When it comes to parenting, there is an overabundance of false information that can discourage even the most eager first-time mom. In fact, some mistruths have become so common and accepted that they could even be called myths. And then there are always those, “When I’m a mother…” phrases we sort of bite our tongues and cringe when we hear now. It’s part of the Mothering journey…figuring out what’s fact and what’s an old-wives tale, but more–figuring out what is best for our families. Take a look at some of our myth-busting.
We’ve all done it…had thoughts and beliefs about parenting before we actually became parents ourselves. We listened to old wives’ tales (which actually make a lot of sense), paid attention to what other parents did (and what we would/would not EVER do ourselves) and even paid attention to the kernels of truth each ‘myth’ had because otherwise, they wouldn’t be so widespread in acceptance and belief.
That said, it’s experience that lets us temper those myths with reality and when we go through the experiences, we learn to realize that not everything we hear about parenting, no matter how commonly repeated, is correct. In fact, as it’s so easy to share something on social media with a simple click of the button, more information than ever is being put out there, and it’s often misleading or just plain wrong.
Here are 10 parenting myths that simply don’t hold true.
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 little people who have the same needs that you and I have. In fact, research suggests repeatedly that the more touch and care and holding and cuddling you give to your baby, the better it is for their brain development and overall health and welfare.
So tell Great Aunt Karen thanks, but you’re fine snuggling that baby all day long and twice on Sundays.
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 biological need and not a want, despite what many will tell you. 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. And, disregarding those needs when they are younger can bring a lot of misery for you and your little down the road.
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.
Slowly but surely, even ‘the professionals are coming around, as now the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests having your baby in the same room with you for at least the first six months, and preferably a year. As more research comes out about SIDS (particularly such that shames mothers into thinking they did something to kill their children), we would not be surprised if sooner than later, doctors recommended safe co-sleeping situations to encourage all the benefits that come with doing so.
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 responsibilities of having children.
But having kids doesn’t ruin your life. It does change it, but it is still so 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. In fact, as the days grow shorter and I realize how smart my kids are getting, I recognize that my Mama brain is sort of like a superpower!
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. In fact, sometimes the best part of life is doing those things with them. But better, you don’t have to feel guilty if you just want some time to yourself too. Sometimes you leave them with a loving care provider and you remember who you were before you were Mom. Yes, some things may need to wait a few years. Don’t worry, they don’t stay little forever. And it really is true…you’ll never regret spending time and doing things with them when you can.
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 didn’t have my “dream job.”
Then I had a bunch of kids. I nursed them and hung out with them and did a lot of attachment parenting stuff.
That’s how 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 and then should start milk.
Whew. Boy. Sure, many kids wean around a year-old (or before) but toddlers can nurse much longer than this! Much longer. I remember watching a friend nurse her 15-month-old as he would periodically run up for a snack in between play, and thinking it was the strangest thing on the planet.
Until I had kids and then 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). There’s no set time to wean, and anyone who tells you there is can mind their own business.
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. Neither do pediatricians or neurologists or anyone else who knows those first months and years of life are pivotal in neural development. 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. They are supposed to learn to talk, walk, explore, learn, and (very importantly) love.
A screen doesn’t do this for them,; the awesome people around them do. Yes, screens can be big deals in our lives, if we use them appropriately and teach our kids how to do so as well.
9. Investing in a fancy nursery is a good idea because it will be baby’s oasis.
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.
Ten 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. And really, like we said, pediatricians don’t even want babies in their nurseries until they’re a year or so anyway, so why waste the time and money?
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.
Don’t stop nursing in the mistaken belief that doing so yields more sleep. In fact, you may find that you’ll have different issues altogether and having your baby near to dream feed and nurse as you sleep is life-changing.
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.