Six Strategies for Handling Unwanted Advice

There’s nothing like having a baby for becoming an advice magnet. From the moment your pregnancy becomes known, everyone from strangers on the sidewalk, to store clerks, to your great aunt Mabel has something to say what you should or should not be doing, often accompanied by horror stories of what could happen if you don’t do exactly as they say. Sometimes it’s easy to smile and nod and continue with your day, but during this vulnerable time of life, these interactions can often produce more challenging emotions such as confusion, guilt, and anxiety. So what’s a new mom to do?

  1. Remember that every baby/family/situation is unique. Almost all advice exists because it worked for someone, at some time. In my experience, nothing works for everyone, all the time. We all pick and choose from the options available to us, influenced by the results we are seeking and those we observe. It’s okay to disregard advice from someone who has experienced different personalities, life circumstances, and values than your own.

  2. Prioritize who you please. If you change what you are doing to make someone else happy, how will that change their life? They will probably have forgotten the entire encounter a week later. You and your family will be the ones living with the results of that decision, which could potentially affect you years into the future. You will never be able to please everyone, so consider whose happiness matters most to you.

  3. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. A lot of common advice is not going to be a good fit for you simply because it is leading you to a place where you do not want to go. Exclusive breastfeeding might be very important to one person, while someone else wants to make sure their baby is happy drinking formula from a bottle. One person is very focused on teaching independent sleep, while another is happy with all the snuggles. If the advice you receive moves you closer to your happiness, great! If not, you can both be awesome moms on your own unique paths.

  4. Read between the lines. Advice from people we are close to can be more tricky to handle. Sometimes, when we choose to do something differently than our parents did, for example, it can feel like criticism of the way we were raised. Sometimes, advice can come from a sincere, if misplaced, desire to help, while at other times it might come from a place of insecurity and the desire to control. Tactful but open communication about what would be the most helpful for you to hear will either improve your relationship or show you where you need to draw stronger boundaries.

  5. Expect to make mistakes. The fear of dire consequences for our children if we let one little thing slip in our parenting is a big one. But the truth is, it’s impossible to learn new skills and build new relationships without an element of trial and error. It’s ok to try something, observe how it goes, then change the plan and try something else. Your love and connection with your baby give you the power to see what will improve your relationship. We can learn valuable things by listening to those with more or different experiences. But we can’t let those outside voices drown out our own wisdom. If something doesn’t sit right with you, keep looking. YOU are what your baby really needs, and you are enough.

  6. Build your village thoughtfully. We can’t control everyone around us, but we can minimize the effects of unsupportive comments by actively surrounding ourselves with people who make us feel better. Choose to spend time with groups, people, professionals, and social media that are encouraging and not judgmental. If you’re not sure where to start looking for more supportive voices in your life, reach out! I love sharing resources and community building because they are truly lifechanging for new parents. You don’t need to spend any more time feeling isolated or misunderstood. Message me or schedule a virtual coffee date today!

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