Being a new parent is exciting, tiring, and sometimes downright scary. You’ve been given this incredible task of shaping a new person’s life and sometimes you aren’t sure if you’re doing more harm than good for your little one.
You know what doesn’t help make being a new parent easy? Other people’s parenting advice. I’m not talking about 3 a.m. phone calls to your mom when your baby just won’t stop crying. I’m talking about the strangers on the bus or at the grocery store that think it’s okay to help you raise your child.
With my son’s first year under wraps, many friends and close family are welcoming their own bundles into the world and I’m using my own experience to shape how to support and guide them through this new and exciting time in their lives.
Here are the top 5 things I won’t be saying to my friends with new babies (it goes without saying that I would never breathe a word of unsolicited advice to a stranger!):
1. I hope your baby is breastfeeding/formula feeding/using a pacifier…
I will not ask my friends how they’re feeding their child, how they’re soothing their child, or about the amount of sleep their child is getting. I’ll just listen and smile. I trust that they’re doing what works best for their baby and their family because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
2. It’s too cold (or hot) to take your baby outside.
My son was a young infant during the cruel joke that was last winter and I knew that even though it was cold, it was important for all of us to get outside, as long as we were dressed appropriately for the weather. So friends, I won’t judge you for taking your baby outside in all different kinds of weather. You’ll stay active, your baby may have a sleep (or just enjoy the new scenery), and it’s a good to create the habit of going outdoors everyday — no matter the weather — right from the beginning
3. Don’t hold your baby a lot; you’ll spoil them.
Hold your baby as much as you want to. If you have a super-independent baby who prefers to hang out on their own, that’s great. But don’t feel like you’ll have a 17-year-old attached to your hip one day because you held your baby too much. Snuggle, kiss, tickle, and hold your sweet angel as much as you want and as much as they need you to. And remember, it’s your baby, not Suzy’s from down the street who gave you some advice the other day.
4. Your baby looks a bit small (or big) for their age.
As a mama of a premature baby who had some troubles in the feeding department at the start, it’s definitely frustrating to hear strangers tell me their opinion about my little one’s size (everyone assumes he isn’t getting enough due to his smaller size). I will simply squeeze cheeks, kiss bellies, and give love to my friend’s babies, no matter their size. I am certain doctors and other professionals in the field are keeping an eye on every one of those babies.
5. Someone looks cranky/tired/hungry/uncomfortable
Although everyone’s simply trying to lend some advice and a helping hand, I found it difficult when those around me (yes, even the kind stranger on the subway) tried to play the “what’s wrong with my screaming baby” game. This unsolicited advice can prevent parents from following their gut when someone who doesn’t know their baby as well makes guesses of their own. Knowing how stressful it can be, I will try to remain calm and offer advice to friends only when asked.
One thing I will tell my friends…
One thing I will always say, when my friends ask for some words of wisdom, is to always follow their heart. Even when the latest and greatest parenting book you heard about at your moms’ group is telling you to do something, take a step back, and decide if you truly think that’s the best thing for your little one. Even if it’s your first go as a parent, you still know your little one better than anyone.