Jul 09 , 2017
When it comes to parenting, there is an overabundance of information and opinions–especially for those planning their first child. In fact, some mistruths have become so common and accepted that they could even be called a myth.
Today I explore some common myths that you likely believed at some point before you became a parent. Of course, these myths often have some truth contained within them, but it takes experience to realize that not everything we hear about parenting, no matter how commonly repeated, is correct.
1) You can spoil your baby
You can’t spoil a baby. Babies need to be held, loved, and fed all the time. They are kind of like men. And women. Oh wait, they are like little people who have the same needs that you and I have.
Babies have tiny stomachs so their need for food is more constant, and they have immature nervous systems and no prior memories of love to survive on, so their need for love and touch is also constant. It is however, a need. To ignore a baby’s need for love is to not fill something that they desperately need at a young age – the security of knowing that those around them love them and are responsive to their needs.
2) Co-sleeping isn’t safe
There have been some calculated public health initiatives seeking to convince families not to bedshare with their babies. This is an interesting tactic but sadly one that can also damage the breastfeeding relationship (which often benefits from co sleeping) and cause parents to “hide” the truth about their nighttime parenting. This can yield less than safe situations on a variety of levels.
In reality there ARE ways to sleep safely near or with your baby that are beneficial to all involved. Check out the work from Dr Kathleen Kendall-Tackett on getting public health and breastfeeding advocates to work together for better outcomes all around.
3) Having kids ruins your life
I have to admit that from the outside looking in, my life probably does look a little ruined on some days, especially if that someone is looking at me from a 20 year old lens that just sees the burdens.
But having kids doesn’t ruin your life. It does change it, but it can still be awesome even if it isn’t the same. There is nothing wrong with different priorities as you age and add more people to your inner circle. The things I value now are very different than the things I valued 20 years ago. But I think I might even be smarter now than I was then.
Plus, you can still do tons of cool and fun stuff after you have children, you just have to shift accordingly. You CAN travel, hike, exercise, learn and grow with children. Sometimes you take them with you, sometimes you leave them with a loving care provider. And yes, some things may need to wait a few years. Don’t worry, they don’t stay little forever. It can be done.
4) Having kids ruins your career
This is an interesting one, because as a breastfeeding mother who wanted to spend most of my day with my baby, there was no career going on.
Full disclosure, before I had my first child I had a college degree, but I worked as a waitress and then as a bakery manager. I wasn’t anything special. For real.
Then I had a bunch of kids. I nursed them and hung out with them and did a lot of attachment parenting stuff.
And then I discovered my career in childbirth education.
My kids are the people that made my career possible. They gave me the passion, the drive, the motivation to get out there and try to make pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding better experiences for other parents. This is when I started my career in childbirth education and it has grown exponentially from there. I have had countless opportunities in writing, teaching, traveling and meeting amazing people because of this passion. And frankly, I owe it all to my family.
5) Babies wean at one year
This may be true, but toddlers can nurse much longer than this! I remember watching a friend nurse her 15 month old who would periodically run up for a snack in between play, and thinking it was the strangest thing on the planet.
I ended up nursing my son for even longer than that.
I did have a few kids who weaned at around the year mark, but the breastfeeding relationship can extend longer than this and still be joyful and have many benefits for both mom and baby (or toddler.)
6) Babies sleep better alone
This one just makes me want to laugh out loud.
I did have a baby who slept well alone. I also had two who only slept well with us, and one who just didn’t sleep well until she was two, no matter where she was.
Be open to your baby’s needs and your own needs. I hate to give people concrete sleep advice because in all honesty, every family, situation, and dynamic is different. If you and baby get more sleep when in the same room, then do it. (If you can do it safely.)
It amazes me how much easier this is for people (to sleep near their baby) and yet how revolutionary it seems in our modern day. (There are lots of ways to help a baby sleep that are gentle, too.)
7) Grandparents don’t know anything
I see a lot of grandparent hate out there. Maybe this is in part due to the bad advice some of them give about how you should give your three month old rice cereal, or how babies sleep best on the floorboards of the car and, “you did that and turned out great.”
While I admit that any parent of any age can give some bad advice, I hate to see parents totally discounting the grandparent advice, wisdom, and knowledge that was hard won over years of doing what we are just trying to figure out how to do. Embrace the good from your parents.
8) Screens are “educational”
I will show myself as a dyed in the wool Waldorf dork right now, but I admit, I don’t like screen time for little kids. There may be educational games on the ipad or phone for toddlers, even babies. They may even have good content. What they lack is the very things that babies and toddlers NEED to actually LEARN when they are young.
What do they need? While reading is important, that is not what babies are supposed to be doing. They are supposed to be forming relationships and learning to do so with those around them. They are supposed to learn to talk, walk, explore, learn, and (very importantly) love.
A screen doesn’t do this for them, other awesome people do.
9) Investing in a fancy nursery is a good idea
When you discover yourself pregnant, the first thing most of us do is go to a big box store and register for dozens of color coordinated things that will somehow promise to make life good with a baby.
How naive we were. How little we knew.
I made the same trip to the same store and picked out all kinds of things that were necessary for the layette.
10 years later, I have a hard time understanding why any of it mattered. Babies see about 12 inches. That means they can basically see your face. They couldn’t care less about the decorations or the crib (if they even want to sleep in that) or the outfits or the fancy blankets. They just want you. All the time and energy we invest in all those things…what a waste.
If you want to invest in your baby, freeze some nourishing meals so that they can have a mom who isn’t stressed during those first few weeks of life. That will be more important than the color of the room.
10) Breastfeeding moms sleep less
There is this idea that if you want to sleep well as a mom, you need to introduce formula. Even those who breastfeed are told to “give a bottle before bed” so that the baby will sleep through the night.
This sounds like the perfect solution to a few years of being awake, except it isn’t really true. I love the work of Dr Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, and author extraordinaire, on this subject. She found that women who EXCLUSIVELY breastfed actually slept more and had less depression.
Mind blowing, right?
Don’t stop nursing in the mistaken belief that doing so yields more sleep.
One of the most important things you can learn as a parent can’t be found in a list. Mostly, we just need to learn to trust our intuition, to get to know our children, and to remember that happiness or joy isn’t something that can be purchased from a store or borrowed from another human being.