For every new baby born to a new mom, there are a couple dozen opinions from well-meaning family and friends that are offered generously, free of charge. Expert baby books provide vastly different viewpoints yet claim to have the science-backed secret key to baby-whispering and perfect Zen motherhood to boot. All of these discordant voices—coupled with the often-incomplete information new mothers receive in the doctor's office, as well as the wildly varied information from the internet—means that new mothers often find themselves at odds with each other when it comes to how they care for the baby.
In the first month of life, newborns are still adjusting to a world which is very different than the womb. They're learning to regulate temperature, how to eat and how to assimilate a vast array of information through their senses of sight, hearing and touch. New moms are navigating an entirely new world of caring for a totally dependent human being at the same time they are adjusting to changes in their own systems and a new and complex societal role. Whether on online forums, in mommy-groups, or amongst friends with babies of similar ages, new moms sometimes find themselves getting into disagreements with other new moms over the best or safest way to care for the baby.
Here, we've lined up 20 things that new moms often disagree with each other about, compared to how doctors actually come down on the issue.
20 Let Sleeping Babies Lie
A clear line has been drawn between the two camps on this one: some moms follow the feeding frequency guidelines to the letter, while other moms are only interested in baby-led feeding schedules. Close examination of official advice when it comes to feeding a newborn is a bit more nuanced. The first couple of weeks are crucial, whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
What experts say is that whether mom should wake up the baby to feed her really has to be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Premature babies and babies with latching difficulties may need to be awoken, because they may not reliably indicate hunger cues to mom.
19 What's The Meal Frequency, Baby?
Some of the conflict when it comes to how often a newborn should eat is derived from how both pediatricians and new moms interpret the feeding guidelines given by pediatric experts.
Most guidelines suggest that newborns eat between eight and twelve times a day, or every two to three hours, as per Healthy Children. Some moms throw this out the window and just watch babies for cues.
Doctors say this is usually fine for healthy, full-term babies, but premature babies aren't as good at indicating hunger via facial cues or cries. What experts want to emphasize is that these are guidelines, not rules carved in stone.
18 First Bath Brouhaha
Baby's first bath is one of those controversies that continues because while official recommendations have changed, old habits live on not just in the advice new moms get from family, but also in the standard procedures still practiced by many hospitals. The official stance of the World Health Organization (WHO) and adopted by a number of hospitals is to delay a newborn's first bath, according to Children's MD.
It's still common for hospitals and new moms to follow the protocol of immediately bathing the newborn and frequently sponge bathing him every couple of days after, but emerging research is indicating that delaying bathing and fewer baths are actually healthier.
17 The Immunization Schedule
The debate between new moms on how or whether to immunize has grown bitter and contentious. Many moms are concerned about the heavy metals and dangerous adjuvants present in vaccines that are encouraged in just the first hour of life and continue throughout their most precious developmental years. Other moms are adamantly pro-vaccine.
At this time, every major health organization supports providing vaccines to newborns, although some are beginning to caution that additional research is sorely needed.
A newborn will receive at least one vaccine before ever leaving the hospital and gets up to six more vaccines in the next month or two, as per the Centers For Disease Control (CDC).
16 The Value Of Vitamin Drops
Despite the fact that human babies have breastfed for hundreds of thousands of years and grown up to become healthy adults, it is the recommendation of most national and international health organizations that babies receive certain vitamins beginning immediately after delivery and continuing throughout the first year depending on their diet, as per Healthy Children. Many moms feel the vitamin drops are at best a nuisance and at worst a possible health risk.
But the AAP feels that the risk that vitamin D and iron supplements pose to breastfed babies is outweighed by the benefit of preventing rare but serious developmental complications and diseases in newborns.
The research is divided on both sides.
15 Assume The Sleep Position
The biggest problem with the sleep position debate is that official recommendations have changed several times in the last several generations, so that grandma, mom and daughter have all heard different recommendations as to the best sleep position for baby.
At this time, both doctors and researchers are in agreement that newborns should be placed on their backs to sleep, never on their sides or tummy.
This is in order to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related fatalities, according to the AAP. Placing the baby on her back has been the recommended position for some time now, but opinions persist about what is best or most comfortable for baby.
14 Analgesic Intervention
Moms often fall into two camps on the pain issue in newborns because doctors have only recently changed guidelines. Doctors once asserted that newborn brains couldn't process pain the way that older infants can. Newborns can and do feel pain, even though they cannot express it, according to Harvard Medical School.
Despite the mounting research regarding pain in newborns, doctors still don't recommend giving analgesics to newborn under 12 weeks of age as the first line of defense.
Doctors say that parents should look at other soothing techniques, such as holding or stroking baby, nursing and swaddling and even administering doses of sucrose, or sugar.
13 Pacifier Impasse
New moms must feel their heads spinning from all the reversals regarding SIDS and best prevention techniques. Just a few years ago, experts warned against promoting dependency on a pacifier, citing the potential for confusion and even eventual dental complications in babies who were given a pacifier as a newborn. Now, current data supports the use of pacifiers with newborns in reducing the risk of SIDS, as per AAP Journal. Researchers have found a clear link but have as yet been unable to identify why. The current guidelines are to give a newborn who is either bottle feeding or has established a healthy breastfeeding routine a pacifier for naptime and bedtime.
12 Look But Don't Touch Baby
Newborn babies are often bringers of great joy, not just to mom but to extended family and friends. Some moms let baby get passed around to whoever wants to cuddle him, while others literally invest in “Don't Touch” signs. While doctors recognize it's difficult not to touch an adorable baby, a hands-off approach could be safest while baby's immune system is still booting up, according to Dr. Gilgoff. Reminding strangers not to touch a newborn is a good safety precaution, but moms should also ask family and friends to assess their own health to ensure they're not coughing, don't have open sores and are up to date on their vaccines.
11 Breastfeed, Bottle Or Both
More contentious than the vaccine question is whether mom will try breastfeeding, plans to bottle feed, or will alternate between the two. An added wrinkle is whether the bottle feeding will be pumped breastmilk or formula. Breastmilk is considered the ideal newborn food and breastfeeding is the most beneficial mode of delivery, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, WHO recognizes that there are a number of reasons why mothers might not be able to provide breastmilk. Formulas can provide good nutrition when correctly mixed, but cannot provide all the components of breastmilk. WHO recommends at least attempting breastfeeding if possible, as any amount is considered beneficial to baby.
10 Circling Around snipping
It's understandable why new moms are divided on the issue of male circumcision when the experts continue to argue over its need and efficacy. Circumcision of the foreskin in newborns is a procedure that is often done before the baby is sent home from the hospital. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) still asserts circumcision can reduce the risk for some STI's and reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections, as per Global Health: Science And Practice Journal. However, the benefits are so minimal that the procedure is not universally recommended—and for good reason since the procedure is now considered to be cosmetic in nature and risks the child's life. Still, the CDC's policy is that circumcision should be available along with an explanation of potential risks and benefits. We may see this change in years to come since the percent of couples choosing to have this done to their sons is continuing to decline and around 50/50 now.
9 (Sleep) Location, Location, Location
New moms are all over the map on where to put their newborn down for sleep, and the most difficult thing about it is that many aren't honest about where the baby is really sleeping. Most doctors recommend that baby be put to sleep in a crib or bassinet in the same room that mom is sleeping in, as per Harvard Medical School. While this is the official stance of pediatricians, some researchers have noted in studies that both babies and moms who room-share have more disrupted sleep patterns. At this time, the potential reduction of SIDS that has been noted when moms and babies room-share is driving current recommendations.
8 To Pump Or Not To Pump
Both moms who plan to exclusively breastfeed and moms who plan to give formula sometimes question the need to pump after the baby is born. Some experts recommend that moms try pumping just as they should also try breastfeeding, but others strongly deter pumping before six weeks as it can interfere with their supply. If they aren't successful at first, they may respond better to a different pump or a modified pumping schedule, as per the Mayo Clinic. Moms who breastfeed may have to return to work at some point or might want to let Dad or another caregiver feed the baby, and pumped breastmilk works great. It's important for some to begin the pumping routine in the first month—despite the potential risks.
7 Visiting Hours
Newborns are so sweet, and the family gets so excited about a new arrival that many moms allow or even encourage family and friends to drop by whenever they'd like to ooh and aah over the baby. Other moms close and bar the door to nearly everyone in the first few weeks after arriving home. Doctors generally advise a middle ground, reminding parents that they are ultimately their baby's first and last line of defence against illness, according to Unity Point Health. Even premature infants can receive visitors, but mom should remind her family or friends who are dealing with a cold or flu that they need to wait.
6 Diaper Duty Decisions
In this age, there seems to be an official guideline for just about everything related to babyhood, but on the issue of diapering, most doctor organizations don't have an official stance as to whether cloth or disposable diapers are better for baby. New moms nevertheless disagree strongly as to whether cloth is better than disposable. Doctors advise that parents look at the short- and long-term costs, their own personal views on the environment and other issues such as time constraints and choose whatever works best for their newborn, as per Newport Children's Medical Group. Doctors do note that chemicals in disposable diapers may irritate babies. Some ingredients are known to be linked to cancer and other health problems, too.
5 Equal Breast Time
If the act of nursing is what prompts the breast to produce more milk, then it follows that mom would want to ensure that both breasts are nursed equally. However, this is a lot easier said than done. Many babies don't want or need to nurse from both breasts each time or may nurse from one for a longer period than the other, according to Sutter Health. Moms shouldn't get into disagreements over how long a baby should nurse each side because the baby is usually the best guide, not the clock. A safety pin or other marker can be a helpful reminder of which side last got more attention from the baby.
4 Wear Baby Everywhere
Stroller moms are often at direct odds with baby-wearing moms, and some doctors are beginning to weigh in. More and more doctors are championing babywearing and kangaroo care because of a number of benefits that research has uncovered over the last two decades, according to Children's MD. Baby-wearing promotes skin-to-skin contact, which has been shown to assist in infant brain development. It makes breastfeeding easier, and moms who babywear report bonding better with the baby, which is also backed up by studies showing increased oxytocin production. The only caveat is that mom shouldn't wear the baby if she has an injury or disability that would be compounded by babywearing.
3 Newborn Skin Care Conflict
Newborn skin is so delicate that many moms worry about how to best care for it. Some moms insist on baby washes and lotions daily, while others claim that only water should touch the baby's skin—and not very often. It turns out, babies do best with a simple routine, as per Johns Hopkins Medicine. Babies don't need a skin care regimen or special oils and creams unless they have a diagnosed skin condition like eczema, which is linked to damage in the gut/immune system. If Mama does want to apply a little lotion, doctors recommend hypoallergenic and fragrance-free lotions with simple ingredients. Doctors also advise that Mom should use protective physical barriers like hats and clothing to protect from excessive sunlight.
2 The Caregiver Conundrum
Some new moms firmly believe that the first month of baby's life is a time for Mom and Dad to be the only caregivers. Other moms may not have that luxury and may need caregivers to step into the gap. Grandma and grandpa are often the first and most trusted family members to step in as caregivers for a new baby, but this might not be the safest option, explains Akron Children's Hospital. What was considered safe or beneficial for baby has changed a lot in recent years as research continues, and grandparents might refer to outdated information when placing a baby to sleep on his stomach, for example.
1 Breastfeed To Sleep Battle
Moms are usually told by their doctors not to let the baby fall asleep while nursing because it's ideal for baby to go down for a nap “drowsy but aware,” according to Rady Children's Hospital. Other moms find that this idea is better in theory than in practice, and they either aren't successful or they find that they themselves actually prefer nursing baby to sleep despite worries that she'll never learn to sleep on her own. These moms don't actually have to worry. Many psychologists say that letting the baby fall asleep at the breast will strengthen the bond between mom and baby but won't create that feared dependency, as per Psychology Today.
References: Mayo Clinic, Healthy Children, Children's MD, Centers For Disease Control, Healthy Children, AAP, Harvard Medical School, AAP Journal, Dr. Gilgoff, World Health Organization, Global Health: Science And Practice Journal, Harvard Medical School, Mayo Clinic, Unity Point Health, Newport Children's Medical Group, Sutter Health, Children's MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Akron Children's Hospital, Rady Children's Hospital, Psychology Today