Misconceptions about “normal” baby behaviours

Photography:Poppy Peterson Photography

By Taylor Kulik

If I have learned anything since becoming a mother, it’s that there is SO much information available to us about what our babies should or shouldn’t be doing, but the majority of it is just not very accurate or realistic. I think this is a major contributor to our maternal mental health issues. When we are misinformed about normal infant development, we develop unrealistic expectations. When our baby does not meet those expectations, we are left thinking there must be something wrong with us or our baby. It’s important to educate mothers about normal infant development patterns, and so I created the following brief list of some common misconceptions. Note: This is NOT a judgement call on anyone for parenting differently, and if your baby doesn’t do some of these things, that can be normal, too!

The point is that there is a wide range of “normal” for babies, and it’s important to have accurate information to make informed parenting decisions.

It can be NORMAL for a newborn to cry when not being held. 

Babies are comforted by physical touch and warmth, especially by their mother. There are so many benefits to holding your newborn, including bonding, physiological regulation, and prevention of plagiocephaly. Baby-wearing is a great hands-free way to get things done that allows many of the same benefits.

It’s NORMAL for babies to nurse on demand and frequently, not only every 3-4 hours. 

Babies have tiny tummies, and breastmilk is digested quickly, both of which result in the need for breastfed babies to be fed often. Frequent nursing also helps to establish milk supply. Formula-fed babies usually eat a larger quantity at a time and less often than breastfed babies.

It’s NORMAL for babies (and mama) to fall asleep while nursing. 

Nursing to sleep is not a bad habit that needs to be prevented. It is a physiological, normal response resulting from the hormones that are released during nursing.

It’s NORMAL for babies to nurse for comfort. 

You are not being used as a pacifier, mama. You are the original pacifier. Babies nurse for many reasons, including nutrition, comfort, pain relief, and bonding with mum.

It’s NORMAL for babies to breastfeed past 1 year. 

Our society’s description of this, “extended breastfeeding”, is not very accurate. The biological normal age of weaning appears to be somewhere between 2.5 and 7 years.

Breastmilk does not lose it’s nutritional value after 1 year, and in fact, it continues to be a perfect, nutritious snack into toddlerhood.

It’s NORMAL for babies to not adhere to our modern schedules very well. 

Babies are biological creatures. They feed, sleep, and poop when and where they need to. Trying to force them into rigid schedules can create additional stress. 

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