Lies the baby books told me

Before Little Boy was born, I read: three books on pregnancy, one book about birth, one book about baby sleep, two books on general baby care (à la What to Expect the First Year), and countless online resources about all of it.  This was perhaps a little excessive.  The biggest thing I learned from this reading spree was that you can know every available detail on how to take care of a baby and still have absolutely no idea what to actually do with your baby.

Some of the information in the baby care books was helpful, some of it was clearly inapplicable to my kid, and some of it was just bizarre (do some hospitals really give you dry gauze pads instead of baby wipes?).  And then there were these:


“A breastfed baby’s poop smells sweet [or at least not bad].”  If by “sweet,” you mean “like a dozen rotten eggs,” then yes, I guess the poop of a breastfed baby does smell sweet.  (See also: “Breastfed babies don’t need to be burped as much.”)


“Your baby will naturally fall into his own schedule.”  Everything I read promised that after the first month or two, if you just kept track of your baby’s feeding and sleeping preferences for a week, his personal schedule would become clear.


To coax Little Boy onto a schedule, we had to:

  • Wake him up at the same time every morning.
  • Wake him from naps to make sure he ate enough during the day.
  • Deliberately aim to begin the bedtime routine around the same time every night.
  • Wait until he was nearly 5 months old and consistently able to nap longer than 45 minutes at a time.


“Newborns spend some of their time in a ‘quiet alert’ state.”  Is this the “I’m bored but I’m too little to be entertained by anything you do and I’m not tired so I’m just going to fuss until I get hungry again” state?  No?


“You don’t need to change your baby’s diaper at every nighttime feeding.”  I suppose this is theoretically true if your kid doesn’t consider every middle-of-the-night meal the perfect opportunity to poop.


“One pumping session with a double electric breast pump takes 10-15 minutes.”  Yeah, I wish.  Thank goodness I can work while I pump.


I can’t wait to see what gems the toddler care books have in store for us.  “Potty training is easy,” perhaps?

14 thoughts on “Lies the baby books told me

  1. I’ve heard every one of those lies and apparently so has LB because not one of them were true for us either! That poop is STINKY!

    And not changing at every feeding? Hahhahaha … sure. When your kid screeches hysterically day and night the second the diaper is ABOUT TO BE soiled, I’d like to see you not change that diaper when it’s got a smear on it. SMH. They really ought to append caveats to all of those.


    • Ha! I mean, all the books have some vague disclaimers about how “every baby is an individual,” but then they make some fairly confident statements about this stuff.


    • I deliberately tried to go for books that seemed to have minimal agendas, and they were helpful as references (for stuff like “this is when you need to call the doctor” and “lots of newborn have mild rashes, don’t freak out”). So I’ll keep them for that.

      But yes, I’ve read that post of yours before and agree very strongly with the “there are a zillion ways to raise a child” sentiment. However, I take issue with the implication that AP has an exclusive claim to trusting your instincts and adapting to your kid’s needs.


    • … except that some of my instincts are things that Dr. Sears strongly disagrees with. So it’s more of a “trust your instincts, but only if you have the right ones.”


      • In The Baby Book he specifically says that if cribs work for your family to do cribs (in fact, his first few babies spent their babyhood not cosleeping without any ill effects), if bottle feeding is what works, do that, and so on. So no, it isn’t trust your instincts but only if you have the right ones. He doesn’t mention child abuse, but I assume he’s against that.


      • I’m not sure what you’re trying to say with that last sentence, but I like reading your blog too much to let this get really angry. Some people consider Ferber child abuse; I don’t think Sears goes that far, but he’s pretty strongly anti-cry-it-out in any form. The Attachment Parenting Book says that parents “who like order and predictability in their lives” provide a “low standard of care.” Now, we both agree that a Babywise-style approach is an unacceptable extreme, but having a predictable schedule saved everyone’s sanity in my house and I wish we’d started working toward one sooner.


      • In The Baby Book he says (in a big highlighted box), “Before trying any sleep-inducing program, you be the judge. Run these schemes through your inner sensitivity scale. Weigh the pros and cons. Select what best fits your own family situation and seems right to you, eventually arriving at your own method.” (p.319).

        On p320, he discusses how to get your baby on a schedule using routines and rituals and some other useful tricks. He even recommends consistent naptimes and bedtimes and discusses how to do them (which we did not do).

        With regards to CIO, he mentions not to do it before 6 months which is what Ferber and all other CIO experts who aren’t crackpots also say (he also notes that he will not be giving instructions on how to do it).

        The whole section basically gives permission to listen to instincts and to ignore what the baby books say. “Many of the following sleep-conditioning tips would be absolutely forbidden in the teach-your-baby-to-sleep-on-his-own-books.”

        I know the women on and some of the crazy people who live on the coasts turn AP into a list of “you must do this or you’re a bad mother” but it isn’t. It really is just pushing back against the kind of parenting that most people still say everyone must do where I live and in places like where I live, and that permission to listen to your instincts rather than to do what your mother-in-law or best friend (or worse, terrible pediatrician) tells you is a revelation. There are still a lot of women out there who believe that if they don’t CIO their newborn that they are bad mothers even though it hurts them to hear their newborn infant cry. Recently one of the secretaries in my department complained about how her nanny is spoiling her new baby by *picking her up* when she cries. Sears says it’s ok to pick up a crying baby if that’s what feels right. Yes, that sounds like it should be common sense, but it isn’t.


      • I’ll stand corrected on what The Baby Book says, although that hardly sounds accepting of any CIO to me. (Also, Ferber and Weissbluth say 4 months, not 6.) I guess if parents need permission to pick up their crying babies and Sears gives it to them, that’s a good thing. But we didn’t do Ferber because someone told us our kid needed to learn how to sleep on his own, we did it because it was the right thing for our kid. But I’ve yet to encounter anyone other than you who would consider that falling under the AP banner.


      • I’m taking back what I said about standing corrected, because I’m looking at a copy of The Baby Book (2013 ed.), and it says (p.354), “We wish to put the cry-it-out approach to sleep – forever.” Sure, he tries to soften it a few paragraphs later with, “We are not saying that the cry-it-out approach is always wrong” – but then spends 7 pages telling you that it’s a bad idea. So I stand by my earlier statement: some of my instincts are things that Dr. Sears strongly disagrees with.


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