Advice: Makes Life Easier or Harder?

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You cut her hair already?  That is going to give her a speech delay.

If you don’t do something about those dry spots, she’s going to have eczema forever.  It’ll never go away.

You fed her carrots?  I think there is something about feeding a baby orange foods that is dangerous.

If you hold her all the time she’s going to be a spoiled brat.

Oh, you’re using cloth diapers?  You’ll change.

Sometimes I feel like I am going to scream if someone offers me another piece of unwanted advice.  I don’t mind well-intentioned advice of someone really wanting to help you out.  I hate the kind that is just veiled criticism.  “Oh, you named your daughter Olivia?  That means she is going to be dyslexic.”  Ok, I haven’t actually heard that one, but you get the point. 

Now, I am all for being educated about baby development and basic child care and stuff but isn’t there something to be said for a mother’s natural intuition to care for her child?  Every piece of advice I hear has it’s exact opposite counterpart somewhere in the community.  You should co-sleep.  Co-sleeping is dangerous.  You should let your baby cry in their crib until they put themselves to sleep.  Letting your baby cry it out means they will become isolated and depressed.  You shouldn’t eat foods that might make the baby gassy.  You should eat a wide variety of foods so the baby doesn’t develop allergies.  Seriously, every opinion about how to raise a child has valid and logical arguments on both sides.  So why is it so freakin’ hard to just trust your gut and do what feels right?

I heard of a mom that had to give her 6 month old babies cow’s milk
because she couldn’t breastfeed them and they couldn’t afford formula. 
The pediatrician told her that he was “disappointed” that she would do this.  (Kids aren’t supposed to get cow’s milk until 12 months)  After that, the mom just
lied to the doctor about what she was feeding them and the doctor would tell her that her kids were thriving.  Maybe she shouldn’t have given them milk but she had to do what she had
to do and the kids survived.  It’s not like they grew a third arm or
anything. 

When Olivia was born I started reading baby books to teach me how to take care of her.  It is true that I found a lot of helpful things in these books like ideas for games to play with her, how to tell when she is teething, stuff like that.  I also found things that have kept me up at night worrying.  The worst one: (I’m paraphrasing) “Your newborn will grow up feeling isolated and not trusting you if you let them cry.”  Holy cow.  This stupid sentence made Olivia’s first couple months of life very stressful for me. O was super high maintenance since the moment she was born and would scream if you put her down for one second.  She just wouldn’t let us put her down. Every time she cried I thought I was losing her and that she was going to grow up to hate me.  I spent that first month practically starved because I was scared to put her down to make lunch.  There were days when I couldn’t even brush my teeth until Brandon came home from work because she would cry if I put her in her swing for a second.  My better judgment knew that I love my daughter and would naturally meet her needs but I just couldn’t shake what I had read in that book. 

Another one: “When your baby is quiet but alert, this is the optimal time to learn so don’t just stick her in front of a stuffed animal.  Use these times constructively.”  This led to 3am play times when Olivia was wide awake and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to teach her something because she was in her prime learning mood.  My body was telling me to keep the lights off and sit in the rocking chair with her until she fell asleep again (which is what I should have done) instead of stressing that I was impeding her learning. 

Ok, so maybe I was totally overreacting to these statements but as a sleep-deprived new parent, what was I supposed to think?  Both statements, after 5 months of parenting, I have realized are just trying to tell you that you shouldn’t just let your newborn cry and cry because you feel like giving yourself a manicure and that you should actually interact with your baby and not just plop them down in front of Baby Einsteins all day. 

Parenthood is moderation.  I wish someone had told me that it was ok to put the baby down so I could pour a quick bowl of cereal or take a quick shower.  You gotta do what keeps you sane. 

Plenty of people have very lovingly given me great advice that has saved me at moments when I thought I was going to lose it.  Still, I think the best thing that I have yet to hear was when we were talking to the pediatrician at Olivia’s 2 month checkup.  We were telling her that O didn’t let us put her down to sleep.  We had literally tried every trick in the book and I still had to sit on the couch propped up by pillows with Olivia in my arms so that I could get a few hours sleep.  The doctor just looked at us and said, “Well, sounds like you have a high maintenance baby.” 

That sentence sent a wave of relief through my body.  I just needed someone to affirm that O was being a stinker and that what we were facing was legitimately a challenge.  We just needed someone to make us feel like what we thought was hard was actually hard and not us being inexperienced and stupid.  I think all parents just want affirmation that what they’re doing is loving their child the best they can.

So in the end, what does me complaining about people giving advice make me want to do?  Give advice.

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