When she was pregnant with her daughter over a year ago, Brooklyn-based writer Erin Bried found herself up to her eyeballs in sometimes confusing, often contradictory advice on parenthood. But she put her zest for research to work, and the result is the practical, yet tender book How to Rock Your Baby: And Other Timeless Tips for Modern Moms (Hyperion).
The heart of the book flows from Bried’s interviews with 10 extraordinary mothers including Sunchita Tyson, mother of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson; Elaine Maddow, mother of Rachel Maddow; Betty Horton, who at the age of 102 is America’s oldest mother; and of course, Bried’s own mom.
What inspired you to research and write How to Rock Your Baby?
When I was pregnant, I read as much as I could. But rather than feel empowered, I felt totally paralyzed. There was so much conflicting information. Let the baby cry versus never letting the baby cry. Always wash hands before touching baby versus germs are good. It was overwhelming, and I found myself not trusting myself. That is why I wrote this book: I wished there was a book with advice in it that hadn’t changed over the years.
How did you decide which mothers to interview?
I wanted to talk to moms of all backgrounds and all ages, and I wanted to interview moms of extraordinary kids, so we could all agree [that] they did something right. I wanted the best advice, and I figured these moms would offer it to me.
There are so many books about pregnancy and parenting newborns out there. Why do moms need another one?
What I wanted to offer with mine was perspective. You can get so wrapped up—what brand of pacifier should I buy? which crib?—but in the end, you won’t remember any of that. You will remember the sweet memories.
How would you describe your overall parenting philosophy?
In a nutshell, love your child and let her find her own way. And it’s equally important to do the same for yourself and trust [that] you will find your own way, too. Ruth Alsop [mother of Marin Alsop, the first female conductor of a major American orchestra] said that there’s a strength in each of our children that needs to be nourished. That also resonated with me as a mother. We are all stronger than we know. … We got the strength from our mothers, and they got it from their mothers.
What was the most unexpected piece of advice you received?
One of the moms confessed that she let her kids watch television and eat junk food from an early age. That gave me so much comfort! You’ve got some wiggle room. If they eat a cookie, you haven’t ruined them.
When should parents start trying to get their baby on a schedule?
Parents should be at their baby’s beck and call for the first two months. … Your job is to make them feel loved, safe and comfortable. After that, start establishing loose routines like at bedtime—give the baby a bath, a massage, read a book and put her down. Establish that ritual. This will help you in the long run.
You make several mentions of encouraging moms to get help and support. Do you think there’s still a stigma against moms who need help?
Yes, I think there is absolutely a stigma. There is an aura surrounding motherhood. On one hand, I say trust your instincts; your gut will not steer you wrong. On the other hand, people expect you to have all-knowingness once you’re pregnant. But it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the best parenting decision you can make is to get help.
You include chapters on things that some people probably think are instinctive, like how to sing a lullaby. Have you found that some moms today have lost these instincts?
You’re going to remember what songs you sang to your kid for the rest of your life. I found so often at 2 a.m. when I wanted to sing to my daughter that I couldn’t remember a single song. There’s so much pressure on mothers today to be perfect. This chapter is just a reminder that perfection doesn’t exist. You don’t need to have an award-winning voice to soothe your child. Your baby just needs to hear your voice.
If you could give just one piece of advice to a new mom, what would it be?
Overall, worry less. When I was breastfeeding, I was so paranoid that my daughter wasn’t getting enough milk. Of course she was—I wish I had worried less!
Describe your perfect Mother’s Day.
My perfect Mother’s Day would start with breakfast at home, because restaurants are tough with a 1-year-old in tow! I would treat myself to a caffeinated coffee. Then my husband and I would put our daughter in the stroller and walk to the carousel under the Brooklyn Bridge. We’d have a picnic and play, then walk home, put the baby to bed and have a glass of wine.
Jenna Helwig, founder of Rosaberry, is a culinary instructor, personal chef and freelance writer. She blogs for Yummy Delicious at newyorkfamily.
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