The internet can be super helpful to new and veteran parents. There is so much information readily available for the slightest worries. The thousands of available websites, blogs, and social media are full of all kinds of helpful, eye-opening, wrong, and just plain mean baby advice. As a mother of three, I’ve read and tried practically everything in the last five years. These are the top five meanest pieces of advice out there…
1) “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sleep on demand!! Honestly, who can do that?! A free 2 hours starting right NOW and anyone believes we can immediately fall asleep? No way.
Not to mention we’ve all got a pile of laundry to fold, a shower we desperately need to take, dinner to make, some overdue cleaning to do, among a thousand other things. Maybe just maybe, we can use this time for a little personal indulgence like watching a TV show or calling a friend. Great, now we feel guilty because we didn’t go to sleep.
Better advice: Savor your time when the baby is sleeping. Spend it however you most need to.
2) “Put your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake.”
Umm, in what universe is this possible? Babies move from wide awake to passed out cold in one second, especially while eating. Even if the baby doesn’t fall asleep while eating, as soon as he is placed awake in the crib he inevitably cries to be picked up again.
Awesome, now we are scared we are creating bad bedtime habits. We think, ‘surely the baby won’t be able to put himself to sleep when he is older’.
Better advice: Make sure your baby is comfortable for sleep, meaning he is dry, the right temperature, and in a soothing environment (dark and devoid of stimuli). Feed him, put him down, and use white noise if needed. Put him down drowsy or completely asleep and don’t worry either way. You aren’t spoiling him for later.
3) “No pacifier, no hat, no swaddling.”
Many hospital maternity wards are now NOT supplying pacifiers or hats for newborns and educating parents against these at home. These hospitals say that pacifiers can confuse the baby or decrease the amount of time a baby spends breast-feeding which reduces milk supply and bonding. They also say that hats reduce his ability to maintain his body temperature and obstruct skin-to-skin activity.
Some hospitals also advise against swaddling the baby with arms inside. When my third son was born, the nurses taught that the baby should be swaddled with arms out. I was asked if I would want my arms tied down like that. Of course not but adults don’t have the startle reflex!
Better advice: Newborns need constant comfort because they cannot comfort themselves. Employ whatever safe methods seem to work to soothe your baby. That could mean getting him cozy in warm bodysuits and a hat, a pacifier when he is fussy and has been fed, and arms-in swaddle if it keeps him sleeping longer and more deeply. Find your baby’s preferences. You can’t spoil him at this age.
4) “To reduce discomfort or increase milk supply, pump in the middle of the night.”
Set the alarm to wake up and pump? Stay up an additional 15 minutes after a feeding to pump? Seriously?!!!
In those early weeks and months sleep is so precious it’s a crime to voluntarily disrupt that. It’s also mean to guilt mothers about pumping particularly since there are other methods to increase or maintain milk supply,
Better advice: Pump during the day, especially first thing in the morning before a hot shower. The shower will stimulate more milk if you need it to feed your baby immediately afterward. You can also nurse more frequently, drink lots of water (at least between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh) and oatmeal is said to work miracles for supply.
5) “Don’t take the baby outside the house for at least 2 months.”
The concept of reducing exposure to germs is a valid one however remaining in isolation is simply not realistic. Moms often do the grocery shopping and need other supplies and they shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving the house. Particularly with second and third babies, the older siblings are often chomping at the bit to get out of the house and thinning a mom’s patience.
Between siblings at daycare, a pet at home, and doctor’s visits, the baby is already not in a germ-free environment. The good news is that breastfed babies receive a mother’s immunity including antibodies, immune factors, enzymes, and white blood cells!
Better advice: It’s okay to leave the house with your newborn, particularly outside for walks or to parks. For the first few weeks, avoid closed-in places with lots of strangers such as the DMV or church. If you go to the store, wear the baby which deters strangers from touching him. When visiting family, ask them to wash their hands and avoid the sick. Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated or anxious by staying in more than you should. Just be smart about it.
Internet advice can be well-intentioned and work for many moms out there. Advice that needlessly invokes anxiety or guilt because it is unrealistic or unnecessary is just plain mean. Be smart, follow your doctor’s advice, and figure out what works for your baby and for you.