My wife and I recently had a baby. The experience has given me some insight into how progressives see basic life and biological issues.
Being responsible people, we took all the classes. The baby classes you will get at a modern hospital all seem to be based on the philosophy of “attachment parenting”. You always pick up the baby when he cries. You only breastfeed him. You meet all his needs all the time, and if you try really hard, all this will work out fine.
The first problem we had with this was breastfeeding. It takes some time for the milk to come in, you are told. You will have little milk at first, but he’s very little, so he only needs a little milk.
But he’s screaming his head off in the hospital, and we can’t figure out why. A super-nice nurse tells us he’s hungry. But, we say, we are following the instructions. She tells us she has three kids and she gave them all formula as well as breast milk. (I got the impression for various reasons she was a Mormon, but don’t know this for sure.) So we start giving him formula too, and for a few days he wolfs it down like a starving man, or a starving baby, which he was.
If you read the baby forums a lot of people follow this advice though, and the baby is hungry for a long time, and sometimes doesn’t gain weight. This is child abuse, in my book, but it’s formal medical advice. I thank God for that nurse.
Then you go to the “lactation consultant”, a nurse deeply committed to the ideology of breastfeeding. If you’re using some formula, that’s ok, we will get you using only breast milk with some coaching. If you are breast pumping, that’s ok, or using a nipple shield, that’s ok, we will soon get you feeding only directly. They are very understanding that you may need these crutches, but they want to help you, they really do want you to be a good mother.
The problem is breastfeeding is difficult and time-consuming. I can see why so many babies died in the old days, just getting enough food was very hard. I remember reading articles years ago about the evil of Nestle promoting formula in the Third World. How dare the evil corporation keep mothers from breastfeeding! But a lot of women can’t produce enough milk, and if they can feeding the baby is sometimes very difficult. I’m sure formula has saved a lot of babies’ lives.
So, we finally ditched these sandal-wearing granola ladies and did it our own way. My wife breastfeeds the baby once a day, in the morning, and breast pumps and bottle feeds him other times. He gets mostly breast milk now, up from about 50% before, but gets formula as he needs it. Formula is more persistent in the system, so he gets it around when we go to sleep so he sleeps longer.
The other thing is crying. The classes limit the advice to pick him up whenever he cries, so he will feel secure, and then he will cry less and sleep more. My wife objected to this as her niece came to be very dependent on being held a lot; we asked the nurse giving the class about this and she said, no, it is not possible to spoil the baby, always pick him up.
Reality is babies cry a lot, for a long time, whether you pick him up or not. Our baby had colic, which is a fancy word the baby cries a lot and nobody is sure why. We went to the first pediatrician mention, an old Crocs-wearing granola lady, and she was all like “babies cry a lot, suck it up you wimps.” On the second visit she said we should try a different formula, and probiotics, but we didn’t want to go back again. Another one recommended gas drops.
Finally my wife had enough and insisted we go to a pediatric gastroenterologist. By some miracle I got an appointment and got off work, and he prescribed a medication for acid reflux. That helped some, and some changes to my wife’s diet helped some, and his getting a little older helped some.
So why don’t the baby classes talk about crying, or colic, or different formulas, or acid reflux? Because in the beautiful world of progressive baby care, all the baby needs is good parents, really good committed parents, and if there is some problem the parents probably aren’t just committed enough to the program.
Most of the advice we got was worthless or harmful. The only thing that prevented serious problems was the nurses in the hospital, who were more pragmatic than the “education” nurses.
Wishing doesn’t make anything so. But progressives, even when it comes to care of delicate and vulnerable humans, would rather fit the person to the “Procrustean bed of theory” as Milton Erickson phrased it.