Babies Bring Love, Joy, and Opinions
The old saying babies aren't born with instruction manuals has opened the door for unwanted advice from family and friends, alike. If you're a mother, specifically a new mother, at first you may appreciate the guidance of those that went before you. But eventually even the most patient of women will break. You will most likely become a hermit, hiding the car in the garage, locking the doors, turning the ringer off and avoiding anyone that perceives themselves as an expert on the subject of motherhood and newborns. So before you become a recluse and start avoiding all human contact; here's some more advice on unwanted advice.
Often times, a new mother's insecurities get the best of her, and in all honesty, this happens to all mothers; not just the new ones. As mothers, we're always questioning our abilities to raise our children. You want the best for them and fear you'll make bad choices, its human nature. Therefore, when someone offers advice or guidance, we often take their words as criticism. But in all reality, most family and friends mean to help, not judge. Open your mind to their words; ignore the little voice inside your head that says they're judging you. In most instances, these same people have been giving you unwanted advice for years and you've never paid any attention to it. The insecurities of having a newborn often times warrants defensive behaviors when faced with unwanted advice. However, motherhood is a learning experience; it starts at the birth and never ends. Listening to family and friends that have walked in your shoes before can, however, be a soothing and rewarding experience.
Everyone will have opinions on certain circumstances and if you listen closely, even theirs will differ from one another. Pretty soon, you find yourself throwing your hands up and surrendering like General Lee. However, often times by educating yourself on what the actual experts say can eliminate the frustration and the insecurities that a new mom will face. Educating yourself on the best choices that you can make for your newborn can build self-confidence, self-respect, and sanity.
It is very important for mother's to have a good relationship with their infant's pediatrician, as well. Often times, the trust you put into your child's doctor will help fight off those insecurities that you may have. A pediatrician sees most infants several times during the first few months of their lives. These are great opportunities for mother's to ask questions. Keep a notebook handy, write down concerns that you have, or questions.
Lighthearted advice is just that, when given it's meant to be taken as helpful hints and suggestions. However, in some instances, you will have family and friends insisting on their way of doing things. When this circumstance occurs, be prepared. Thank the person and tell them you will consider their advice, quote what you have read from child-rearing books, explain to them that you and your child's pediatrician has discussed the matter and you're following doctors orders. If all else fails, change the subject or leave the room.
In many circumstances, especially those that are short-term, you may consider following the person's advice while they are present. In all reality, they will leave and when they do, so can their advice. Short-term circumstances that have no long-term effects are just that. They won't warp or change the big picture. If your mother-in-law comes to your house to help, and suggests adding more blankets to the crib or turning the heat up because the baby looks cold, just go with it. When she does leave, you can quickly undo the heartfelt actions.
Often times, you may find yourself in a circumstance where all other methods of deterring an opinion or advice have failed. You have tried avoiding the subject, quoting a doctor or expert, and even ignoring the advice. But yet still, the person insists on you listening to them. It is at this time that you have to result to what I call, the truth. In the kindest fashion possible, you explain to them your honest feelings on the subject, you express gratitude that they care, but in all honesty, the child is yours and you know what's best. If you're uncomfortable saying this to someone; ask a friend, your husband, or another family member to talk to the person and explain to them your true feelings on the situation.
It's important to surround yourself with positive people. If possible, find other mother's that share your views and values. Then, as mother's you can swap stories, not advice.
Dr. James Brann is a board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He is also the Editor of Women's Healthcare Topics an information source for all women.