Being a new parent today is no joke! Thanks to all the information available, we have more resources than ever before…which is wonderful, but doesn’t always allow for easy decision-making. From debating sleep philosophies and feeding methods to researching baby gear safety reviews and infant enrichment courses, we have countless options. For most of us, our parents relied on the tried and true advice passed down from their parents…like a few drops of whiskey for a teething baby or rice cereal to get a newborn sleeping better. When I was an infant, my mother slapped honey on a pacifier to keep me from crying. In today’s parenting culture, that would pretty much make her a “mommy and me” outcast and her pediatrician would probably suggest that they start seeing other people. Raising children today is so wildly different than ever before, so I decided to round up some of my favorite new school parenting practices…
1. All Organic, Everything.
Let me be the first to confess, I was raised on the McDonald’s Happy Meal (a four-piece nugget combo with a small fry and, if I was really lucky, a tiny plastic Miss Piggy or Fozzy Bear driving a car). I don’t think I ever consciously chose to eat something organic until after college. But, when my daughter was born, I morphed into a Whole Foods junkie: organic carrots, organic peas, organic quinoa pasta, organic coconut water, organic goat’s milk yogurt…it’s never ending. Unless your parents were really dialed in to the natural food scene, chances are you ate white flour silver dollar pancakes with processed maple syrup and an extra helping of gluten on the side. Nowadays, it’s not just about organic food, it’s organic everything. Look, we all survived infancy without dye-free baby carriers and bamboo onesies, so the organic trend can be a lot of unnecessary hype…but does my daughter sleep on an all-natural, organic mattress pad? She sure does.
2. Baby Got Back (Sleep).
If you were born in 1994 or before, there’s a strong chance that your mom or dad put you to sleep on your stomach. Pediatricians used to actually recommend stomach sleep for newborns. If you put your baby to sleep on his or her stomach today, it’s not going to be long before CPS shows up at your door. OK…maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but the American Association of Pediatrics found that infants who sleep on their stomach have more greatly increased SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) risk and current parenting culture is pretty adamant that we all adhere to these new guidelines. I slept on my stomach throughout infancy and managed to survive, but when my own daughter was born, it wasn’t even a conversation. Home girl was on her back. In general, the topic of newborn sleeping is a much discussed and often controversial subject among parents (crying it out vs. not, sleep training methods, swaddle or no swaddle, the great bumper debate) …and if you’re wondering where other parents stand on particular topics, don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t be long until they tell you.
3. Buckle Up, Buttercup.
Securing your newborn in a car seat sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, you’d be surprised. Most states didn’t begin enforcing infant car seats laws until about 30 years ago (Tennessee was the very first state to pass one in 1978). So if you’re 31 years old or older, chances are you bobbed along on your mom or dad’s lap while running errands…which is totally crazy. Today, car seats are not only safety rated, many experts suggest that parents have infant car seats professionally installed or inspected (it varies by state, but most fire and/or police stations offer installation services). Could you imagine just plopping your baby on the passenger seat and heading to the mall? Luckily, modern car seats aren’t just the best way to protect your little person, they can also be a pretty stylish way to travel (thanks to chic collaborations like Rachel Zoe for Maxi Cosi!)
4. Get Schooled!
Growing up, when I heard the word “Yogi,” I imagined a goofy bear with a propensity for snatching pic-a-nic baskets, but when little people today think of the word “yogi,” they’re more likely to equate it with downward-facing dogs than cartoon forest dwellers. But “Mommy and Me Yoga” is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new age baby classes. From rock and roll music camps, sushi-making courses and “mixed media” art programs to classes in floral design, sign language and origami, we have seemingly limitless opportunities for our little people. While all of this seems a lot more entertaining than just another day at the playground, it does beg the question of how much of this is geared toward the parent instead of the child? Sure, I want to learn to make crepes from scratch, but does my 1-year-old? She eats sand and wears a diaper, so all of that may be a bit out of her wheelhouse.
5. Just Say No (to Electricity).
Being a child of the 1980’s, I was raised on Sesame Street, Duck Tales and Inspector Gadget. It was an easy distraction that gave busy moms and dads a few minutes of freedom. Fifteen years ago, Baby Einstein became a parenting phenomenon proposing that TV watching could be more than just convenient…it could be educational too! Unfortunately, parents today don’t have that same luck. Experts now advise against “screen time” for little ones, suggesting at most about 30 minutes a day of slow movement entertainment if any at all (think: YouTube videos of garbage trucks or farm animals). Most experts also agree that parents should largely avoid providing young children battery-operated toys—despite the rows of double-A fueled paraphernalia lining toy aisles. To hear them tell it, it stunts the imagination. Toys that sing and whistle and move with a press of a button can make playtime too easy for little ones. Instead, parents should offer toys that make children work for their enjoyment, instead of toys that work for the children. (Think: wooden building sets, beeswax crayons and crochet rattles). While I understand the idea in theory and try my best to promote battery-free play at home, I also do almost everything with the help of my iPhone apps. Plus, my daughter knows the entire theme song to Sofia the First, so people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw dye-free building blocks.
What parenting faux pas did I miss?
I would love to hear your thoughts below!
Photos: Leslie Bruce