Boozy Babies & Other Overhyped Panics

Hi Readers! Here’s my Wall Street Journal oped from last week. Enjoy! (Or whatever.) — L.

Perhaps 2011 will be recalled as the year that a toddler accidentally got served an alcoholic drink at a Michigan Applebee’s. Not the biggest news this year, but the fact that it was a national story at all shows we can’t seem to tell the difference between one stupid accident and a terrifying trend that we must do something about immediately!

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The Applebee’s saga, back in April, was just this: Some waiter grabbed a mislabeled container and poured the 15-month-old a very potent cup of juice. The parents noticed something was wrong when, the mother reported, the boy started saying “hi” to the walls.
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Applebee’s went apoplectic with pro-activeness, declaring not only would it retrain its entire wait staff that instant, but from now on it would only use single-serve juices.
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Which is not an evil response, of course (except environmentally), but it sure is overkill. Applebee’s reacted as if serving toddlers stiff drinks had been company-wide policy.
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The child’s parents, meanwhile, reacted as if the kid had been deliberately served a plateful of steaming plutonium. Their “emotional distress” was so great that they—this will shock you—sued. Whether the individuals are mirroring corporate hysteria or vice versa, the final score was: Overreaction, 2. Common sense: 0.
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This collective decision not to distinguish between rare screw-ups and systemic dangers is turning us into neurotic Nellies who worry about, warn against and, finally, outlaw very safe things. My favorite recall from the Consumer Product Safety Commission a few years back concerned a chair that had a screw protruding from the underside. While the commission reported that there had been “no reports of injuries to humans,” there had been “one report of a dog’s fur becoming entangled in the screw.”
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Woof—call my lawyer! When a twisted tuft is enough to prompt a 20,000-chair recall, that’s setting the safety bar pretty high.
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The bar gets set even higher when a human being is hurt. Consider the fact that this past year a Toronto grammar school outlawed all balls except the soft Nerf kind on its playground, after an adult was hit in the head by an errant soccer ball and suffered a concussion.
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Concussions are nothing to sneeze at. Neither is the idea of kids standing around during recess. You could argue that if kids don’t get the chance to toss a ball around, they themselves are at risk of everything from depression to obesity to Kinetic Fun Deficit Disorder. (Okay, I made that one up.)
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Play, like life, comes with the possibility that someone may get hurt. When we overreact to that possibility, the only acceptable activity left is to sit on a chair and wait to die. And let’s just hope that chair that doesn’t have a screw protruding underneath.
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The Toronto school eventually got its balls back, as it were, after parents protested. But there are schools around our country that do not allow running, or tag or playing in the snow, for the same reason: Something terrible once happened to someone doing that somewhere on earth, and that’s enough to spook us.
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As usual, the media are at least partly to blame, because they are the ones bringing us these awful anomalies and acting as if they’re relevant to our daily lives. The 2011 story that best illustrates this was the case of Carlina White, a 23-year-old woman finally reunited with her birth mom after being abducted as a 19-day-old baby from a New York hospital.
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Despite the fact that baby abductions are exceedingly rare — CNN reports that last year a single baby was abducted from a health-care facility — that same news network felt compelled to give its viewers tip after tip on how to make sure this does not happen to them. Overreaction or ratings grab? Same thing.
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“Know who wants to steal your baby,” warned a CNN.com article that went on to explain that most baby-stealers on the maternity ward are women in their mid-20s to mid-30s—as if that doesn’t describe almost every non-baby-stealer there, too.
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The piece also stated that, “The single most dangerous time is when mom goes to the bathroom,” so “Put your baby in a bassinet and roll it into the bathroom with you.”
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I’m sorry, but if the chances are literally about one in 4 million that a baby is going to be abducted, the idea that a mother who has just gone through childbirth now has to drag her bassinet into the bathroom to be safe from a nearly nonexistent threat is more than ridiculous. It’s cruel.
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So if you want to enjoy a happier, healthier 2012, it’s very easy. Just ignore the temptation to overreact to miniscule threats . . . and have a shot of whatever that toddler was drinking. — L.S.

79 Responses

  1. http://xkcd.com/999/

    Check out today’s XKCD (and don’t forget to read the hovertext). It seems wildly appropriate for the blog.

  2. Amen! Loved this post… makes me think about some of the over reactions I preform – thanks for making my mind wheels turn❤

  3. Knowing my wife, we would have complained until satisfied by the number of free meals we could expect. Also knowing my wife, we would never have eaten at Applebee’s to begin with. I mean, really people?

  4. As for the Applebees overreaction, I bet the same parent thinks nothing of giving a child Benadryl to get them to sleep for their “allergies”, but ER run and potential lawsuit for an accidental gulp of alcohol is justified. Unbelievable.

    I awoke this New Year’s day to something wonderful- my 10 year-old making breakfast. We were trying to sleep in(shocker), but he got up with the pets, his younger siblings, and their sleepover guests. He was making his famous Monster pancake for each of them- just an extra large pancake from mix, decorated to look like a monster with whatever cut-up fruit he could find. He even set the table with napkins and silverware for each of them!
    All the kids were happily eating except the 5 year-old friend of my daughter. She sat, arms crossed her chest, not touching her pancake. I asked her if she didn’t like pancakes, and she said she loved them, but no one cut them up for her and she wasn’t allowed to use knives. She sat there hungry letting her yummy breakfast get cold totally helpless without an adult. My youngest then took her dinner knife and cut it up for her saying “Why didn’t you just use the side of your fork or your fingers?” and food was then enjoyed. I started my New Year’s with the mindset that “protecting” our kids from “dangerous” things is actually the biggest danger of all.

  5. My husband had been watching too many programs about people who were switched at birth while I was pregnant with my son. He wasn’t worried about our son getting kidnapped by a “psycho nurse;” his fear was that our baby would be switched with another couple’s. My husband even went so far as to put a little dot on our son’s toe with a marker. But it turned out my husband’s fear was groundless. Our son was the only boy on the maternity ward at the time he was born. If he was accidentally switched with another family’s baby, the other parents would have figured it out as soon as they changed his diaper. By the way, I never took my son’s bassinet into the hospital bathroom with me. There wouldn’t have been enough room.

  6. Turning off the TV restores common sense.

  7. and this is why I do not watch the news… or read newspapers…

  8. I would never leave a baby alone in a hospital room while I went to the bathroom. Not because I’m afraid of stranger abductions, but because last time I had a baby in the hospital, the nurses kept trying to take him to the nursery without my permission. Every time I fell asleep, I’d wake up to someone trying to sneak him away for the shots, drops, and formula I’d already declined repeatedly. Now *that* is a systemic danger.

  9. *sigh* I really hate that you keep hyping that ban on balls in that one school. I don’t see how you can be sure it wasn’t, frankly, the same as when we were in school and a group of kids kept doing something wrong so everyone was denied a privilege.

    Besides, you’re committing the same overgeneralizing and awfulizing, talking as though kids denied any balls except to play with at recess would be necessarily be ‘just standing around during recess’. You’re a mom: you know that if kids want to toss something around, they’ll find something– one of the players coats or hats, if necessary. Furthermore, kids all over the world play active games without special equipment. Hopscotch? Freeze tag?

    I’ve seen this also in your insistence that the removal of tall slides and some kinds of monkey bars (and where is this policy except NYC? It certainly doesn’t seem to be in other areas?) means that playgrounds are being dumbed down so much that no child will use it. (I saw a group of 15 year olds on the playground outside the local elementary school one evening. Mostly, they were playing on the *BRAND NEW* monkey bars, curvy slides, etc. even those should have been too small for them. Yes, they started trying dumb stunts with someone’s bike, but they explicitly were filming each other in hopes of getting on failblog– and finally one of them said, “Dude, quit it, that’s out of hand” and they did.)

  10. Thank you Jenne, my sentiments exactly! Overreaction works both ways.

    I’m suspicious that the parents in the Applebee’s case were less alarmed by the alcohol than they were inspired by the possibility of a generous settlement from a restaurant chain with deep pockets. But greed probably wins fewer lawsuits than parental angst does.

    Call me cynical.

  11. @Jenne and FrancesfromCanada- yes, overreacting goes both ways, but stop blaming THE BALLS and not the kids then! If a child uses poor judgement, call it out for what it is- stupidity, and stop worrying about their precious little egos. The problem is that we are blaming the objects, whether they be balls, slides, monkey bars, or Applebees sippy cups.
    You are right, kids WILL find something else to do at recess (if they are still given it) and just as many stupid accidents will continue to occur, whether they be climbing over the barbed wire fence around their recess yard, or spraining their ankle in hopscotch. After all, kids will be kids.

  12. I just saw your show “Bubblewrapped kids” or whatever it is called on Slice. Seeing the entire thing about the boy not even able to take the bus on his own without his mother freaking about it was funny, scary and a little too real to life. I know mothers that don’t let their children out of their sights even in school – yes, they spend the entire day there.

    Right now, I’ve been arguing about whether my 9 year old can stay at home alone. My retort is always “I was a latch key kid for 2 years by that time and would spend up to three hours at home, alone, before my parent came home. He can stay there for the same length of time, and even watch after his two sisters for short periods.” Why do I say this? Because if I don’t start trusting my kids with being able to take care of themselves now, I will be moving in with them when they move out into their own homes to do everything for them. He loves the freedom and responsibility. Now to get him convinced that the chores are part of that freedom. *eyeroll*

  13. My mom used to keep a 4-oz bottle of bourbon, lemon juice and honey in the fridge during the winter and dole it out by the teaspoon during cough/ sore throat season. Can I sue her?

  14. My kids were born 1000 miles away in another country. For all I know they were switched at birth…

    Adoption gives you a wonderfully relaxed perspective on a lot of things. If they survived the first 6 months without me hovering, they’ll probably survive their tween years without hovering as well.

  15. Show me a mother that can’t let a kid out of her sight and I’ll show you a father who will soon move out of her sight.

  16. Dang it, I didn’t know about the baby snatching. My youngest was born in March. If I had known I would have . . .

    Nope, would have done nothing different. Of course, the hospital had all kinds of security for babies (Alzheimer’s patients were free to wonder out though). Lojack on the ankle, special security code to get into the mother baby unit that changed daily, having to sign a security log every time anyone touched the baby, etc. Never a child stolen, even in the 80 years before these measures were implemented but still had to prevent us from sleeping to deal with a security measure every five minutes.

  17. I hated the baby Lojack. Along with other hospital policies. It all combined it made me feel like my baby and I were in prison *with a malevolent warden.*

    I had a bad neonatologist controlling my daughter’s care. Her orders were at odds with what every other doctor, nurse etc would recommend for my baby. Worse she drew her conclusions with out even looking at my baby. And did everything in her power to undermine me as a mother. I asked for another doctor to take over care, and I was told that hospital policy forbid the other pediatricians from over ruling her. Then when I tried to walk the floor with my baby, to enjoy what time we had before this creep forced unnecessary treatments on my baby, I was told that policy forbid anyone from carrying a baby outside of a room in the hospital.

    The night spent waiting for a different neonatologist was hell. I was so tempted to slip the loose baby lo-jack off, and sneak out the service elevator while no one was looking.

  18. Thank you for this blog! I love it, It gives so much perspective.

  19. I wouldn’t take the baby into a hospital bathroom. All sorts of ick in there. Or my own bathroom for that matter. I wouldn’t be surprised if severe intestinal distress from wayward gut flora that a newborn couldn’t resist would be more likely than kidnapping.

  20. Hmm. We were at a local restaurant / brew pub last summer, with our five-year-old. We ordered him a root beer float for dessert. The place also sells ice cream floats with stout beer, and somehow the waitress served him one of those. He smelled it before he took a sip/bite, and he told us that it didn’t smell like root beer. We called the waitress over, noted the error in good humor, and she brought him an actual root beer float a couple minutes later.

    Little did I know that we could have sued the place!
    😉

    I yi yi.

    BTW, I’m wondering how bad the coverage of the abducted baby was on Fox News. If it was that bad on CNN, Fox must have been seriously hilarious.

  21. I wouldn’t be surprised if severe intestinal distress from wayward gut flora that a newborn couldn’t resist would be more likely than kidnapping.

    Most intestinal diseases are spread via fecal oral transmission. Unless your baby is licking the toilet bowl, he or she is probably fine. (That’s the bowl. Toilet seats are remarkably clean.) Your baby isn’t going to catch anything from the hospital bathroom, even if you moved in there full time.

    Let’s not replace one unreasonable fear with another equally silly one.

  22. Take a look:

    funorangecountyparks.com/2011/06/playground-rules.html

  23. When I was pregnant I would chat with other women due the same month on a “birth board,” and there was actually a thread about women who would hide their pregnant bellies with big coats or never go out in public alone, for fear someone would stalk them with the intention of stealing their babies after they were born.

    That level of paranoia is unhealthy and shockingly ridiculous. Sadly, I was the only one who seemed to think so on that particular forum.

  24. Thanks as always for the sanity, Lenore. I heard about a study on news radio today… sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics which found that babies in daycare tended to be sedentary. The reasons? Two of my pet peeves: the caretakers felt pressure to be academic and create “school readiness”, and they were afraid of injuries to the kids, so they minimized play and other normal developmental activities.

  25. Oops… a correction to my above note: not babies in daycare, children in daycare.

  26. I read an article the other day about a kid picking up an iPhone and the Suri app said a foul word (he was 12.) He told his mom and his mom acted as though it would taint him forever. Some pranksters had put the bad word into the phone as their name so the phone would greet anyone who picked it up with the foul word. She actually alerted the media instead of just telling the store. For some dumb reason, the store actually sent the phone out for analysis, whatever that is supposed to mean.

    When I was 12, I would have died laughing. I would have made it say the word over and over. Then, if my mom happened to find out, she would have laughed and made me stop. She might have told the people at the store, or she might not have.

    It’s sad when a kid can’t even hear a bad word without a parent freaking out.

  27. @Uly: The problem is that handwashing in some hospitals is dangerously lax. The fecal-oral transmission happens when a hospital worker looks at their hands after they toilet, think, “Well, I can’t see anything,” and exits without obeying the little “Wash Your Hands, Every Time, We Mean It” sign by the sink.

  28. Jim- I gave my daughter a hot toddie with the burbon, etc.. two weeks ago b/c nothing we did would stop her horrible cough. Her coughing stopped within minutes and she was able to sleep all night. I don’t dare tell people I know because they would surely judge me, but I took the same thing for coughing as a kid. It works better than any OTC or script and is in no way harmful. Children in other countries often have a small glass of wine on special occasions, so certainly a cough syrup like this used rarely is fine.

  29. Angie- The sad thing is that for very young kids, playing IS learning. Pretending and role playing, and learning to navigate play ground equipment serves them better than learning their ABC’s super early and what not. Also, small children can only absorb a very small amount of info at a time. So, ideally, if you do want academics, it should be peppered in for no more than 5 minutes at a time and just a few times a day. The rest of the time should be spent playing, and being read to a couple of times.

  30. @Lollipoplover: Beautiful story about the Monster-Pancake breakfast –and a lesson learned –actually, more than one lesson learned.

  31. The Boozy Babies title made me remember this clip.

  32. ‘Kinetic Fun Deficit Disorder’ gave me a chuckle, since the soon (well, maybe) to be released DSM-V will include many newly invented diagnostic categories that offer less hope of restoration to sanity as regards the human condition, and how childhood shapes us to become healthy, funcitoning adults. It also put me in mind of the period during which I was Director of a Methadone Detox (NO maintenance, never maintanance, human dignity was the preferred treatment outcome) where at staff meetings to improve our mental health we invented new diagnoses. Two of my favorites were: Misery and Unhappiness Disorder, and Terminal Bewilderment. Our approach to parenting seems to increase the risk of suffering both.

  33. ” I don’t see how you can be sure it wasn’t, frankly, the same as when we were in school and a group of kids kept doing something wrong so everyone was denied a privilege.”

    Except that that was virtually unheard of when I was in school way too many years ago. It happened very occasionally but for the most part, if you couldn’t figure out how to properly use balls, you were banned from using balls while the rest of the class happily continued to use balls. As it should be.

  34. Sure, Jenny. So… how does that translate to “It’s dangerous to bring your non-mobile baby, in a bassinet, into a hospital bathroom, because we don’t know how many ickies are in the room”?

  35. Thank You!
    I am so grateful to have found your website.

    I am the mom who doesn’t let her children walk down the street to get the mail– because I’m afraid someone will abduct them.

    I see there needs to be a healthy balance— and I think your humor will help me find it.
    Michele

  36. @Uly and @Jenny: After spending the past 24 hours in the hospital, I can let you know that unless a newborn is in the maternity ward, babe or mom are in for some treatment, the baby should stay away because of airborne illnesses. I just spent the day there due to a family member having a highly contagious/infectious disease with the whole mask/gown scrub down. I was instructed to strip down at my front door, place all clothing/washables into one garbage bag to put in a hot wash, the rest in a second garbage bag to leave outside overnight since it’s -15C. Then I was to jump into the shower and wash. The hospital is not under lockdown for infectious control, despite this illness being so contagious, it could be transmitted via my socks! I would not bring a baby to a hospital unless the child was receiving care. There’s a reason that many cultures around the globe have a 40 day rest period for mother and baby and one of them is to limit the baby’s exposure in those first couple of weeks to illnesses that most of us get over quickly, but could be very troublesome for a newborn.

  37. Sure, Jenn. I agree – babies shouldn’t be in the hospital unless they themselves are sick or were just born there.

    However, the comment was that she would never take her baby into the bathroom in her hospital OR her own home, because the very air in the bathroom might make her child dangerously ill.

    Newsflash, even if that sort of disease spread via the air, your bathroom does not have its own special air supply.

    I’m not saying she SHOULD bring her infant into random bathrooms, but it’s silly to be scared of them.

  38. Great piece. I hadn’t heard about the Applebee’s incident. Makes me feel sorry for that poor waiter (or should I say, “pour waiter”). I would have hoped that a lawsuit like that would have failed miserably and I can’t believe even if the parents weren’t sufficiently level-headed enough to know a lawsuit was an overreaction, that their friends and family might have pointed it out.

  39. @Uly – thanks for clarifiying, I hadn’t read all the posts so my error.

    Kind of nice if bathrooms had their own air supply. You never know who was in before you and what they left behind. 🙂

    I didn’t bring my newborns with me into the hospital bathroom, or pretty much any bathroom. I often left my baby in the stroller outside the stall while I used the washroom while out and so many people told me that my baby would get kidnapped while my pants were around my ankles! Excuse me but unless there was a large stall for wheelchairs (which was not being used), there was no way a stroller could fit, so I guess the `responsible’ parent thing to do was never use the washroom while out in public. Maybe I should just go in the middle of the mall and see which gets me into more trouble, urinating in public or `abandoning my child’.

  40. @Kimberly and Angela–I wish more parents saw your perspective. I teach toddlers. I recently left one school because the parents were so much more interested in “product” than “process”, they didn’t appreciate dirty kids (some were there for 11 hours a day), they were against animals in the classroom (allergies, of course) and their concerns about safety were off the wall. The MOST frustrating part was the the administration was willing to allow the parents to dictate policy. The school I am at now allows me total freedom in my planning, (my 1-2 year olds play in mud and paint their bodies instead of the paper I give them), encourages pets in the room, doesn’t require I send home a finished art project every day (some projects are an insalvagable mess that end up in recycling), and lets me set my safety rules (they trust my judgement, imagine that!) which means my kids can go UP the slide and DOWN the steps, learning to compromise and negotiate.
    I raised my own five kids the same way and they are all responsible, compassionate adults with intact immune systems and the ability to understand and accept the consequences of their actions.

  41. @Gina, please tell me your school is in Southern California…

  42. @John Nguyen- I did see that, shook my head a few times, and thought the same kid could just keep an ear-splitting air horn in his pocket and save some money. I wish they would upgrade kid’s backpacks with a deodorizing feature before an SOS button.
    My son once brought home some hoagies we purchased for a fundraiser in his backpack on a Friday. However, he failed to give them to us until the following Monday and said backpack smelled like BO so bad we had to get rid of it. No amount of Febreeze would touch that stank.

  43. @Robyn…sorry, Phoenix. But if you are in the LA area, check out Play Mountain Place. It’s an amazing school. My oldest went to preschool there.
    If you ever move to Phoenix, please get in touch with me….🙂

  44. On children and booze: My dad gave me a shot of scotch (water chaser) for pain with an ear infection. I remember being conscious enough a while later to get a second; it goes hazy after that. Mom took me to the doc’s the next morning to get the antibiotic, but Dad’s home remedy got me through the night. What’s the statute of limitations on that?
    @Michele, you’re in the right place. If you’re looking for some healthy, sane perspective on raising kids who have initiative and creativity, you’ll get it here.
    That doesn’t translate to a two-year-old getting the mail (mine would skip that and head for the street). The four-year-old? He could do it.

  45. Look at the reviews of the bags with sirens on Amazon. One person, maybe from here, wrote a sarcastic one, but everyone is SO pleased, and feel that they SO need it.

    If my kids needed it that bad for the walk to school, I would ask for police patrol. If they needed it in school, I would be asking what was wrong with that school.

    I can just see how car pool drivers would just love this bag too.

  46. @Uly: It doesn’t. I can’t imagine dragging a bassinet into a hospital bathroom for any reason. Asking everyone who walks in whether they have washed their hands before they examine the baby, and hanging the “Do Not Disturb, We Are Sleeping” sign on the room door when going to the toilet so that people won’t feel free to walk in and examine the baby, should cover it.

  47. The policies at my hospital when I had my baby 9 months ago made me so angry. I was ordered to roll the baby into the bathroom with me, and they wrote it on my chart when I didn’t comply. I was not allowed to leave the baby in my room with anyone other than my husband. This included my mother. I had to take the baby with me to the pre-discharge class, which I thought was about something relevant, but was instead a screening of two blood-on-the-asphalt type movies about shaken baby syndrome. I also had to sign discharge papers which included warnings in very large type that I should not announce the birth of my child in any publication or use any “welcome home baby” yard signs.

  48. I had the same sort of experience as Mozzie. I left my newborn baby in my hospital room and walked down to the nurses’ station to ask how to apply for a birth certificate, and the nurses FREAKED OUT. Where’s the baby! You can’t leave her in the room alone!! Etc. This was about 10 pm one night when there was nobody around but staff, newborns and women who’d just given birth (labor was a different floor). It would have been just as fast to hand me the form, but they wouldn’t until I walked back to my room and wheeled the baby bassinet to the desk with me. And by the way, I could see the door to my room from the nurses’ station.

  49. Mrs. H, Mozzie: Where the heck did you two give birth? My wife and I live in the midwest and we didn’t have anything close to that other than having to watch a shaken baby video and warnings against cosleeping. There was definitely no palpable paranoia even resembling what you two went through.

  50. When I was newly pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I took a tour of the maternity ward at the local hospital. I guess I had never considered the thought that anyone would try to steal another person’s baby from a hospital, so I really really shocked when they started explaining their “anti baby theft” precautions:

    At the ends of the maternity ward, huge yellow lines were painted across the floor, and some sort of metal detector/scanner devices were in place over the lines. Every baby in the ward would wear two UPC bar code labels (one on a hand, one on a foot), along with another bar code posted on their plastic bassinet, and if a baby were ever to pass over that yellow line – alarms would go off.

    Maybe this is a normal thing across the country?? But I had never heard of it before and it just felt so strange and prison-ish to me, I guess. Either way, I ended up opting for a home birth instead and no one at my house cared what halls I walked down with my newborn.🙂

  51. The baby-anti-theft devices seem to be mainstream. But how big a deal about it is different between hospitals. My SIL gave birth at the big medical school hospital and they made visitors sign in, get IDs (using the photo from our driver’s license if I recall) and all that. When I had my son, they just mentioned that Mom, Dad and Baby had IDs, warned us that we could only drive the basinette in the hall (no carrying baby) and then let us be for the most part. No horror videos either. For me, it wasn’t baby-napping that worried me, but that sudden realization that OMG, I’m responsible for this tiny helpless person– who the hell thought that was a good idea? LOL

    Funny enough, after discharge, Husband and I took a walk down another wing to see the awesome fish tank there (Husband found it one time while roaming while I was napping or something.) The nurse there almost flipped out when she saw us there with the baby in arms– we explained that we had been discharged and offered to show her papers. She didn’t accept, but she did give us The Look while I departed.

  52. I had the same kind of experience as Mrs. H, 21 YEARS AGO!

    Thankfully, no hospital I was ever at (had kids in 3 different ones) ever did the idiotic bathroom thing (2 of the 3 had private bathrooms, which helped.) But I wasn’t allowed to leave the room without the baby unless some other authorized person was watching, and I wasn’t allowed to walk around with the baby in my arms — if I wanted to talk a walk (which you’re SUPPOSED to do) I had to push the bassinet around. Madness.

  53. @socalledauthor: Was this Harborview by any chance?

  54. @lollipoplover: I am not personally blaming the balls, or the kids. But there really is a time and a place for everything — and it is just possible that the adults who made a rule (and didn’t ask our opinion, curse them) DID in fact have a good reason for deciding that their playground at recess was neither time nor place for ball games.

    The immediate reaction that they must be wrong bothers me. Maybe they were, but maybe they weren’t. Readers of this blog are not the only group of people on the planet capable of assessing risk, and we have one serious impediment: WE ARE NOT THERE.

    Anyway, if recess is the only chance our kids have to play with balls or hockey sticks or frisbees or surfboards or whatever else happens to be their (or our) favourite, then we need to look hard at what our kids are doing outside of school hours. And if, minus said favourite, our kids are incapable of coming up with some kind of creative way to engage themselves at recess, then something has gone very very wrong.

  55. “Sure, Jenn. I agree – babies shouldn’t be in the hospital unless they themselves are sick or were just born there.”

    Babies shouldn’t be randomly visiting hospitals but I otherwise completely disagree with this statement. There is no reason that a perfectly healthy baby can’t visit someone sick in the hospital. I was in the hospital when my baby was 5 months old for surgery sorta related to childbirth – removal of a fibroid that went psycho after birth. My pediatrician didn’t have the slightest concern about my baby spending copious amount of time in a hospital with me.

    I also never requested a single person wash their hands before touching her. Took her out of the house (to the beach, to restaurants, shopping, etc.) as soon as I felt physically able. I handed her to random strangers on planes when she was 5 weeks old. People worry WAAAY too much about germs these days. Unless your baby has some immune problem, exposure to regular everyday germs is not going to kill them.

  56. I also never once took the baby into the bathroom with me, including when I showered. And I was a single mother so there was no daddy hovering nearby. Nobody ever said anything about it. All the rooms were private and all the rooms had private bathrooms so it seems really strange to take a baby into the bathroom. I’m not sure that I ever left the room for anything other than the discharge class – where I did take the baby – so I can’t say what someone would have done if I had left her.

    I think I do remember the not-walking-around-holding-the-baby-thing though. It’s all a blur but I seem to remember trying to walk to the stupid class holding my daughter and they made me get the bassinet. The other parents also gave me snide looks in the class because my baby was still in the hospital onsie and blankets. Their bassinet was decked out and the baby was in designer duds.

  57. Jenny: You’re correct that fecal-oral disease transmission, in a developed society, is usually the result of inadequate handwashing (in less-than-fully-developed places it’s more likely to be the result of sewage contaminating drinking water). It is, unfortunately, fairly trivial for little kids to inadequately wash their hands and therefore transmit disease by this method. Norovirus (typical “stomach flu”), Hepatitis A and polio are examples of viral infections that can be transmitted by the fecal-oral route.

    My main point is that while the fecal-oral route tends to trigger our disgust, it’s possible that it will happen as a result of things that might not initially gross us out.

  58. Wow, this ‘babe in arms thing sounds over the top. The only sound reason I can think of for wheeling the baby around in a bassinette is because you’re too drugged to carry them, which I happened to be for the first two days or so after each baby (C-sections all🙂 )- I could hold them in bed but didn’t trust myself to carry them anywhere, hubby usually passed them to me. It’s after 11 at night as I read these posts, so I might be missing the point, but are the bassinettes for security? Sounds insane. How many baby snatchers are there, really?

  59. hieata, As I said the hospital where I had both of mine had never had an attempt at a baby snatching in almost 90 years. The bassinets have been there forever. They use them to transport, give medical care, sleep and otherwise contain the babies. Until my discharge papers were signed (not until after the baby care class) the baby was not allowed outside the room (mine or the classroom) without being in the bassinet.

    For security they put these lojack like devices on the .babies’ ankles that would set off an alarm if it was taken across a security line. Both of mine wiggled out of theirs often and once my husband set off the alarm because my son’s landed in the pocket of his shirt and no one noticed. They also made us sign a log anytime anyone other than my husband or I touched the baby. This included siblings, grandparents, etc as well as hospital staff. We violated this rule because I refuse to sign a form every time my son wanted to give his baby sister a kiss or touch her hand or foot. there was also barcodes on the the bassinet, baby’s and my wrist (all matching). I have no issue with the barcodes because those are for preventing medical errors and really weren’t too intrusive. You also had to get a special code to visit anyone in the Mother and Baby Unit. The code changed daily and if you didn’t have the code before you got there you could not be admitted to visit. My grandmother who drove 2 hours to see us, leaving before I was given the day’s code and doesn’t have a cell phone, discovered that one the hard way. The baby care class, in addition to talking about the benefits of breastfeeding while handing us a three month supply of formula, wouldn’t send our discharge papers to be signed until the baby was properly secured in their car seat. Then we couldn’t take them out until we were wheeled to our cars, holding the car seat along the way.

  60. Oh, god, norovirus. That’s the world’s most awful disease that won’t kill you. (Obviously there are worse ones, but those are more likely to be fatal.) I had that TWICE, and it was MISERABLE.

    I can’t imagine dragging a bassinet into a hospital bathroom for any reason.

    I agree. In fact, if you re-read my original comment I said that saying that you wouldn’t take your baby into ANY bathroom, including your home bathroom, because they might catch a fatal illness in there, was “replacing one unreasonable fear with an equally silly one”.

    Dragging your baby into the bathroom because your hospital might be infested with child eating kidnappers is silly. Being terrified of all bathrooms because your baby might catch a disease that only is spread through bathrooms is also silly. Criticizing one silly policy on the grounds that bathrooms are dangerous is just a bad idea.

  61. As far as “baby stealing paranoia in hospitals” goes, I was under the impression that you are slightly more likely (SLIGHTLY! This is still not common under any measurement!) to have your baby accidentally switched with another’s baby than to have your baby be deliberately stolen.

    At any rate, though the odds of either happening are incredibly slim, they generate enough bad press for the hospital that I can see why they would take a small measure of precaution against them. And really, if it DOES happen (and is found out, in the case of switched babies), it’s pretty horrific for all concerned.

    A policy that encourages babies to be kept in the same room as their mothers is sensible, if only because it makes new parents (who are inclined to worry, in general) feel more relaxed. A policy of having mom and baby wear matching bracelets (you have to wear an ID in hospitals anyway to prevent drug mix-ups and the like) is sensible as a just-in-case.

    Once you move past those two sensible things, though, you rapidly degenerate into absurdity. Blaring alarm systems? No guests that are not pre-approved? Signing a log frequently? Sheesh. That’s a huge cost on patients for very little, if any, benefit.

  62. “The only sound reason I can think of for wheeling the baby around in a bassinette is because you’re too drugged to carry them, which I happened to be for the first two days or so after each baby (C-sections all🙂 )-”

    Yep. I could go with that. I had mine naturally and drug-free, so that ain’t it.

    I guess there’s a slightly higher chance of fainting or something the first couple of days, but that seems like a reason to have someone make sure you’re safe, not to ban carrying your own baby.

  63. Donna — I think the rules are different where there are private in-room bathrooms.

    But it’s still dumb.

    Uly — “Criticizing one silly policy on the grounds that bathrooms are dangerous is just a bad idea.”

    IOW, “It’s a dumb policy, but that’s not a good argument against it,” right?

  64. Yup, that’s what I was getting at. Bad arguments just weaken your point in the long run.

  65. My initial thought on the no carrying the babies rule was that they were afraid mom would faint. Which didn’t seem totally unreasonable between drugs and blood loss. So while I felt fine, they probably couldn’t expect the nurses to sort the anemic from those who were fine. The part that jumped it from a little much to totally crazy, was when I tried to hand my baby over to the nurse. She recoiled! Seems she wasn’t allowed to carry a baby either. Not even to rectify a situation where a new mom had carried her baby halfway down the hall. Somehow her interpretation of the policy was that it was best to leave mom (who presumably might faint from the exercise) standing unattended in the hall, rather than: hold the baby, carry the baby, or escort mom and baby back to the bassinette.

  66. “A policy that encourages babies to be kept in the same room as their mothers is sensible, if only because it makes new parents (who are inclined to worry, in general) feel more relaxed.”

    I disagree with this statement completely. If I had to do it again, the only change I would make is insist that they take the baby to the nursery regularly at least all night while she was not nursing (the hospital where my daughter was born strongly discouraged this so I never did it no matter how much I wanted to). You’re home and sleepless soon enough. Get some rest while you have someplace else for the baby to go. But then the thought of baby snatching and switching never entered my mind.

  67. Heather G – Where did you give birth? State prison? I’ve never been in a hospital with any of those measures – giving birth or visiting friends who have given birth. Alarms, daily passwords, logs for who touches the baby are insane.

  68. Donna, I meant merely that they shouldn’t take your baby unless you want them to, not that you should be superglued to the infant. Sorry.

  69. Oh God i’m crying with laugh… I’m italian and i just discovered about you (in Italy is starting tour tv show). I fully agree with you about the overreaction, here things are totally different (that doesn’t mean better..). If you try to sue someone for a misplaced clove you have to wait something like ten years before the proceding ends.. For the poor toddler: alchool could be very dangerous but we are human and human being make mistakes… Here we watch carefully our babies but we try to teach them to take care of themselves too

  70. I agree that they shouldn’t be suing as long as Applebees paid for the baby’s medical expenses when he was hospitalized, which I read that they did (pay). However, I also don’t consider it a laughable mistake, like some people on here are. In just the few sips this little guy took his blood alchohol level rose enough that doctors said it could have been lethal in a child his age and size. Thankfully it wasn’t, but definitely a serious mistake and it wasn’t overreacting to take him to the hospital to be checked out.

  71. Havva — just out of curiosity, I’m confused now — you couldn’t carry the baby, but they wouldn’t take the baby from you?

    Assuming they didn’t just expect you to stay rooted to that spot until discharge, what was it exactly that they wanted to have happen at that point?

    Oh, I guess they wanted you to stand there and hold the baby until someone went and got a bassinet? But couldn’t you have FAINTED standing there, too?

  72. Wow, I am shocked that some of you had to watch videos or attend a class before being discharged with your baby. How absolutely insulting.

  73. Well, I mean, they make you watch videos and take classes before you get a driver’s license. I’m not sure doing it right after you’ve given birth is the best idea, but I am a fan of classes that teach new parents the basics.

  74. “Well, I mean, they make you watch videos and take classes before you get a driver’s license.”

    Actually, they don’t everywhere. In Pennsylvania you can get a license with no *specific* instruction, as long as you pass the practical exam. If you’re under 18 you have to have 65 hours of road experience with a licensed driver, and there are guidelines for how much time you should spend on night driving, highway driving, bad weather, etc. but there is no required course of any kind. Driver’s ed classes are available in some schools (not many these days, due to budgetary issues) and through private driving schools, but none of that is mandated.

    I actually don’t have a problem with the required classes in the hospital. I’m not insulted by the knowledge that there are clueless 14 year olds taking babies home who need SOMETHING to prepare them at least for the basics. And there’s no way to certify who is, and who isn’t clueless, by age or by anything else. So I have to sit through a half hour class — what else was I going to do in the hospital?

  75. […] have long enjoyed Free Range Kids.   This article is no exception. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  76. I really liked your blog post.Thanks Again. Great.

  77. Wow, Driver’s Ed was mandated for us (at least those of us under 18) in Ohio. I’m not sure what was required if you were over 18. Driver’s Ed was arranged through the school, but you had to pay for it out of pocket. At the end, you got a certificate and you had to have that when you went to get your license, along with a form signed by the parent that you’d had the required amount of time driving with a licensed driver (which also included nighttime, etc.). AND you had to pass the written test and the practical test.

    One of the more stressful times of my life.

  78. My dad regularly shared his beers with me when I was a kid. A sip here and there, sometimes a couple shots of it into my Winny-the-Pooh cup so I could share a drink with Dad when we watched the game together on Saturday. One day, I was about six or seven, he left a half-full beer on the counter to answer the phone. I found it and shared with my best friend, who had come over to play Barbies (also a death-defying stunt we often enjoyed). Dad came back, found the empty beer can, and then heard us upstairs giggling. He came up and asked “Did you drink my beer?” We nodded and then busted out laughing.

    Horrible, horrible parenting. Thankfully, I survived to tell the tale.

    I don’t have kids (the thought of them freaks me out and gives me nightmares), but if I ever do get over that fear and have a few of my own, I sure hope I’ll have stories like this to share about them.

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