May 31, 2024 | Penelope Singh

Myths About Motherhood


14 Myths About Motherhood—and What The Experts Think

Motherhood is often defined by assumptions made based off of what is seen in movies, read in books, or well-meaning advice passed down from your neighbor’s grandma.

Sadly, most of what mothers are taught to believe are misconceptions that can do more harm than good.

Backed by experts in the field, here are 14 assumptions often made about motherhood—and whether they’re true or false.

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Mothers always know why their babies cry.

A very common belief in motherhood is that mothers always know why their baby is crying. It’s why a lot of parents—both mothers and fathers—can sometimes have feelings of inadequacy.

This statement is false.

image of Crying BabyC.K. Koay, Flickr

Experts say…

Crying occurs for a variety of reasons, including hunger, discomfort, colic, sleepiness, fear, a need to be physically close to mom, etc.

While many times a mother can easily figure out what the crying means and how to soothe her crying infant, there are times when no one can figure it out.

mother with crying baby in armsSarah Chai, Pexels

Mothers sometimes feel frustrated with their infants.

While there is no love like a mother’s love, many people believe that means a mother never feels unsettled.

This statement is true.

Tired infant baby cries in mother handsProstock-studio, Shutterstock

Experts say…

All mothers get irritated or frustrated with their child’s behavior at times, even the behavior of an infant. A lack of sleep, dehydration, and constant crying are only a few reasons why a mother may struggle mentally and emotionally.

It is a very natural and commonly occurring feeling for mothers everywhere.

Tired mother with black boyKeira Burton, Pexels

Mothers always need to handle all baby care themselves.

While many cultures are different, mothers in general often feel the need to be the primary caregiver at all times. And this idea is often enabled by fathers and other family members as well.

This statement is false.

A Woman Carrying Her Newborn BabyMART PRODUCTION, Pexels

Experts say…

Most mothers are exhausted. Growing a human being is tough on the body, and then giving birth only adds more. A mother will get quickly burnt out if she is left to do all of the caregiving on her own.

It is important for mothers to have support from family members and friends during all stages of motherhood.

Woman Carrying A BabyKristina Paukshtite, Pexels

Babies can do much more than eat, sleep, and cry the first three months of life.

It is commonly believed that infants in their first three months of life are fairly simple to care for as the just eat, sleep, and poop all day.

This statement is true.

cute baby close up sleeping in bed at homemaxim ibragimov, Shutterstock

Experts say…

Babies are very active in the first three months of life. They begin to listen for and track familiar voices, they figure out who their mom is and who their dad is, they track objects, they begin to smile, and they develop patterns of behavior and interaction with others.

Smiling Baby Biting his fingerVika Glitter, Pexels

Mothers should be with their infants 24 hours a day the first three months.

This also may vary by cultures, but in general, it is a common belief that infants should be with their mothers almost constantly for the first several weeks.

This statement is false.

Mother holding babyLeszek Glasner, Shutterstock

Experts say…

Being with anyone 24 hours a day for a long period of time can be a trying experience. Mothers need a break, too! It is perfectly okay to leave your baby with a trusted adult while you take a walk or go to the store.

shutterstock_2072782640.jpgStudio Romantic, Shutterstock

Mothers must be perfect and never make mistakes.

Mothers everywhere feel pressured to be perfect and never make mistakes. It is believed that they should always know what they’re doing and always be organized.

This statement is false. 

Loving Mother Kissing Her Cute BabyAnna Shvets, Pexels

Experts say…

Motherhood doesn’t come with a handbook. And not everyone grew up with exceptional role models, either. Everyone is figuring it out as they go.

No mother could ever be perfect and many, many children grow up to admire and love their parents despite the faults they may have. All mothers make mistakes.

Photo of Smiling Mother Holding Her Cute BabyJonathan Borba, Pexels

Mothers can take breaks whenever they want.

This statement seems to be more toward stay-at-home mothers, when it is assumed that they can simply put baby down and get themselves a hot cup of joe.

This statement is false.

A Woman Resting on the Bed with her babyRDNE Stock project, Pexels

Experts say…

The reality is, babies are not nearly as easy as people think. In many cases, babies do cry—a lot—and they often need a lot of their mama’s attention. Some mothers are not able to simply put the baby down for a coffee break.

And this struggle only amplifies when the child becomes a toddler.

mother reading book to her babyPixel-Shot, Shutterstock

Even at birth, babies can be very different—they each have a personality of their own.

Many people believe that their second child will be similar to their first. If they had it easy once, they’ll have it easy again (and vice versa).

Or people without children often make the assumption that all babies are the same—especially when it comes to sleeping, breastfeeding, and even growing.

This statement is true.

Newborn Baby Lying in Bassinet in a Maternity HospitalGorodenkoff, Shutterstock

Experts say…

All babies are different, even from their siblings. Some babies sleep better than others, some babies don’t sleep much at all. Some mothers struggle with breastfeeding and some don’t, and some babies grow faster than others.

Aside from development, babies have surprising and fun personalities from the moment they open their eyes.

baby covered in a towel after bath timePeopleImages.com - Yuri A, Shutterstock

All mothers immediately bond with their babies.

It is widely believed that mothers have that instinctual bond that kicks in the moment the child is conceived. Which is why so many people unfairly question a mother’s love in varying circumstances.

This statement is false.

new born baby hand hold mum index fingerRatchat, Shutterstock

Experts say…

This widely-held misconception can cause many women to question their natural maternal instincts. When the truth is, any relationship is a process and each mother and baby is different.

Not every mother bonds with her baby immediately—sometimes it can take weeks, or even months to establish a true bond.

This is not an absence of love. This process is very normal.

Portrait of nurse wearing safety mask cradling newborn in armsTommyStockProject, Shutterstock

Motherhood is instinctual.

Similar to the last one, it is commonly believed that a mother will simply, “know what to do,” the moment her child is born.

This statement is false.

close up of happy pregnant woman with big bellyDay Of Victory Studio, Shutterstock

Experts say…

While this may feel true for some mothers, it is certainly not true for most. Yes, mothers may feel a natural urge to protect and nurture their children, but many facets of modern-day parenting aren't governed by instincts.

From changing to diapers to different burping positions, and the difference between choking and gagging, there are countless times during motherhood when a mother will be learning something for the first time.

Mother and baby in pajamasTomsickova Tatyana, Shutterstock

Babies can cry for many reasons, not just when they are hungry or wet.

Often times, a parent may wonder what else could possibly be wrong with their screaming baby after they’ve been fed and changed. It is generally assumed that infants have few needs.

This statement is false.

Crying Newborn BabyLeonardo Luz, Pexels

Experts say…

Babies cry for a number of reasons as they have a number of needs—even as newborns. Is it their only means of communication.

A baby will cry if they are: cold, hot, gassy, in pain, hungry, tired, scared, wet, uncomfortable in their clothing, etc.

Mother Holding Her Baby on a BedJep Gambardella, Pexels

Breastfeeding comes naturally to all mothers.

The belief that breastfeeding comes naturally to mothers is a dangerous one as it leads to so many mothers feeling anxious and depressed.

This statement is false.

mother breastfeeding her babyPeopleImages.com - Yuri A, Shutterstock

Experts say…

Breastfeeding, while indeed a natural process, is not always instinctive or easy. It often requires learning, patience, and sometimes a lot of support. Not all women’s milk comes in quickly, or fully. And not all babies are able to latch properly.

Mother breastfeeding newborn baby in hospitalIryna Inshyna, Shutterstock

Many mothers fantasize about what it used to be like without children.

It is widely believed that mothers should only ever feel joy about their family choices because “this is what they wanted,” even when it is hard.

This statement is true.

mom makes daughter eat healthyTatyana Dzemileva, Shutterstock

Experts say…

Motherhood can be really challenging at times, so it is no surprise that many mothers often reminisce about the days pre-children, when sleep and how showers were abundant.

This is a very normal part of motherhood.

Young tired single mother suffers from headachefizkes, Shutterstock

Mothers lose their self-identity when they become a mother.

Becoming a mother is often portrayed as a radical transformation that takes the place of all the other aspects of a woman's life.

This statement is false. 

Young mother experiencing postnatal depressionTolikoff Photography, Shutterstock

Experts say…

While there are a lot of changes within motherhood to be expected, it is important for mothers to reignite their passions and continue nurturing their individuality alongside their role as a mother.

Mom tired to tidy up the houseTatyana Dzemileva, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

Motherhood is no walk in the park. It does not come naturally to everyone, and it is absolutely exhausting at times (most times).

It is important to remember that each mother’s experience will be different, and that they are all doing a wonderful job.

Source: Promoting Maternal Mental Health During Pregnancy, Theory, Practice & Intervention, NCAST-AVENUW Publications, 2001.

happy harmonious family outdoorsEvgeny Atamanenko, Shutterstock


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