Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

13 Things You Should Just Let Your Baby Do

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The baby stage is full of advice. Professional advice. Family advice. Friend advice. Bad advice. And even though much of it will be contradictory or impossible to follow, you will try your best. But there are things you should let go of and things you should just let your baby do, advice be damned.

Here's the secret no one will tell you: every baby is different and there's no universally great advice aside from some of the very basic stuff like "feed your baby" and "don't leave your baby unattended for long periods of time." But what different babies respond to, what they will need (again, other than the basics, and what's going to work for you so that you can balance everything and not go loopy is going to vary from person to person.

Finding this balance, however, is really, really hard. Depressingly hard, actually. And it gets harder when you're trying to listen to everyone equally. Eventually, and thankfully, just about every single parent will find a balance that works for them. It may take time, it will almost certainly take help, it may take medication and therapy, and it will also definitely take its toll. But, eventually, you'll find your way.

In the meantime, I know I said you can't listen to all the advice, but here's some of mine when it comes to what you should just let your baby go ahead and do:

Cry

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I'm not advocating that you should necessarily let your baby cry it out, especially not your newborn (research shows a crying infant should be attended). But I'm a big proponent of not rushing to every whimper.

When my kids were infants, I learned pretty quickly that my energy was better spent waiting to see if a cry was actually a real cry. Sometimes an initial cry wouldn't be a, "Hey, parents! I need you!" type of cry, but a "this is literally the only way I can express or process anything in life, regardless of how I actually feel" cry. It would pass in a matter of 30 seconds. I later learned that this concept was described in the book Bringing Up Bébé as "le pause."

Eat When They Want

Some people (and it's generally older people, in my experience) will pressure you to get your child on a feeding schedule as soon as possible. Most experts, however, say that an infant should be fed on demand. When they're hungry they're hungry. When they're not they're, well, not. They know what they're doing and their body is telling them what they need, so just roll with it.

This may get exhausting when they want to eat every two hours for a while, but at least it alleviates the mental load of you having to calculate it and stress about sticking to a set schedule, listen to a hungry baby cry, or try to pressure a not hungry baby to eat.

Sleep

"My baby has been sleeping for seven hours!Is that normal? Is it OK? Should I wake them?"

Never.

Wake.

A.

Sleeping.

Baby.

Seriously. Why are you doing this to yourselves? Unless there are doctor's orders in place to feed them every however many hours (like, if there is a concern about their weight) then just let a sleeping baby sleep, you guys. They're fine! Enjoy it and don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Entertain Themselves

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When I had my son I was extremely worried that he would grow bored. This resulted in me buying a ton of toys he wasn't interested in and feeling guilty when I wasn't interacting with him in some way.

Now I know I was projecting really hard.

It doesn't take all that much to stimulate a baby. Everything is brand new to them, so just sort of taking it in is often enough to entertain them. I'm not saying you should leave them in a crib staring at a wall all day — by all means, you should read to them, sing to them, and play with them, because t's never too early to get started on those things. But you don't have to worry about occupying their every waking moment. (And, sometimes, they just want to chill.)

Wear Comfy Clothes

If you enjoy dressing up your baby like a little doll with a ton of accessories, good for you! The baby certainly doesn't mind and who wouldn't love to see them all gussied up like tiny people? I love it. But please do not feel obligated to dress your baby up. In fact, don't feel obligated dress your baby if it's hot out. My kids, born around Memorial Day and Labor Day, were very often found chilling in just a diaper. My son didn't regularly wear pants in public until he was about 1 (a onesie was good enough for him until then). Children do not need to follow the same social protocols as the rest of us.

Go Barefoot

Until they're walking they really don't need shoes. (If it's cold just put them in warm socks.) Plus, they're going to be outgrowing a new pair of shoes every week. Save that money for diapers or formula or any number of other things you will be spending cash on for the next, like, forever.

Eat What They're Going To Eat

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If your baby is more inclined towards a bottle and formula over breast milk, don't force yourself to try to breastfeed on their behalf. If you're personally determined to breastfeed, by all means keep trying, but remember that fed is best.

Also, don't stress too much about solids in the first year. Most of their nutritional and caloric needs will be supplied through breast milk or formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization but suggest starting supplemental foods around six months old, but if your baby isn't too keen on pureed sweet potatoes right away don't fret! I promise they'll get there (and they're small, so it doesn't take a whole lot to give them what they need).

Live In A Messy House

Look, let's not take our queues from TV shows about homes that are condemned as biohazards, but if your baby lives in a house where you haven't been able to fold laundry in two weeks and you haven't given the toilet a good scrubbing in a while it's going to be OK. The baby stage is really hard and, more often than not, something's gotta give. (In my case it was usually a bunch of somethings.) So if that means you live in less than perfectly ordered, immaculate conditions, that's OK. As long as it's sanitary you're set.

Skip Any Number Of Baby-Specific Products

Why does a baby need "baby washcloths?" How are they different from regular washcloths? Or a wipes warmer? The thing touches their tush for approximately five non-consecutive seconds and unless you're storing them in the refrigerator they're not even cold. Pee pee tee-pee? Just, well, look that one up.

There are some things that individuals might find useful but, on the whole, they're pretty non-essential. Don't feel like you have to get everything marketed to you.

Use A Pacifier

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Look, if you want to forgo a pacifier because you know it will probably be a hard habit to break later on in your child's life then that's just fine. But, again, the baby stage is hard! And a pacifier can be an extremely useful tool in your parenting belt, so don't feel bad about using one.

Besides: I don't know a single adult who uses a pacifier, so clearly it's something that almost always works itself out.

Come Second Every Now & Then

Obviously you always have to provide for your baby's wellbeing, both physically and emotionally. But it's important to realize that, sometimes and after you've established that they're OK, you can take time for yourself. Ultimately it's going to be what's best for your little one, because a happy baby needs happy parents.

Go At Their Own Pace

It's understandable that parents, especially first-time parents, worry about their baby meeting all their milestones when they're supposed to. And there are so many milestones to hit in that first year. But the swathe of normal is so broad. Like, your baby could walk at 8 months or 18 months and both of those are considered within the spectrum of "normal." So if your baby isn't an early bloomer, or even if they're a late bloomer, keep in touch with your pediatrician about your concerns but don't be too concerned.

Be "Spoiled"

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There's no spoiling an infant, and they're not going to be this age for very long. So don't worry about spoiling them with cuddles, snuggles, or holding them. In fact, enjoy it when you can.