Unsolicited Baby Advice: How to Deal With the 'You Should/I Would's

Megan Van Schaick

Wait. Don’t tell me you thought people’s intrusive behavior would end when you no longer had a bump for strangers to touch?

Ohhhhhh, if you did, you are in for a whole new world of intrusion. Far beyond just touching your belly, once you actually have a baby, everyone, and I mean everyone (even those who have never even so much as held a baby), thinks they know the very best way for you to parent your child. And they won’t be shy about telling you.

Why aren’t you breastfeeding? Why aren’t you breastfeeding THIS way? You should really be working on his brain strength, because, you know, he’s like a little sponge right now -- I’ll send over some baby calculus flashcards I put together. It’s never too early to start disciplining! Let her cry it out. You should always co-sleep. Co-sleeping will kill your baby …. You get the picture.

So how do you deal with this mass influx of advice, a lot of which is unwanted?

  1. Consider the source. This one is especially helpful if the advice is hurtful or overly irksome. If someone walks up to you in the grocery store and starts yammering on and on -- well, truthfully, you can probably just brush it off. The person doesn’t know you, your baby, or anything about your situation. So unless the kid’s ear is falling off and this is a surgeon who can tell you how to reattach it all before reaching check-out, it’s probably safe to brush the advice aside.
  2. Think about why the advice is being given. Pregnancy and parenting are those weird areas where people somehow think public intrusion is perfectly acceptable. Many feel a bond with new parents and so feel more familiar and comfortable offering up advice. Others are experts in their field and have this need to share their expertise. These advice-givers are pretty harmless -- so while it may be annoying to listen to, at least you know it’s generally coming from a good-hearted place.
  3. React appropriately. Your reaction all depends on what the advice is, who’s giving it, the intent -- any number of variables. In just about any instance, the safest reaction is the smile-and-nod -- my personal favorite. Don’t give much reaction beyond that, just smile and nod, smile and nod. This way you are acknowledging the other person and their “gift” of advice, but not inviting more. And if what you're hearing is something you disagree with, you safely and politely avoid an argument. 
  4. Trust your gut. You're going to hear so many conflicting things from so many different sources -- and certainly some of those tidbits will make you second-guess your choice, or raise a concern for you. Those are completely valid responses, and if you're concerned, you should absolutely consult your doctor and do further research. But the most important thing you can do is just listen to yourself. YOU know what is right for your family and your baby. YOU know the exact circumstances of a situation (like bottle feeding in public instead of breastfeeding, or the other way around). So only you can make the correct judgment call about how to raise your baby -- and about which advice to listen to and which to let go.

How do you deal with unsolicited advice?


Image via AshBayGrammy/CafeMom

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