Parenting Advice to Ignore
A pregnant woman is a soft target.
She finds herself on the receiving end of endless parenting advice from other moms.
“Seasoned” moms want to share all the mistakes, tricks, and shortcuts they learned. It makes them feel good and validated.
With so much unsolicited advice, it’s liberating to know what parenting advice to ignore.
I’ve got you covered! These are my top 8 pieces of parenting advice that you can ignore.
1️⃣ You’ve Got To Breastfeed
Forget what other people tell you about this is. You need to trust your own body. Mental health is more important than whether or not you can get breast milk into your baby.
Let me be clear: As a mental health professional I absolutely support breastfeeding …
…when it’s possible.
There’s no doubt about it. Breast milk provides invaluable nutrition for your baby and can enhance bonding between mother and child but we must look at what happens psychologically when a woman cannot breastfeed or finds it challenging to breastfeed.
Millions of women go back to work just 6 weeks after having a baby. They lack a supportive employment environment. Advocates of breastfeeding say to use pumps, but that’s not always realistic. You might not have sufficient work breaks to pump. Maybe the environment at work isn’t cleanly. Maybe you are one of the very few women in your office. Whatever the reason, pumping — just like breastfeeding — is not for everyone.
2️⃣ Holding Your Baby Spoils Them
You might hear that holding your baby too often spoils them.
Newsflash: There’s nothing in research to back that up.
A baby is a baby. Them being held and feeling supported, safe, and nurtured by their mother forms an incredible attachment. Bonding happens.
Babies go through rhythms. They cry when they have a need to be met. They sleep when they’re comfortable, fed and dry. I know mothers who will sometimes feel guilty if they want to hold their baby during a nap or if they want to — God forbid — lay in bed with their child!
Mothers feel shame for wanting to do these things. They’re told that they could fall asleep and roll over their baby. This causes women to feel hysterical about holding their baby too much or sleeping with their baby.
Look at the facts and you’ll see that alcohol or something intoxicating usually contributes to those incredibly tragic situations.
Be sure to really look into these kinds of horror stories. Educate yourself before getting scared to do things that are truly lovely between a parent and a child.
3️⃣ Stressing Out Stops Milk Production
You’re told to stop stressing. Ignore that. It’s definitely not the type of advice you want to listen to. Especially if you’re trying to produce breast milk.
Many moms blame themselves for their stress. They listen to society telling them to stress out about motherhood. There’s no question that stress correlates with milk production — to an extent.
Researchers found that when a mom is able to breastfeed, her mood elevates and her stress decreases. But this creates a rat race for mothers who think, “Hurry up and produce milk! Then I’ll be able to feed my baby and feel holistically better.”
A physiological reaction occurs anytime our bodies experience stress. Remember, stress is experienced on a cellular level with hormone secretion. Stress can slow down the flow of milk, but it usually does not stop milk production.
Repeat: stress could slow it down, but stress doesn’t stop it.
This is an incredibly private situation and conversation that a mom shouldn’t be having with just anybody. She can be working with a lactation specialist, a best friend, or a partner.
4️⃣ Avoid All Plastic
You’re told to only use wood toys, natural toys, and glass bottles.
The risk of lead poisoning scares moms into feeling guilty about having plastic. I hear moms say that they feel like a bad parent if their kid plays with those brightly colored Fisher-Price stackable rings.
Instead of driving a mom crazy with plastic, I say let’s empower her with facts and freedom.
There’s some buzz about plastic. Sure.
We hear studies claiming that some plastic causes brain damage or cancer, but a decade from now we might find different claims and studies. So what do we do?
Let’s acknowledge that a modern world completely free of plastic seems a little unrealistic.
A mom should start by considering where and when she feels comfortable having plastic toys. Consider the ages and stages of development.
If you’re really fearful of plastic: don’t use plastic toys during the teething stages. Let your child have soft toys or give your child a wet rag.
Make choices about the toys that YOU feel good about. Try limiting plastic, but realize that completely avoiding it is unrealistic.
5️⃣ Use Checklists for Everything
The first time a woman becomes pregnant she will instantly start getting a bunch of lists. Magazine lists. Blog lists. Book lists. Doctor lists. Gear lists. Some lists contain hundreds and hundreds of pages. Overwhelmed yet?
Good news. You can ignore many of those lists.
I recommend having discussions with moms you feel aligned with. Seek out other moms that share your style. Ask THEM for lists of what you really need to know, to buy, and to read.
Keep those lists to things that you’ll need in the first 3-6 months. You don’t need 3 years worth of gear before the baby’s even born.
The huge difference between a 1-month old and a 6-month old means that a new mom will feel like a seasoned, more confident parent in no time.
Connect with real people who you really love and admire, and feel free to ignore the advice from all the others. Be sure to stick with a time frame that feels manageable, too.
6️⃣ Your Baby Must Sleep Here
You’re told your baby needs to sleep in a bassinet.
Or in the same room.
Or in a separate room.
With so many “right” places for a baby to sleep, many mothers have difficulty choosing what’s best.
Forget what people say about the best place for a baby to sleep. You have to meet your baby first and then determine their needs before deciding where they sleep.
I would love for moms to have the confidence to make this decision based on what’s best for them and their baby.
Personally, it doesn’t feel natural to have an infant that I’m not arm’s-reach away from. I want to be on the same floor as my baby.
When I was a new mother I received so much advice around this. Most of the advice indicated not to keep my baby in my room for a long time.
“They’ll smell you, they’ll hear you, they’ll never sleep without you.”
I decided to research this because I noticed all the variations. I learned that in the majority of the world, kids sleep with their parents in the same beds — for years!
Sometimes it’s out of necessity, sometimes it’s out of philosophy.
I also learned that within the U.S., our philosophies around child rearing vary by generation. Books from the 1960s give advice that would shock people nowadays.
When it comes to where your baby sleeps, I recommend ignoring the one “right way” of parenting.
Oh, and that phrase you commonly hear: “Well, we raised all our kids the same and look at how different they all came out.” No, you didn’t raise them all the same. Birth order in and of itself makes the experience different. Do what’s right and natural for you and your child.
7️⃣ Follow My Sleep Schedules
No matter what you hear about strict sleeping schedules, you need to know that not all schedules work for all babies and parents. Ignore any parenting advice that claims to be the magical “one size fits all” sleep schedule.
I have 3 kids. All of my kids are amazing sleepers and all of my kids started on different sleep philosophies.
With my first kid I used Baby Wise. I structured her sleep and didn’t feed her to have her fall asleep. I’d wake her up to eat and play and then back to sleep. It worked well for me because I was a new mom and it helped me structure my day. But I didn’t use it on my other two.
It’s true that babies and toddlers thrive on schedules and predictability. However, it gets tricky to look at this in terms of parenting advice. A schedule might stress a parent out.
In my house, we mostly stay on a schedule because that’s how my kids function best. That means we’re leaving a party at 8:00 p.m. because my kids are done. They’re tired. My kids have to be sleeping by 8:30. There are other kids that will run around the party until late. Maybe those parents can tolerate the meltdown at the end of the day. Maybe their kid will sleep-in the next morning.
Keeping a schedule is best for development, but at the end of the day it goes back to your parenting style and philosophy. Figure out how can you bridge your parenting style with your child’s temperament.
8️⃣ Put Your House In Silent-Mode
People tell you that the house must become a zero-noise zone when your baby sleeps. They might suggest putting up a sign on the door that says “Sleeping baby. Do not ring bell or knock.”
Don’t buy into that, necessarily.
Babies and children can do quite well without too much noise around them as long as they’re raised in that environment. Maintaining a super quiet house gives moms another reason to walk on eggshells.
It will make your life easier to have a baby who tolerates noise.
Babies adapt to their surroundings. The more you realize this, the more relaxed everyone can be.
Finally, if there are 3 pieces of advice you DO listen to, it’s this:
1️⃣ Identify people in your life who you love and admire. Woman, man, family member, co-worker. Doesn’t matter. These are people you want advice from because you want to emulate their parenting style. You’ll be lucky if you can come up with 3.
2️⃣ Let them know when you want — and when you don’t want — their advice. They will respect your preference.
3️⃣ Learn from others, but also learn to trust your own intuition. Attunement is a great skill as a parent. Know what your particular kid’s cry means. Know what they need and what they want.
For a new or pregnant mom, unsolicited parenting advice is just a bombardment. It feels preachy.
What’s worse is that all these nuggets of knowledge come at a very vulnerable time for the new mother.
She feels like an amateur. She doesn’t know what’s happening with her body, she has a young baby, and she’s just getting through the day.
Now, you can still put on a smile but instead of feeling unsure inside, you can be confident in what parenting advice to ignore.
Sheryl Ziegler, Psy.D. is a Doctor of Psychology who specializes in children and families. She is the author of the upcoming book, Mommy Burnout, How Addressing Yours Will Make You A Better Mother And Create A Better Life For Your Children. Dr. Ziegler is the mother of three children in Denver, Colorado. You can follow her parenting advice in her newsletter by signing up today. www.drsherylziegler.com.