'Ill-Advised' Baby Parenting Techniques Are Ruining Children, According to Preachy New Research

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Do you put your baby in a stroller? Does your baby have his/her own room? Does your baby consume formula in addition to or instead of breast milk? Do you ever stop touching your baby? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, well, I don't mean to alarm you, but ... U R DOIN IT WRONG.

That's according to research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame, anyway. Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology, says that "ill-advised" modern parenting techniques may be affecting babies in a variety of alarming ways, creating -- are you ready for this?? -- an epidemic of anxiety and depression, aggression, delinquency, and decreasing moral behavior.

Way to destroy America, you heartless stroller-wielding moms.

Narvaez says that "life outcomes for American youth are worsening," and that early parenting practices can be tied to adulthood personality, physical health, and moral development. She says as a society, we're moving away from ancient techniques like breast-feeding infants, being responsive to crying, having multiple adult caregivers, and providing almost constant touch for babies ... and it's affecting our children:

Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will 'spoil' it.

Hmm, interesting that she describes the notion of "spoiling" young babies by responding to their cries as a modern phenomenon ... being as how I've NEVER heard of any mom who subscribes to that theory. In fact, that was a relatively popular belief nearly 100 years ago.

But anyway, back to the other horrible modern practices. If you put your child in a stroller, you're denying him physical touch and the ability to interact with nature:

positive touch affects stress reactivity, impulse control and empathy; free play in nature influences social capacities and aggression

Oh, and if you're the primary caregiver? Well, you're screwing things up there, too:

a set of supportive caregivers (beyond the mother alone) predicts IQ and ego resilience as well as empathy.

In fact, we're failing on all fronts:

Instead of being held, infants spend much more time in carriers, car seats and strollers than they did in the past. Only about 15 percent of mothers are breast-feeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970.

Like most research, I think there's probably something of value here, but it's buried in the presenter's opinion. The fact is, we don't live in harmonious cave-villages any more, where babies can be toted around all day and passed from person to person. We're busy. We've got errands to run, older children to take care of, and jobs to do. We live in a society where leaving children to "free play" can result in a freaking arrest, for god's sake.

As for me, I used formula, I put my kids in strollers, they had their own bedrooms, and they actually seem to have turned out pretty okay so far. Of course, they're still pretty young -- the jury's still out on what sort of adults they'll be. It's good to know if they do have problems later in life, it can ALL be traced back to their infanthood.

What do you think about this research? Do you believe the problems young adults are facing these days often have to do with how they were treated as babies?


Image via Ed Yourdon/Flickr

babywearing, bonding, breastfeeding, natural parenting

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nonmember avatar Cynthia

I have to say I agree with a lot of the basic research here. There is a lot of stigma against parents who cosleep, breastfeed (esp extended), wear their babies, don't let their kids 'cry it out' and make sure there are 2 people who are balancing the parenting load. I'm not going to say that any of these are right or wrong, but most of these ways of raising children were the 'norm' for many centuries to get us here and it's only the last hundred years-or far less for many things- that have changed and we're seeing these 'problems' with children and society. As for free play? Very easy to do without being arrested! It's supervising your children at the park or letting them play in the yard or house without dictation what they play!

schlis schlis

Most of this sounds right to me. Then again i babywore more than 6 months, my daughter slept in our room for almost a year, and at 16 months is still breastfed. Strollers, baby seats, and swings should be the exception, not the rule.

Mama2... Mama2MonkeyBoys

You know what I think is really 'ruining' children?

Studies.

Quit trying to parent by some ideal you read about in a book, and just use your instincts and common sense, for crying out loud.

nonmember avatar FarmersWife

Love it! I don't mind a little research that says I'm doing it right. Following instincts is such a blessing. One year later, this baby has been a piece of cake to raise. I still don't understand the side where parents say how hard and trying parenthood is. It's all bliss or boredom here :)

ethan... ethans_momma06

"The fact is, we don't live in harmonious cave-villages any more, where babies can be toted around all day and passed from person to person. We're busy. We've got errands to run, older children to take care of, and jobs to do. We live in a society where leaving children to "free play" can result in a freaking arrest, for god's sake."


Right. She said that. She also said that deviation from how we have always cared for our children has taken it's toll. Put the guilt away and consider the validity of the research. If it's legit, instead of justifying it because, like, omg- we are SO BUSY!!!!!!!! we need to figure out how to make healthy parenting a functional part of the modern society.

ethan... ethans_momma06

Also, FWIW, when I was 8 months pregnant at the social securities office, I had a woman who (completely serious) tell me not to pick up, carry, or hug my children.


She has 3, said she only hugged them right after they were born, and then after that point- she didn't believe in spoiling them or in having them attatched to her.


So yeah. It's actually extremely common STILL (just check out CM posts, really) for people to believe that holding, touching, and responding to an infant will spoil it.

nonmember avatar tinykitty

Actually Linda, I've been told quite frequently that I'm spoiling my 3 month old baby by responding to his cries right away.

I also read the original article, and I have to say that this article was far preachier.

lulou lulou

I agree with most of the research also.  Even bought my daughter the Panda version of humidifier when I learned on a nature show that the Panda is one of the only animals to hold their young while nursing.

mommy... mommytojack0524

The "formula is evil" attitude really gets under my skin. I am one of the minority who couldn't nurse. I had 2 small strokes when my son was only a few weeks old, and the medication I need for the rest of my life is incompatible with breast feeding. I think it's a whole lot more important for my son to have his mommy whole and alive. Before going off about formula, I wish this author would realize that, while we are the minority, there are those of us who would  have loved to nurse but can't due to a variety of medical conditions. There is a LOT of guilt associated with not being able to nurse already.

Melis... Melissa1508

Well, anything to guilt trip moms who don't stay at home and lug our kids around with us all day long.  Sorry that I want a life outside of and in addition to motherhood.  I fall in that evil category of giving my child dreaded formula and dropping her off at daycare so that I can work 40 hours a week.  I guess I could wear her heavy five year old ass in a sling and wear her to work. 

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