When you are pregnant or have a new baby, you receive all sorts of advice from the well-meaning people in your life. Whether the advice comes from your family, friends, colleagues, child health nurse or doctor, you get bombarded with it.
Some of the advice is absolutely invaluable, because let’s face it, motherhood is a learning curve and sometimes damn tricky to navigate. A lot of the time, the advice is asked for. But some advice you receive may have your mummy spidey senses tingling with doubt.
The greatest thing I have learnt thus far as a parent is to listen to my gut and my very strong mothers intuition. After all, nobody knows your child as best as you do, and what works for one baby, may not work for another.
Here are four piece of advice I received that I am glad that I didn’t take on board.
Disclaimer: This article may be misconstrued as advice. I understand the irony. This is just my personal experience, and an example of how each one of us as mums follows a different path, and that is okay! All of our babies and families are unique and special after all.
- Don’t comfort feed
I have always breastfed my son because as it turns out, he is a boob man. Before I gave birth, I thought that breastfeeding was just for that. Feeding. I never realised that for some babies, it provides comfort. From just one day old, my son would turn to the boob when he was distressed. Whether he be sick, tired or just behaving like a typical baby, when he is really upset, breastfeeding will never fail to calm him down.
When I mentioned to my child health nurse about this amazing ability when my son was still only about six weeks old, I was told that I should only breastfeed him every 3-4 hours when he was hungry. I instantly felt ashamed that I had allowed myself to not find other ways to comfort my child.
For about a week after this, whenever he was upset, and I knew it wasn’t due to hunger or a wet nappy, I tried alternative methods to calm him down. Rocking, shooshing, using a dummy, singing, everything I could think of. But none of that worked as quickly or as well as breastfeeding did.
It was my husband that finally stepped in and pointed out, why let him cry when all he wants is to breastfeed to feel safe again? After that, I stopped beating myself up for comfort breastfeeding. I have been given this great gift of being able to calm my son fairly easily. I started to think of it as a bit of a miracle instead and never looked back.
Over time, he has transitioned into wanting comfort in different ways. The older he gets and the more he understands the world around him, the less attached to breastfeeding he gets. And I must admit, I miss it. I am also sick of singing Elmo songs which is the current way of calming him down.
- Don’t bother buying a changing table
I have to laugh at this now because I seriously considered taking this piece of advice while I was still pregnant. I was brainstorming with a friend who had a two year old, about what I would need to set up our nursery. She told me that she bought a change table, but never used it, and always changed her son on the bed. She was completely adamant that it would be a complete waste of my money.
I almost listened to her, but then decided that as change tables didn’t cost that much anyway, I may as well buy one and then if we don’t use it, no big deal. Now I could never imagine never having had a change table.
When your baby is still fresh and still and before they start rolling and crawling, I can conceivably see how you could just always change them on a bed. Except for the fact that it would kill my back bending over all the time. But as soon as my son started moving, it became almost impossible to change him anywhere but the contained space that a change table is. If I change him on a bed he just crawls away like a ninja. When poo is involved it is just not worth the risk.
I have found that change tables have so many other uses as well. We use ours to store nappies, terry towels and all the changing accessories. And for the first four to five months at least, if you put my son on the change table you could have a great old chat to him. He loved the mobile we put above it, and it was a place where he was generally happy and would laugh at our antics. It is also the perfect height for baby massage, which he loved.
- Only start solids at six months
The time to start solids is such so unique to every baby. Of course, not starting them before four months is what the experts advise, but waiting until this magical six months mark was a piece of advice I absolutely did not take.
Instead, I listened to my lovely GP who told me, when your baby starts watching you eat with the same longing that your pet dog would have, they are ready. I loved that, is as it was way more fluid and unique than, start solids at six months, not a moment sooner or later. Instead, my son would ‘tell’ me he was ready.
We ended up starting solids at four and a half months. I just knew he was ready. He would watch me with such focused curiosity, with little laser beams shooting out of his eyeballs, every time I ate in front of him. We took it slowly, with baby led weaning, and never looked back.
- Don’t let the baby set the routine, they will work around you
I wish I could go back and tell pre-baby me to not judge people with kids, as I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. The advice to not let the baby set the routine, as they will work around you, came from myself and my husband before we became parents. Oh how naïve we were.
I remember distinctly feeling really judgey before I became a mum, of a friend with a baby who wouldn’t meet up with me at a particular time as it was ‘naptime’. I thought to myself, surely the baby didn’t have to nap at this magical naptime, just push it back an hour. I have to totally eat my words, as I have become such a routine mum, almost completely allowing nap and meal times to run my day. With my son, it is just easier! He turns into such a little monster when he is tired or hungry and sleeps at such distinct times of day.
It has been way less stressful on him, myself and my relationship with my husband to work around my son’s routine instead. I know there are plenty of families out there who can still take an all day trip somewhere, or brunch with their well behaved toddler eating in a high chair beside them. We are not that family. Nobody is having fun at brunch when a tired toddler is screaming his head off because he just wants to be in his quiet room at home and not sipping lattes with mum and dad.
There are countless other pieces of advice that I took or did not take. That is the beauty of having all these amazing support networks around us. After all, no mum should feel helpless or isolated. But we need to have a little bit more confidence in ourselves, and what a great job we are doing. And stop comparing our children and parenting styles to others. It is not a competition, it is motherhood, and it is wonderful.
Interested in hearing a lighthearted approach to some of the areas that mothers can really struggle with? Read Mum Life Struggles: Cafes with Stairs and Other Complaints
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