Mom Knows Best – Advice for sorting through all the advice

February 25, 2002

Throughout a woman’s pregnancy, she becomes the target of well-meaning friends, relatives and complete strangers’ opinions and comments. Everyone from your grandmother to the lady behind you at the grocery store has something to say about pregnancy. From gender predictions to heartburn and stretch marks everyone has myths and old wives’ tales to pass along.

Eventually the pregnancy and the advice come to an end with the birth of your child. But what do you do after the baby is born and everyone including your own mother (and mother-in-law) has something to say about the way you care for your child? When everyone becomes an expert on child rearing how do you handle all the different people telling you what you should and shouldn’t do? If mom knows best, which mom is right?
As a new mom it can be difficult to trust yourself at times, never mind the ideas of strangers and trusted friends. For every expert out there, there is another one to contradict him or her. To validate any idea is nearly impossible. New information is discovered and admonished so quickly it can make your head spin. How do you sort through it all?

Generally speaking, as long as you love nurture your child, you’ll both be fine. When it comes down to all the fine details of child rearing, many decisions have to be made. Breastfeeding, bottle-feeding – pacifier no pacifier. Cloth or disposable. When to introduce solids, when to introduce the potty – how to introduce the potty. What to do when they regress from the potty. How to get your child to sleep – in your bed, in their own bed. Spanking, spoiling…the list goes on and on. All the suggested methods have been tested and those suggesting them may swear by them. That does not make them right or even guarantee that they may work for you. It has to be what is right for you and your family.

When you go out in public with your child, more than likely some stranger at some point will have a comment to make. Your little one’s rosy cheeks, indicating of course that he or she is too warm; the innocent cry that must mean they are hungry. People mean well or maybe it is just an instinctual reaction when it comes to babies. These people may be parent’s themselves or have cared for enough children to know (or at least think they know) the typical signs and symptoms of all children’s distress. They may look at you as if you should stop what you are doing and immediately take off their jacket or feed them a bottle. There is an entire generation of women who never took their child out the way we do today, so they have no idea that by the time you get to the checkout stand, baby might be cranky (and sometimes mom is too). It may be helpful to smile and nod at these people even if you would rather ask them kindly to be quiet (or stfu). Friends and family… depending on the issue, it may be difficult to accept or reject advice given by those closest to you. They may tell you what to do in an attempt to help you avoid wasting time on options that just did not work out for them. Everyone is different. No matter what someone offers, all the information is never given. For example, those who oppose co-sleeping may have never tried it and may suggest you not try because of what they heard from so and so. Why not? What’s missing? What was the problem? You don’t know, you’ll never know and co-sleeping could actually be a wonderful experience for you and your children. Regardless, when someone tells you emphatically NOT to do something chances are they’ve never tried it or some important detail is missing from their story. Many women decide long before the baby is born not to breastfeed and with that they will never know the experience and all that happens within it. It can be disheartening to hear a woman criticize another for breastfeeding in public. That’s on them. I say, whip ‘em out.
It’s common to fell pressure to do things the same as your friends or maybe the same as your mother or mother-in-law. Fortunately, times change and information changes so quickly that what was trending two or 20 years ago is no longer practiced today. There are so many recommendations by different pediatricians and associations in the media that we have all the options we need. The point being, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or did five years ago. The relationship you build with your child is precious. This is the time to rely on your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.

We can’t stop being from telling us what to do but we can decide for ourselves what’s best or at least what is worth considering. No one knows it all and no one will ever know your child better than you. Being a mother is being your own boss. The more decisive and competent you are, the better off your child will be.

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