Our families, however loving and supportive they are, can be very difficult to negotiate after having a baby. You may be feeling unsure of yourself and find it hard to stand up for your choices with regards to bringing up your child. Or, you may be absolutely certain you are doing the right thing and find yourself butting heads with a family member who is absolutely certain that you are not!
It is no secret that the moment you fall pregnant, you will be inflicted with an awful lot of well-meaning (but sometimes incorrect or downright dangerous) advice from family and friends. Sometimes it can be hard to fend off this advice, as you don’t wish to offend anybody. However, it’s important to find your strength within as a parent to defend your choices in an assertive way.
Here we will discuss some common things you will hear as the new parent of a little baby, and how to negotiate them without offending anybody.
“Is that baby feeding again??”
This is certainly not what you need to hear as a breastfeeding mother. Especially if it’s the first baby you’ve breastfed. Our society as a whole doesn’t treat breastfeeding as ‘The Norm’, and a surprising amount of families have little or no breastfeeding experience. So, it can be shocking to people to see babies feeding in the way that nature intended — frequently and for long periods of time. All you have to say to this is “Yes, the baby is feeding again.” And change the subject. There’s not a great deal that anybody can say to that!
“…But it’s dangerous to bring the baby into bed with you!”
Bed sharing with your baby is not dangerous, if it’s done correctly. There are numerous studies proving the safety (and in fact the benefits) of co-sleeping, but most people still believe that it is somehow unsafe or undesirable. However, if you are happy with sharing your bed with your baby, then nobody has the right to say anything to you about it. You will often find yourself regaled with urban legends of women who supposedly crushed their babies in their sleep, or someone whose 14 year old child still sleeps in their bed, etc etc etc. Often the best way to fend off this kind of interference is with humour, especially with older relatives — “Well, things have changed a lot since your day!” with a chuckle often does the trick. It may just be that they are genuinely concerned for the safety of your baby, in which case pointing them in the direction of research and statistics proving the safety of correct co-sleeping is usually enough to get them to back off.
“Is s/he sleeping through the night yet?”
Humankind is truly obsessed with babies’ sleep habits. The above is undoubtedly the first question you will be asked by almost anybody you talk to about your baby. Going through the night seems to have become the yardstick by which all babies are measured, and God forbid they don’t meet expectation! This question also invites lots of unhelpful and dangerous titbits of information — the worst I ever heard was that apparently my 4 month old son was physically capable of sleeping from 7pm until 7am without a feed in between; and this came from a health professional!! If you wish to avoid having to hear advice of that nature, you must end the conversation before it starts. Good comebacks include — “if you mean am I getting enough rest, yes I am”, or “No, but we are coping just fine”. Lack of sleep is incredibly difficult to deal with and you may really want to have a good moan about how hard you are finding it. If that is the case, it’s best to choose someone who will be understanding, sympathetic and listen to what you have to say rather than make you feel judged for the way you are handling it.
“Well, we didn’t do it like that in my day…”
It can be difficult negotiating your relationships with your parents, especially if your parenting style differs a lot from theirs. They may feel that your choice to do things differently is a personal attack on the way you were raised. It is important to be sensitive to how they may feel, but also to be assertive about your choices. It’s important that they remember that the official advice relating to baby care has changed a lot over the years. Only a few years ago, mothers were advised to put their babies down to sleep on their fronts, whereas now a link has been established between babies sleeping on their fronts and SIDS. As time goes on and more research is done, we can see the errors of past advice a lot clearer. Another good example is the advice given on the introduction of solid foods. It used to be that parents were advised to give solids as early as 3-4 months old, whereas now we know that introducing solids that early can cause digestive troubles for the baby. All you have to do is gently remind your parents that you are just doing what you feel is right for your family, and that it’s no bearing on your feelings about how they raised you.
All in all, just remember that this is your turn. Be secure in your choices and know that as long as you’ve got your child’s best interests at heart, they will be okay.