Yesterday, at my son and daughter’s tee ball game I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely first-time mother. This parent, while obviously devoted to her nearly six-month-old daughter, is the prime example of what happens when you read too many parenting books written by “experts” (I warn against this in my post Stop Over Thinking (Over Reading) Parenting).
To start, she was extremely anxious that the three other babies, ages six to 12 months, surrounding her daughter were sharing infant toys. In other words, each toy was covered in the drool of more than one baby. I think it bothered her that none of us seemed to notice or care too much. Just for reference, the moms of the other babies were all on their 4th or 5th child (including me). Then the puffs (snacks for babies) came out and she almost lost it. She seemed appalled as she watched the babies lunge and scoop the loose puffs off the blanket and shove them into their mouths, sometimes with a piece of grass or two.
She innocently asked when it was okay to start puffs, which alone would have been fine. But, then she added the phrase, “I still haven’t given her anything processed. I guess I’m just one of those crazy moms, but I find it so easy to make everything from scratch.” As you can imagine, the other mothers and I exchanged knowing and admittedly not so nice looks. She went on to explain her process of baby food making. We were all polite, but she continued talking, “I still haven’t given her any fruit yet. I heard you shouldn’t give fruit until after nine or ten months or they will never eat vegetables.” I felt like stopping her out of pity, but she added one last kicker, “I’m introducing food one week at a time, but I worry how she is going to try everything at that rate.”
I am a huge proponent of supporting other mothers. I try really hard not to judge and I do not like when people push their parenting style on others, especially since we all make mistakes (read how All Parents Suck), so I try not to do it – especially with my daycare clients. But, this mother was knee-deep in misinformation. I have a feeling the other moms were thinking the same thing, because the rest of the game was spent trying to re-educate her. Basically, we tried to deprogram her from believing that there is a right and wrong way to feed her child.
Our common point was, if it works for you and it gets the job done, nothing else matters.
We may have been a little much for this new mom, because she stopped asking questions. The subject was eventually changed, but I left frustrated. Not at this mother, but at all the “experts” and at the media that put so much pressure on parents. It was not this mother’s fault that everything available to her is so black and white. There are so many rules and guidelines, which seem to change from month-to-month.
We all want to be good parents. But, how can we do it if we are told that you have to follow some manual to raise children. So many new parents are no longer turning to their own parents or families for advice (as was done for generations), but instead they are scouring the Internet or looking for some expert to explain everything step-by-step.
I find that even pediatricians sometimes give terrible parenting advice. Okay, not terrible, but overly rigid and unrealistic. For instance, when I took my daughter to her one-year check-up I was annoyed that the doctor condescendingly informed me that my goal for the 15-month check-up was to be done with the bottle. She actually reiterated this two times throughout the appointment, as if my child would turn into a pumpkin if she had a bottle for 15 months and a day.
I was telling a friend about this and she told me that at her daughter’s recent two-month check-up the doctor informed her that by three months she should eliminate all night-time feedings. Apparently, the advice was that she should just pat her nursing child and avoid breastfeeding her at night. I was appalled.
Who are these experts? And who created these rules?
Of course, by 15-months your child should be drinking out of a cup and you should eliminate the bottle as the main source of nutrition. But, an occasional bottle to comfort or to put your child to bed is not criminal. I just weaned my daughter from breastfeeding to the bottle. She doesn’t have a pacifier, suck her thumb, or have a special blanket. If she finds comfort in a bottle I am not going to rush this transition. She is still a baby. And I am tired of people trying to rush babyhood.
Yes, at three months some infants can sleep through the night. But, none of my children did. I was an on-demand nursing mother and to me this meant night-time feedings. It didn’t bother me in the least. I was never worried about this and neither is my friend who is also a nurse and a second-time mother. But, apparently this is so worrisome a practice that my friend’s pediatrician took the time to advise against doing it. Shouldn’t our doctors and all experts be more realistic and perhaps flexible?
The professionals should focus more on having parents connect with their children. Experts should ask, “Is your child thriving and happy?” “Are you feeling stressed about something?” “How can I help you?” Doctors should offer guidelines and support, not rules to make you feel like there is a right way and a wrong way to parent.
Children offer unique challenges. Children are individuals, so we have to adapt to their needs, not force them to adapt to ours. There are plenty of safety measures and new scientific discoveries that should be shared with parents. I am not against educating parents. But rules? Parenting is not that simple. It is not black and white. It is not the same for everyone.
To me, a successful parent loves unconditionally, understands that mistakes are going to be made by both parent and child, and makes decisions that are in the best interest of their specific child. Remember, “the experts” do not live in your home and do not know anything about your particular life or family.
Please leave a comment or join the Tiny Steps Facebook page to continue the discussion and share the worst expert advice you have ever been given.