1) I want to give my baby a modern name
“We want to give our baby a modern name and have a humanist baby-naming ceremony, but both our families are pressuring us to continue with traditional family names and hold religious services and celebrations. Should we cave in to make them happy?”
Dr Sandra Wheatley, psychological consultant and author, says:
“This will not be the only time that you disagree with your parents over your baby, so what you need to do is set a precedent – start as you mean to go on. Your families must get used to the fact that you are going to do things differently. If you suspect someone may be offended at your choice of name or ceremony, the best thing to do is take the bull by the horns, talk to those people in a mature manner and calmly explain why you’re doing it your way – just to satisfy yourself you’ve done everything in your power to be reasonable. If they still disagree – that’s fine. They’re entitled to disagree. What’s important is that you’ve acknowledged one another’s feelings and that your parents love their grandchild.
Don’t be temped to compromise. If you give your baby several middle names reflecting lots of relatives, it will look tokenistic and, rather than pleasing everyone, you run the risk of offending people because, for instance, one name appears before another. If you do it alphabetically, on the other hand, you’re effectively saying ‘We knew you’d get upset by the order, so we did it like this to keep you quiet’ – which is just as bad. Have the courage of your convictions. You’re going to face bigger challenges and decisions for your baby in the future than choosing his name. And remember, by making your own decisions – both now and in the future – you’ll be setting a good example to your child.”
2) I want to raise my baby as a vegetarian
“I’m a vegetarian and animal lover, and can’t stand the idea of cooking meat for my baby once she’s weaned – let alone feeding it to her or watching her eat it. My mum is appalled at this, and insists that a veggie diet in insufficient for a baby’s needs. Is she right?”
Claire Williamson of the British Nutrition Foundation says:
“There’s no evidence that a balanced vegetarian diet is a risk to a baby’s mental or physical development, provided that all he nutrients obtainable from meat and fish are consumed in other forms. A lot of people worry about protein intake, but a healthy, balanced vegetarian diet should contain enough. The minerals iron and zinc, however – both of which are found in meat products – are important to replace. You can find iron in fortified cereals, beans, pulses, dried fruits and dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, while zinc is abundant in dairy foods, beans, pulses and eggs.
Something else you should take care with is not to feed your child a diet that’s too high in fibre. Babies and toddlers have small stomachs, so it’s best to lean towards energy-dense foods like avocados and cheese, rather than too many bulky, high fibre foods.
Children who don’t eat fish or meat may also lack essential long chain fatty acids. Good vegetarian sources are sunflower and rapeseed oils. To include these in young diets, use vegetable oils when preparing vegetables or casseroles before you puree them down.
All children from 6 months to 5 years old should take vitamin A, C and D liquid supplements as drops, and as meat is rich in vitamin D, these offer a good extra precautionary measure against a deficiency.
Finally, although a vegetarian diet can be just as healthy as an omnivorous one, remember that a vegan diet is far too strict and in inappropriate for a baby or toddler.
3) My partner wants us to get married
“My pregnancy was unplanned, but it very much wanted. Now my partner thinks we should get married – he says there are financial benefits and that it’s the right thing to do. This doesn’t feel very romantic, and I don’t think we should rush into it. Who’s right?”
Christine Northam, senior counsellor for Relate, says:
“A proposal during pregnancy can be confusing, because it can make you feel as if your partner only wants to get married to be with he baby, not to be with you. But sometimes it takes something as momentous as an unexpected pregnancy to clarify for a man that you are, in fact, the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. It’s important that you articulate your feeling and encourage him to tell you why it’s so important to be married. The reasons could be practical or traditional or romantic, but they are all valid, whatever they are. It’s very important you both understand each other’s viewpoint.
Women often say ‘I’m too preoccupied with my pregnancy to even think about a wedding,’ and this is a good reason not to push the two together – they should be, after all, two of the happiest events of your life. It’s often better to savour them individually, and not to feel pushed or rushed. Allow yourselves to enjoy the news of your baby’s arrival, and to cope with all the changes to your lifestyle. If you feel pressed into marriage – or even if your partner feels obliged to marry you out of duty or because his family expect it – feelings of resentment or anger can simmer for many years to come. Listen o one another, be honest and don’t rush.”
4) I don’t like the idea of breastfeeding
“I’ve read all the magazines and books, heard all the parenting gurus and know the evidence from countless studies – breast is best. My problem is that I just can’t bear the thought of breastfeeding. What should I do”
Ilana King, breastfeeding counsellor with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, says:
“Many women feel this way before their baby is born. Whatever your feelings are during pregnancy, though, keep an open mind – you may well feel differently when you hold your baby. Breast milk contains everything your baby needs or optimum growth and development, as well as providing vital protective antibodies.
Take things one step at a time. Try to set yourself a small goal of feeding for a few days, so that your baby receives colostrum – the all-important first milk – and then see how you feel. Even one feed is better than none! Once established, most women find their breastfeeding relationship with their baby to be both enjoyable and rewarding, and even women who decide to breastfeed out of a sense of duty to their baby, often go on to enjoy the relationship. If you decide that you want to provide breast milk, but don’t want to breastfeed, you can get help from your midwife or a breastfeeding counsellor to express your milk to give to your baby from a cup or bottle. If not, a midwife, health visitor or your GP can advise on bottle-feeding. Make sure you enjoy lots of skin-to-skin contact with your baby if you choose not to breastfeed, as this significantly helps with bonding.”
5) I don’t want my partner at the birth
“The last person I want in the birthing room with me is my partner. I’d sooner have my mum, sister, or a girlfriend. Is that so bad?”
Mervi Jokinen of the Royal College of Midwives says:
“A birthing partner needs to be practical, not easily upset and able to instill confidence in you as a birthing woman, and it’s important that you don’t feel pressured to have someone present who you don’t want to be there. Although the expectation these days is for the man to be present, some male partners don’t want to be – they may want to pop in and out of the labour room, perhaps, or they may worry about not being able to cope with seeing you in pain and want to avoid it altogether. It’s vital to be open with one another and involve your midwife in discussions about the man’s role. You should encourage your partner to talk to your midwife alone too, as this can be productive.
You can, if you want, have two birthing partners – your partner and your mother for example – and, provided they understand one another and their respective roles, this can work well, especially if your labour is long. Whatever you decide, don’t exclude your partner completely: you could have a female relative as your main birthing supporter, but involve your partner by having him running occasional errands such as changing your music or fetching water. Be flexible, I’ve seen many women who insist they don’t want their partners present, but during that emotional final hurdle of birth they find themselves screaming for him because they suddenly desperately want him to be there.”
6) I want to go back to work after the birth
“I’d like to return to my career once my baby is born, but my partner wants me to stay at home with the baby. I don’t want to be seen as just a mum and housewife, but he feels it’s important. What do you advise?”
Diane Mason, life coach with Lumiere Life Coaching, says:
“If you’ve worked hard to establish a career, contemplating full time motherhood can feel like giving up a great deal. Your partner, however, may have a clear idea of your role as a mum. It might be that while your share similar values, you are each placing a different priority on aspects of a successful work-life balance. What, in your partner’s view, are the benefits of you staying at home? For how long does he expect you to remain there? Exploring his thinking may reveal a new perspective. Similarly, helping your partner understand what being a mum means to you, and what returning to your career would give to you, is important. Having two, happy, loving and fulfilled parents is a great foundation for any child. If returning to your career is best for you as an individual and as a parent, it is important that you both agree.
Finding a compromise might be the best way to avoid any resentment building up in the future. How flexible is your employer? Could you work part-time? Or perhaps take an extended but defined period of maternity leave, with a view to picking up you career later? Or could you retrain or even create your own business? Exploring what is important to you as a person in your own right as well as a mum is essential in finding an effective way forward. Considering these issues now means you’re giving yourself time to plan a successful strategy. And remember your decision is not irreversible. Changes may need to be made over the years in order to maintain a successful balance.”