When I became pregnant with my son, I made it my goal to become as knowledgeable as possible on the subject of babies. As the youngest child in a family raised by our father, I hadn’t so much as changed a diaper, and I had no example of what a mother should be. Knowing that I had some catching up to do, I signed us up for baby classes, began reading online articles, and asked the other moms in my family for helpful tips. Over the next eight months, I took mental notes of everything I had learned from these well-meaning baby experts. Our little guy has now been around for more than half a year, and I can say one thing: I didn’t learn a thing until the moment he popped out. I hope to share with you a little secret that would have saved me time and energy: You will figure everything out on your own. Here is a list of things that other parents (and non-parents) will try to tell you, and why you might want to toss their advice out the window.
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps!
That is one of the most common things people are told. You know what? You’ll do whatever you want to do when the baby sleeps. Your baby’s naps might be your only chance to do what you need to do for yourself. Even being able to clean the kitchen can seem like the ultimate freedom when you’re trying to figure out how to take care of this pint sized being. What you do when the baby sleeps is your decision.
2. The diaper we use is the only one that works.
Whether your buddy is trying to promote cloth, disposable, Pampers or Huggies, try to drown out what they say as best you can. I’ve gone through about 15 varieties of diapers since my guy was born (disposable and cloth), and guess what I realized? Every baby has a different body. Every diaper has a different shape. After about 300 poop explosions, you’ll know what works on your kid. If that happens to be some sort of disposable diaper, it doesn’t mean that you hate the planet. You just might hate getting pooped on.
3. Your baby needs to be on a schedule.
Do what works for your family. If it feels like the right thing to do, it probably is. If you need to try out different systems as your baby starts developing, go right ahead. I don’t care how adamant your mother and your postpartum doula are that their way is the only way. You’re the parent. You make the rules.
4. You won’t be able to live without this baby product!
Chances are, you’ll spend a fortune on baby items that had good reviews online. You will spend countless hours seeking out the best clothes, swings, bottles, strollers, baby carriers, and car seat. You will be a virtual expert on what to buy and what not to buy, all based on what your friends told you. You will soon realize that even the cutest swings are hard as a rock. All the baby clothes you will buy will fit perfectly (assuming your baby has the figure of a miniature adult). Your car seat will be so user friendly, your little one will be three months old before you realize you are using it wrong. Your baby will scream his head off in your $300 carrier because he’d rather face outward than be smashed into your chest. The truth is, you’ll know what you need when you meet the little person. In the meantime, don’t waste too much time reading those reviews. Just buy what you like and hope for the best.
5. He needs to be burped/swaddled/rocked.
This one is a personal favorite. When my boy was having trouble sleeping, everyone had a stereotypical “baby” reason to throw at me. I soon learned that babies are in fact human and do occasionally experience discomforts aside from gas and being swaddled incorrectly. They get hot. They get cold. They do get thirsty on occasion as well. On that note, if your baby is breaking out of his swaddle nightly, maybe he doesn’t need to be swaddled tighter, as I was told by countless people. Maybe he hates being in a straight jacket as you or I would. Your baby will let you know what he likes and what he doesn’t. After a little trial and error, you’ll figure it out.
You will make a thousand and one mistakes and spend a ton of money on products that don’t work. You will be peed on, pooped on, and spit up on. You will be sleep deprived — at least for a little while. Your loved ones will try to prevent you from making the same mistakes that they made, yet you will have countless moments of regret. You will throw yourself into this new role as Mom or Dad with total conviction, and every day will bring with it entirely new and unexpected challenges. Before you know it, you will wake up and realize that you are the expert on your baby. Along with that realization will be the overwhelming pride that comes solely from learning something the hard way.