Parental Guilt and the First Child Learning Curve

“The Wedge”

I just read a report that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is now recommending that parents never use sleep positioners for their babies, due to the risk of suffocation. 

Upon hearing this, I can’t help but hark back to 1994, when I had my first child. At the time, the “must have” item for newborns was something called “The Wedge,” which was designed to keep your child sleeping on her side–at the time, the safest position to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  So of course, I made sure I had one in our nursery, and used it faithfully even though my daughter hated it. It didn’t last–my daughter kept squirming and waking up, trying to lay flat on her back.   I desperately wanted my baby to be safe, but after several sleepless nights, I gave up and ditched the wedge. And guess what? She slept like a rock from that night onwards.

“Bolster-Style Positioner”

A few years later, the “experts” completely switched up the narrative, and launched a new campaign, “Back to Sleep”, encouraging parents to have their babies sleep flat on their backs, rather than their sides.  So, out went the wedges and in came the “bolster” positioners, designed to keep babies laying flat. 

Now, they’re eschewing that notion altogether, and recommending the “ABC’s” for safe newborn sleeping: Always on their Back in an empty Crib.  No positioners, no wedges, no stuffed animals or blankets or props of any kind. 

While I certainly appreciate the FDA’s mission to make safety recommendations and save lives, I can do without the fear and guilt that they inevitably inflict on parents.  Now that my children are grown, I can attest that you can screw up every now and then (and you will), and your child will turn out just fine.  You can also follow all of the safety recommendations, do every single thing you’re supposed to do, and something can still go horribly awry.  Even the so-called experts can get it wrong. 

Yes, current conventional wisdom says that you should put your baby on her back to sleep. But it’s not a panacea that will guarantee her safety. If, god forbid, something bad happens, please know that it’s not your fault.  Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, and the only tried-and-true directives for new parents are to love their babies unconditionally, and do the best you can.

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