Throughout your pregnancy, you are likely to hear friends, family and even strangers imparting their opinions and projections about your unborn child: “Get your sleep while you can!”, “You’re carrying low – you’re having a boy!” By the end of the nine months, you’re exhausted and freaked out. Once the baby arrives, this only intensifies with more people divulging more unsolicited advice. Here are some myths that you’re likely to come across as an expectant or new mom. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that they’re exactly that…myths.
Myth: “Your baby should be sleeping through the night by 3 months old.”
Myth Perpetrator: The Mom in the Park with the Good Sleeper
“Sleeping through the night” is an antiquated notion that if a parent does x, y and z, their baby will sleep the standard 6-8 hours straight at night almost immediately. A lucky few are blessed with a baby that just sleeps well, but many babies wake frequently to feed during those first few months. What determines a baby sleeping through the night is…the baby. You can do everything right, have them on an air tight schedule, observe their every feed, time every nap, sleep train, but it may not work. Even if they do sleep long stretches, this can be interrupted later on with teething, illness, growth, milestones, or changes in season. It may seem like you will never sleep again, but you will. Don’t believe the hype: you are not doing anything wrong and there is nothing wrong with your baby. Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone that will happen when the baby is ready.
Myth: “Breastfeeding is a breeze…”
Myth Perpetrator: Attachment Mom who Doesn’t Own a Bottle
Breastfeeding might be the most natural thing in the world, but easy it is not. It takes getting used to for both mom and baby. The first six weeks are incredibly emotional, physically taxing, and at times, painful. It is not something that just magically happens on its own. Many moms need the help of lactation consultants to make it work and many quit out of frustration, but in most cases, if you can stick it out in the beginning, it becomes second nature. As baby grows, feedings become less frequent and nursing sessions are faster. Pumping allows you to leave the baby, giving you some of your freedom back. And if you find it isn’t for you, formula feeding is always an option.
Myth: “Babies need constant stimulation.”
Myth Perpetrator: The Super Mom
Babies are pretty simple creatures: they eat, they sleep, they poop. In New York City, however, there is this ideal that a baby should be constantly stimulated and entertained when they are not doing these three activities. Because there are hundreds of mommy-and-me classes starting at “0 months,” some moms feel pressured into enrolling kids in classes even before they are born! Classes are great, but they are neither a necessity for young babies, nor do they mold them into baby geniuses or line them up to go to Yale. Cuddling, playing, taking walks, and going to the park is sufficient stimulation for the first year. When babies become more mobile, can sit up, crawl, etc. then maybe it might be a good idea, but the concept that babies are molded into Van Goghs and Einsteins at 3 weeks old is a farce. It’s exciting to take your baby to their first class and it gets you out of the house, but it certainly is not a requirement in the early months.
Myth: “You can’t get anything done with a newborn!”
Myth Perpetrator: The Overwhelmed Mom
This is a big one. Yes, having a new baby is time consuming, but what babies do most is sleep! What does this mean for new moms? Some say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” This is a nice thought and will get you some much needed rest, but it will also leave you housebound and swamped with things to do. Try to start every day with a reasonable to-do list: whether it is running errands, taking a walk in the fresh air, or seeing a friend. Plan your tasks around baby’s naps. If you have a stroller that encourages napping by reclining, baby should be able to sleep while you do things for yourself. They can be fed and changed on the go at this age, so get out of the house!
Myth: “You’re not experiencing motherhood if you’re a full-time working mom.”
Myth Perpetrator: The Judgmental Stay-at-Home Mom
The reality is: some of us do not have the financial luxury of staying home (which, don’t get me wrong, is truly just as much of a job). If you must return to work, or choose to, that does not diminish the mother that you are, nor does it mean you are neglecting your baby. Regardless of the hours you work, the time you spend with your baby is about quality, not quantity. Make every story, bath time, and feeding special by disconnecting from your work world and reestablishing the bond with your baby. Babies instinctually know who their moms are. It takes some getting used to (and a good amount of mom guilt), but you and your baby will adjust to the time apart. Leaving is hard, but the smiles you get when you come through the door are well worth it.
I hope these myths motivate you to be the kind of mom you choose to be: the way you elect to parent your baby, feed your baby, structure his/her day – it is all up to you and no one else.