There are so many things you hear as an expecting/first time mum. In those first few months, usually starting as soon as you announce your pregnancy to the world, you are inundated with ‘advice’.
This can range from the genuinely helpful ‘Always pack spare clothes. ALWAYS.’ To not so helpful ‘Who cares if the midwives don’t recommend it? I did it and it worked for mine!’* To the downright bizarre ‘You chew their food first then feed it to them, that way they get your germs to improve their immune system!’*
(*yes, I have heard both of these myself… sigh…)
I spent the entire first year with my first born checking the development charts every month to make sure he was on track, trying everything that was recommended.
I also remember the only time I didn’t listen to my instinct as his Mother.
The time I felt too weak shy unsure to speak up because ‘this person has had two kids who are much older, they must know what they’re doing’. That was the first time I was furious with myself as a Mother. Also with someone else for trying to parent my child against my wishes and messing it up.
Let me set the scene.
He was about 12 weeks old and needed a nap but was fighting it. This person insisted that wrapping him in their cardigan and cuddling him so he was warm would help him settle. Well it did. But it was pretty warm in there and once he had fallen asleep they didn’t unwrap him or move him away from their body. I asked several times if he wasn’t getting a bit warm by now, asking if maybe they could unwrap him only to be met with ‘oh he’s fine’ and ‘don’t worry it’ll keep him sleeping’.
I was only 12 weeks in as a first time Mother, but my instincts were screaming at me that this was wrong and my baby was not in a safe position. In the end I stood up and asked for my baby back but I had waited too long to work up that courage. As I retrieved him he started to cry, then he started to scream.
He had overheated, to the point his clothing was soaked with sweat and he was red faced and shaking.
I was furious. Not just with that person for failing so miserably to hold onto any parenting instincts whatsoever but with myself, for not having the courage to say ‘No, this is my baby, I’m not comfortable with this, give him back’ in the first place.
After that I was much less trusting of others with my baby, sad to say. Not that I stopped anyone else from taking care of him, or started hovering over anyone who held him.
I just became a little more careful about who I trusted to know their instincts.
I found more and more that people I knew who had, shall we say, outgrown the parenting experience many years ago, may have raised their own kids well but didn’t understand that the modern advice was different for a reason. Don’t get me wrong, my boys have grandparents who are excellent, savvy and I trust implicitly with their well-being. This is nothing against older people in general, just a personal observation of a few.
When I was advised by someone to swaddle him to help him sleep, I explained that the midwives had advised me not too. ‘They don’t advise that anymore’ I said, ‘because tucking the blanket under the arms is safer, swaddling with a blanket gives a higher risk of SIDs.’
‘So?’ They replied. ‘It will help him sleep better.’
The response to ‘it may increase the chance of my baby dying’ was ‘so what, if it keeps them quiet?’ Um. Needless to say, I didn’t bother replying to that.
The point is, there will always be advice, unwanted or asked for. Good or bad. Bizarre or refreshingly practical.
The choice to follow that advice, however, will always be yours.
Do not be afraid to make that choice.
My own advice? Don’t be afraid not to follow advice but also don’t be afraid to ask for more!
No matter how much more experience someone else might have than you, always remember; your child, your instincts.
If you’re worried about how to politely decline someone who is being pushy, try these tips:
Deflect: Try changing the subject by asking them about their own lives, mention some other area of your baby’s development that they can ‘advise’ you on without expecting you to jump up and enact it immediately.
Deflate: If they are trying to advise you to do something a certain way, just say thank you! Praise their advice but explain you already have a method that works really well, so you’ll stick with what you know and use their advice if it goes wrong. Likewise, if they’re pushing you to buy something you don’t want or need. Tell them it’s already on your list and you were planning to pick one up when you have chance, or someone has promised to buy one for you. If they ask again next time just say you haven’t got around getting it yet.
Praise: Praise their advice, make them feel good for being so insightful or generous or well meaning, then swiftly change the subject without making a commitment. They will likely still be focused on the compliments and won’t notice.
Find Support: If this person is really bothering you and will not let the subject drop, if you feel too uncomfortable to tell them no, time to call in reinforcements. If you have chance to speak to your other half/mum/dad/sibling etc beforehand, mention that this person has been bothering you with their pushiness and ask straight if they can back you up by supporting your decisions as opposed to those the pushy person is advising.
You can’t always pre-empt this, so if you get blind-sided, try to pull someone aside or draw them into the conversation by asking their opinion. It’s a god idea to imply they already agree with you. (throw in some ‘desperate eyes’ if you can get away with it!) If they know you well enough they should get the hint.
Take A Deep Breath: If all else fails, take a deep breath and make it clear the conversation is over by using non-committal phrases like ‘we’ll see’ and ‘maybe later’. If you really need a break excuse yourself to use the bathroom/breastfeed/pump etc and when you return, simply start a new subject and pretend the old conversation was finished.
I truly hope no-one ends up in a situation like I did. (Or that you all have more courage than I had, at least.) If you’re still learning as you go don’t be ashamed to use these tips, they are designed to support you!
Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with a pushy person but if you do, don’t lose sight of whose child is the subject of the conversation. Your baby, your decisions, even if you are new at this or young or have adopted or whatever.
No-one in the world will know you child better than you. Own it, be proud of it, and most of all, don’t be afraid to say it.
*Originally appeared on Meet Other Mums.com*