10 May 2016

'Modern mothers treat their babies like little gods'

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 3:10 pm on 10 May 2016
Maternity nurse to the stars, Rachel Waddilove

Maternity nurse to the stars, Rachel Waddilove Photo: supplied

Modern mothers treat their babies like little gods according to Nanny to the stars Rachel Waddilove.

Now 68, she is a mother of three and grandmother of six and trained at Dr Barnardo's nursery college in the 1960s.

Ten years ago she put her parenting methods in The Baby Book: How to Enjoy Year One. Her traditional approach included advice that upset some people: formula is okay; so is letting your baby cry; people sleeping with their babies is most definitely not. She has updated her Baby Book for a new generation of mothers with evolving lifestyles.

Read an edited snapshot of their conversation below:

Are there different sorts of cries?

Yes. You know when there is a hungry cry, you know when a little one is needing to have a feed. If it is a hungry cry it won’t give up. If it is an overtired cry, then actually they have a shout, shout, shout and then all of a sudden they go to sleep or their little eyes are shutting and then they go sleep and babies will cry because they are overtired and they want to go to sleep. Some babies will find it really difficult to settle if they are overtired. Obviously if they have a tummy ache and they are bringing their little legs up, that is another sort of cry. Really those are the sort of cries you are likely to hear but you won’t know those cries when you first have a baby. It’s not until you have had your baby for a little while that you will get to know his needs. Every baby is different.

What is the longest time you would leave a baby crying before you went in?

Well I’m not going to say a time because it depends on the age of the baby and it depends on what is going on with the baby and it depends whether you are trying to sleep train your baby, and really, what the history of it all is, so there are lots of different ways. I will never say a time unless I know what is going on behind the story with what has been happening.

What about bed sharing, that is another area that has been a bit controversial because a lot of people like to have baby in bed with them and a lot of cultures have bed sharing as part of the culture. What are your concerns with having baby in bed with the parents?

Well if you are in that culture where baby shares the bed, that’s absolutely fine, because that is what happens in that culture, but here, in the west, we don’t have that sort of lifestyle. We certainly didn’t do it with our own children growing up and if we had a family again we wouldn’t do it if we had little ones now, but it is a very personal thing.

How about formula? This is another interesting one, we had a baby in the very early days and the milk wasn’t coming in and the nurses and midwives were very very keen that we didn’t give the baby formula. What is your feeling on this? “Breast is best”, they say, but you are not opposed to formula.

No no, breast is best, absolutely, but I am not opposed to formula. It’s not poison. Sometimes the way people talk about formula, it sounds as though you are giving your baby poison. There are women who cannot breastfeed. There are also women who don’t want to breastfeed. It is a woman’s choice whether she wants to breastfeed or not and there should not be pressure on her to breastfeed if she doesn’t want to. I’ve come across women in my time with babies over the years where their milk just does not come in and the mother is so distressed and upset about it, but it is much better for her, psychologically, to put the baby on a bottle.