By Valerie Groysman
A friend of mine once confided in me that the number one most challenging part of becoming a mum was the unwelcome advice that she received. Shockingly, this outranked bi-hourly nursing of the baby through the night, coming to terms with loss of independence and the loneliness of staying indoors with a new baby during the winter months.
Are you being “told” to sleep train? Wean? How to feed? Or anything else that just doesn’t fit with who you want to be as a parent? The first and simplest way to dodge unwelcome advice when you just want to dodge it is to say thanks but no thanks to the advice. Instead, thank yourself for having the confidence and courage to trust your own present judgement to go on your own way.
If saying thanks but no thanks just isn’t practical, keep reading.
4 ways to deal with well-meaning, advice-giving family and friends
1. If the advice giver is also a care-giver, consider letting them try their own thing. Let them…and get the heck out of home
This is so obvious once you try it out. If you feel anxiety running high when you see your mother-in-law rocking the baby in a different position than you’re used to – get out of the house. Guess what? Without the bounds of safety – there is no BEST way to do anything and little chance that time spent with a relative will undo any of the practices you’ve put in place. Thinking this rarely helps anxiety levels decrease.
So the best thing to do is leave home – use this as a break for you. As a bonus, the adult in charge will grow their parenting prowess.
You can also decide on what is not negotiable for you, and what is. Make sure the non-negotiable items are specific and concrete (and easy to remember and follow), then trust that your trusted caregiver will follow those. Let them do their own thing when it comes to everything else. There truly is no ONE way to get to the same goal.
2. Acknowledge advice-related emotional baggage
Often advice you receive is hard won experience. Sometimes, it even comes with its own emotional baggage. My friend shared that being told by her mum that her milk supply was not sufficient for her baby and that her baby was starving really cut her deep (despite objective indicators that this simply was not true). Later, when this same baby nursed past the age of 2, her mum confided that “perhaps” her milk had stopped at the 4-month mark because she had supplemented with formula herself and that maybe if she had done it my friend’s way, that wouldn’t have happened. Her sadness made it hard to enjoy a potentially juicy “told you so” moment. Despite this early cessation of nursing having occurred more than 30 years ago, the regret felt fresh and strong. My friend found herself consoling her mum, knowing that she did the best she could with the information that she had at the time. Advice, especially insistent advice, often has emotion attached to it. Consider if you can see how a person’s own experience is impacting the delivery of their advice and this might help to reduce your own anxiety.
3. Agree to disagree. This one is easily said but hard to do.
I usually try some form of “I see that you are looking for me to do ______ and your concern is ____ . I am trying out ____ to accomplish the same thing. Let’s agree to disagree.”
An example of sleep-related advice my friend received from a well-meaning grandparent and doctor was that she was picking up the baby too quickly when he started crying.
Her grandma argued that he would get spoiled by all the rocking and shushing. If you’ve read some of my other articles, you’d know that is absolutely far from the truth. In using the formula above I would encourage my friend to say,
“I see that you are looking for me to avoid picking up the baby when he is crying and it is time to sleep and your concern is that he will then need to be picked up all the time and won’t learn to put himself to sleep. I am also trying to accomplish having my baby learn to sleep. I have done my own reading that suggests an alternate approach, which says picking up the baby is good for him and his sleep. Let’s agree to disagree.”