Not all parenting advice is actually helpful. When you’re a new parent, it seems like everyone—your own parents, your in-laws, your neighbors, and even the random person at the grocery store—is lining up to give you advice on how to best raise your newborn.
Sure, it takes a village to raise a child, but not everyone’s advice is actually worth heeding. Let’s talk about three common parenting “tips” that you don’t actually have to follow to raise a healthy child.
You have to breastfeed your baby
There are countless studies out there that talk about how breastfeeding is the best option for newborns. Not only can breastfeeding help defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect the child against chronic illnesses since a number of antibodies and other germ-fighting factors pass from the mother to child, it’s also a free food source and can help new mothers bond with their newborn.
But while there are a lot of reasons to choose breastfeeding, there are just as many valid reasons to choose using formula. For some mothers, breastfeeding can be extremely uncomfortable, they can have problems getting their child to latch on, or they’re unable to produce enough milk for the child. Even the mother’s daily schedule can make it hard to find time to sit down for frequent breastfeeding. Using formula is much more convenient, it’s easier, and it's something your spouse can also help with during those dreaded 4am feedings.
The decision on how to feed your child is extremely personal, but that doesn’t stop others from judging your choice nevertheless. You shouldn’t feel bad about choosing to use formula instead of breastfeeding. It’s an extremely personal choice that is yours alone to make. Your child will be healthy and get the proper nutrients whether you breastfeed or use formula.
You shouldn’t vaccinate your children
There are a lot of dangerous myths about vaccines circulating on the internet and within parenting circles. The idea that vaccines aren’t safe for your child isn’t just untrue—it’s dangerous and puts their life at risk.
Some parents are worried that their child could get the disease from the shot itself. That’s a valid concern, since technically a vaccine does hold the actual virus. But vaccines are made from bacteria or viruses that have either been killed or weakened, making the danger to your child miniscule. There’s an extremely small chance your child may have a negative reaction to the shot, but the reaction will be less severe than if they actually got the disease.
As a parent, you’re responsible for your child’s health. While anti-vax parents are just as concerned for their child’s health as you are for your child, this is one parenting tip that you should simply ignore should they suggest skipping out on the flu shot or other vaccines. Following the recommendations of doctors everywhere to vaccinate your child will keep both them (and children around them) safe from life-threatening diseases. Just like everything in life, getting a vaccine isn’t 100 percent risk free. But the small risk of your child having a serious reaction or complication from the vaccine is outweighed by the massive health benefits.
Everything should be sanitized
When you have your first child, you tend to take every precaution to keep them germ-free. You wipe down every single surface, spray every toy with disinfectant, and are always stocked with hand sanitizer. But are you really keeping your child healthy by keeping them away from germs? Probably not—in fact, you may be making it easier for them to get sick later in life.
There’s an interesting idea called the “hygiene hypothesis”. The hypothesis is centered on the idea that some exposure to germs and microorganisms when someone is a child will help them boost their immune system and limit illnesses as they grow up. So when parents clean every surface and object their kid comes in contact with, their child’s body won’t know how to protect itself from it later on. Exposing your kid to microorganism and a little dirt here and there probably make them sick, and will actually help their body learn how to fight the more harmful germs.
Many studies have shown that exposing infants to germs can offer them increased protection from illnesses like allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disease when they’re adults. For example, people who grew up on farms and in rural communities have shown lower rates of allergies since their body has been accustomed to those irritants since they were born. That doesn’t mean you should expose your child to potentially harmful diseases, but a little dirt here and there might actually be good for them in the long run.
Hi there, I'm Molly! I am a business owner and devoted mother to two boys, Lukas and Henry, and wife to my husband, Erik.