A mama asks – conflicting advice about night time breastfeeds and car seat woes?


A mama asks….

I received some conflicting advice at my DD’s 12mo checkup. Firstly when i said my DD cries in the car but she’s too small for fwd facing the nurse suggested I turn her round anyway since it’s bad for their mental health to be so anxious and upset regularly and she could see she was quite a clingy baby and that could be cos she’s at childcare 3 days.

Then when I “confessed” that we bed share and I still feed her at night, I was told under no circumstances should I be feeding her as she doesn’t need it and i could be affecting her growth because she won’t be filling up on solids properly if she’s full of milk. And obviously bed sharing was a big no no. So I’m supposed to let her cry in the middle of the night but not in the car?! Confused!!
The nurse then proceeded to explain attachment parenting and how I need to make sure I pick her up when she’s upset (eh, hello I’m bed sharing, i get attachment parenting?!).

I’m now worried that:

A. She’s not eating enough solid food and its because she’s filling up on milk at night (how much is enough?)

B. I’m damaging her mental health by having her rear-facing in the car and crying sometimes, and taking her to childcare 3 days (which she loves btw but is more clingy to me the other days)

Pinky says

Its sounds as though you have a well- meaning nurse and it is great that she considers babies mental and emotional health, but it also sounds as though you are very aware and sensitive to your baby’s needs so you really don’t need to worry that you are causing harm to your  little one.

Firstly, safety is the number one priority – if  your baby is too small to face forwards in her car seat then that’s a safety issue.http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-crying-baby-carseat-girl-car-seat-image31284293

You say she ‘sometimes’ cries in the car – I doubt you have her in the car for long periods. Occasionally we get things a bit out of ‘sync’ with babies, then we comfort them – this is actually called ‘rupture and repair’ by the experts. It is not all the time, it’s not deliberate and it’s not constant. It’s ok.  Sometimes we do have to get in the car or peel the last potato (or it all goes to crap), but it’s not something we do lots and we comfort the baby reasonably quickly. Perhaps you could play some music your baby enjoys in the car, perhaps hang some toys where she can see/play with them and try to make car trips fairly short when you are on your own. If you have somebody else driving, sit in the back with her. When she is safely big enough, turn the car seat around or if you do need to travel in the car frequently and she is very upset, it would be worth looking at alternative car seat options.

Perhaps your baby is naturally clingy – some babies are ‘velcro babies’.  Yes it can be stressful for babies to be separated from you but co-sleeping is the ‘fix it’ if you have been separated during the day. During co-sleeping, your baby is releasing oxytocin – which HELPS her brain develop wiring that aids her mental health, encourages bonding and attachment and will reduce cortisol release  (which is likely to happen during separation) and encourage the development of cortisol receptors – more cortisol receptors mean a better ability to switch off the stress response throughout life.

Night feeds also encourage good mental health – night time breastmilk is high in tryptophan, a precursor to seratonin, a neurotransmitter that induces calm feelings and happy moods. There are also amino acids in breastmilk that aid the development of seratonin receptors in the gut – recent research shows that most of our seratonin is actually produced in the gut – these receptors are important for future production of seratonin and good mental health.   This means your night –time parenting (co-sleeping and breastfeeding) is actually good for your baby’s mental health!

Re night feeds  and ‘filling up’ on milk.  Breast milk is FOOD! It’s a COMPLETE FOOD! Many babies take time to really eat lots of family foods – how much is enough, according to your nurse?  Often people expect babies to have bowlfuls of food, when they may only be ready and happy to taste and experiment – and this is fine. As long as the foods you offer are healthy, your job is to offer food and it’s your baby’s job to choose what and how much to eat.

Please relax – you are doing a great job; you are sensitive and responsive – otherwise you wouldn’t have asked about the car seat issue. When you feel confused by conflicting advice it can help to do a check by asking: Is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right?  If  anything feels stressful to you or your baby, consider what can we change or tweak? What are our options? Where can we find out more?