From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Breaking In Baby

I have a son who began as a baby and has successfully reached the age of three without becoming an ax murderer (as far as we know). In addition, I have spent a number of hours thinking about babies, and I have observed them in other people’s cars at traffic lights. Thus I am eminently qualified to tell you how to bring up your baby. Here is my advice:

Taking Your New Baby Home

There is nothing quite like the moment a young couple leaves the hospital, walking with that characteristic new-parent gait that indicates an obsessive fear of dropping the baby on its head. Finally! It’s just the three of you, on your own!

This independence will last until you get maybe eight feet from the hospital door, where you’ll be assaulted by grandmothers offering advice. The United States Constitution empowers grandmothers to stop any young person on the street with a baby and offer advice. They will always offer this advice in a tone of voice that makes it clear they do not expect your baby to survive the after– noon in the care of such incompetents as yourselves.

The best way to handle advice from random grandmothers is to tell them that you appreciate their concern, but that you feel it is your responsibility to make decisions about your child’s welfare. If that doesn’t work, try driving them off with sticks. Otherwise, they’ll follow you home and hang around under your windows.

The Basic Baby Mood Cycle

All babies settle into this once they get over being born.

Mood One: Just about to cry.

Mood Two: Crying Mood Three: Just finished crying.

Your job is to keep your baby in Mood Three as much as possible. Here is the traditional way to do this. When the baby starts to cry, you and your spouse should pass it back and forth repeatedly and recite these words in unison: “Do you suppose he’s hungry? He can’t be hungry. He just ate. Maybe he needs to be burped. No, that’s not it. Maybe his diaper needs to be changed. No, it’s dry. Do you think maybe he’s hungry?” And so on, until the baby can’t stand it anymore and decides to go to sleep.

When Should You Feed
Your Baby?

During the day, you should feed your baby just before the phone rings. At night, you should feed your baby immediately after you have fallen asleep. After each feeding, you should pat your baby gently on the back until it throws up on your shoulder.

What Is Colic?

Colic is when your baby cries all the time, and people keep telling you how their kid had colic for 71 straight months. If your baby gets colic, you should take it to the pediatrician so he can say, “There’s nothing to worry about,” which is of course absolutely true from his perspective, since he lives in a colic-free home many miles from your baby.

Baby’s Development During
the First Six Months

The first six months are a time of incredibly rapid development for your baby. It will learn to smile, lift its head, sit, play the cello and repair automatic transmissions.

Ha, ha. Just kidding; poking fun at new parents who watch like hawks for their babies to pass the Major Milestones of Infant Development, when the truth is that during the first six months, babies mainly just lie around and poop. They haven’t even developed brains at this point. If you opened up a baby’s head—and I am not suggesting for one moment that you should—you’d find nothing but an enormous drool gland.

Disciplining a New Baby

During the 1950s and ’60s, parents were told to be permissive with their children, and the result was juvenile delinquency, Watergate, Pac-Man, California, etc. So we experts now feel you should start disciplining your baby right after birth. At random intervals throughout the day, you should stride up to your baby and say, in a strict voice, “There will be no slumber party for you tonight, young lady.”

You may think this is a waste of time, but scientists have determined that babies as young as three days old can tell, just from the tone of an adult’s voice, when they are being told they can’t go to a slumber party.


The best baby-sitters, of course, are the baby’s grandparents. You feel completely comfortable entrusting your baby to them for long periods, which is why most grandparents flee to Florida.

If no grandparents are available, you will have to rent a teenager. You don’t want a modern teenager, the kind that hangs around the video-game arcade. No, you want an old-fashioned, responsible teenager, the kind who belongs to the 4-H Club and wants to be a nun. Even then you don’t want to take any chances. The first time she takes care of your baby, you should never actually leave the house. Drive your car until it’s out of sight; then sneak back and crouch in the basement, listening for signs of trouble. In later visits, as you gain confidence in the sitter, you should feel free to eat sandwiches in the basement, and maybe even listen to the radio quietly. After all, this is your night out!

Baby’s First Solid Food

We’re using the term “food” loosely here. What we’re talking about are those little jars on store shelves with the smiling baby on the label and names like “Prunes with Mixed Leeks.” Babies hate this stuff. Who wouldn’t?

The way babies eat food is by absorbing it directly into their bloodstreams through their faces. So the most efficient way to feed a baby is to smear the food on its chin.

Unfortunately, many inexperienced parents insist on putting food into the baby’s mouth. They put in spoonful after spoonful of, say, beets, sincerely believing they are doing something constructive, when in fact the beets are merely going around the Baby Food-Return Loop, which all humans are equipped with until the age of 18 months. After the parents finish “feeding” the baby, they remove the bib and clean up the area, at which point the baby starts to spew beets from its mouth under high pressure, like a little beet volcano, until its face is covered with beets, which it can then absorb.


Most babies learn to walk at about 12 months, although nobody has ever figured out why they bother, because for the next 12 months all they do is stagger off in random directions until they trip over dust molecules and fall on their bottoms. You cannot catch them before they fall. They fall so quickly that the naked adult eye cannot even see them. This is why diapers are made so thick.

During this phase, your job, as parent, is to trail along behind your child everywhere, holding your arms out in the Standard Toddler-Following Posture made popular by Boris Karloff in the excellent parent-education film The Mummy, only with a degree of hunch approaching that of Neanderthal Man so you’ll be able to pick your child up quickly after it falls, because the longer it stays on the ground the more likely it is to find something horrible to put in its mouth.

Bedtime Songs

I advise against “Rock-a-bye Baby” because it’s really sick, what with the baby getting blown out of the tree and crashing down with the cradle. Some of those cradles weigh over 50 pounds. A much better song is “Go to Sleep”:

Go to sleep
Go to sleep
Go straight to sleep
And stay asleep until at least 6:30 A.M.

Dave Barry

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