Difrax had the privilege of chatting to Roxanne Atkinson, occupational therapist and author of the informative and humorous book, The Unicorn Baby, in which she debunks 10 myths of modern parenting.
DIFRAX: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ROXANNE: Hi! I am Roxanne Atkinson. Most people call me Roxi. I am a South African OT working out of Cape Town. I am a proud mom of a pigeon pair who have transformed how I see myself, my life and my work. I have always been passionate about babies, but I only really became passionate about families a decade ago when I became a mom myself. Prior to this, I was rather judgy as many of us can be prior to making and raising actual human beings.
I am one of those weirdos who always knew what I wanted to do and went after it. I love travelling and have gotten to do OT in countries like Ghana, America, Malawi and Madagascar. Currently, I get to work with incredible families in private practice. I usually see about 25 patients a week and get to serve as a researcher, cheerleader, counsellor and advocate. I also love words and sharing knowledge so you may spot me writing a column for Your Pregnancy Magazine or chatting about development on the Pippa Hudson show.
DIFRAX: What inspired you to write The Unicorn Baby?
ROXANNE: The field of neuroscience has exploded over the last 15 years and we now know so much more about babies and their brains. However, most of this information is not accessible to the people who really need it - parents of real babies! I got tired of repeating the same information over and over to anxious parents who had bought into these modern parenting myths. I wrote this book to go to war against these myths and to help empower families with evidence. I decided to swim against the tide and make the science and the journals accessible to parents in an honest and humorous way, so that they could feel confident in making the best parenting decisions for their families.
DIFRAX: Which myths baffled you the most when you had your little ones?
ROXANNE: Some people are ugly drunks, I am ugly tired. I really need and appreciate good sleep and so I struggled most with the pervasive sleep myths I encountered. You know, "you must get your baby to sleep through the night"... "if your baby wakes it is because they are hungry".... "Don't feed your baby to sleep"... "don't hold your baby"... "your baby must sleep alone in their cot" etc. Whilst I had my first baby a decade ago, these sleep myths still seem to be hanging around and terrorising babies and their parents. This blows my mind as we know babies are biologically programmed to wake and that the more direct care babies get, the better the long-term outcome. Both my babies woke regularly, but with my first I fought this reality and tried all the bad advice for months. It was exhausting. With our second, although he woke just as much, I was less tired as I wasn't constantly trying to fix a 'problem' by enforcing an unrealistic sleep schedule as I had more knowledge of what normal and healthy baby sleep actually looks like.
DIFRAX: Pick a paragraph from your book to share with us.
ROXANNE: When I say you need to consider your baby’s biology, I am referring to the cells of your child’s brain and body. These cells are constantly growing and changing to allow your baby to develop. So, when I say a baby has a biological need, you should try to imagine this on a cellular level. A baby’s biology creates a drive towards meeting that need, whether it is for energy, love, warmth, or play. Development is a dance between biology and experience. Some babies will require more experience to learn than others. The golden rule is to respectfully introduce your baby to a wider variety of sensorimotor experiences, watching and waiting as their development unfolds. Almost all babies will have an area of development that is tricky for them, be it sleep, feeding, talking or teething. Oh except the Unicorn Baby of course. The Unicorn baby develops without exposure. The Unicorn Baby never fails. In fact, the Unicorn Baby does not rely on biology! My hope is that as you unpack each myth and replace it with the corresponding biological and developmental realities, you will feel more prepared. You will gain insight into and appreciation for your baby and your role as a parent. You will celebrate your baby’s uniqueness, whether they have been born a Unicorn or not. There has never been, and never will be, another baby just like yours.
For further myth busting you can get a copy of The Unicorn Baby at Loot, Amazon, Takealot, Exclusive Books, Readers Warehouse and Bargain Books.