It’s almost a cliché that once you become a parent, everyone—friends, family, randos on the playground—are suddenly an expert at how to raise your child. Sometimes the advice is helpful; sometimes it’s ridiculous; most of the time it’s confusing. (And sometimes it’s obnoxious enough to inspire a rant by yours truly and make me swear off online parenting advice altogether, like this.) But the worst parenting advice seems to find us all, new parents and veterans alike.
Every so often, a mother-to-be or new mama asks me for advice. I could say a lot about getting help with breastfeeding (if you choose to go that route), finding support in other mothers, bringing spare onesies when you fly and plenty of other tips. But what I usually say instead goes something like this:
You are the expert on your baby. You carried her for 40 weeks; you know her better than anyone else in the world. Do what you feel is right and ignore the other advice. Be confident that you will make the best choices for your baby and your family.
I’m grateful to the people who told me something similar. They gave me the support and confidence to follow my own parenting path (one that my husband and I walk together, of course).
Here is the worst parenting advice I’m glad I ignored.
The worst parenting advice
“You should put her down more.” The constant push and pull from the camp that would have you wear your baby 24/7 and those who would have you set down your newborn so she doesn’t get “spoiled” is exhausting. I held Peeper because I wanted to. Yes, she went through a period around three months when she screamed the second I started to put her down, but that passed.
I’m glad I cuddled her as much as I want. I’ll never get that chance with her again, and those moments are even more precious now as she squirms out of my arms whenever I want a snuggle.
“Don’t let her sleep on you.” The first few days with Peeper, I worried that I might discover she’d stopped breathing when I went to get her from a nap. So I let her sleep on me when I slept. Of course I didn’t get a ton of quality rest, but what mother of a newborn does? I eventually outgrew the fear, and she began to sleep in a cosleeper—for short stretches at first, then longer and longer ones. We probably both slept better for it, but I’m glad I didn’t let anyone guilt or browbeat me into doing something that didn’t feel right—at least not yet.
An exception: It’s really unsafe to sleep on a couch with your baby. It’s a suffocation risk, and a study in the journal Pediatrics found the sofa was the most dangerous sleeping surface for a baby.
“Don’t let her nurse when you’re standing up.” For a stretch, Peeper had a hard time nursing in any position except when I stood and swayed. It was exhausting for me, but she was eating. She has had a history of not gaining weight at a pace we were comfortable with, so the advice to let her cry and stay hungry instead of doing everything within my power to feed her didn’t sit right. Like most things, she grew out of the stand-and-eat phase.
“Don’t nurse her to sleep.” Announcement: I still nurse Peeper to sleep. Baby “sleep hygiene” experts would wag a finger at me for this “crutch,” but I don’t see what’s so terrible about spending the last moments before she falls asleep doing her favorite bedtime activity: nursing.
Peeper isn’t the biggest kid on the block, and I relish the chance to get her a solid feeding without any distractions. She eats more right before bed and naps than she does other times of the day.
She manages to fall asleep without me when I’m working and my mom puts her down for a nap. It’s not as if she’s incapable of drifting off without a boob in her mouth; she just prefers it. Frankly, so do I.
“Let her cry.” When Peeper spent a month or two crying all the time and refusing to sleep, her pediatrician and a few well-meaning acquaintances recommended we just leave her and let her cry. “She’s old enough to self-soothe,” the doctor told me. The comment was less than helpful, regardless of whether it was true or not.
Making the decision to let Peeper cry it out (CIO), which we eventually did (see my post about it here), was extremely difficult. We had to come to the choice on our own. Someone else telling me to do it felt insensitive and invasive.
What was the worst parenting advice you heard?