Rewriting the Baby Milestones

This post was originally a guest post that I wrote for Hobo Mama in summer of 2011, but with 5 week old Little Sister now in our lives, I’m thinking about this topic once again.

When Baby was born, I experienced every cliche a new mama expects to encounter. I was in love; Baby was the apple of my eye; he completed me. Baby was completely perfect to me in every possible way.

When family members and friends met Baby, they seemed to validate his perfection. He was such a good baby, so nice and calm, so beautiful.

We appreciated these compliments, and of course, we agreed with them, but then I started wondering what these comments actually meant. If Baby screamed for seemingly no reason when someone was visiting, would that make him a bad baby? If he fussed, would he be considered not nice?

I began to realize that when it came to discussion about babies, people were most comfortable inserting them into boxes or categories.

This concept was further highlighted for me when I started receiving emails from various sources that explained all of the milestones Baby should be meeting. While these emails were under the guise of providing necessary and important information for a new parent, they began to feel more like warnings.

If your baby is not doing _________________, contact your health care provider.

Fill in the blank with any of the so-called milestones we’ve all heard so much about.

Introducing Baby to people sometimes felt like an interview. Everyone seemed to be interested in asking the same questions:

Does he sleep through the night?
How wonderful that you’re breastfeeding, but does he take a bottle too?
Does he roll over?
Is he on a feeding and sleeping schedule?

The list goes on and on.

Now that Baby is ten months old, I have some prepared answers for the milestone questions, but it still bothers me that people want to go through a checklist in order to supposedly get to know Baby.

I wish I could rewrite the baby milestones. I would like people to be interested in what I consider to be Baby’s accomplishments:

Baby is loving and affectionate. (Especially when he wakes to nurse in the middle of the night.)
Baby is funny and expressive. (If he wants something, he makes it known, and I don’t consider him to be fussy, colicky, etc.)
Baby is curious and interested in the world around him. (Whether he rolls, crawls, or pulls himself up, what I value is his curiosity.)
Baby eats and sleeps when he needs to. (I trust my baby and my instincts more than a schedule.)

I know that the common compliments and baby milestones all come from a good place. People want to show interest in your child, and milestones can put many parents at ease. Without a parenting manual, a checklist can be comforting for some.

This doesn’t stop me from doing my small part to shift the focus on to getting to know the actual child rather than how a child fits into certain boxes with measurable accomplishments. I know Baby will be judged throughout his entire life based upon accomplishments, but for now, if I can make it happen, I want people to see Baby for who he really is rather than how many milestones he has hit.

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  1. says

    Thank you for writing this! I too wish there were different items on that ubiquitous checklist.

    I have twins, and when they were infants one was more cheerful and interested in people while the other was higher-needs and extremely “mama-centric”. But they were (and still are of course!) both good. Of course they were good, every child is good by simply virtue of being!

  2. says

    Hi Charise,

    I just found you through BlogCompany. Thank you for writing about this – this has always been one of my pet peeves. My mother would always tell me “You were such a good baby. You hardly ever cried.” when I was a kid and I know she meant it as a compliment, but I could tell even then that wasn’t a healthy outlook. I think I was around 14 when she said it again, and I told her that the babies that cried weren’t bad babies, they just needed something. No baby is bad. When I had my daughter, strangers would come up to me in the store and ask me if she was a “good” baby -grrrr! I would usually reply either “All babies are good” or “She’s good when her father and I are good to her”.

    Those baby milestone questions drove me crazy too – especially at the pediatrician’s office. I always checked the box that I “put the baby in the crib drowsy but awake” to avoid getting a lecture – we cosleeped safely and she nursed to sleep every night!
    Gretchen@what arabella did recently posted..Green Butterflies and Twittering Birds!My Profile

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