Stepmom’s Advice Tanked My Self-Confidence

Dear Mamas,

We just got back from Christmas with my Dad and Stepmother and I am still angry about what she told me. My baby is almost five months and loves to stand up on my lap and bounce. I think he is getting stronger from it and he smiles and coos like crazy when he’s doing it but my Stepmom says it will make him bow-legged.

She also kept badgering me to put shoes on him (we were in Florida and it was warm) and says that they need to get used to shoes early. I disagree and we had a few words about it but the truth is I’m not sure anymore. I just want to do what’s right but maybe I’m just being stubborn. Help!



Hi Amelia,

Thanks for your question, it’s a good one! Many people make the same mistake as your stepmom. It’s a common misconception that grew out of an old wives’ tale. But you are right on this one — not that you’re keeping score.

It is, actually, great for baby to bounce (gently, of course) on your lap as he practices putting weight on those legs and finding his center of gravity. These behaviors will assist him in learning how to walk once he gets to that stage. And the bouncing up and down is fun and will definitely NOT harm his legs or cause them to become deformed as long as he is the one initiating the movement.

As for the shoes — babies really don’t need shoes until they are really walking. While they are learning it is actually best for them to go barefoot indoors, assuming the house is warm and the floor is safe and clean. They use their little toes to get a grip on the surfaces they are attempting to walk on and socks often just make them slip (although the tight ones with that grippy stuff on the bottoms are okay).

In the meantime, it might be a good idea to think about how you are going to let your stepmother know that her advice will always be welcomed and considered but that you are the boss when it comes to your child. The trick is to not get thrown back into playing the adolescent role around her. You have to show her that you are grown up now and capable of learning everything you need to know about how to care for your baby. Once she sees that you are serious and dedicated to being an informed mom, she will probably back off.

But you have to figure out a way to give her a role in helping to care for the baby, too. She may be a great resource for you once she realizes that her job is more of a consultant. Try to remember that she is most likely just trying to help. Everybody, including your stepmom, is taking baby steps toward learning how to handle their new roles. Be patient with her, but own your own.


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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