From the moment you tell the doctor the test came back positive, or you hear your baby-heart beat at the first scan, the wave of baby advice begins. The first load of advice is from doctors and midwives telling you the latest way you need to take care of the bump. She mustn't eat blue cheese (but we love it), don't take baths (oh no, too late), exercise more (likely...), exercise less (perfect).
Yea, a lot of the advice can be contradictory. Plenty of older parents swear by babies sleeping on their front, but the evidence and latest medical advice says sleeping on their back is safer. Little Bear is refusing solids: some people say we should just wait until he asks for it, others that we just need to feed him until he gets use to it. For a full-night's sleep we should put the baby in another room and ignore him when he cries, but apparently to have an emotionally well adjusted child we should pick him up every time he wakes-up crying (I'm a softy so I have to pick up the little cuddle-pudding).
There's the old wives tales which are always fun: "he's developed eczema because: you're wife's not eating organic when breastfeeding/ he's drinking formula/ he's using disposable nappies/ he's not naked enough/ he's too naked/ he's had a vaccination". Or "if he walks too early he'll become a cripple". Or "if he learns more than one language he'll get confused and be backwards". We always went with the doctor or the latest research on these, but each to their own.
But if you don't know what to do when your baby's poo turns green, it can be reassuring to have so much information, from calling the NHS (maybe it was overkill for green poo), to checking out the BabyCentre's website. If you're not sure how to settle a restless baby at night, or to find the right fix for your baby's colic, talking to other parents can give you loads of ideas to try out. You're all in the same boat after all. Our NCT WhatsApp group has been great for this!
The worst unwelcome advice is when the baby is crying, and you're focused on trying to fix it, and a stranger is trying to help by telling you what will work when you know it wont. As a parent who through trial and error has learnt what goes well and what doesn't for their baby, someone saying that you need to try something you know wont work is just irritating, even if well intentioned. [I have already started giving out my own unwanted advice on babies. I'm sorry, it's just so tempting when you have your own! But I must resist]
I notice that for my wife and other mums these comments from strangers tend to come with some judgment: "You really shouldn't do that you know"; "I never did that with my kids" (good for you).
Feeding is one of the worse areas for the judgmental advice to poor in. A friend of mine was really struggling with breastfeeding in hospital, and was told that here baby "would starve" if she didn't feed him properly... Wow, doesn't sound supportive or helpful.
The breast vs. formula debate is of course a minefield. Around 30 years ago breastfeeding had a lot of stigma attached to it. In an attempt to promote breastfeeding, it feels like every piece of advice now stigmatises formula. And none of the advice takes into account the difficulties the family may be facing. The problem is, breastfeeding still has a stigma attached to it in a lot of public places too! So parents face problems however they choose to feed their baby.
For Little Bear, we've listened, looked for the evidence, and where there isn't any, decided what works best of us and ignored the rest. So far he's still in one piece!
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots