My Open letter to Pinky McKay.
It’s totally a fan letter. It’s weird because obviously she doesn’t know me, but I feel like she’s been there for me for years. She’s been my backup. My support team. My cheerleader. She’s been a source of wisdom to me. She’s someone I’d happily and frequently direct other parents too. I recommend her books, or go to her seminars, follow her blog or even just like her Facebook page.
So, here goes.
To Pinky McKay,
You are one of my favourite people.
When my first baby was about a week old, the midwife came out to check up on his progress and she suggested he was breastfed too often. He’d apparently put on “too much weight”. She suggested that maybe I was misreading his feeding cues and cries.
When we saw a pediatrician to follow up on a sleep apnoea episode – he stopped breathing in his sleep – when 2 weeks old the doctor made a remark about the fact he was “demand feeding”. It was the first time I’d actually heard the term “demand feeding”. Up until then I’d just been feeding him. But the way the term rolled out of the doctor’s mouth it didn’t sound like it was a good thing.
Tizzie Hall’s Influence
When my son was 6 weeks old my mother gave me Tizzie Hall’s Save Our Sleep. She was concerned that he was feeding about every 2-3 hours. She thought it might help work out what we were doing wrong.
I also had my mother in law relentlessly pressuring me from the time he was 6 weeks old to formula feed him. Also because feeding so often was a sign he wasn’t getting enough breast milk.
Everyone I had to support me, or who I could look to for advice, was telling me that breastfeeding a newborn frequently wasn’t normal.
And feeding to sleep was a bad habit.
When he was 8 weeks old the Maternal and Child Health Nurse asked my mother’s group who was leaving their babies to cry themselves to sleep in their cots? She asked like it was an achievement or an developmental milestone. It was something we were told we all needed to go home and try.
I Couldn’t Follow Their Advice
A family member asked me “Do you EVER put him down?” because I answered the door holding him. She hadn’t seen me in weeks. It seemed as though I wasn’t supposed to hold him at all.
Another family member lectured me as I rushed off to pick him up when he started to cry. “He’ll just learn every time he cries that you’ll go to him” she said.
He was just a newborn baby and I was being told over and over again not to hold him. Put him down. Teach him to sleep.Feed him less. Leave him to cry.
I was told I was teaching him bad habits, that he needed a routine, and that I’d made a rod for my own back. I was supposed to be tougher on him – for his own good.
But when he cried it hurt me – it physically hurt .
I tried and I felt like I’d failed. Because I couldn’t do it to him.
My Own Guilt
I felt guilty – like I was failing him because I couldn’t teach him to self settle. I’d been led to believe that I was causing him pain by feeding him too often. Or if he was on this magical routine he wouldn’t have a reason to cry – but I just couldn’t do it.
Then someone – I don’t even remember who – pointed me in your direction.
It was like all that time I’d had the radio just off a station, so all I could hear was noise and static – then you came along and you tuned it for me.
For the first time it was clear and everything just made sense.
What I Needed To Hear
You didn’t just tell me that what I’m doing is perfectly fine, but you explained why. Why it is that I feel the way I do when my baby cries. That it is okay for my baby to sleep next to me. Why he always wants to be held and why he shouldn’t be left to cry alone. And that it’s perfectly normal for him to feed to sleep. .
You told me not only can I trust my baby not to manipulate me, but you told me that I can trust myself. You reassured me that responding to my baby isn’t spoiling him.
You gave me the best filter for whether or not to trust what other people are saying. I started using it all the time. I’d ask myself myself – Is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right?”
What could be more logical than that?
You are the antidote to the overwhelming amount of bad advice given to new parents. You tell parents they aren’t doing anything wrong by caring for their babies. Though it’s tragic that parents ever need to be told there’s nothing wrong responding to their babies.
It Help More Than I Cay Say
So, I thought you should know, that even though you don’t know me, you’ve been there for me all these years.
You’ve been there in the middle of the night when the house was dark and silent, and there was nobody else awake in the whole world. When it was just me and my second newborn baby. You were there telling me it’s okay to gaze into her eyes. It’s okay to enjoy her. To hold her and sleep next to her. Breastfeed her whenever she wants to. And that it’s not just okay to respond to my baby, but that it’s actually wonderful.
Just in case you missed them and you want to read more, these are all the links to articles by Pinky McKay I’ve added in my post:
- Wiring tiny brains to manage stress
- Should you breastfeed your baby to sleep?
- A rod for your own back?
- Baby sleep trainers – do you have the guts to tell them to bugger off?
- Mummy, Please Look At Me
- 5 cosleeping myths busted
- Loving your velcro baby***Update***** I totally fan-girl rushed up to her at an event about a year ago. And I was beyond awkward. But I have to say – she was SO nice about it. I was failing to find words, so she asked me about my kids and made me feel at ease. She really is the most a lovely person.*Originally Published May 2015