The arrival of an newborn baby is a blessed occasion for parents. The excitement of caring for their new human and the joy of a growing family is extremely potent for parents for the first few weeks. But as time progresses, that excitement can fade into drudgery thanks to sleep deprivation, stress, and hormonal changes. And when parents also start with unrealistic expectations of infancy, raising a baby can feel increasingly difficult and thankless.
The reality is that just like everything else in parenting, raising an infant is no picnic. Going into parenting a baby with a realistic understanding of what to expect can help. In fact, having clear eyes and fewer misconceptions about infancy can even make raising a baby easier, safer, and more fulfilling. Here are the top eight harsh truths about raising an infant.
Infants Can Be Surprisingly Boring
Unlike other animals on the planet, human babies are born basically helpless. There are only a couple of things they can do incredibly well to ensure they survive: cry and look adorable. But beyond those minimal activities, babies don’t offer a lot of action.
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This can lead to moments of boredom on the part of a parent. The number of hours a person can spend in adoration is finite. This can lead to moments where parents might feel bored looking at their baby just doing uninteresting baby stuff. That boredom can lead to guilt and confusion. But it’s natural. Parents should accept the lulls graciously and shrug off the fear of being a bad parent for feeling bored.
Infant Cuteness Can Literally Kill Them
Infant cuteness is designed to make sure parents are compelled to care for them. A cute baby is a baby you want to keep close and feed and protect regardless of all the poop and crying. But the cuteness can also lead to danger.
Consider the fact that every year infants die from infections caused by viruses like herpes that are transferred by the kisses of relatives. Babies can also die of entrapment when exhausted parents fall asleep cuddling their adorably snoozing infants on their chest. So while it’s important to feel the love and fall headlong into a baby’s cuteness, it’s also important to remain vigilant about protecting their immune system and engaging in safe sleep practices.
Instagram Is Not Compatible with Infancy
Sites like Instagram and Pinterest often prompt parents to build elaborate and beautiful nurseries. But while these spaces may look great on social media, they can downright dangerous for babies.
In terms of essentials, an optimized nursery does not require much for a baby to sleep soundly and safely. It should be dark. The crib should be sturdy and free of bumpers, blankets, and stuffed animals, and the crib mattress should be firm and fitted with a tight bottom sheet. That’s it. Anything else in a nursery, like a rocker or a changing table, is optional and for the convenience of parents. There’s no need for anything showy.
Infant Poop Changes Are Normal and Fine
A baby’s poop will change over their first few weeks of life. The poop will start out like tar, as an infant passes the sticky meconium out of their system. Then, for exclusively breastfed babies, their poop will become soft and yellowish with small mustard-seed like curds. For babies fed formula, the consistency will be a bit smoother. Parents may get panicky over loose stools, but baby poop should not be compared to adult poop. As long as there is no blood in the stool, the child is able to go, and they have an appetite and no fever, then things are likely moving the way they are supposed to.
The Infant Industrial Complex Is Real
Importantly, there’s nothing an infant really needs aside from onesies, diapers, nutrition, and human love and attention. But that hasn’t stopped an industry from being built to address a whole bunch of manufactured needs.
Infants don’t need toys, special soothers, lullaby CDs, or play gyms. They do need to hear human voices and see human faces. They need interaction and novel circumstances every once in a while. They’d be as delighted to play with a wooden spoon as a rattle. Parents are free to buy their kid a bunch of stuff, but they shouldn’t expect that stuff to have any appreciable effect on their development.
Infant Milestones Are Essentially Meaningless
Every parent wants their child to be gifted and ahead of the curve. But the problem is that every child is different and they will arrive at certain abilities at their own time. Some babies will roll over sooner than others. Some will be able to sit and hold their head up sooner. Whether an infant reaches these milestones sooner or later, parents should not take it as an indication of an advanced or delayed child.
‘Sleep When the Baby Sleeps’ Is an Egregious Lie
There will be plenty that you will want and need to do when your baby sleeps. That is precious time. Plus, it’s extremely difficult to fall asleep on command. Sleep when you can. If it’s during a kid’s nap, great, but there’s no need to chase the relatively impossible dream of sleeping when your kid does.
Colic Is Another Word for Unexplained Crying and There Is No Remedy
It’s completely reasonable for parents to be worried about colic. It can be an absolute nightmare. But the danger is in thinking that colic is a specific medical condition with a known cause and cure.
Colic is simply the name for prolonged, inconsolable crying for no obvious reason. The so-called cures for colic are remedies aimed at the presumed causes of colic, such as gas. But the fact is that when scientists have studied the cures, none are as effective as the placebo. The good news is that colic has a tendency to resolve itself without intervention. It just requires some nerves and patience.