New parents get tons of advice – from friends, relatives, healthcare providers, passers-by on the street. There’s no shortage of comments like “Your baby’s drooling – he must be teething!” and “Baby’s not sleeping well? Try formula at night.”
If you’re a new parent, you’ve probably heard those myths and many, many more. But do you know they’re myths?
1. Baby needs to sleep through the night right away
Let’s talk infant physiology for a moment. Babies’ stomachs are tiny. TINY. As a newborn, your baby’s stomach is about the size of a marble and able to hold barely ½ a tablespoon of milk. At one month, it’s about the size of a ping-pong ball, fitting only 2.5 – 5 ounces.
What does this mean for sleep? It means babies can’t sleep too long because they need to eat!
And this is assuming babies only wake up at night to eat. They also wake because they’re a little hot. They wake because they’re a little cold. They wake because they’re a little nervous and they can’t feel you close by (and, as primal beings, become afraid that if you’re not around a big, scary animal may discover them all alone and snatch them up for a tasty dinner!).
Waking many, many times throughout the night is totally, utterly normal. Our need for babies to sleep through the night is a modern, and abnormal, situation we’re trying to fit our normal babies into.
Yes, you may need more sleep for a million different reasons but keep in mind those are your needs, not baby’s. So before you decide you’re having infant sleep “problems,” check out this sleep series written by several accomplished researchers published on EvolutionaryParenting.com – What is Normal Infant Sleep?
And if you’re still desperate for more sleep and you need your baby to get on board, check out some gentle sleep solutions to help ease your baby into letting you get a good night’s sleep.
2. Babies are teething because they’re drooling at 4 months
Babies naturally want to put things in their mouths and chew on them. It’s one of the ways they explore the world. Add to that the extra drooling that kicks in around 4 months and suddenly you hear it all the time – “Is baby teething?!”
Chances are, probably not. It’s possible at four months, but really most babies don’t start teething until about 6 months old.
Why the excessive drooling? Around 4 months babies’ salivary glands are maturing as they prepare for solid foods.
So before you start unnecessarily medicating baby for teething pain, Parenting.com has a great Guide to Teething that can help you assess whether or not your baby really needs help with the pain. Otherwise, drooling and chewing on everything sounds like a perfectly normal, non-teething baby!
3. Baby is ready for solid foods as early as 3-4 months
Unless your baby is advanced, this is probably not the case. Babies are born able to drink and digest breast milk (or formula) and that’s it! It takes several months, usually about 6 or more, to develop their digestive enzymes, seal their gut lining, and learn to swallow instead of just suckle (or suck).
Parents.com has a fun, little quiz to help you decide if your baby is ready for solids, and AskDrSears.com has an excellent article on why you should wait to introduce solid foods. Doing so early could irritate/damage their gut lining or cause symptoms of food sensitivities, like rashes.
4. Responding to baby’s cries means you’re letting them manipulate you
Jan Hunt over at The Natural Child Project points out:
“If a child were really ‘manipulating’ a parent through his or her behavior, that behavior would continue or even increase over time. However, studies show that the more quickly, compassionately, and consistently a child’s cry is answered, the less often they cry and the shorter the duration each time they do cry.”
And Dr. William Sears writes in Creative Parenting, children “do not cry to annoy, to maliciously manipulate, or to take advantage of their parents in an unfair way. They cry because they have a need. To ignore the cry is to ignore the need.”
So, no, you’re not being manipulated. Listen to your baby’s cries and respond knowing you’re doing the exact right thing – not giving in, not spoiling them, but being a loving, nurturing, responsive parent.
5. Babies need to learn independence
Do they really? Babies? Those adorable, wise, squishy, helpless beings who are utterly dependent on you? They need to learn independence?
Compared to other mammals, human babies are born relatively underdeveloped.
“… by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn.” (via ScientificAmerican.com)
According to the above estimation, your baby isn’t as neurologically ready for the world as a newborn chimpanzee until he or she is 9-12 months old! And then, after that, they’re still basically newborns.
Let’s face it. Human babies need us. They are dependent on us, not just for food and shelter and a clean diaper. They need love and affection and play and care and smiles and laughter and empathy and lots of hugs. The time for independence is, well, the entirety of their adult life.
Babies are babies for such a short amount of time. That time is precious. Spend it wisely. Enjoy your baby, and stop wishing for their independence. It’ll come soon enough.
If you want to know what babies really need in their first nine months, check out this post here.
For more important know how’s about newborns read our other articles: