Monday, October 20, 2014

Reasons People Think I’m a Bad Mom: Pregnancy Through 6 Months

I've been a mom for only 6 months, but I've learned one important thing. It doesn't matter what you do or how educated you are on motherhood, people will think you're doing it wrong. Here are the top ten things I've done to put me in the Mommy Hall of Shame.

1. I had a home birth. Jim Gaffigan was really only half joking when he said, “Oh, you had your baby at home? Yeah, we were gonna do that, but we wanted our baby to live.” People seem to think home birthers are on a mission to kill themselves and/or their unborn child. Even the most supportive members of my family asked how far away the hospital is. I had a home birth because the research indicated that for a healthy woman with a healthy pregnancy, home births are just as safe as hospital births, if not safer.

2. I went 2 weeks past my due date. I chose to let baby come when he was ready because ultrasound dating of pregnancies is more inaccurate than the risk of going past your due date. Thus, it is more likely that your doctor makes a mistake and induces your pregnancy too early and you have a preemie than is the risk of complications arising as a result of going past due. Doctors start pushing induction rather quickly after women go past their due date because research shows that the risk of the baby being stillborn increases as you progress past your estimated due date. But what do the actual numbers look like? The chance of stillbirth is 2/1000 at 40 weeks, 2.3/1000 at 41 weeks, 3/1000 at 42 weeks, 4/1000 at 43 weeks, and 7/1000 at 44 weeks. Doctors often tell women the risk of stillbirth doubles after 42 weeks of pregnancy and they are right, but the overall probability is really low. As such, I chose to let Frankie come naturally because the risks of induction seemed greater and more troublesome than the risk of him being stillborn.

3. I couldn’t let Frankie cry it out. For the first 3 months, we wore Frankie in a baby wrap and walked until he fell asleep. We did this because until 3 months of age, babies aren’t capable of self-soothing. At 4 months, we tried full-out extinction (a.k.a. "Cry It Out") for a week. It seemed to be working. Then, at 5 months he started pulling himself to stand and it quit working. For a week he cried for 20-60 minutes before each nap. Then, we switched to Ferberizing him. For 2 weeks he cried for an hour or more before each nap. Thus, Ferberizing didn’t work with my extremely persistent, terrible napper. At this point, he was approaching the age at which babies begin to form attachments, and the only time he cried all day or night was when we put him down for naps. Thus, I didn’t feel that we were being generally available and responsive and began to worry that my son might form an insecure attachment because of the sleep training (I do not feel that crying it out or Ferberizing leads to insecurely attached kids. In fact, I would largely expect it to have no effect on attachment for most babies, but for our baby, it seemed possible.), so we used a no-tears method of sleep training (put down in crib, respond and comfort when he cries, put back down, repeat until asleep) so he understands that we are available and responsive to his needs, but we’re serious about him taking his effing nap. Now, at almost 7 months, he takes between 30 seconds and 40 minutes to fall asleep, but he's not screaming is face off alone for an hour and I'm not wracked with guilt. Also worth noting here is that some people have thought I'm a bad mommy for sleep training at all.

4. I never gave Frankie formula. I’ve been asked a bajillion times whether Frankie was getting enough milk. This line of questioning usually comes from people who still believe that a fat baby is a healthy baby. It's now become abundantly clear that fat babies are more likely to be fat kids and fat adults. He's not fat, which may be why people ask if he's getting enough milk, but does he look malnourished? Again, if I had chosen to give him formula, people would have lit their torches for that choice as well.

Frankie, not fat, but certainly not malnourished despite eating only breast milk as of this photo.
5. I’ve never sterilized anything. I also don’t wipe off the shopping cart. I’ve washed things off when necessary but I’m not about to waste my time sterilizing things, especially when there’s good evidence that keeping things too clean may lead to allergies and asthma.  

6. I don’t give Frankie a bath every day. He gets cleaned as needed (roughly every other day). I’ve also never used soap, shampoo, or lotion on him. We clean and moisturize him by rubbing him with coconut oil and either putting him in the shower with us or letting him play in the bath. He doesn’t smell and he’s perfectly clean. In fact, he smells like a baby, which is delicious.

7. I didn’t find out the sex of my fetus. Some people were utterly confused. How could people possibly start sex-typing my baby if they didn’t know the sex? Should they buy blue or pink stuff? Should they assume the baby is strong and emotionally-distant or caring and bad at math? I’m trying to keep the sex-typing to a minimum here because it’s linked to better social and emotional outcomes like higher self-esteem, greater creativity, and better adjustment. Noteworthy here too is that if I had wanted to know the sex of my fetus, there would have been haters on that front as well.

8. I didn’t “baby-proof” my house. I’m trying this new parenting technique my husband and I created that we call "Watch The Baby". Here’s how I do it (I’m giving this parenting advice away for free!): All of my outlets are tamper proof and I shut the door to the basement. Otherwise, wherever the baby is, so is a responsible adult who makes sure he doesn’t cut his finger off or put his head in the oven.

9. I didn’t start Frankie on solids at 4 months. I also didn’t start him on rice or some other cereal. I started him on avocado. We’re also avoiding fruits for as long as possible. Babies don’t need solids until they’re a year old if you breastfeed. Plus, the new recommendations are to wait until 6 months to feed solids for lots of good reasons.

10. I drink alcohol and breastfeed. People get all up in arms over drinking and breastfeeding because there is a lot of misunderstanding of what doctors actually say and how and how much alcohol gets into breast milk. Doctor's recommendations basically say if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. There is also rarely a reason to pump-and-dump because pumping doesn't let you make more milk with less alcohol. People just like to be obnoxious about asking nursing mothers about pumping and dumping because it rhymes and, again, people don't know how alcohol gets into or out of breast milk. The alcohol content of breast milk is parallel to the blood alcohol content of the mother in a 1:1 ratio. Thus, a legally intoxicated mother is producing breast milk that is less than 1/10th of a percent alcohol, which is roughly equivalent to that which naturally occurs in fruit juice and waaaay less than what's in kefir (fermented milk, like a thin yogurt drink). In addition, the research on whether alcohol consumption while breastfeeding is linked to developmental problems in children is really sparse and has failed to be replicated. Thus, my knowledge of how and how much alcohol gets into breast milk combined with not enough research evidence to make me worried about it's effects has resulted in me drinking like a normal, functioning adult who is not concerned with whether or not I should breastfeed.

In the end, I’ve learned that even if you have a PhD in child development, people will think that you’re a bad parent.


  1. Funny - and to your point, I get the judge/side-eye for:

    1. Formula-feeding my little big man since basically week 1 (best decision I made in parenting so far)
    2. Straight up sleep training that sweetling (went from gentle to cry it out, took 3ish-4ish months to complete, mostly at gentle cycle)
    3. Started him on solids at 4 months
    4. Leave him to do his thing while he plays (unless he wants us there)

    Also, big high-five from another member of the 42 week club. We managed to go 42 weeks, 1 day, before he evicted himself.

    1. We make complicated decisions that are the best for our family and it doesn't matter--we just can't win.