Through my three kids, I have gotten baby advice from everyone. When I was a new mom, I totally took it all. I had no confidence in my ability to discern what was best for my family, and having a colicky baby didn’t do anything to instill any confidence. Plus, the PPD I suffered with her just confirmed that I had it all wrong: I was a terrible mom, and that’s why she cried and I was miserable. It’s funny to look back at what didn’t work–and why.
Babywise: This book is a strict scheduling solution that will have your baby sleeping through the night by 6 weeks! Or, so everyone who has every used it will claim. It great if you hate things like: holding baby, soothing baby, feeding baby, and ignoring your instincts in favor of a stranger’s. I was made to feel like I was cheating if I fed my 2-week-old before the required 3-hour cycle began, so my milk supply–and my sanity–suffered.
Feed that baby! She’s hungry! Great advice given to us on a plane by a total stranger, because she was screaming during take off and right after being nursed. I said she didn’t need it, and my husband said we should, because the leering eyeballs were getting to be a bit much for us to take as new parents. And so we got out some formula and fed her. And she threw up all over me. The Baby Whisperer didn’t have any more helpful suggestions for us after that.
She needs a pacifier! The pimply-faced teen ringing me up at Target had some strong opinions on why my second child was crying in the checkout line. I am sure he had lotsof experience with babies, but as it turned out, my thumb sucker who would also refuse the bottle and every single brand of paci, ever, hated the stroller with a passion. Being that she was a month old, we didn’t know this yet. Once I started using my sling, she was happy as a clam and rarely cried on shopping trips.
You need to bathe your baby soon. This gem was given to us in the recovery room after my second baby was born. I refused the hospital bath because I just didn’t want her taken from us any more than necessary. I was told that she would “feel gross” just like I do if I go a day without a bath. Well, that notion has since been disproven. In fact, sparing baby from that bath helps her absorb all that beneficial bacteria she got during the birth process, which boosts the immune system! And, today we know that bathing babies daily could also lead to skin problems such as dry spots. Today, the American Academy of Dermatology agrees that a bath once or twice a week is plenty for most kids unless they are extraordinarily dirty. I mean, sure that research wouldn’t come out for four more years after she was born, but score one for motherly intuition (and a fear of slippery newborns.)
Put some socks on that baby! Oh, we tried, lady. Have you seen how long and skinny this child’s feet are? I only have the right foot of every pair of socks my first baby owned. Today, my 3-year-old loves to sleep fully covered–with her feet sticking out of the bottom. And no one died of hypothermia. So strange.
She won’t ever learn to walk! My third child practically lived in the Ergo. As a stay at home mom who needed both hands everywhere I went to keep my two other children alive, the stroller just wasn’t a reliable option since the older kids could, and often did wiggle out. I could also nurse in the carrier, and my baby could nap on my chest or back easily. Strangely, she did learn to walk right on time, at about 11 months. Crazy!
Baby Advice that Did Help:
I noticed one common thread among all the baby advice I did get that helped: It was never someone telling me a specific way of doing things. The baby advice that did help was something that fit in my toolbox. Like the 5 S’s. Or how to swaddle with any blanket. Or learning about wonder weeks. Or cluster feeding. The baby advice that worked wasn’t really baby advice at all: it was other moms passing on actual knowledge that helped me how to figure out the rest on my own. Having three kids taught me that every baby is so different that no one is ever going to be able to write some book and unlock all the secrets. I did things differently from child to child in my own family–babies who were genetically similar and raised in the same home with the same parenting style! So it’s just madness to think any book is going to contain all the answers.
If you are looking for answers on your parenting journey, seek wisdom and not simply advice. Listen for things you can put in your toolbox, and then one day you’ll be able to share those tools with other new moms who are finding their way, too.
Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She lives and writes in Oregon.