Photo: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

The 17 Worst Advice to Give to New Parents

by Claire Litton Cohn Dec 2, 2015

1. “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

Oh, and cook when the baby cooks and do laundry when the baby does laundry? This is well-meaning, but completely pointless advice. Yes, you should try and take as many naps as you possibly can. But adults need to do other things, and you probably need that hour of baby-naptime to…I don’t know, eat some lunch? Have a shower?

2. “You should put a hat/some socks/a coat on that baby.”

Babies who are overheated have a MUCH higher risk of SIDS than those who are slightly chilly, so piling them down with coats and hats and mittens and booties when adults are wearing shorts and t-shirts has the potential to be life-threatening. It’s also irritating to be stopped by a random person who doesn’t know your kid at all, and told to dress them differently.

3. “He’s just crying to manipulate you.”

Newborns cannot manipulate anybody. They’re totally helpless confused little pudgeballs, not devious criminal masterminds just waiting for the opportunity to destroy you. The only way they have to communicate “Ouch” or “Cold” or “What even is being sleepy?” is through crying.

4. “Don’t hold her too much, you’ll spoil her.”

Babies don’t have particularly good memories, you know? When a kid is two, she won’t look back on being a newborn and decide that, since you held her all the time then, you’ll definitely cave and buy her a Playstation now. Babies actually need to be held as much as they need to eat and sleep. If you have the kind of kid who just can’t ever be set down — as I did — resign yourself to a couple months of peeing with a baby in your lap, and know that eventually they’ll grow out of it.

5. “Your child is too attached to you.”

Nobody ever went off to college doing exactly the same things they did at four months old. Some kids just love being with their parents — often specifically mama — and that’s okay. Especially when they’re tiny, they need to feel safe and secure and cuddling is almost mandatory.

6. “This is the best part; enjoy every moment!”

People who say this probably also believe adolescence is the best years of your life. Newborns are actually very, very hard. They are unpredictable, very easily confused, and you’re full of hormones and sleep deprivation. What if you have postpartum depression? What if your baby has colic and just won’t. stop. screaming? They get more enjoyable and, dare I say, better when they’re old enough to sit up, smile, and eventually, tell you they took the batteries out of the remote and hid them in the fridge.

7. “You have to supplement with formula or they won’t get enough vitamins/You have to exclusively breastfeed or you aren’t giving them the best start to life.”

I’m putting these two together because they’re related, and cause so much heartache in new parents. The most important thing is FEED THE BABY. Doesn’t matter how or with what. Breastmilk? Sure, if breastfeeding works for you, that is wonderful. Do it. Formula? Sure, if you want to or have to, go for it. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and I don’t know a single parent that makes the decision to do one, the other, or both lightly — it usually comes after a lot of effort and thought. Do not EVER assume you know why someone is giving their baby a particular type of nutrition, and just be impressed that they’re feeding their kid. They’re doing a great job.

8. “Babies who are worn/breastfed/co-sleep (insert attachment parenting concept here) rarely cry and will be more independent and confident than babies who aren’t.”

Sorry, Dr. Sears, but sometimes that baby you toted on your back and snuggled in your bed ends up being a clingy codependent toddler. Sometimes the kid that sleeps in their own crib from birth and is bottlefed formula ends up being an exploratory relaxobaby. As Alaura Weaver, author of Bad-ass Motherblogger, says: “Every kid is different, and we need to be the parents they need instead of the parents we think we should be.”

9. “Put some cereal in her bottle to help her sleep longer.”

The current recommendation for introducing solids (defined as anything that isn’t breastmilk or formula) to babies is to wait until they’re about 6 months old to give their digestive systems a chance to mature. Offering rice cereal too early can mess up their tummies, and they can also choke on the stuff, especially if they weren’t expecting it. In my case, my daughter absolutely hated baby cereals anyway, so we went straight to avocados…which are much harder to put in a bottle.

10. “Shouldn’t your baby be napping more?”

Well, if YOU can tell me how to force a kid to fall asleep, I will make you the Supreme Potentate of All Living Beings. I don’t know about you, but I also occasionally have trouble falling asleep…and if someone tried to force me to nap, I’d be mad about it.

11. “If you want breastfeeding to work, you have to nurse every two hours and then pump with an industrial pump for 30 minutes, and then rest for a bit and then start over. Even at night.”

Breastfeeding, despite being espoused as “best” for baby, is hard. Every mom I know has had a problem, some of them quite severe. Sometimes this means performing some mental (or physical) gymnastics to get the milk flowing. How anyone is supposed to maintain a schedule like this without going completely insane, I have no idea…and yet we get told we should sacrifice our own health just to breastfeed our babies. This is terrible advice no matter who it comes from — and it sometimes comes from doctors or even lactation consultants.

12. “You shouldn’t bring the baby on a bus/to the store/to a restaurant.”

Couched as worrying about your baby’s health (“what if they get whooping cough from being out in public?”), this feels more like policing the actions of new parents. Brand new babies sleep about 20 hours a day. You might as well keep doing your regular activities, only now you have a sleeping lump in a stroller. Baby won’t notice you’re in a hot new brunch spot, so the only people who care are those who think YOU shouldn’t be there. And they can get stuffed.

13. “He should be on a schedule.”

Yeah, eventually kids respond really well to regular routine. But not when they’re under six months old. Forcing a newborn to eat only every four hours or letting it cry for ages because the schedule says it’s time to sleep, can be really bad for the baby (note: letting an older baby cry sometimes is fine, like if you’re sleep training). You can’t put a week-old baby on any kind of schedule, especially if you then might get mad at him for not following it. Let them eat when they need to eat and sleep when they need to sleep and you will eventually be able to mold them to your will…just wait a little bit.

14. “Have you tried rubbing whiskey on her gums when she’s teething, or to help her sleep?”

Why do people always want me to give booze to my kid? I’d rather drink it myself when she’s been whining for two hours straight because I won’t let her rub chewed up Goldfish into her hair. Just because they used to give babies laudanum for teething does not mean we should start doing it again.

15. “Your baby is too fat; he should be on a diet.”

This is just sad. We’ve become so obsessed with body image that perfectly normal and necessary baby chub is now seen as something to worry about; more than once, people would say how fat my daughter was…and then apologize as if I’d be offended. A skinny baby is a starving baby. Aside from my personal beliefs that NO-ONE should be on a diet (because screw the beauty standards and obesity misinformation), babies in particular should be eating whatever and whenever they want.

16. “You should/shouldn’t circumcise!”

Insert any hot-button topic here, and everyone has an opinion about it. You know whose opinions matter? Yours, because you’re the parents. Even if you make mistakes, you’re still the parent, and you know your kid better than anyone else will. Also, why is a stranger talking about your baby’s genitals? That’s weird.

17. “Oh, it’s a girl? You should dress her in pink!”

This one is a personal pet peeve, because people are constantly misgendering my short-haired one-year-old daughter…and then getting irate with me when I say she’s a girl. I don’t care what they call her, because it’s up to her to choose her gender expression, but I sure do care when people tell me I need to stick her in pastel poodle skirts just because she was born with a vulva. An old man once scolded me for five minutes for letting her wear blue and brown.

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