It's amazing how fast people pounce when a new parenting study makes it into the mainstream media. The good folk at Murdoch Children's Research Institute have been studying baby sleep patterns and their impact on maternal mental health for the past six years. They released their media alert yesterday and it was subsequently picked up by all the major Australian nationals. And then it went viral.
The issue of baby sleep is hugely controversial and, while many parents happily adopt the 'each to their own' approach, there are some who ruin it for everyone. Cue 'Lyn of Artarmon': "Controlled crying is a lazy parent's excuse for their total inadequacy as a parent. Shame on them and those who push this cruel practice."
Oh yes, the controlled crying debate takes no prisoners. Otherwise sane men and women turn into bizarre parenting experts when the topic turns to letting a baby cry.
But the scythe swings both ways. There are parents out there who will attack with equal gusto those mums and dads who choose not to leave their baby to cry. These parents are labelled as 'child spoilers' who will no doubt bring up wanton brats. They too cop their fair share of vitriol; make no mistake.
So why do parents who 'sleep train' their babies get told they shouldn't breed because they're too lazy to respond to baby's cues? And why, on the flip side, do parents who wear their babies get attacked for 'spoiling' their children?
I think the answer is simple. People get so caught up in what they believe is right that they disregard all evidence to the contrary. Not only do they do this, they let their thinking become so blinkered that they use their 'correct' baby rearing technique to justify their attacks on other parents. I've heard the following two examples all too recently:
Two parents at an indoor play centre, commenting (loudly) on a woman who had a 12 month-oldish baby in a baby pouch while her older child played on the slide: "Look at her wearing that baby. He's clearly old enough to walk. Talk about over-protective...rant, rant, rant."
Two parents at a park, sipping coffee, complaining about a woman who left her baby in a pram crying (for about, oh I don't know, 60 seconds?) while she tended to her other child on the swing: "For the love of God, why do these people breed. Listen to that baby screaming for help. Pick him up!"
Want to know something funny? I was the woman on the receiving end of both of those comments. How ridiculous is that? Pardon me, Couple Number 1, for wanting to be close to my (big) baby while my other children played. And pardon me, Couple Number 2, for having the audacity to leave my (big) baby in his pram while I went to help his sister.
It's the eternal parental conundrum: you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
Can we please stop this madness? Can we stop slandering one another and take a breath here? Count to ten and re-think? The truth is that some people are so busy trying to undermine the parental abilities of others that they fail to realise they are behaving more immaturely than the children they are so brilliantly raising.
I'll let 'Don of Sydney' sum it up for me: "Who is one person to determine what is, or is not, right for another? Do what is right for you in our own home, with your own family, but do not preach to others how they should do it. Who went and made you the parenting god?!"