5 Parenting Tips From My Mother-In-Law That I Couldn't Follow
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5 Parenting Tips From My Mother-In-Law That I Couldn’t Follow

My mother-in-law was an amazing source of parenting knowledge for us, but there were just some things I couldn't get behind. Read more.

Published November 6, 2018 Opinion

My partner’s mom was a wonderful woman. She was very supportive of our little family, and she was a loving grandma. As a daycare provider for many years, my mother-in-law was also the closest thing to an expert on kids in my small circle.

We got along great, unlike many women do with their mothers-in-law. And unlike many new moms, I didn’t clash with her when it came to parenting my baby boy. I never felt disrespected by her. Not even in terms of parenting. Maybe that’s why I never felt compelled to object to any of the well-meaning advice she gave me!

My mother-in-law doled out the tips, and I was happy to take them. Usually, there were times I had to look the other way and do my own thing, though. Here’s some of the stuff I just couldn’t stick with.

1. Don’t Rock Your Baby To Sleep

My partner and I were visiting his mom for the first time since we found out I was pregnant. We didn’t see her often since we lived six hours apart.

At one point during that visit, we talked about some baby basics. Both bewildered and excited, I asked what her number one bit of advice for me was. She didn’t hesitate before saying, “Never rock your baby to sleep. You’ll regret it.”

If I wasn’t confused before, that one did me in for sure. Isn’t that what rocking chairs are for? Isn’t that what those cute little baby swings are for?

Before my baby was born, I gave her the benefit of the doubt on that one. My mother-in-law never said not to comfort the baby by rocking him, just not to let him fall asleep like that. I had a fancy new rocking glider for breastfeeding that she practically insisted on, after all.

She said rocking a baby to sleep would ruin his self-soothing abilities and “spoil him” into wanting to be held all the time. But once that little bundle was born, I listened to my heart and instincts; consequences be damned. Every breastfeeding session ended in me rocking him to sleep in our new glider. And you know what? I did that as much for myself as for him. That bonding time was precisely what we needed. So peaceful and soothing, those special moments relieved any stress I was dealing with.

Yes, it took a bit longer for my son to learn to sleep on his own. But it was so worth it. I’m not a proponent of the cry-it-out method anyway, so I spent as much time as I needed to for him to feel comfortable enough to sleep.

I don’t believe babies can be spoiled. If they cry or fuss, they do so for a reason. Mommy’s comforting touch, coupled with a soothing motion, is reason enough in my book.

s2. Don’t Room-Share

My partner’s mom gave me another piece of advice along the lines of sleep: A baby should sleep exclusively in his nursery. Don’t co-sleep or room-share.

She helped us set up a beautiful nursery, complete with brand new furniture and fun crib accessories. But the baby never slept a full night in there. Not once. He never slept there unless I put him down for a quick nap as I escaped into a good book in the next room.

Truthfully, I understood and agreed with the no co-sleeping rule, and I was concerned about the dangers of bed-sharing.

However, we lived in a loft-style apartment at the time, which meant that our bedroom was upstairs and separated from all other rooms. There was no way I felt comfortable leaving a baby to sleep in a downstairs room while I attempted to sleep upstairs. When I told my partner’s mom why we set up the baby’s bassinet in our room, she understood but tried to convince me to put him back in his nursery. She was confident that he’d be okay, and I had a baby monitor after all.

A baby monitor wasn’t going to soothe anyone back to sleep after a wet diaper, though, and it couldn’t do CPR. My instincts told me that I needed my baby nearby, so that’s where he stayed until we moved to our new house.

3. Just Heat The Formula Up In The Microwave

Once when she visited us, my partner’s mom watched me use a bottle warmer.

“Why don’t you just heat the formula in the microwave?” she asked.

I didn’t realize people still did this. I thought it was a well-known fact that formula shouldn’t be warmed in the microwave.1 Microwaves create pockets of hot air bubbles that could burn baby’s tongue while drinking. Even if the bottle seems to be at a safe feeding temperature, the small hot spots can hurt baby’s mouth and throat.

I was surprised that a daycare provider of many years didn’t know the up-to-date info on how to warm a bottle safely. But everyone does childcare slightly differently, I suppose. According to a certain mindset, what was accurate in the 70s and 80s should also be suitable for today’s babies.

I, personally, prefer to follow the latest recommendations. Maybe that makes me a little uptight as a mom, but I figure that the data wouldn’t be updated if the new information wasn’t necessary.

4. Start With The Sweet Baby Food

My mother-in-law was a proponent of baby-led weaning in some form. Although she didn’t call it by name, she promoted feeding regular food to a baby as soon as they could manage more than milk.

She urged me to feed baby whatever I was eating. But before this, my partner’s mom gave me some pointers on baby food. She said to start with bananas or a similar pureed food because baby would be more likely to eat it.

After doing some research of my own, I learned that pediatricians dissuade the sweet food first strategy. Babies who are fed sweets from the beginning are more prone to childhood obesity and picky eating habits.

As a result, I fed squash and other vegetables first. I even fed my baby scrambled eggs because some research suggests that limited early exposure to certain foods may reduce the risk of allergies in the future.2 Of course, there is no genetic predisposition to egg allergies on either side of the family, so I felt safe introducing them.

My little guy still has a sweet tooth, as most kids do, but he’ll eat almost anything. He chowed down his broccoli and carrots as soon as he could eat them, and he’ll try anything once. I’m convinced that this is due in part to his first exposure to solids.

5. Get Rid Of Diapers At Two

I don’t fault my partner’s mom for having a specific policy regarding what habits to break and when. She’s taken care of enough kids to know what’s best. Her hard and fast rules were: Get rid of the bottle and pacifier at age one and toss diapers for good at age two. The trouble is, one size doesn’t fit all kids.

I introduced my baby to the potty shortly after he turned one. No pressure; I just let him explore the little toilet and get used to it. He showed some eagerness toward it at first, but it went away for a couple of months.

When his second birthday rolled around, my mother-in-law suggested getting rid of diapers cold turkey. I wasn’t comfortable with potty training in that way. I preferred waiting for signs of readiness, none of which my son was showing at the time. Certain studies show that if children are forced to potty train too early, they might have bed-wetting issues down the line.

We had time. As a work-from-home mom, I planned to have my little guy at home until he started preschool at three-and-a-half. He needed to be potty trained by that point, which I felt confident would happen in due time.

I encouraged him to use the potty, and though he got the hang of going number one by the time he was two-and-a-half, we still used pull-ups in case of emergency. Right around the time he started school, going to the potty full time just seemed to click for him. He was ready. He saw his peers doing it, which I’m sure helped him meet his milestone.

I’m aware that more traditional potty-training methods work for scores of parents. I also know that many kids used the potty sooner than mine. But it’s not a competition. He didn’t inconvenience anyone by taking his time, and we wasted no tears of frustration by forcing a milestone too soon.

Every day I wish my mother-in-law, my son’s grandma, was still around to share in our family and watch her grandson grow up. Unfortunately, she passed away several years ago. To this day, I am full of gratitude for the advice she dispensed, whether I chose to take it or not. The helpful tips and tricks outweighed the less useful ones, and all were given and received with kindness and respect. If every woman were lucky enough to have a mother-in-law as supportive as mine, there would no longer be a need for bad in-law jokes.

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Bernadetta Pracon is a freelance writer and a mom to one little boy. She enjoys coffee, loves dogs, and appreciates her freelance lifestyle. Read more

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