It was a common question after my daughter was born.

“She’s very good at being a baby,” I’d respond curtly.

Instagram may tell you that infants are supposed to lay quietly in their adorable swaddles, a peacefully snoozing burrito while you drink your coffee next to them in a sun-lit room peppered with leafy green plants and coordinating wallpaper. My reality—and many women’s reality—was far different.

I know when people ask this, they are really just asking if the child in question has disrupted the lives of the parents. Is she fussy? Does she sleep well? Does she eat a lot? I get that they are likely asking to be nice. But what baby doesn’t disrupt their parents’ lives? 

We lived in a cramped apartment even before she was born, so there was no escaping my daughter’s fussiness. Soiled burp cloths piled up next to a cardboard box with diapers and wipes. Discarded pacifiers were sprinkled on every surface. My daughter cried—a lot. The root cause? Likely my own inexperience, coupled with unrelenting exhaustion and a child that just needed a little bit more.

Was she a good baby?

She was great at being a baby. She cried, she slept (never long enough for her parents), she gained weight, she was occasionally focusing her eyes on an object for a few seconds. She, however, was not easy to soothe. She required constant rocking and shushing. Six o’clock in the evening announced what we called “the witching hour,” where it was guaranteed tears for entirely too long. However, I learned that the idea of a “good” baby is entirely dependent on the attitude and expectations of the parents, and not a reflection of the baby’s behavior. So don’t even ask!

There was nothing wrong with her. She was not a bad baby. As she grew up, I learned her personality, and she taught me what she needed to feel comfortable. She still does not like loud, sudden sounds. Groups of new people make her nervous. She needs her parents close by. She’s shy, and also very smart. There was never any fooling her. As a preschooler, this hasn’t changed too much. She’s slow to warm up, but once there, she’s game to play.

When you ask, “Is she a good baby?” you’re insinuating that there are bad babies. There are no bad babies. Sure—some may be easier to soothe than others—but babies all want the same things: comfort and food. Needing those things does not make them good nor bad. Their method of expressing those needs is neither good nor bad. Babies are simply babies, giving out clues to their personality as early as can be, and it’s our job as parents to figure them out.

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