Once you got the delivery system down- breast-feeding or baby formula-the more important dilemma for new Mothers has been when and how often feeding should occur: self demand vs rigid scheduled feedings.
For mid-century Moms the choice was a clear one.
A Mid-Century Visit to The Nursery
I was still fast asleep in the nursery the afternoon both my grandmothers came to visit me in the hospital after I was born. My napping Mom, Betty, opened her eyes and blurrily stared at the imposing matriarchal figures squeezed in the two visiting chairs in her room.
Clutching her paper visitors pass in one hand and an assortment of shopping bags in the other, my mortified grandmother, Nana Sadie checked her watch, saw it was way past my scheduled 3:00 feeding and went marching down the tiled antiseptic corridor in panicked pursuit of the nurse.
My grandmother, like most of her generation, believed baby had to be fed by the clock.
Just as trains run on the clock, so did scheduled eating’s. Both my grandmothers were from the old school of rigid scheduled feedings with its hard and fast rules on quantities and times of eating, which were to be followed to the letter if baby was to survive in the modern industrial world. As soon as baby was born he was punching a time clock.
As a young mother, my grandmother had been so intimidated by the sanctity of strict schedule ling that she did not dare feed a hungry baby Betty one minute early for fear the baby would be spoiled if she were fed when she was actually hungry. Sadie would sit and bite her nails waiting for the clock to say it was feeding time.
If baby Betty demanded food at her off hours, she, in unison with the rest of “The Greatest Generation”, had to cry it out.
Coddling a Cold War Baby
By the time I was born in the flush of prosperous 1955 post-war America, the motto was more of everything you want and that applied to baby’s meals as well. In this freedom-loving land of ours, permissiveness was sweeping the nation.
Why wait? You can have it all, right now.
Like so many mothers, Mom clutched onto the reassurance of Dr Spock’s book like a pacifier.
His free and easy world of affection and flexibility stood in sharp contrast to the once revered behaviorist Dr Watson the reigning expert for 30 years. The swami of scheduling and self-control now seemed like a ruthless dictator with its totalitarian web of shackles and controls creating parents who held an iron grip of control over their children.
Today’s Mothers had to be flexible and adjust to babies’ needs and happiness. After all, we weren’t living behind an Iron Curtain where mothers were forced to work in dark factories and children were raised by the state.
“Your baby, modern mothers were reassured, “ can be so much happier than yesterdays babies No longer are mothers told to let baby cry it out for hours; to turn thumbs down on all thumb-sucking, like in their mother’s day. Today, babies are less frustrated and happier as a rule.”
It was now believed better for “…a baby to be fed according to his own rhythmic demands for food, we must respect this schedule as set by baby and feed him only when he wants to be fed.” Babies’ doctor tells us not to wheedle or force…baby’s tummy knows best! Besides which, mothers were told that feeding on demand was fun and amusing- enjoyable to both baby and especially mom.
American Moms had to be at her baby’s disposal 24/7 or risked trouble.
Danger now lurked in ignoring your babies every whim; in not being too attentive, cuddly, feeding her whenever she wanted, whatever she wanted…..or run the risk of producing a scrawny, nervous wreck.
There would be no crying it out for this baby….Mom was at this baby boomers beck and call.
Copyright (©) 20012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved Excerpt From Defrosting The Cold War:Fallout From My Nuclear Family