Babies bring a great deal of joy to your life, but also a great deal of unsolicited advice. Well-meaning friends and family members will no doubt make gentle (and not-so-gentle) suggestions as to how you should do things—and a great deal of the time, their ideas will not be all that helpful. (Sorry folks, but it’s true.)
With the help of a few fellow moms, I’ve rounded up some baby-related rules that are commonly shared … but not so commonly followed. If someone offers up these bits of advice and they aren’t for you, feel free to embrace your inner rebel and break the rules.
The rule: Keep newborns under wraps for the first few weeks of life.
The reality: This tip often comes from sweet grandmas, so it must have been popular back in the day. And it does have some validity: “The notion is that [babies] are more susceptible to illness until they have built up some immunities,” shares Louis Borgenicht, MD, co-author of The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance. But as long as your baby is healthy and you’re comfortable with the idea, go ahead and introduce your newbie to the world! My son was 3 days old for his first trip to the ballpark, and he suffered no ill effects.
Of course, there are some times you might want to be more careful than others: During flu season, it would be wise to limit baby’s exposure to crowds, and preschools and daycares are a haven for germs year-round. While you don’t have to hide your baby away for safekeeping, common sense
is always your ally. To deter grimy hands from grabbing your infant, keep baby tucked away in a carrier or under a blanket so people are less likely to reach for him.
The rule: Let your baby “cry it out.”
The reality: You might reach a point at which you’re open to a sleep training method that involves a few tears, but keep in mind that a newborn isn’t capable of manipulation. If your baby is crying, it’s because he needs you. It’s important in the early months for your child to know that you’re willing and able to meet his needs by responding to his verbal cues. (He can’t talk, so crying is the only way he can express himself!) Your wee one will eventually learn to soothe himself and sleep for longer than a few hours at a time, but it’s a process. Be patient and give him time to mature before you begin “training” him to sleep through the night.
The rule: Give your kid a bath every day.
The reality: “Bathing is usually a process that dries the skin, so every other day may be better,” advises Borgenicht. As long as you’re cleaning baby well at each diaper change and washing his face and neck rolls to remove milky residue, he isn’t getting dirty enough to warrant a daily scrub in the tub anyway. When you do suds him up, be sure to use infant-safe soap that is gentle enough for his sensitive skin.
The rule: Create a routine and stick to it.
The reality: Set schedules can be great for some families, but rigidity in routine can end up backfiring on you. “I was such a stickler with my first child that I made sure she always napped and slept in her own bed instead of in someone’s arms or in her car seat. But I realized the error of my ways when she began refusing to sleep anywhere other than at home. My friends’ kids would fall asleep in their strollers or carriers, but my daughter would just fuss and cry until I took her home and put her down for her nap,” shares mom of three Janine Wallis in Glen Allen,Virginia. “We missed out on a lot of fun afternoon activities!”
Keep in mind, too, that your baby is a person just like you and me, and the same old, same old tends to get boring. If you crave structure, don’t hesitate to create a schedule for you and your tot, but leave a little room for flexibility. As your baby grows and changes, so will his routine–be ready to adjust accordingly.
The rule: Don’t hold your baby all the time, or you’ll spoil him.
The reality: Yes, your baby might become accustomed to spending time in your arms if you hold him a lot, but is that such a bad thing? The way I see it, my kids aren’t going to want me forever. One day, they’ll push me out of their bedrooms and close the doors behind me. But right now, those little pudgy legs want to rest on my hip, and I’m OK with that. I intend to snuggle, kiss and “spoil” my babies every chance I get. As a friend pointed out, “The only person you’re inconveniencing is yourself. Why should anyone else even care?”
Finding your way as a parent isn’t easy, but only you know what’s right for your family. No matter what “rules” are flying at you, trust your instincts … after all, nobody knows how to be your baby’s mama better than you do.