Bringing up Baby Today
My neighbours are expecting their first baby in two weeks time so there has been a flurry of activity furnishing the nursery, changing the car , buying the car seat and carry cot and all the items deemed necessary today in bringing up baby.First time motherhood can come as a shock for no matter how many magazines or books you read on the subject of pregnancy and childbirth nothing prepares you for all the emotions and feelings experienced when you hold your baby for the first time. For some women, especially after a difficult labour and birth, not all the emotions are pleasant and then they can feel guilty or inadequate but with sympathetic help and support they can overcame the initial reaction and enjoy motherhood. I know that it is not all sweetness and light particularly with a baby that cries alot or doesn't sleep at night but it does not last forever although it may seem like it!
Although there are many labour saving devices for the new mother today I do feel that with the family structure having changed over the last generation or so and families living miles away from other family members that the new parents can struggle. I was brought up in a three generation household in a two up, two down house with no bathroom,no hot water on tap and certainly no central heating but what we did have was a family member constantly present, usually granny or a maiden aunt when our parents were out. I remember sharing a bedroom with granny, who was deaf, and who, when she woke in the middle of the night for she did not sleep well , would sing as she thought softly but being deaf the singing was quite loud and woke me!
Disposable nappies are very useful and time and labour saving but can have an environmental impact with the use of plastic disposal bags and landfill. A sight now missing from our towns and villages is a washing line full of snow white nappies blowing in the breeze or as I have seen when I lived on the west coast of Ireland nappies draped over bushes to dry! The first job every morning was to wash up to a dozen nappies depending on the ages of the little ones , all washed by hand, towelling ones in winter and muslin ones in summer.
Today there is a bewildering array of clothes for babies - mini versions of adults clothes even to little denim jeams for babies not yet crawling. Gone are the days when the little ones were dressed all in white and wrapped in shawls for the first few weeks. Layettes are a thing of the past and sadly some of the skills that went into making them , the crocheting and knitting with wool so finely spun it was like duckdown and the smocking on the the dresses so exquisitely detailed that it was a work of art, My maiden aunt was an expert needlewoman and I have kept the dresses she made for my daughter who in turn dressed her daughter in them and now they are stored away hopefully for the next generation to wear them.
Babies today have their own transport system, buggies, car seats, what I call double decker puchchairs and occasionally a proper pram. I can understand that the oldfashioned coach built pram would be of little use today as most families have their own transport and thus need something that folds up and can be transported easily but there was something very sociable about a large pram, apart from the fact that you could get a child at each end, it seemed to draw people to stop and admire the occupant and have a chat and of course it had the health benefit for the new mother that you had to walk as it was too large to fit into a car boot!
The transition from milk to solid food used to mean that baby was introduced to whatever foods the family were eating at that meal - it was usually granny's job to mash it down to a suitable consistency and she made it a game . Porage was usually the first thing to be tried at breakfast and then potatoes and carrots at the main meal. Chicken leg bones were used as teething rings after the chicken had been finely minced and mashed with potatoes. There is a huge choice nowadays of ready prepared meals and even prepared baby milk in cartons. The plus side is of course that the baby is introduced to a wider range of tastes at an earlier age than previously and it is very convenient when time is at a premium.
New mothers may often feel pressurised and even isolated especially if their own family is a distance away, possibly in another country, so when you next see a young mother , whether she looks stressed or happy, give her a smile and the opportunity to chat as you may be the only adult she sees all day and of course you get the chance to admire the baby!