At the baby’s four-month checkup a month ago, the paediatrician said to start preparing to wean. It’s probably the first thing that genuinely shocked me about having a child here – for all of my reading and research, I had completely failed to realise that in Japan it is the norm to start on food around 5 months, not at the 6 month mark that the WHO recommends. I have since learned that other countries advise starting at 4 months, and that, like everything else Baby, there are big debates regarding what is good and right, and people who believe one line of thought are absolutely 100% convinced that everyone else is Wrong.
This minefield of conflicting information makes being a first time parent incredibly challenging. As a parent, you want to do what is best for your child and raise them to be healthy, happy and safe. But if Camp A says that A Route is the best way to help your child thrive, and Camp B says that B Route is the best way, but routes A and B are completely opposite, how is anyone supposed to know what to do?
I can hear my mother’s voice saying “All you can ever do is the best that you can do at the time.” I know she’s right. But what if in retrospect it turns out that I made the wrong choice through ignorance, and irrevocably damaged my darling baby in the process? I’m not sure I could forgive myself. Stuff like allergies: general consensus is to introduce allergens slowly, after the baby is already x months old (sometimes up to 12+ months). But I read a paper published fairly recently saying that allergens might actually be better introduced at the 4-6 month mark!
Official advice changes all the time too, which means it’s not even possible to ask your parents for advice since things might have changed significantly since she had you. When I was a baby, it was the norm for babies to sleep on their stomachs, but the Back To Sleep campaign in the late 80s/early 90s means that now advice pretty much everywhere is for babies to be put to bed on their backs as a way of reducing deaths from SIDS.
Aaaah it’s tiring. Especially right now, when due to The Virus it is very difficult to make other mom-friends. And when you’re living in a different culture from the one you grew up in, what do you do then? Do you follow the conventions of the country in which you are resident, or follow developments from your culture of birth? I am also hugely apprehensive about thinking “advice in English is more up to date as most research is first published in English so Japanese thinking is outdated”, as that way lies thinking that you’re better than the doctors and paediatricians whose entire professional lives have revolved around making sure that babies grow up healthy and strong. It also smacks distinctly of colonialism and Anglo-white superiority. Not a fan.
So, what path do I choose, A or B? …And how much will it ultimately really matter?