New BBC World Service parenting podcast series (5)

11 October, 2018

Dear Anna,

This sounds like a wonderful project! Interesting to say the least and very helpful. I just retired (sort of) after being a general pediatrician for over 30 years in the USA. I have traveled and worked overseas a bit as well. I just became a grandmother a few days ago to an anxious daughter.

So, I do have a couple of thoughts.

In the US, we are all hit with a barrage of information about health all the time. So many parents are overwhelmed by the massive amounts of information they get and also how quickly they can change. They feel insecure that they can keep track of it all. Parenting has become something you have to study rather than do intuitively. And of course they all want to do their best! One example: The "back to sleep" campaign was a huge life saver. No question that intervention is critical!! But now there areguidelines about the kind of mattress, sleeping only in a crib, in theparents' room till a year old, use a pacifier, no blankets, and I have even heard stuff about not letting them sleep in a car seat or swing for long.

With all the details, parents are afraid to not watch their kids sleeping!! The hype about SIDS went up rather than down as it should have given the incidence dropped with "back to sleep." We made it too difficult. I worry that the increase in post partum depression is due to the sleep deprivation of the parents now. And that the small gains that ?may be made by all these additional interventions are outweighed by the parents who are exhausted and scared and therefore possibly less vigilant and caring. In the USA, we tend to find a good thing and then "go overboard." That is one example. So, your show can help sort it out, show the range of OK ways to be a parent. Leave a broad platform? I hope.

The other really important issue is parental confidence. Another example: I see so many Moms struggle with breastfeeding and I don't remember that much when I had babies. Again, there is so much information!! Moms feel insecure and then I fear their milk doesn't flow as well as it could. Confidence and sleep help milk production! I have seen so many parents worry that they are doing something wrong. My mantra is "Immunize, use a car seat, back to sleep and don't abuse your child." Pretty much the rest is up to you and your unique family and needs. I realize I am exaggerating and I am happy to offer my advice when asked but I am quick to point outthat what I am saying is just my ideas and they should ask others and read and then make their own decision (about sleep, eating, toileting, etc.).

Then make sure to again reassure them that they are awesome parents and what they decide is right. There are few "rights" and "wrongs."

I hope this makes some sense. I have worried for years about this generation of educated American parents (my less educated Moms are usually less worried and just follow cultural traditions). I am thrilled you will have a show and hope it is broadcast in the US. Please please reassure parents, give them great ideas and information and then urge them to trust themselves. I love it.


Jane Cross

CHIFA profile: Jane Cross is a primary care Pediatrician, working in the Latino Community in Holyoke, USA. She is on the clinical faculty of the Tufts University Medical School, which has developed an international health track for residents. She is the Co-chair of the Committee on International Health of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and has worked in international child health in Peru, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. Her major areas of interests are childhood malnutrition and newborn management/neonatal resuscitation. jane.r.cross AT