Super? Nanny

Mamas all over the Internet are voicing their opinion on the latest episode of ABC’s “SuperNanny” today. Some think Jo’s advice to the family was completely uneducated and out of line, others have issues with parts of it and still others think there was nothing wrong with it at all. Of course I have my own thoughts on the matter to share and, now that I have a minute to get on the computer, I will do just that.

First of all, this family had a LOT of issues, namely needing to set boundaries, find some balance in their family life, and find an alternative to “whoopin'” the kids (which is what the mom called the spankings her kids received). Although the mom held her14-month-old baby a lot, nursed her on demand and the parents co-slept with their 6-year-old as well as the baby, this family was not practicing Attachment Parenting nor seemed to have any desire to.

The mom seemed reluctant to wean the baby at first, but then changed her mind and said she was ready. I applaud her for breastfeeding for as long as she did, considering only 17.2% of moms in the U.S. were still nursing their children at 12 months old (in 2003) per the CDC, even though the AAP recommends “Exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months and support for breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as long as mutually desired by mother and child.”

The fact that the mom decided to wean does not bother me, however, the way Jo handled the weaning process (cold-turkey) seemed pretty darn awful. There are much gentler ways of getting a baby to wean than to go cold-turkey. Plus, it’s not good for the mom to just up and quit like that. I’m sure her boobs were about ready to explode and I hope she didn’t develop mastitis (breast infection) as a result. I wish they would’ve consulted a lactation consultant or two before giving out advice on weaning. Perhaps if they had, they would’ve known better than to encourage the mom to give her 14-month-old a bottle. Bottle use past 12 months of age is discouraged because it can lead to mouth/teeth problems.

From “Stopping breastfeeding abruptly, or “cold turkey,” can be very distressing for both mother and baby and can cause plugged ducts, breast infection, or even a breast abscess. Hormone levels are also more likely to take a drastic plunge, causing mood swings, depression, etc. It’s very rare that sudden weaning is truly necessary. If someone suggests to you that this is required, get a second opinion. It would also be helpful to talk to a lactation consultant and/or a La Leche League Leader, who will be able to suggest alternatives and, if necessary, help you to wean with as little distress to mom and baby as possible.” Kellymom also has recommendations for gradual or partial weaning.

I felt many of the comments Jo made about breastfeeding or about the mom keeping the baby close to her were made with disdain. Rather than supporting the mom for breastfeeding her child, Jo seemed to be appalled that the nursing relationship continued. Perhaps she needs reminding of the AAP’s recommendation (12 months+) or WHO’s recommendations (2 years+) regarding breastfeeding.

I also disagreed with the way they transitioned the baby from co-sleeping with mom and dad to sleeping in a crib using CIO (cry it out). I felt that it was unusually cruel to first take her off the breast cold-turkey, then make her CIO in a crib (even if it was only for 5 minutes) when she’d been so accustomed to the closeness and security of mom for the past 14 months. Again, gentler methods could have been used.

More from “When you’re actively weaning, be sure to offer lots of cuddling and extra affection during the day. As your child grows older, nursing becomes much more than a way to satisfy hunger and thirst. It provides him with much comfort, security and closeness, so be as sensitive to his needs as you possibly can be throughout the process.”

They sure missed the mark on that one. Also, the way Jo applauded the mom for remaining “detached” while she listened to her baby CIO behind a closed door made me feel sick to my stomach. :( No parent should ever be praised for their detachment from their children, especially while the child cries alone.

I felt really sorry for the baby (the only one in the family who couldn’t voice her feelings) in all of this. I agree that the mom needed to pay more attention to her other children (and stop hitting them!), but there are better ways of handling it all. Perhaps Jo could’ve offered her a sling and showed her how to wear her baby (which would allow her to get more things done and still satisfy the baby’s needs) rather than just tell her to break off her attachment with her.

I know numerous families with more than one child who don’t have to break the attachment with one child to spend time with the other(s). It might take more work and ingenuity to figure out a balance, but nobody said parenting would be easy.

Another thing that bothered me was Jo saying that the baby was missing developmental milestones because she was so attached. Hmmm. I’ve never heard of a baby missing milestones from being worn/held or breastfed, the opposite is often true – the babies thrive because their needs are being met.

Overall, I’m grateful that the “SuperNanny” helped mom to realize that hitting her kids is not an effective or good discipline tactic and I hope that the family was able to find some balance after all of this. Those older two kids (not the nephew) really seemed to be crying out for attention and hopefully they are getting more now. I just wish the baby’s needs were considered a bit more. After all, she’s part of the family too.

If you wish to voice your opinion on this episode to ABC, click here or email Nick Powell, the creator and executive producer of both the American and British versions of the show – Craig Armstrong and Nick Emmerson are executive producers of the American version. Supernanny is produced by Ricochet, Ltd.