Being a mum means you confront many dilemmas

Lesley says you can keep the white stuff, thank you! 
Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

LESLEY KEATING: It was almost perfect until cable firm scuppered it

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Aweek or so ago news broke that actually we shouldn’t be exclusively breast feeding our babies until they are six months old, advice that contradicted the last set of recommendations released in 2003 which suggested that four months was the earliest we should start weaning.

Previously we’d been advised by the World Health Organisation that our babies should be breast fed for the first six months to help prevent infections and growth problems.

Unfortunately, this came too late for my three children, the youngest of which was born in 2002.

So are my children stunted and feeble?

No, on the contrary. And they had been forced fed baby rice and pureed apple from around the age of four months in a desperate attempt to encourage them to stop waking me up every two hours for milk.

They don’t seem any the worse for it. But nor did it work, I should point out!

I am not about to contradict advice given by the WHO or suggest that I have the right answer, but I do find it extraordinary that after 200,000 years us humans still need to be told when to start giving our children mushed-up food.

Shouldn’t we have figured it out by now?

Possibly in places where clean water is not readily available, breast feeding exclusively for a set period of time is advisable, but Hampshire isn’t known for its outbreaks of cholera or waterborne diseases.

Still, it wasn’t so long ago that it was acceptable to give children a firm smack, dress boys as girls and swaddle babies tightly to prevent their bones distorting.

The system of ‘hardening’ to make a child more accustomed to the hardships of life was a practice expounded by Rousseau in the 18th century.

It wasn’t a strict system of corporal punishment, but a promotion of natural freedom along with uncertain meal times and cold baths. Sometimes – when taken too far in my opinion – it would include firing pistols over a child’s head to promote endurance.

Charles James Fox, who was later to represent the constituency of Midhurst in the 18th century, was brought up under these principles and as a toddler was famously the life and soul of a formal dinner party when he sat in the trifle.

More recently, many of my contemporaries have fond memories of sitting in the pub car park with a coke and a bag of Frazzles whilst our parents gaily made merry inside the pub, drinking and smoking to their heart’s (dis)content.

We were also encouraged to roam free on the streets until it got dark and all without the use of a safety net or mobile phone.

Imagine the uproar if a parent today left their child in a car with only junk food to eat whilst they were swigging pints in the pub?

So as new mothers frantically read the latest advice, their mothers are haughtily declaring ‘well you were fed on minced beef and cabbage at the age of six weeks and it didn’t do you any harm’.

I am glad that I don’t have to face these dilemmas any more. Thankfully, the next big decision I have to contend with is what GSCEs my daughter should choose. Any advice?