Why I hate the phrase “good baby”

22 Jan

I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot recently. I know many people (including my mum) who use this as the highest form of praise for a small infant…and it annoys me so much it makes my teeth itch! A “good baby” is one who makes as little impact on the adults in her life as possible – going for hours between feeds from birth, sleeping through the night from a magically young age, not making a peep when she’s in her cot/pram/recliner.

Don’t get me wrong, my mum loves children, babies in particular (good thing, as she had 6 of her own!), and I know she’s just trying to be nice. Especially as she experienced all sorts of baby personalities in her own brood.

But there are many reasons why the phrase “good baby” annoys me…

Perhaps most importantly, I think it contributes to our society’s poor understanding of normal infant behaviour.

So you’ll get strangers telling you you’re spoiling your infant if you carry them (the first time this happened to me a perfect stranger told me I was spoiling my 4 week old son for carrying him in a sling – she said “why isn’t he in his pram? He’ll never sleep properly if he’s not in his pram” and I was actually too surprised to answer, how on earth was it her business?).

Or you’ll be met with horror if you admit to breastfeeding your baby to sleep – you’re making a rod for your own back! He’ll never self-settle! Are you mad?!?

Breastfeeding in particular is undermined by this mythical “good baby”. Breastmilk is so easily digestible, and babies’ tummies are so tiny, that breastfed babies are just not designed to go for hours between feeds (which makes breastfed babies more “challenging” apparently, though it’s more a case of the “good baby” myth rearing its head!). So having to feed just an hour after the last feed ended does not mean you have an excessively hungry baby, it does not mean you’re not producing enough milk (though your baby may be helping your body produce more milk by going through a growth spurt). Crucially, it does not mean you’re failing your baby in any way.

But where my real hatred of the phrase lies is that the flip side of good is bad. To say that this baby is good implies that that baby is bad. And I just cannot accept that any babies are bad. How can it be bad to have your needs for love, food, comfort, company met by crying? Why is wanting to be carried or in physical contact with your parents a bad thing? Why can’t more of us just accept that babies are babies and will behave like babies? It may mean less stressed out parents trying to raise some sort of textbook “good baby”.


8 Responses to “Why I hate the phrase “good baby””

  1. stitch this January 23, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Couldn’t agree more. Bad baby indeed. Snort.

    • lowimpactmama January 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Snort…now there’s a verb I need to use more often 🙂

  2. A Frog at Large January 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    What you said. My pet peeve is ‘my 4 week old is so good, he’s sleeping through the night!’ as I listen in horror and consider calling the doctor on their behalf…

    • lowimpactmama January 23, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

      With all this French Children Don’t Throw Food stuff floating around, I wonder are you getting loads of people asking for your Gallic magic in making their babies become “good” 😉

  3. Rach January 24, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    You said it sister! People seem to have hugely unrealistic expectations of babies. And this makes it so hard on parents. The values associated with all this are so wrong too.

    • lowimpactmama January 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      Totally agree that the values of it are all off.

  4. Jennifer February 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    People always seemed to mean ‘do they sleep well’ when I was asked if they were good babies. They didn’t (still don’t!), but I hated labelling them as bad because they didn’t. I also felt the whole ‘rod for own back’ thing with feeding/rocking babies to sleep. I tended to just say ‘well, he/she’s hard work, but then all babies are!’

    • lowimpactmama February 11, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

      Very true! I just wish we could all accept that babies and children aren’t designed to sleep for some sort of magical 12 hours, then maybe we could be honest about sleeping without having to get into “bad/good” labels…

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