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5 Parenting Choices That Won't Break Your Baby

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In the early days of parenting, we're faced with dozens of decisions to make. From what and when to feed our babies to how to get them to sleep, each choice can feel immense and mountainous. It feels like if we make the wrong decision, there will be dire consequences that affect the mental and physical health of our children forever.

As a slightly more seasoned parent, I can look back and see that most of the choices that felt so monumental at the time really weren't. Here are five parenting decisions that you probably won't sweat later on, even if they feel like a big deal right now.

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1. To pacify or not?

On my son's second night home, after hours of nursing and trying to get him to sleep, my husband asked the innocent sounding question, "Why don't we try a pacifier?" I nearly gasped. A pacifier? Hadn't my husband heard about the dreaded nipple confusion in our breastfeeding class?

Despite my wariness, I caved on the binky battle a few nights later. Our son half-heartedly soothed himself with the pacifier, until a few months later when he refused it for good. I didn't know it when my husband first presented the provocative pacifier, but our son was such a devoted nursling that I don't think he would've had nipple confusion even if he'd been hanging out at the Playboy mansion.

2. My baby will only sleep in the swing—will she be addicted to motion-sleeping forever?

When my son was little, almost all of his naps were spent in the sweet caress of his lamby swing. On a few desperate evenings, I even put him in it all night. Though the swing got us some much-needed rest, I still fretted. I imagined him heading off to college, searching for a dorm room spacious enough to fit the giant, motorized swing that he required for sleep. As it turns out, babies are hyper-adaptable. If your little one only sleeps in the swing right now, it's not the end of the world. She'll adjust to her crib or bed eventually—I promise.

3. What should baby's first food be?

As I learned the hard way, no matter what your child's first food is, he'll probably refuse to eat it entirely in six to 12 months.

We waited until our son was exactly 6 months old before I baked and hand-pureed his first food: organic sweet potato. It wasn't an easy decision—what if the sweet potato was too sugary, sending him down the path of childhood obesity? As I learned the hard way, no matter what your child's first food is, he'll probably refuse to eat it entirely in six to 12 months.

4. He's teething; what should we give him?

My son's first bout with teething set me into a frenzy of Googling and crowdsourcing. Whether you go for the homeopathic tablets and amber teething necklace to soothe his achy gums naturally, or you head straight to the baby Tylenol, it will be OK. Teething sucks, but just remember your kid will one day be smiling at you in your rearview mirror. Until then, do whatever you need to get through it.

5. I'm ready to wean, but I don't want to traumatize my kid!

For months, I sweated over the idea of weaning. I knew I was ready to have my body back after two years of breastfeeding, but my son was so accustomed to both the comfort and nutrition of it. Would weaning break his little spirit? Would it damage our connection? I researched, brainstormed with been-there-done-that moms, and I worried.

After gradually weaning him down to one nursing session per day, I stopped altogether. My son protested at first, but after a few days, he stopped asking. Now, five years later, he doesn't remember ever breastfeeding. Even my own memories are hazy. It's emotional, and it may or may not go smoothly, but making the decision to wean won't break your baby or toddler.

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During the anxious first years of parenting, each decision feels massive. After all, you're raising a human being! But most of these choices we make in the early months of parenting become inconsequential down the road. As parents, we will undoubtedly make mistakes—but they probably won't be these ones.

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