Parenting advice to ignore (every day, but especially during a pandemic)

By Melody Thomas

Featured in Capital #50
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I love babies. The smell. The goobery, toothless grins. The roly poly limbs. The only person who loves babies more than me is my husband, who knows better than to ask to hold your baby but will coo and cluck pointedly in your baby’s face until you relent and hand it over, after which it might never be seen again.

Recently friends returned to New Zealand with their five-month-old, and over a glass of wine confided in me about all the books they’d read while expecting – books that promised to unlock all the mysteries of parenthood but instead left one of them crying in a heap of destroyed confidence.

I could relate – I too was a terrified mess right up until the moment I threw away every parenting book I’d been given. There is a difference between being a few months or a year in and seeking solutions to a specific concern, and being pregnant with no idea what is coming, reading book after book full of “solutions” – which really only serve to make you wonder, “if I don’t know any of this, what else do I not know?”

I thought I’d round up some of the most commonly spouted BS pieces of “advice” for new parents:

You should never feed/sing/rock your baby to sleep because they will develop a “crutch”

It’s true that if you love your baby to sleep they will continue to expect you to. My husband still cuddles our nearly two-year-old to sleep every night, while I lie in the dark waiting for Miss Five to start snoring. Sometimes I wish she could go to sleep on her own, but most of the time I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of those moments – knowing they are exactly the thing I will miss when the kids are big. One of the most ridiculous thing I ever read was that feeding a baby to sleep teaches them your breast is a “comfort object”. Well yes, breasts are literally made to comfort babies. The fact that they also comfort grown people is just an added bonus. Boobies are voodoo baby magic. Use them.

Breast is best

We have established that boobs are great. If breastfeeding is available for you, you and your baby are very lucky. Sometimes it isn’t easy to start with and perseverance pays off. But if you have been trying and it’s just not working, if the guilt and the stress are causing you to clench your toes every time you latch your baby on to a cracked nipple, do not feel like a failure for using formula. That’s what it’s there for. You are an awesome Mum, and your baby is so lucky to have you.

Co-sleeping is bad

The number of times I’ve lied about this one – but here it is, on paper – my kids have always slept in my bed, since day one. Yes – co-sleeping can be dangerous, but there are some VERY SIMPLE RULES that, if you follow them to a T, make co-sleeping the absolutely safest option out there.

Look them up, promise never to bend them, and go for it. If you’re breastfeeding you might even get to the point where you can flop out a boob and feed the baby in your sleep.

You can’t parent without this absolutely necessary, ridiculously expensive newfangled piece of equipment

All lies, all of the time. If buying baby things makes you feel more prepared for the role to come then all good – but I’m here to tell you that for the first couple of years you don’t need much of anything. Baby carriers are awesome but there are a bunch of tutorials online for sewing a wrap. Bottles can be sterilised on the stove top. Babies can be changed on the floor. There are loads of great prams for sale on Trademe for quarter of the price of a new one. Put out the word for hand me down clothes and you won’t buy any for years.

They’re only young once, make sure you appreciate it

This one is true, but way too often is used as a weapon to stop mothers from doing something “selfish” like taking trips away without kids or going back to work, or to make you feel guilty for complaining. It’s important you know that we have ALL thought about throwing our babies out the window at least once, or bawled our eyes out as we circle the block for the 1000th time with a crying baby in our pram, or considered how different our lives might look had we not had them. Parenting is the best, but it’s also the worst. Find yourself a group who knows this and is happy with you sharing both.

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