also be real about the consumer-driven culture of baby gear. We should be real and we should beware – This culture is not always driven by what is best for your baby.
In fact, for some companies, what’s best for your baby isn’t even on their radar. It’s what’s going to be best for their bottom-dollar, and if that brings benefit to you and your baby in the process, that’s gravy for them.
But at what cost? Baby gadgets can and do undermine our natural instincts if we are not aware and careful in our use of them.
So, how do baby gadgets undermine intuition and our motherly instincts?
Well, let’s take a look at some of today’s baby ‘gadgets’.
- The Propped Bottle or Feeding Pacifier
Babies are intended to be held while they are fed. This is a biological and psychological need that stems in the early days of life, and doesn’t disappear for a while. In a world that would tell you new infants don’t do much in those first few weeks and month but suck your sleep away (while they sleep without a care all the times but when you want them to), the reality is that babies need to be held, and there is a biological need met when they are. Particularly when they are being fed, as to get to the breast, babies typically need to be in a held/close position.
Yes, the early days are hard and cluster feeding is hard, and if you can’t nurse your baby, there’s probably a difficult time bonding when you give bottle feedings. But it’s just for that fact that it’s important we keep our babies close to us, because especially when we aren’t nursing our babies want and need to feel close to us.
So while some may find these feeding gadgets ‘helpful’, they really aren’t designed with your baby’s well-being in mind, and frankly, they’re not in your best interest either. They’re designed to:
- A) get you to buy something and
- B) lessen your baby’s need to be held.
Your baby still needs to be held, even if technology has made it possible for you to do otherwise. In fact, especially because technology makes it possible for you to do otherwise, it’s even more important for you to hold your baby as you feed.
Need a break? (We know, we know…all mamas do!)
There are alternatives to the feeding pacifier or propped bottle:
Have someone else hold your baby. Your partner, your family, a grandma, a friend, your other children, people at church, people EVERYWHERE are generally thrilled to hold and feed a baby or simply hold your baby. It is a JOY to do so and they will feel blessed by the opportunity, not put out or annoyed.
When I was a teenager, a woman I went to church with had triplets. She had two older children that were toddler age. The group of friends and loved ones at church rallied around her to help her feed her babies. She made charts and schedules and people came every few hours to help her feed these little ones.
She would sit and nurse two of them at one time while the helper would hold and bottle feed the third baby. They all rotated (thus the charts) so that each baby got equal time on the breast.
Do you think it was easy for her to ask for help? Do you think it was easy for those that volunteered to show up and help?
It was however, the best thing for those babies to be held while they were fed, no matter what they ate. And bless her for knowing that and turning to her village to help her.
We can find a village of help in this modern day too. In fact, we need to find a village for the mental health of all involved.
- The Crib
The crib is perhaps the oldest baby gadget of all. I won’t deny that it serves a purpose nor will I deny that I have used one! The crib is great for a lot of reasons. We understand and are not judging.
But if you take a crib, then put it down the hall from mama (aka, the baby food source) and then expect everyone to sleep and throw in how important breastfeeding is, you are asking for some trouble.
It’s not that the crib is inherently bad, it’s just that it disrupts the ease of getting baby to the breast in the night. It also makes it much harder for the breastfeeding mother to get to her baby without fully waking. This then makes it harder for both of them to get back to sleep.
Do we ever wonder why the modern woman struggles so much with sleepless nights? Both she and her baby are getting fully and violently awakened several times through the night.
That is a recipe for disaster if I ever heard one. When baby is near you, life is better for all. And, the American Academy of Pediatrics now advises that baby stays with mama for at least the first six months of life, with an optimal time period being the first year of baby’s life. Many mamas can’t fathom (or fit) the big crib in their room, and hence, feel compelled to use the one in that gorgeous nursery they spent so much time and money on decorating. But they don’t have to…at least not as soon.
There are alternatives to the crib down the hall:
The alternatives to the crib down the hall are many and even include using the crib, but using it in the room with mama. Bulky or not. This makes the trip for food and the wakefulness much less. A sidecar co-sleeper, a bassinet, or safe bed sharing are also alternatives to the crib down the hall.
Re-think infant sleep spaces. There are not two alternatives: crib down the hall or a kid in your bed FOREVER. There are other options and they are often better for baby and mama and allow Mama’s natural intuition kick in when she’s at her most vulnerable herself.
- The Bucket Seat as a Baby Carrier
Babies need to be in a safe car seat to be safely transported in this day and age. No doubt.
They do not need to be carted around by their mother in said car seat while in the store, in the house, or anyplace else, though.
Those bucket seats are heavy, huge, and awkward. I personally hated carrying them. They also only last for a year or less before your baby is too big and needs a larger rear-facing seat. Talk about looking at how to make money off of mamas.
There are most definitely alternatives to the bucket seat as carrier:
Use an infant carrier to babywear your baby around when you are in the store or out and about. They are lighter, keep baby close to you so they feel the comfort of your heart and your sweet mommy smell (yes, babies like your smell!). Babies also sleep very well in a comfy carrier, and we all know that sleep is a big reason why people carry babies in the bucket – so they don’t wake up.
As an added bonus, an infant carrier like a stretchy wrap, a woven wrap, a soft structured carrier or a sling can last for years and encourage breastfeeding. Plus, if you have a toddler, they can sit in the cart at the grocery store and you can carry your baby, plus have room for the actual groceries in the cart! What a concept!
- The Pacifier
I know, babies need to suck a lot. I spent six years breastfeeding and it can be a drag. We don’t need to be all flowers and rainbows about it. I am sure a pacifier serves a purpose, but mostly it is an artificial breast, a replacement for nature’s pacifier- YOU.
We have been taught that the need a baby has for us is a pain, an inconvenience, or something that can be replicated with a bit of silicone.
We have been lied to.
You are the original pacifier and the best one. All manufactured pacifiers are designed to be a hollow replacement of you.
So next time someone tells you that your baby is just “using” you as a pacifier, then tell them that actually, millions of consumer and research dollars have been spent to recreate the beauty of your round nipple.
Alternatives to the pacifier:
Mama or the ingenious thumb.
Or maybe that should be the other way around…
(I know, I just ticked off approximately 1 BILLION pacifier users. Don’t hate me. It’s nothing personal.)
You know what though, they don’t need to nurse that often forever. The most intense period of breastfeeding is the first few months and then things tend to space out. Also, as your baby gets older and older and adds more foods to their diet, you can appropriately set limits on constant access to you as a pacifier. There are other ways to gently get your baby to sleep!
- The Swing or Bouncer
First, I totally admit to using these contraptions. They have their place. Truly, your sanity is more important than what we have to say, and we get it. We do.
Live your bliss.
That being said, the swings and bouncers of the world replace a living, breathing mother with a machine. They remove the baby from the mother or loving caregiver and replace her with mechanical ticking and rocking.
In our lonely and nuclear society, mom needs a break sometimes. But swings don’t encourage us to listen to our instincts and hold and feed and comfort our babies. They encourage us to separate from them.
Alternatives for the swing or bouncer:
Baby carriers help too.
Let’s be real, in our modern world, it is incredibly helpful to have a few tools at your fingertips that help make raising a baby a little easier. Most of us don’t have a village. We often try to attachment parent alone (not how it was intended) and many of us work and must devote time to that and other children.
This article isn’t intended to feed the guilt that already runs through the veins of every struggling mother.
If you need something, use it. You know your needs far better than I could.
But let’s not forget that babies need mama and lots of other loved ones to hold, cuddle, feed, and love on them in order for them to develop normally.
They don’t need all this other stuff.
Not only do baby gadgets serve to further separate mom from baby, but they also undermine our most basic instincts to hold, touch, smell, and be with our babies.
Don’t even get me started on the myriad of baby parenting and sleep books that do the same by infantilizing the mother herself and seeking to convince her that an (often) male doctor knows more about HER individual baby than SHE does.
Mothers know what to do.
Listen to that inner voice.
Seek out people who encourage you to listen to that voice. Seek out groups and organizations that help you hear what you already know in your bones.
You are the mother of this baby for a reason. You are the expert on your baby and you are what they most need.
Don’t let the conveniences and marketing of modern life convince you otherwise.