Is Something Wrong with My Baby?
During the first year of life, there are all sorts of milestones and accomplishments that our children are supposed to meet. Every book you read and your routine well visits at the doctor’s office monitor everything from the sounds they make to their motor skills, progress, and even head size. Then they are ranked in percentiles seemingly similar to being graded on their achievement. Worse, mothers everywhere boast about how their baby crawled at 5 months and was walking by 8 months, making those of us who are still toting our 12 month old around because they have no desire to walk on their own, feeling like maybe, something is wrong with our baby.
Truth be told, there are no two babies alike! While certain milestones have been set up to gauge progress, it really is nothing more than a general rule of thumb. Just because your baby is not sleeping through the night at the 3-month mark doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with him or her. If your baby doesn’t seem that thrilled about eating mashed up carrots at 4 months, who can blame them? If they would rather roll around on the floor or scoot like a crab instead of crawling, who’s to say their way isn’t just more effective. After all, hard wood floors and knees are two things that in my book don’t go together anyway. The point is, however normal it is to wonder what is wrong with your baby, chances are he or she is doing exactly what they should be doing. Just because it doesn’t fit perfectly into what you have read in your “The First Year” book or have a place on the handouts from your doctor’s office doesn’t mean that he or she is a freak of nature.
When people become parents, they suddenly turn into competitive and cynical people when it comes to other people’s children. The my kid is better than your kid skit starts early on, and comparing our babies is one of those things that should be avoided at all costs. Just because one baby does everything ahead of or ‘by the book’ doesn’t mean that the baby who doesn’t is behind. Personality plays a large part in how babies will respond to their environment. As they get older, this becomes even more evident.
You will undoubtedly find that family members or friends who had babies before you will always seem to throw in their ten cents about what they think your baby should be doing. Then they will go into long drawn out explanations of all the ingenious things that their baby did at that age. It is hard to decipher whether this is well-intended advice or something else, but your best bet is to avoid worrying about it. Your baby will be just fine. There is also something to be said for enjoying the now and relishing in the place that your baby is. So many parents begin pushing babies at such a young age to do and accomplish things that are beyond their years, when part of the beauty of this age is just allowing them to be as they are. So what if they aren’t walking yet? This makes shopping trips easier for you and keeps you from having to buy expensive shoes! If your little angel loves her/his bottle at 10 months and is showing no sign of giving it up, what really is the harm of letting them have it? Isn’t being a baby about being coddled and loved to extremes? The time for discipline and rules is vastly approaching; babyhood should be free of them.
You can take it from a mother of four who had four children with very different ideas of what they were supposed to be doing in the first year. While one was potty trained at 12 months, another waited until they were three. While one nursed for 6 months and quit, the other nursed to three years old. While one walked at 8 months, another waited until they were 16 months to take their first steps. When I would compare their weights, heights, and head circumference, I became worried about my third child who had the head of a caveman. They all decided to talk at different times and even had bouts of stuttering that had my family trying to get me to take them to a specialist. Turns out all four of them were okay in the end, and each of them did their own thing in due time according to their own schedule. My lying awake at night wondering if they were ‘normal’ was all wasted time I could have been sleeping.
The bottom line is that it is normal to wonder from time to time whether or not your baby is normal. It is normal to compare them to others, and it is normal to be fearful that something might be wrong with them. However, most of the time, all of that worry is inconsequential. Babies go from one phase to the next and are rarely intimidated by what is ‘expected’ of them. That is how it should be. The advice for parents is to enjoy the baby you have right now, and deal with the next phase when it gets here. Before long, you will look back and realize that when it comes to the first year, everything goes by too quickly and that the word ‘normal’ rarely fits into the plan!