Inside the article: The one constant with having a baby is that people will give you all kinds of advice, good and bad. It’s up to you to decide which advice you want to take, and what you want to toss. Today, I’m going to reveal the worst advice I received when having a baby.
Ok, real talk. Most of the advice I received when I was pregnant with my son was great. I had moms rally around me with encouragement and love, giving me space to feel worried, excited, and everything in between. And honestly, I look back and am really thankful for my circle of people.
However… the bad advice often hit harder than the good advice. And while I know all pieces of advice came with no ill intentions, I couldn’t help but feel the need to share. I hope my explanation can bring you some relief if you’ve been dealt some of these cards.
So, let’s talk about the worst advice I received when having a baby.
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“Sleep When the Baby Sleeps”
While this isn’t the worst advice out there, allow me to explain why this advice made me an anxious mess. Shortly after my son was born, this phrase was repeated to me verbally and held space in my brain almost constantly. Each nap my son would take, I’d hear it. During times when my son was being watched by others, I’d hear it.
And they were right: I should have been sleeping while my son slept. It was the most logical and efficient way for me to rest. I get it!
However, it’s almost counterintuitive. Being told to go take a nap or rest really just stressed me out and made me less able to relax. I am the type of person who is constantly busy, to a fault sometimes. When my son was finally sleeping, all I wanted to do was just this: do what I wanted to do. Sometimes that was lying on the couch to watch my shows. Sometimes that was cleaning my messy house and making myself food. And yes, sometimes that was taking a nap.
Can you tell how stubborn I am yet?
Really, though, the advice is solid and something I tried to follow at times. But harping on someone about why they aren’t resting couldn’t be less helpful, in my opinion!
If you’re experiencing constant questioning and pressure to rest, I’d suggest explaining to these individuals that you appreciate their care, but would rather they ask you what you’d like to do. Or maybe this is just a “me” problem. 😉
“Don’t Hold Them Too Much, You’ll Spoil Them”
As someone who has studied attachment theory ad nauseam in graduate school, I can tell you that research supports holding your baby! And much to some people’s demise, you can’t do it too much.
Physical touch is one way we connect with our babies. Being held or touched in soothing and loving ways, like rocking or snuggling, releases oxytocin, which is a bonding hormone. So, holding your baby actually bonds you both together!
“But then they’ll learn that they never have to be put down, so I’ll never have time to myself.” Valid concern, mama! Let me explain why this is actually backwards.
If a baby feels safe and secure, which is how they feel when they are soothed and held, they are more likely to accept being put down when needed because they know you are there for them. If a baby feels like they won’t get that much needed physical attention, then they will be more insecure and more fussy because they don’t know when they will get it again.
Check out this video to learn more about attachment theory!
“Cry It Out Builds Independence”
Similarly to the advice of not picking up your baby too often for fear of spoiling, people say letting a baby “cry it out” can help foster independence and the ability to self-soothe.
I hope you’ve watched that attachment video, because it will help reinforce that this is just simply not a healthy or research-backed method at face value.
But trust me. I’m not saying you need to rush to the child the second they start crying. Nor am I saying that it isn’t important for them to learn some self-soothing. It is! There are just better ways to teach this without tossing the baby to the wolves. We have to build these skills gradually!
There’s a way to “be there” without totally taking over. If baby is crying, maybe you wait a moment, use a kind, soothing voice to say “it’s ok baby I’ll be there in a moment.” Maybe you walk into their room, pat their back, and leave after a few moments. The key is that you are emotionally available and care about their distress even if you’re not the one to fix it.
“Sleep Now, You’ll Never Sleep Again”
What an uplifting message! Said no one ever.
First of all, as much as I would love for this to be the case, you cannot bank sleep points.
Also, here’s the deal. You will sleep again. But yes, it might be a minute.
When you have a newborn, they can’t sleep all night. They have to wakeup at least a couple of times to eat. Their tiny tummies need to be filled often (every 2-3 hours!) This is expected and a good thing. Once my son reached 4 months, he was able to sleep through the night.
With the help of Taking Cara Babies, we started getting solid 7-8 hour nights again. It was magical! I highly recommend some sort of “sleep training” (which, in my opinion, is really just sleep teaching). Our son gets great rest, and we get great rest. And with great rest comes better parents and a happier baby. Win, win!
Sharing Traumatizing Birth Stories
No, I’m not kidding.
I’m not saying sharing some pieces of a birth story aren’t helpful. I wanted to go into birth with somewhat realistic expectations of what could happen to me. However, explaining to me the fourth degree tear you endured or talking about severe, and rare, birth complications only increases the anxiety and fear in a first-time mom coming up on giving birth.
My innate curiosity wants to know, but one particular story (which I will not repeat here) kept me up at night for a solid week worrying about my son’s very active presence in my belly.
If someone is telling you a story that is starting to stress you out, have a plan. I like having a phrase or go-to retort that I can use when I’m frazzled and needing to confront (because I hate confrontation). An example could be: Oh wow, that sounds scary. Maybe you can tell me more after I have my baby because it’s starting to stress me out.
Your Baby Is Going to Take Over Your Life. Say Goodbye to “You Time!”
Ugh. This one is actually reasonably accurate, but there is a better way to explain it without causing undue stress.
My husband and I were hanging out with our friends who are expecting their first baby, and happily drilling us for pregnancy/parenting advice and questions. It was so fun! But, the husband, who is a daily gym goer, asked if he would have to give that up. Our advice? It will likely just look different.
For me, I stopped my spin membership and bought a spin bike for the house. (Have I used it in months? No, but that’s not the point.) I had to get used to working out at home. I also found mommy & me workout classes in my area (highly recommend Fit4Mom!)
Here’s the thing, though. I truly don’t miss my old life. Sure, it was nice to be able to jet off to the gym without toting around a baby bag or working around naps, but I wouldn’t trade what I have now. Trust me when I say your baby will be worth it.
Kick the Worst Advice Aside
I hope these tips and perspectives can give you some relief when you start receiving some of the worst advice when having a baby. My big tip: have a plan! If someone says something that’s not helpful, know what you’re going to do (with kindness, of course!).