Victoria White: As a mother I take serious issue with the so- called Baby Whisperer
THE mum I met with the tiny baby looked worried. She thought she was doing the right thing feeding her baby whenever the baby wanted. But the 'International Baby Whisperer' Tizzie Hall was on TV3 again recently telling mothers to feed their babies according to a strict routine. What should she do?
I had an immediate flashback to the day my aunt told me that it was my mother who had advised her to follow Dr Spock's routines with her babies.
"If only I had followed my intuition," said my aunt, her face creased with pain at the memory of her bawling, hungry babies, 50 years later.
Dr Spock later changed his mind and said that denying babies food when they were crying for it could lead to drug addiction. All the real international experts, from the World Health Organisation down, say you should feed your baby "on demand", or should I say, "on request".
New research has come out saying that putting babies on strict routines could affect them psychologically.
But because in western society we are still terrified of babies, we have new Dr Spocks all the time.
The latest is Tizzie Hall, with an international brand and a website full of baby products which have the "Tizzie Tick".
She describes herself as "British" but she was brought up in Ireland. Which figures, because we like our babies "good".
Tizzie Hall has, she claims, helped thousands of parents with babies who won't sleep because she can tell the difference between the cries of a baby who is hungry and one who is just looking for attention. How can you tell the difference? Well, have a look at Tizzie's routine and if your baby is due a feed then he's hungry. If he's not due a feed, he's not hungry. Simple.
If you keep responding to his crying with food, he could go on to have an eating disorder, says Tizzie in her book Save Our Sleep. She wonders is this why there is such a problem with obesity nowadays? She even blames demand feeding for colic.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's all fun and games with small babies. My first boy roared for the first four months. And I agree that it is really important to put babies down a little bit awake so that they learn to settle themselves and don't always look for you to put them to sleep.
But I breastfed four of them on demand, including twins, and we all survived. None of them ever had a dummy or a special teddy or a blanket or sucked his thumb. I followed my instincts -- and the best international advice -- because I was a confident, older mother.
But if you're scared, the Tizzie Halls of this world have a good chance of getting a hold on you and turning a special, simple time in your life into a complex, clock-watching routine.
Don't give in to your baby's cries, says Tizzie. If you give in he'll grow up spoiled. She never ceases to be amazed at how "clever" babies can be.
Some of them even vomit after they've been put in their cots just to force you to take care of them. That's what one little boy Tizzie met did.
She lined his cot with towels so that when he vomited all his mother had to do was go in and remove the towels "in complete silence with no eye contact".
When he pooed instead, they left him lying in his poo because they "realised" it had become "a game". They changed him after he'd gone to sleep. Don't worry if you don't get the bottom of your sleeping baby perfectly clean, says Tizzie, "a little bit of poo will not do any harm between then and the morning".
So that's what we're down to, in the year 2011 -- a baby lying in his poo until morning so he knows who's boss.
As if mothers were in confrontational relationships with their babies, and were not, instead, the carers of helpless creatures with simple needs: love, warmth and all the food they need when they want it.