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Baby Books: The Lessons That Turned Out to Be True — and Not So True

If you're a parent, chances are you've read a baby book or two (or ten). Or — this being the digital age and all — you've perused a baby website, looking for instructions on how to deal with the tiny human for whom you've become responsible. Personally, I spent large amounts of my pregnancy lounging on the couch with my laptop, a few dozen browser tabs open to various parenting websites, mommy blogs, breastfeeding forums, Livejournal communities, and baby-centric message boards, determined to find out everything I possibly could so that when my kid arrived, I’d be ready.

Of course, despite all my reading, I wasn’t ready. Is anyone? The shift from non-parent into parent is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — changes anyone will go through in life, and there were dozens of things that didn’t go quite the way I’d imagined. Ultimately, I found that there were some things I read that weren’t entirely accurate. On the other hand, there were also some good pieces of advice that I cheerfully ignored. Oops.

Babies love the car, they go right to sleep! This was one of those things I read so many times, that when it wound up not being true, I worried that there was something wrong with my son. (There wasn’t!) He not only didn’t love the car, he screamed for most of the drive home from the hospital. To top things off, he also mostly hated his stroller for the first three months or so of his life. Needless to say, we didn’t get out much during that time.

The nurses will help you! I gave birth in one of the best hospitals in New York City early on a Friday morning, and was discharged on Sunday afternoon. My first few days as a mother were full of joy over my adorable newborn, but also full of unpleasant surprises. I'd never been in the hospital before, much less in a maternity ward, and I'd gotten the impression that the nurses would each be a combination of baby whisperer, lactation consultant, and Mary Poppins. The reality, of course, is that they were competent and generally nice, but mostly they were medical professionals there to make sure my vital statistics were on track.

Formula, bottles, and/or pacifiers will ruin everything! One of the most contentious issues in the world of new parents is the choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding. I'm not going to make a sales pitch; there's more than enough information out there to help you make your own decision. What I will say is this: I decided I wanted to breastfeed, and when we struggled in the first few days and my kid had a few bottles of formula, I freaked out. Many nursing sites will claim that this is a disaster of the highest order. While it obviously differs for every child, in our case it was a non-issue, and after a few days my kid was happily nursing away, and did so for over a year. Boom!

Put that baby in the crib! While all the previous points wound up being false, this one, in my experience, is a pretty valid suggestion. My son nursed to sleep for many months, and then after he stopped nursing, instead of teaching him to go to sleep in his crib, we started rocking him to sleep. Sweet, right? Sure, except that now he's nearly 2 years old and I still have to cuddle in bed with him for nearly an hour before he finally goes to sleep, at which point we transfer him to his crib and hope he stays asleep until the morning. In hindsight, we got this one wrong.

I can't be the only parent who's blown off good advice, or put too much stock in the things I read in baby books, right? What have been some of your surprises?

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03.23.2013 / 06:13 AM EDT by Tracy Fusaro
Related: Moms

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