Top 5 pieces of outdated recommendations for new parents

We recently surveyed our community of amazing parents on what has been the worst parenting advice someone has ever given them. The responses were disturbing, and there were definitely some standout common themes.

There are sadly still a lot of outdated recommendations for new parents being given that are detrimental to both baby and mother. So in case any of this advice ever comes your way, be prepared – listen to your instincts. You are your baby’s expert, so if you’re ever told you should be doing something, trust your gut response. If it makes you uneasy, you can just tell them, ‘thanks, but we’ve made our parenting choices’.

Here are the top 5 pieces of outdated recommendations for new parents:

1. ‘Holding your newborn too much will spoil them’

You absolutely cannot hold a newborn too much or love them too much. Babies can’t self-regulate so they require a calm and trusted caregiver to help them co-regulate their emotions, and they need support while they transition to life outside the womb during the fourth trimester. Holding your baby is:

  • Biologically natural and normal
  • Instinctive
  • Beneficial to both mum’s and bub’s health and wellbeing
  • Bond-building
  • Soothing for unsettled babies
  • Builds infant brain connections
  • Extends sleep
  • Builds a sense of trust and safety
  • Optimises breastfeeding outcomes
  • Reduces infant stress and pain
  • Boosts cognitive and motor development

2. ‘Enjoy every moment, it goes so quickly’

The newborn stage usually only goes quickly in hindsight, but when you’re deep in the trenches and awake most of the night every night, it couldn’t go any slower. Life can get stuck on repeat for a while.

Parenting a newborn is confusing, wonderful, challenging, demanding, exhausting, beautiful, confronting, boring, tedious, lonely, surprising, heart-melting, and exciting. All in one day. It’s okay that you don’t enjoy every moment. Some days are better than others, and sometimes you’ll even hate it, but that’s normal and all of your feelings towards new parenthood are valid. 

3. ‘Don’t pick them up every time they cry, or they’ll learn to manipulate you’

This one couldn’t be further than the truth. For a start, babies don’t have the necessary brain power to manipulate. To do so they would need a functioning prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain necessary for critical, sophisticated thinking – the part that is immature and simply doesn’t function in newborns.

A baby who cries and wants to be held is a baby with a genuine need for closeness and comfort. A baby who is responded to when they cry is a baby who will:

  • Build a secure relationship with you
  • Feel loved and seen
  • Learn that you’re reliable, trust-worthy, and safe, and therefore so is the world

4. ‘Feeding/rocking/cuddling your baby to sleep is a bad habit. They need sleep training to learn to sleep independently’

Many parents are led to believe that their baby has a sleep problem because they comfort them to sleep, and that they must teach or train their baby to sleep. Usually by leaving them to cry.

However, nurturing your baby to sleep is one of the most natural ways to support an infant’s sleep, and it is in fact, healthy, normal, instinctual, simple, reliable, bonding, and important for your baby’s development.

The idea that babies don’t know how to sleep, and the sleep training methods themselves, only became popular in the 1950s and without any evidence to support the claims. There is never a reason to leave a baby to cry alone, and night waking does not need to be treated with sleep training. Instead they need lots of love, reassurance, and comfort. 

5. ‘Your baby should be on a schedule’

Babies aren’t robots. Telling a new parent when their baby should eat, sleep, and play is counter-intuitive. It also leads the caregivers to feel a sense of failure, guilt, frustration, confusion, and even anger when their baby doesn’t comply with said schedule. There is no evidence behind prescribed awake windows, nap times, bedtimes, how much sleep a baby needs in 24 hours, or how much milk they should be having.

Each baby is unique and has individual needs. To know when your baby needs to sleep, play, and eat, it’s as simple (and as difficult at times) as following their lead. The range of ‘normal’ is vast, so watch your baby’s cues and respond to them as best as you can.

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