Something about a baby's coo makes advice-givers flock in like toddlers to Thomas the Train. New parents are inundated with advice ranging from the helpful (“hire a sitter”) to the borderline illegal (“whiskey helps with teething”). What’s worse, a lot of new parents inundate themselves in information about parenting – and a lot of it is misguided. Sometimes they’re in need of a little help, and don’t know where to turn. New parents often feel like they’re the only ones who have made worrisome mistakes. That’s why they read parenting books, Facebook groups and forums. Bad parenting advice is bound to be abundant in such a sea of information.
When I had my four kids within five years, I was absolutely bombarded by bad parenting advice from numerous outlets online. On top of that, my babies and I were often approached with “encouraging words” by strangers in the grocery store, preschool pickup, relative get-togethers and playdates. Most were well-meaning, sure, but it was a lot to process as a new mom. Here are some of the stranger parenting tips we've heard.
Get Rid of Your Cat
Every pet owner hears horror stories of acrobatic cats clambering into cribs to snuggle up and suffocate the baby. In reality, many more children are at risk from incorrect co-sleeping positions than from the smothering of Meow Meow the wonder pet. Keep expecting mothers and newborns away from cat litter to keep them safe from toxoplasmosis – an infectious agent found in cat feces. Beyond that, it’s always best to supervise any kid around any pet, but there’s no need to get rid of them.
Beer for Breastfeeding
Women with low milk supply are often encouraged to drink dark beer to help increase breast milk production. It has proven effective for some people. Some, however, aren't comfortable with drinking while nursing or they may not even like beer in the first place. There are a ton of effective ways to increase breastmilk supply, and there’s no need to guzzle beer as your first approach.
Rice Cereal Solves All
Many parents feed their baby rice cereal at an early age to help them sleep longer. This misguided wisdom is right along the lines of, “Stop breastfeeding because formula takes longer to digest.” Parents have been slipping their babies rice cereal before bedtime for year, but experts say the solids should wait for at least four to six months due to increased risk of allergies developing.
Don't Coddle that Kid
Late weaners, raise your hands if you've heard this one! Doting parents are often told that their extra efforts are going to somehow spoil their children. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: babies can’t be spoiled. Don’t worry about spending too much time snuggling, nursing, or playing with your children.
Grandparents are often the ones insisting that babies need some H2O in addition to their formula or breastmilk, since this was a commonly-held belief in their era. Too much water, however, can cause electrolyte imbalance in infants and even lead to seizures. Stick to breastmilk or formula until your pediatrician advises you that they need anything other than that.
Many parents swear that their infants sleep better on their stomachs, but pediatricians note that putting babies to sleep on their back dramatically reduces the risk of suffocation. The 1996 'Back to Sleep' campaign led to a 50% reduction in SIDS-related deaths.
Put Some Socks on that Baby
Older generations tend to pile on layer after layer, whereas younger parents worry about suffocation. Over-dressing baby can cause dehydration and increase the risk of SIDS. Babies kept in a household that’s warmed to a reasonable level really don’t need many layers at all.
Cigar Smoke for Earaches
A common belief back in the day held that cigar smoke can help reduce earaches if it's blown directly into the infant's ear canal. Nowadays, tobacco use of any sort is a pretty big no-no around kids.
Every Last Drop
Many caretakers try to feed babies until they finish up all their food, whereas a lot of parents simply want their children to eat until full. Experts tend to agree that baby-led feeding patterns are healthiest in the long-run.
Sleep When the Baby Sleeps
That’s all well and good, until you have a baby with colic or allergy issues that cause stomach pain and constant wailing– and on top of that, you find that you’re losing yourself in new-mom postpartum depression. A lot of moms find that they feel even worse when they try squeezing in little tiny cat naps that line up with their baby’s timeline. Better advice is to track baby’s sleep, learn when the longest stretches are, and aim to sync your sleep schedule up to those.
Let’s be honest: babies are pretty cute. They’re as helpless as they are innocent, and they have infectious smiles. So it’s not surprising that people love to share baby-rearing advice. The problem is that every time someone comments about your baby, it feels like they’re commenting on a piece of yourself. It can be easy to get offended or hurt by well-intentioned advice. I’ve found that the best approach is to smile and nod, and then parent your kids however you see fit.
As a parent, it's hard to know what advice to take and what to ignore. You have to make a million decisions every day. Most of these are small – you know, whether or not to let your child stay up until 8 p.m. to watch a Harry Potter movie, or whether to buy the organic versus non-organic chicken – but some can have permanent effects on your child, like whether to spank or yell at them.
Some people are simply full of bad advice, but that doesn't mean you should be ignoring good advice, either. If you want to raise responsible, healthy children, you should give them clear boundaries, lots of love and affection, and teach them how to get along with others. That’s really all the advice you need.
Have you had strangers give you bad parenting advice?