Tag Archives: breastfeeding

Things Not to Say to a Breastfeeding Mom

Quite a while back a friend shared an article listing things not to say to a formula-feeding mom if you want to support her. It seemed fairly common sense. But I couldn’t help thinking, in a culture where women are STILL being asked to leave public places for nursing their children, and you have to actually look to find a “welcome baby” card, a baby shower gift bag, a big brother book, a baby doll, or a parenting article without an image of a bottle (go ahead, try this at home), breastfeeding mothers need a list like this too. Especially those breastfeeding beyond whatever age is considered “normal” (three months? six months? twelve months? Everyone seems to have their own personal standard that has nothing to do with current professional recommendations!) I finally got around to writing mine:

1. “You’ve never given a bottle?! So, you never…go out alone?!” [said with a look of shock on the face] Well, if the baby is a few weeks or months old, yes, it is entirely possible we haven’t gone out alone. We’re moms now, so life has changed (I suspect many a formula-feeding mom can relate to this too!) Sometimes breastfeeding means we don’t go out. Or that we take the baby. Or some of us pump and leave a cup of ebm. Or we time outings between feedings. Or, if the baby is older, and eats solid food, it is entirely possible we go out (even to work!) and baby nurses when we’re home, and it’s really no big deal.

2. “Why don’t you just pump and leave a bottle?” It’s not that easy. Not every breastfeeding mother can successfully pump. Not every breastfeeding baby will take a bottle. And some of us don’t choose to try for a variety of reasons that really shouldn’t matter to anyone who is not us.

3. “Can’t you just leave formula this one time?” Again, not so easy. Formula isn’t breastmilk and not every baby is easily fooled. And there may be reasons why we choose not to even offer formula. Those reasons don’t have anything to do with judging other mothers for their choices, but we also feel we shouldn’t be judged for ours. Or pressured to change them.

4. “You ARE going to wean him to bottles and formula eventually, right?” [also said with a look of shock] Perhaps that is what some plan to do. When and how and why are also not really anyone’s business. But some of us, perhaps after struggling to make breastfeeding work, are in no hurry to change things. If it’s not broke…And, it matters to you why?

5.”Would you like a blanket? Or do you want to go into the other room/bathroom?” [said when we’ve settled down to feed in a *gasp* public place, or even just someone’s home] No. Just don’t. If we wanted a blanket, we’d have asked for a blanket (but probably not–we have a lot of our own blankets, thanks). Or left the room. And some of us do because that is how we feel comfortable (or because we have nosy babies who have a hard time eating when there are people to look at!) You might feel like you are offering “discretion” for our comfort–instead you are making your own unease obvious. And drawing attention to something others probably wouldn’t haven’t even noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out (my sister likes to tell of a male friend going on about how he didn’t think women should breastfeed in front of others completely oblivious to the fact that she was nursing her newborn at that moment.)

6. “You’ve breastfed for HOW long?/How long ARE you going to breastfeed for?” [there’s that shocked tone and facial expression again] Did you know the average age of weaning for a human is between 2-4 years? No, of course you didn’t, or you wouldn’t give a flying fig how long other mothers and babies nurse for. Now you know.

7. “Oh I could just never do that.”What, exactly, are we supposed to say in response? “Sorry”? “Yes you could”? “No, you’re right, you probably couldn’t”? “Yeah, it is kind of weird”? “Way to make me feeding my baby all about you”? And really, that is what most of these comments do.

8. “I’m all for breastfeeding, but…” Stop. Just stop. If you have to add a but, and outline just exactly how any other woman who is not you should breastfeed, you are NOT “for” breastfeeding. You are part of the problem.

9. “You are only doing it for yourself.” I am not even sure what that means. It is true there are benefits for the nursing mother. And there are risks to not breastfeeding, so if you mean we’re doing what we can to minimize those for ourselves and our children, then…okay? Or if you mean it’s easier for us to continue breastfeeding than to wean a child who is not ready, well, yeah, busted! But if you mean we must get some weird pleasure out of it beyond seeing our child fed and comforted, and are forcing the child to continue against his will–LOL. You’ve clearly never nursed a toddler! Or HAD a toddler, and tried to “make” her do anything.

10. “You know, if you just stopped nursing, s/he’d sleep through the night.” Actually, there are no guarantees these things go hand in hand–trust me on this. My 8 year old just started sleeping through the night, and he weaned many years ago. I’m sure many bottlefeeding mothers will tell you they aren’t getting a solid 8 hours either. It may be entirely possible that we accept that caring for a baby or toddler, no matter how they are fed, often means getting up in the night, and will deal with it as long as we need to. And if we’re complaining, we may just want commiseration, not to be told what we’re doing “wrong”.

So if you’ve ever felt compelled to comment on how, where, how long, or why a mother breastfeeds, think before you speak. And then, probably just don’t. Unless it’s to say “way to go”, or talk about something completely different.

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Things I Don’t Regret

Before I had kids, there were lots of things I was never going to do. And there were lots of things I was told never to do, or I’d regret it. Ten years into this parenting gig though, the kids seem to be doing all right, so I can tell you there are a number of choices that I don’t regret. Not at all. Here are some of them:

Breastfeeding my infants on demand around the clock. Breastfeeding past infancy. Not forcing them to wean when they weren’t ready. “Encouraging” them to wean when we both were.

Co-sleeping. “They” said we’d never get them out of our bed. “They” were wrong. If anything I regret not doing it sooner.

Rocking them to sleep. Nursing them to sleep. Staying with them until they fell asleep. Letting them nap in my arms, in the swing, in the car. Those years seem so long ago.

Vaccinating.

Picking my babies up when they cried. Carrying my kids as long as I could.

Not potty training. Amazingly, they have been out of diapers for a long, long time, despite the lack of candy or sticker rewards!

Encouraging my kids to take part in different activities. Not pushing them into activities.

Having a child in daycare. Working full time. Having a nanny. Staying home. Being a student-mom. Working part time. Working from home. It’s all good. Honest.

Taking a year of maternity leave. Having my kids three years apart. Taking my preschooler out of daycare while I was on mat leave with BB#2.

Putting my kids in French Immersion.

Not forcing them to do homework in Grade One.

Taking a stroller to Disneyland for my almost-5-year-old. Judge away, at least we had fun!

Spending money on books. Reading to my kids after they could read to themselves.

Letting my kids watch TV and play video games. Not letting my kids watch or play everything their friends are watching or playing.

Giving them choice over their hairstyles.

Staying with them on playdates when they were younger. Letting them walk around the block alone together now that they’re older.

Telling them the proper names for body parts and being honest about where babies come from.

Not being Pinterest-perfect.

Letting them believe in Santa Claus. Not getting into Elf on the Shelf.

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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: Is There a Question?

During my BEd studies, I got called out by one of my professors for talking in class. She had made a dismissive comment about people choosing not to vaccinate their children and relying on herd immunity to keep them healthy.

“Not necessarily,” I commented to the pregnant woman beside me, not quite as under my breath as I’d thought.

The professor asked me to explain. I told her that some people felt the vaccines were riskier than the diseases they were meant to prevent. They weren’t necessarily relying on other people to keep their children healthy—they actually accepted that they might get sick, and hoped they would build up natural immunity. It wasn’t simply that they were OK with the rest of us pumping chemicals into our kids so that they didn’t have to.

Being Canadian, she later apologized to me for any offense, and I apologized in return for interrupting her lecture. And we both made it clear that our own children were, in fact, fully immunized.

So why was I defending anti-vaxxers? When my children were born, I had questioned vaccines, or at least the number and frequency of shots they were scheduled to receive. I came into contact, at least online, with other parents who were concerned—not so much about the (now disproven) autism link (though there were some of those), but with the idea of injecting their perfect babies for what they considered treatable illnesses in this age of modern medicine. There was a certain sense in the arguments.

I could also understand questioning standard medical advice. Already as a new mom, I’d learned that doctors aren’t perfect, and don’t always agree. If I had listened to my OB, I would have believed there was no benefit to delayed cord cutting, because she hadn’t heard of it in 2004. If I had listened to the nurses in the hospitals where my sons were born, I wouldn’t have succeeded in breastfeeding. If I had listened to my pediatrician, I never would have breastfed past 6 months, and would have let my baby cry himself to sleep. If I had listened to my family doctor, I would have accepted that my sons’ PFAPA was a series of viruses. Heck, solid feeding guidelines changed by the time my firstborn was 6 months old, and have changed at least once since then! So it was no surprise that some parents weren’t in a hurry to get their babies vaccinated, no questions asked.

In the end, my husband and I did ask questions, and chose to go with our instincts and our doctors’ recommendations (it helped that they were parents of young children themselves and could honestly tell us they’d chosen to vaccinate their babies). But I could still understand that other parents might not make the same choice.

So I find the current anti-anti-vaxxer backlash that I’m witnessing online and in the media quite interesting. I find myself agreeing more and more with the idea that we need to work together to keep ALL children in our society healthy, and that science isn’t evil. As some have pointed out on Twitter, peanut butter is not welcome at schools, so measles shouldn’t be either.

But then again, most years we’ve resisted the hype and chosen not to get the flu shot, and apparently that was a good call this year. So what would I do if it was suddenly made mandatory?

Note: edited to add sixth paragraph, February 7, 2015.

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Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children (Part 3)

Sleeping like a baby. People keep using that phrase, but I do not think it means what they think it means. In our house sleeping like a baby meant napping for 20 minutes at a time, never at the same time of day, and waking up in the night every two to three hours well beyond the age of two (and okay, maybe three…)

But I lived to tell about it, and if you are currently discovering that your life revolves around sleep (lack of it, getting baby to do it, getting baby back to it, people asking about it…), you will too. I promise. Here are some random things I wish I could go back and tell stressed out, sleepless, new-mom-me:

 1. Go ahead and rock that baby.

I roll my eyes now every time I read yet another article advising against the horrors of rocking your baby to sleep. These articles never say what will happen if you do it anyway. But I will tell you: nothing. Nothing will happen. Oh, you may find you are rocking your baby to sleep for the next little while, but I say, do what works now.

Here are a few of the things we did to get our kids to sleep, or back to sleep: nursing, rocking, bouncing, swaddling, babywearing, dancing, co-sleeping, soother, infant swing, white noise machine, stroller, car rides, bedtime stories. Basically, we broke all the rules. And you know what? The boys grew out of each and every one of these “bad habits”.

These days, BB#1 reads to himself, gets up, turns off his own light at the appointed time, and goes to sleep. And stays asleep until I wake him up the next morning. BB#2 still likes someone to stay with him while he falls asleep (usually about 10 minutes), and you know what we don’t have as a result? Bedtime battles. When parents complain about the hours it takes to get their kids to bed and the meltdowns that usually occur, I can’t relate. Because it simply doesn’t happen here.

Conclusion: we didn’t wreck them by meeting their needs! In fact, I’d say our approach has resulted in sleep being a positive experience for all involved.

So go ahead and pick up your baby because this stage, like so many others, is temporary, and it goes by fast. I know like his brother before him, BB#2 will one day tell me he doesn’t need me to stay with him. And I’ll miss the cuddles.

2. Babies don’t care about schedules.

Before I had a baby of my own, I had this impression that if they woke up in the night, it was at predictable times—I’d heard something about two a.m. feedings? Maybe you can count on yours to wake at regularly scheduled intervals, but all I knew was that mine would be up, and often.

3. Babies make great alarm clocks.

Many new parents seem really, really surprised that their days of sleeping in on weekends are over. My kids were generally ready to play around five-thirty or six a.m. every day of the week. Particularly cruel when I’d been up with them every two or three hours the whole night. I’d like to say I wisely started going to bed when they did, or napped when they napped, but that wouldn’t be true. Let’s just say I started fantasizing about the next morning’s coffee the afternoon before.

4. Parenting is not shift work.

You don’t work 12 hours, get 12 hours off. Even when your children start sleeping long stretches, you aren’t off the hook. They do get sick sometimes or have nightmares or get teeth, or just need a hug [even the writing of this post was interrupted by post-tonsillectomy BB#2 waking up in need of pain medication]. If you never wanted to be disturbed in the night, you should have gone for that goldfish.

5. Two hour naps are a myth.

Okay they probably aren’t myth, but they sure didn’t happen in my home. I eventually had to accept the fact that my happy, healthy, normally developing children were getting enough sleep for them, even if it never seemed like enough for me!

6. Weaning doesn’t guarantee your child will start sleeping through the night.

And it might mean you now have one less tool to get him back to sleep. So nightwean if and when it works for you and your child, but ignore anyone who claims your sleep woes will be completely resolved by cutting out night nursing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

7. The only thing to get used to in the first year is change.

Yes, I’ve said this before, but it’s true. Don’t fret if your baby sleeps through the night at one point, and doesn’t a few months later. In fact I’d say count on it.

8. When people ask how the baby is sleeping…

…tell them “like a baby”. You’ll know what you mean, and they’ll think that they do. And if they persist in the “isn’t she sleeping through the night YET?!” comments, don’t take it personally. There is nothing wrong with your child, there is nothing wrong with you. (And ask yourself if the person inquiring is possibly too old to remember what caring for a baby is really like.)

Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2 of Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children. And check out a few of my Favourite Links on the topic of sleep.

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Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children (Part 2)

The boys will soon have a new cousin (yay!), so I guess I have babies on the brain these days. As a result, this edition of Random Things is brought to you by all things nursing! Here are just a few things I wish I had known about before my first baby was born.

1. Lanolin

If you are breastfeeding, you must have lanolin in the house. I used Lansinoh brand but there are others, and it’s easily found in the baby section of drug and discount stores. It’s great stuff. And in a pinch, a teeny tiny bit can be used on other dry skin—baby’s or yours. I have even used it on lips (since it’s safe to ingest).

2. Dr. Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment

I didn’t use this when nursing my first, and afterwards heard another mom refer to it as gold. With my second, I feared nipple trauma in the early days might make me susceptible to thrush, so I asked my midwife to prescribe APNO. A.Maz.Ing. You may have to find someone willing to prescribe it, and you may have to find a pharmacy that can mix it, but it will be so worth it.

3. Nursing Tank Tops

Again, I only discovered these while nursing my second baby. I wore Bravado brand, but I’m sure there are others. The great thing about them is if you are nursing while out and about, a tank will leave your back and tummy areas covered (and warm!) They can also be worn alone in the heat of summer. Plus, they are comfy and available in a lot of colours. I may or may not still wear mine as layering tanks…

Related: While you’ll need a couple to get you through, I suggest waiting about six weeks before investing heavily in nursing bras. Some women will need a bigger size as long as they are breastfeeding, but some of us actually lose a lot of weight and end up needing a smaller size once nursing is established! Oh the irony.

4. LilyPadz

Another second-time-around discovery. These are great, reusable breast pads. With my first, I wore washable cotton pads around the house, but they were rather bunchy looking. So out and about I used disposable pads. I quite liked the Gerber and Lansinoh brands (Playtex stuck and left fuzz behind!) but, really, they are wasteful and expensive. LilyPadz aren’t cheap, but one pair lasts a long time. And they create a smooth line. They may not be the right choice in the very early days if you leak a lot, but for every day use once nursing is established, I highly recommend them.

5. Teeth are Not a Deal-Breaker

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that back in the day (i.e. when I was pregnant with my first), I swore I would wean my baby as soon as he got a tooth. And then after we had spent two months learning to nurse, BB#1 got his first teeth at four months old. He was much too young to wean, and I certainly wasn’t going to stop after all the work I’d put in. But I quickly learned teeth do not mean the end of nursing by a long shot—if baby is actively drinking, he cannot bite you. And if it is ever an issue (it never was for me), there are ways to deal with it.

6. Not All Professionals That Work with Moms and Infants Are Trained in Lactation

Yes, I’ve gone off on this before but it can’t be overstated. Beware doctors and nurses that are not certified lactation consultants, and seem reluctant to refer you to actual experts if you experience problems. The advice I got from the nurses in the hospital where BB#1 was born was inconsistent and unhelpful; the advice I overheard being given to other mothers in a different hospital with BB#2 was worse.

7. Be Prepared to Find Expert Help On Your Own

May you never need to seek out help. But if you do, and you experience #6, real help is out there. I think it’s best to be armed with contact information ahead of time rather than trying to find it in a moment of crisis. Here are some links to bookmark:

International Breastfeeding Centre (The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic)

www.nbci.ca/index.php

Kellymom (If you have a question, I guarantee you’ll find the answer here!)

www.kellymom.com

Best For Babes (Awesome info on beating “Booby Traps”!)

http://www.bestforbabes.org

Motherisk (What’s safe during pregnancy/breastfeeding. There is a hotline as well.)

http://www.motherisk.org

Infantrisk Center

http://www.infantrisk.com (Similar to above, but American. There is even an iPhone app! http://www.infantrisk.com/mobile)

8. Working Full-time and Breastfeeding Are Not Mutually Exclusive

While I can’t speak personally about going back to work before baby is a year old, I know from many other mamas that it can be done. But if like me, you live in Canada and are taking a year of maternity leave, continuing to breastfeed once you go back to work is incredibly easy. In fact, I found it easier than weaning (because my baby wasn’t ready and I had no idea how to go about it). I stressed about it at first—did I have to cut out daytime feedings in preparation? How would my daycare providers get him to sleep? But in the end, I did pretty much nothing to prepare. Older babies can be very adaptable, and they know they can’t nurse when mom is not there. So, in the day he ate solids and drank water or cow’s milk from a cup (while you could pump and leave your own milk, or introduce a bottle, I chose not to at this stage). He nursed when we were together. His caregivers had other ways to get him to sleep. That was it. It was really great to have that way to reconnect after being apart each day. And the best part: he got sick a LOT less than other kids at daycare. Which meant I missed a lot less work. Win-win.

Is there anything breastfeeding-related you wish you had known about before your baby was born?

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I Don’t Expect a Medal

When I was expecting my first child, during a conversation with some other pregnant women, I commented that of course I was having an epidural, because I didn’t expect a medal. These women took me to task a little, because they were both in fact planning natural births—and not because they expected medals, but because they thought it was best for them and their babies. I apologized, but the fact was, I really meant no judgment. It was merely a comment on my own very low tolerance to pain—natural birth was fine for other women, but I knew I would need medication.

I did have my epidural—after a shot of Demerol and labouring in the whirlpool tub no longer cut it. I experienced back labour with my first, and had intense contractions minutes apart from the get-go. None of that “mildly uncomfortable for the first few hours” stuff for me. In what I now know to be a fairly typical scenario, the epidural slowed my labour, so I needed Pitocin. I can remember one nurse looking at the monitor and commenting she’d never seen such intense contractions that did nothing. I no longer felt them, which was, I suppose, the point.

Because I was tied to the bed, I couldn’t walk around and help things along. With people coming in and out every few minutes to check on things, I wasn’t getting the rest I’d been promised. Finally the OB on call told me he was sure I couldn’t push the baby out. He said I could try, and likely end up with a c-section. Or we could just go straight to the OR. After so many hours, I hesitated—all that just to end up with a c-section? Finally I decided to go with the surgery. After all, I reasoned at the time, if I ever had another baby, at least I wouldn’t have to go through labour again!

But it was too late—the doctor’s shift had ended, my baby had finally budged, and the OB now on call declared I could push him out. With help from an episiotomy and foreceps. So that’s what we did. But after twenty hours, my baby had passed meconium. Which meant he was taken from me to be cleaned up. They gave him back to me, finally, all swaddled. Which meant no skin-to-skin as I’d read about. While they fixed me up, no one suggested I should try to breastfeed, so I didn’t until I was moved to a room and got the “helpful” advice of “you put him here, you put him there, then you’re done” from the nurse on duty. Which resulted in at least a week of struggling to keep my baby awake and get him to latch, feeding him pumped milk through a tube, consulting with nurses, doctors and a lactation consultant–and lots and lots of tears. And even once he latched, it was a good two months of struggle and pain before we finally got into a groove. It was worth it, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do ever again.

Which is the reason I decided NOT to have an epidural the second time. Not because I wanted a medal or to prove anything (except perhaps to myself). No, I just decided a day of purposeful pain would be worth avoiding the snowball effect that almost led to a c-section (clearly unnecessary, since I didn’t have one in the end), months of healing from the episiotomy, and weeks of breastfeeding issues. To achieve this goal, I knew I had to make different choices, the first one being going with a midwife instead of an OB. I kept my options open—I still signed the epidural consent form, because frankly, back labour sucks. But knowing my care would be transferred to an OB if I had one was good incentive to try other things first.

I did reach my goal, with the help of a supportive husband, experienced midwives, a blessedly short labour (and a baby who was facing the right way!) and a bit of gas during transition. And while there were other complications, breastfeeding wasn’t really one of them.

Look, I’ll never judge another woman for choosing an epidural. How can I? I had one. And even knowing what I know now, I can’t honestly say I would have made a different choice the first time around. What I do judge is a medical establishment that defaults to drugs—often even before a labouring woman requests them–in order to manage birth, without first explaining the risks as well as the benefits. What also drive me crazy is that every conversation about birth with a first-time mom-to-be includes comments like “you MUST have an epidural”. Imagine if I went around saying “you MUST NOT have an epidural”? Yeah, I don’t think that would go over too well either. I know from personal experience that each birth is different. And I couldn’t possibly know what another woman is going through. Her choices may not be my choices. But without knowledge, it’s not true choice.

So I won’t tell another woman not to have an epidural. But I will tell her to research it first—before labour begins. I will tell her to ask questions (and if the instructor at your hospital class says there aren’t any risks, as mine did, don’t believe it.) I will suggest she consider a midwife, or to hire a doula if she has an OB, to support her in her goals, provide other options, and help her make informed choices. I will tell her why it’s a good idea to labour as long as she can without an epidural. I will tell her she CAN do it. And I will respect her choice in the end.

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The Best of the Worst Baby Advice

After attending a baby shower recently, I got to thinking about how much advice new parents receive. Sometimes it’s solicited, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. But even good, well-intentioned advice won’t always work for other mothers and their babies. Parenting is not one-size fits all, and there is no magic bullet, no matter what the bazillion books out there tell us (psst, there is always another book saying the complete opposite!) I still think it’s important for parents to share their experiences—I know I’ve learned a lot from other mothers, and clearly I have advice to offer.

But here are some tidbits I was given when I was expecting my first child that I will not be passing on:

You need to drink milk to make milk.

Erm, can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk in order to produce food for their own young? Can you think of any other mammal that drinks another mammal’s milk at all? Yes, nursing moms need to keep hydrated, but we are not cows, our babies are not calves, and human milk is not a dairy product. So if cow’s milk is not your beverage of choice, no, you don’t have to start drinking it in order to successfully breastfeed your human baby.

Crying is good for babies’ lungs.

Crying is how babies communicate, not how they exercise. Yes, there are going to be times you can’t do anything to stop it—when you’ve nursed her, changed her, picked her up, burped her, rocked her, nursed her again, passed her to your partner, put her down, picked her back up, and she still cries. But it is our job as parents to hear those cries, respond to them as best we can, and comfort our child through it even when nothing seems to help.

Don’t pick him up too much.

Here’s the thing. You can’t spoil a baby with love. Nurturing independence in your child is a process, something that takes approximately 18 years, not 18 months. And it happens despite us—those of you with strong-willed toddlers and teens will know what I mean. So let your baby be a baby while he’s a baby. Pick him up, hold him, comfort him. Need free hands? Try a carrier. Need help? Ask for it. Need to put him down because you are overwhelmed and need to collect yourself (or maybe you just need to use the bathroom, it happens)? Do it. Then take a deep breath, go back in, and pick him up.

If you let her in your bed, you’ll never get her out.

Some babies sleep fine in a crib in another room. Others don’t. Don’t be surprised if yours wants to be with you day—and night. Most adult humans like to sleep with another person close by—so why on earth wouldn’t our children? If you chose to share sleep in some fashion, there will come a time when your child won’t need you to put her to sleep, or back to sleep. In fact she’ll need you to wake her up. And it will happen before you know it. I promise.

Babies don’t feel/remember pain.

I once bit my baby’s finger (don’t ask). Another time I cut him with the baby nail clippers. Judging by the crying, yeah, he felt pain. No, he probably doesn’t remember. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt at that moment, or that I felt any less terrible about it. So I fail to see the logic in putting tiny babies through unnecessary pain now vs. later. If it would hurt him later, it’s going to hurt him now.

Babies should only eat every 4 hours.

Not any baby I’ve ever met. That said, every baby is different. Just because mine needed to nurse at least every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first year or more doesn’t mean that’s so for every mom and baby pair. Yours might need to nurse more often. Or less. But for most newborns, 4 hours is way too long to go between feedings. Even at night. Sure, some will sleep longer stretches early on, and that’s normal (lucky you!) But so is frequent waking. So is waking again after several months of sleeping through. Read your baby’s cues, and don’t listen to people who say “she can’t be hungry again!” Yes, actually she can be, or she could have another reason to nurse (comfort, teething pain, fighting off a cold, growth spurt…) And yes, just when you get used to one routine, it can change (comfort, teething pain, fighting a cold, growth spurt…). So don’t get too hung up on schedules or what a book says she “should” be doing, or what she did last week or last month, or what your friend’s baby is doing, or even what your other babies did.  Meet the needs of the baby you have now, who is the only one who can tell you what those needs are.

It’s harder on you than it is on the baby.

Sorry, I don’t buy it. A baby crying himself to sleep, for example, doesn’t have the logic to know mom and dad are in the other room and this is “for his own good”. He just knows he is upset and alone and the people he depends on to keep him alive aren’t responding. And if the adults have to comfort each other through it, or phone someone for support, or go online looking for virtual hugs to “stay strong”, imagine how the baby feels. If you were upset, would your partner tell you to “self-soothe”? And if he did, wouldn’t you want to smack him?

Babies over [insert weeks, months or pounds] don’t need to eat in the night.

I once read babies over 12 pounds don’t need to eat in the night. Mine would have been 12 pounds at, oh, around 3 weeks old. So no, I wasn’t going to deny my newborns food and comfort because they were bigger than average. In fact I’d argue they needed to eat more often because they were bigger than average. But regardless of size or age, babies aren’t waking in the night to eat just to mess with their parents. When she no longer needs to eat in the night, she’ll stop (but just FYI, that doesn’t always mean she’ll stop waking in the night…)

Have your babies close together so they can be friends.

I’m not telling you not to have them close together. I feel family planning is up to, well, the family. I was not ready to have another any sooner than I did, but that’s me. I just hate this statement because closeness in age is no guarantee they’ll get along—and a big gap doesn’t mean they are doomed not to. That has more to do with personality in my opinion. Which is something you can’t pre-plan. But the main reason I hate comments about family size, parental age, age gap, sex etc. is—you never know what is going on in other people’s homes and hearts. It’s rude to tell parents of an only child they “should” have more no matter what—but what if those parents did want another child? What if they’ve been trying for years? What if they’ve experienced a loss? Now imagine how hurtful those comments are.

Parenting is a tough job. The last thing we need to hear is that we’ve already messed up by having children too young or too old, by having too many or too few, having them too close together or too far apart, or that we should “try again” for a child of a different sex—especially when some of these things aren’t even within our control, no matter how we try to plan them. So, let’s all just make our own family planning choices, and go with “no comment” on the family planning choices of others, agreed?

What was the best of the worst baby advice you received?

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