It turns out that becoming a parent is a confusing minefield where, at every single step, the whole world wants to give you their two pennies worth and frankly, they are very often wrong, outdated, or occasionally just plain dangerous.
From the day my son was born I had midwives lecturing me about only using one breast per feed and your baby MUST sleep on his back and my mum telling me it was nonsense – “20 minutes on each boob and sleep him on his side” she’d say with the voice of experience. I had people telling me “it’s cluster feeding but it gets better” and people whispering in my ear that it never gets easier. Mums on the internet telling me that he’s overtired and it’s probably my fault and well-meaning parents and in-laws telling me not to give in to his crying because I will make a rod for my own back (I always ignored this one – I’m a cuddler). Even old ladies in the supermarket stop me and tell me how to get him to stop crying, wrong again – he’s actually a bit hungry, I know how to make him stop crying but I’m in the supermarket, leave me alone so I can get this frozen stuff home and feed my child.
No wonder my head was spinning – with all the things I prepared for when I was pregnant I didn’t even think to prepare myself for the endless stream of well meant advice that I was going to listen to, nod along with maybe even consider but mostly just ignore.
The thing is, he’s my baby and he is different from every other baby in the world and I am different from every other parent in the world. That is not to say that there aren’t some very close similarities between him and other babies or between me and other mothers but lets face it, no one is going to have all the answers, you need to work them out for yourselves with a lot of trial and error (read: blood, sweat and tears).
Together we have been muddling through and finding out what works for us – and as luck would have it, every time I think we’ve got it sussed he’ll have a growth spurt or catch a cold. Here we go again, be back to square one, stumbling blindly through it all and accepting advice from all directions before cherry picking the bits that seem to hold the most credit and trying them.
Of course if there is ever well documented medical advice or safety advice from experts in their field then there is no such thing as ‘mother knows best’. If that kind of information is presented to you and you have been doing the opposite then that is the time you need to swallow your pride and take the advice but please don’t ever get upset if someone points out something that could be safer; they aren’t usually doing it to shame you, they just want what is best for you and your child.
All that said, I have had some helpful tips and reassurance from all sorts of places – it’s not all unwelcome advice, but it can be very overwhelming.
I wouldn’t want people to not listen to the people around them that have experience or professional qualifications but I will say this, your baby does not have an instruction manual and you will get to know what works for them and you. If something works and it goes against the advice of your great Aunty Betty because that worked 40 years ago with her babies it doesn’t make you a bad parent – you are doing everything you can for your baby.