Close Spacing II: Fertility and Parenting Styles

Part 1: When Does Chinuch Begin?

There is a direct connection between the type of parenting and child spacing. When the baby stays with his mother day and night, nurses on cue without bottles and pacifiers, starts solids gradually at about six months, and spends a good deal of his time either nursing or in close physical contact with his mother, the mother’s natural postpartum infertility generally lasts longer. Six to twelve months is fairly common, but a year or two is also quite possible. When you hear of mothers who exclusively breastfed and still had a return to fertility or a pregnancy at three months postpartum, it’s often ( but not always) related to scheduled nursings, mother-baby separation, or a baby who is encouraged to sleep through the night. Because most young couples and health-care professionals lack knowledge regarding breastfeeding and fertility, the parents can’t make informed decisions. When I counsel haredi mothers they are desperate for such information. This information should be readily available to everyone, but it is especially sad when it is lacking in a community that discourages use of artificial birth control.

Here are some questionable ways I have seen families cope with closely spaced children. I have seen many counter-examples as well.

  • Sending very young children out to daycare (and not necessarily because both parents are working). Keeping two at home is unusual in Israel, and daycare is dirt cheap in some communities where large families are the norm.
  • Inferior daycare: In my neighborhood a man noticed four or five infants crawling on the sidewalk and in the street. It turned out that they had escaped from a local daycare center (for large families) where the door had been inadvertently left open.
  • Giving excessive responsibility to older children..
  • Going to a “beit havraah” after birth. This is de rigeur in charedi families, and many municipalities and health funds chip in after the fourth birth. The problem is that because these institutions view their role as giving the mother an opportunity to rest, they interfere with the mother’s bonding with the baby and breastfeeding (because they don’t allow the mother to have the baby with her at night and encourage supplementation). One mother I spoke to discovered when she got home that her baby really needed to nurse every two hours, instead of the five-hour schedule he had been on in the beit havraah (undoubtedly he had received bottles of formula, but she didn’t know about it.) In almost every case the money for this “vacation” would be better spent on household help, meals, and child care, allowing the mother to rest in her own home and be available full-time for the baby and her older children.
  • Continuing this pattern at home and allowing others to take over care for the baby so that the mother can recover from birth, and not because the mother had medical complications.
  • Sending a toddler to the neighbor’s house for two full weeks after birth, during which time the child does not see his mother.
  • Forcing children to sleep through the night before they are developmentally ready.
  • Mixing cereal with milk or formula and giving it in a bottle, instead of taking time to feed the baby a meal.
  • Unnecessary supplementing and early or sudden weaning.
  • Ignoring the toddler except for diaper changes and meals.

We need to question the idea that if something is good for the mother, the baby benefits (“me” time, sleeping through the night, babysitters). We instead need to be pointing out that most things that are good for our babies, ultimately benefit the mother and the entire family when they get the proper support.

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Comments

  1. Mother of Israel says:

    enjoyed this post!

  2. SephardiLady says:

    Going to a “beit havraah” after birth

    MominIsrael-You will like my upcoming post I think. So, I’ll try to get it up soon.

    I wrote about the difficulties in returning home from the hopsital, the lost relationship with the older child, etc, after our last baby.

    Having a parent absent is really painful for children. No matter how many times and ways you try to explain the change, little ones never understand. If it took 3 weeks to recover my relationship with my older, despite the fact that he came to the hospital everyday to eat dinner with me on my hospital bed at my insistence, imagine what it is like to recover a relationship under more and harsher separation.

    After a new baby and the preceeding pregnancy, nothing is easy. But, I believe the more you continue to “attach” with other older kids the better while there is a new baby around the better: dinners together if the hospital allows it, storytime while the baby nurses, doing a select few activities where possible.

    People probably thought (ok-they expressed so verbally) that we were nuts when nearly immediately after coming back from the hospital we took a trip out together as a whole family to the park and drug store (regular activities). But, it was a phenomenal way to re-attach with a child who was feeling abandoned and had pulled away. About an hour of being there with him jus as before, he requested I hold his hand so he could walk the balance beam. At that point I knew things were not permanently downhill. 🙂

    It took a while to get back to normal (all amily had to return home), but thank G-d we are there. It is definitely best for everyone and would not have been achived by isolating myself any more than necessary.

  3. mother in israel says:

    moi: Thank you!

    SL: Thank you for giving your perspective as a new mother.

  4. Good post, but that story about the babies who “escaped” from daycare gave me the chills- that is horrible! And that’s not the first time I’ve heard of a child escaping gan in Israel without anyone noticing, though usually it’s a kid who’s a few years old- still horrible, though.

  5. RaggedyMom says:

    While my own experience is limited to a three-and-a-half year old and a fifteen month old, I find the patterns you’re describing very interesting vis a vis my own family and those of others I know (e.g. my brother in Yerushalayim who has 5 kids under 7 years old k’h) and the challenges each type of family arrangement presents.

    I think this style of writing is among your best and I look forward to reading on!

  6. mother in israel says:

    RR–I was a little afraid you would think it was too extreme, after our most recent discussion!! Glad you liked it. I too know of several other gan escapees, but they were at least able to walk! One crossed a busy street and arrived home. The father (who fortunately was home) called the gan and asked how his son was. They hadn’t missed him.
    RM–thanks so much for the compliment–I devoted a lot of time to it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I’m a Singaporean mother to a 16 mths old boy and live in Singapore. My husband will soon be posted to Israel to study in a war college there and I would like to understand more about the culture and living conditions in Israel, with regards to child safety and bringing up a toddler there. Are there any support centres or community where other mothers gather? I will be handling my son on my own so I’m concerned if I can cope. Thanks.

    Worried Mama

  8. mother in israel says:

    Yes, there are many such centers throughout the country. Where in the country will you be living, and with what kind of housing arrangements? Will you have access to a car? Once I know those details I can give you more specific information.

    In general, children are welcome in most places and there are playgrounds everywhere. Since I presume that he will be with you much of the time, the safety issues aren’t much different than anywhere else. You just have to be a little more vigilant and not make assumptions.

  9. Hi, thanks for your reply. We still do not know details as yet, about our transport and accommodation etc. Once I find out more, will let you know.

  10. Baleboosteh says:

    Very interesting post – well written too!

  11. mother in israel says:

    Okay, anon, in the meantime prepare lots of sunscreen.

    Balaboosteh–thank you!!

  12. 11 Comments – Show Original Post Collapse comments
    Mother of Israel said…
    enjoyed this post!
    January 12, 2007 3:44 PM
    SephardiLady said…
    Going to a “beit havraah” after birth
    MominIsrael-You will like my upcoming post I think. So, I’ll try to get it up soon.
    I wrote about the difficulties in returning home from the hopsital, the lost relationship with the older child, etc, after our last baby.
    Having a parent absent is really painful for children. No matter how many times and ways you try to explain the change, little ones never understand. If it took 3 weeks to recover my relationship with my older, despite the fact that he came to the hospital everyday to eat dinner with me on my hospital bed at my insistence, imagine what it is like to recover a relationship under more and harsher separation.
    After a new baby and the preceeding pregnancy, nothing is easy. But, I believe the more you continue to “attach” with other older kids the better while there is a new baby around the better: dinners together if the hospital allows it, storytime while the baby nurses, doing a select few activities where possible.
    People probably thought (ok-they expressed so verbally) that we were nuts when nearly immediately after coming back from the hospital we took a trip out together as a whole family to the park and drug store (regular activities). But, it was a phenomenal way to re-attach with a child who was feeling abandoned and had pulled away. About an hour of being there with him jus as before, he requested I hold his hand so he could walk the balance beam. At that point I knew things were not permanently downhill. 🙂
    It took a while to get back to normal (all amily had to return home), but thank G-d we are there. It is definitely best for everyone and would not have been achived by isolating myself any more than necessary.
    January 12, 2007 7:24 PM
    mother in israel said…
    moi: Thank you!
    SL: Thank you for giving your perspective as a new mother.
    January 13, 2007 7:03 PM

  13. Mother in Israel says:

    RR said…
    Good post, but that story about the babies who “escaped” from daycare gave me the chills- that is horrible! And that’s not the first time I’ve heard of a child escaping gan in Israel without anyone noticing, though usually it’s a kid who’s a few years old- still horrible, though.
    January 14, 2007 4:42 PM
    RaggedyMom said…
    While my own experience is limited to a three-and-a-half year old and a fifteen month old, I find the patterns you’re describing very interesting vis a vis my own family and those of others I know (e.g. my brother in Yerushalayim who has 5 kids under 7 years old k’h) and the challenges each type of family arrangement presents.
    I think this style of writing is among your best and I look forward to reading on!
    January 15, 2007 3:26 AM
    mother in israel said…
    RR–I was a little afraid you would think it was too extreme, after our most recent discussion!! Glad you liked it. I too know of several other gan escapees, but they were at least able to walk! One crossed a busy street and arrived home. The father (who fortunately was home) called the gan and asked how his son was. They hadn’t missed him.
    RM–thanks so much for the compliment–I devoted a lot of time to it.
    January 15, 2007 5:06 PM
    Anonymous said…
    Hello, I’m a Singaporean mother to a 16 mths old boy and live in Singapore. My husband will soon be posted to Israel to study in a war college there and I would like to understand more about the culture and living conditions in Israel, with regards to child safety and bringing up a toddler there. Are there any support centres or community where other mothers gather? I will be handling my son on my own so I’m concerned if I can cope. Thanks.
    Worried Mama
    January 16, 2007 4:11 AM
    mother in israel said…
    Yes, there are many such centers throughout the country. Where in the country will you be living, and with what kind of housing arrangements? Will you have access to a car? Once I know those details I can give you more specific information.
    In general, children are welcome in most places and there are playgrounds everywhere. Since I presume that he will be with you much of the time, the safety issues aren’t much different than anywhere else. You just have to be a little more vigilant and not make assumptions.
    January 16, 2007 9:31 AM
    Anonymous said…
    Hi, thanks for your reply. We still do not know details as yet, about our transport and accommodation etc. Once I find out more, will let you know.
    January 17, 2007 2:42 AM
    Baleboosteh said…
    Very interesting post – well written too!
    January 17, 2007 4:40 AM

  14. mominisrael says:

    Maya, you’ll never know for sure. Most American women have a return of menses between 6 and twelve months. Enjoy this new stage with your baby.

  15. You commented on my posting “Ego and Sufficiency” from the Ima Shalom Blog.
    Thank you. I wish I had read this post of yours before. Then I wouldn’t have felt guilty about co-sleeping and keeping my daughter on breast milk exclusively for 6 months. Strangely, though, it wasn’t the “professional” mothers who were discouraging co-sleeping (they were very encouraging), but stay-at-home mothers whose children were my age, or women who had no children but strong opinions about child rearing. At any rate, seven months of co-sleeping have been wonderful, it was probably time to move on. I just hadn’t expected the emotional punch of the cycle again. I hadn’t known the baby bed might bring it on (since my daughter still nurses as much as she had before).

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