Posts Tagged ‘strangers’

The Baby Advice That Didn’t Work Out

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

dscn2555Through my three kids, I have gotten baby advice from everyone. When I was a new mom, I totally took it all. I had no confidence in my ability to discern what was best for my family, and having a colicky baby didn’t do anything to instill my confidence. Plus, the PPD I suffered with her just confirmed that I had it all wrong: I was a terrible mom, and that’s why she cried and I was miserable.

It’s funny to look back at what didn’t work–and why.

Babywise: This book is a strict scheduling solution that will have your baby sleeping through the night by 6 weeks! Or, so everyone who has every used it will claim. It great if you hate things like: holding baby, soothing baby, feeding baby, and ignoring your instincts in favor of a stranger’s. I was made to feel like I was cheating if I fed my 2-week-old before the required 3-hour cycle began, so my milk supply–and my sanity–suffered.

Feed that baby! She’s hungry! Great advice given to us on a plane by a total stranger, because she was screaming during take off and right after being nursed. I said she didn’t need it, and my husband said we should, because the leering eyeballs were getting to be a bit much for us to take as new parents. And so we got out some formula and fed her. And she threw up all over me. The Baby Whisperer didn’t have any more helpful suggestions for us after that.

She needs a pacifier! The pimply-faced teen ringing me up at Target had some strong opinions on why my second child was crying in the checkout line. I am sure he had lots of experience with babies, but as it turned out, my thumb sucker who would also refuse the bottle and every single brand of paci, ever,  hated the stroller with a passion. Being that she was a month old, we didn’t know this yet. Once I started using my sling, she was happy as a clam and rarely cried on shopping trips.

You need to bathe your baby soon. This gem was given to us in the recovery room after my second baby was born. I refused the hospital bath because I just didn’t want her taken from us any more than necessary. I was told that she would “feel gross” just like I do if I go a day without a bath. Well, that notion has since been disproven. In fact, sparing baby from that bath helps her absorb all that beneficial bacteria she got during the birth process, which boosts the immune system! And, today we know that bathing babies daily could also lead to skin problems such as dry spots. Today, the American Academy of Dermatology agrees that a bath once or twice a week is plenty for most kids unless they are extraordinarily dirty. I mean, sure that research wouldn’t come out for four more years after she was born, but score one for motherly intuition (and a fear of slippery newborns.)

Put some socks on that baby! Oh, we tried, lady. Have you seen how long and skinny this child’s feet are? I only have the right foot of every pair of socks my first baby owned. Today, my 3-year-old loves to sleep fully covered–with her feet sticking out of the bottom. And no one died of hypothermia. So strange.

She won’t ever learn to walk! My third child practically lived in the Ergo. As a stay at home mom who needed both hands everywhere I went to keep my two other children alive, the stroller just wasn’t a reliable option since the older kids could, and often did wiggle out. I could also nurse in the carrier, and my baby could nap on my chest or back easily. Strangely, she did learn to walk right on time, at about 11 months. Crazy!

Baby Advice that Did Help: 

I noticed one common thread among all the baby advice I did get that helped: It was never someone telling me a specific way of doing things. The baby advice that did help was something that fit in my toolbox. Like the 5 S’s. Or how to swaddle with any blanket. Or learning about wonder weeks. Or cluster feeding. The baby advice that worked wasn’t really baby advice at all: it was other moms passing on actual knowledge that helped me how to figure out the rest on my own. Having three kids taught me that every baby is so different that no one is ever going to be able to write some book and unlock all the secrets. I did things differently from child to child in my own family–babies who were genetically similar and raised in the same home with the same parenting style! So it’s just madness to think any book is going to contain all the answers.

If you are looking for answers on your parenting journey, seek wisdom and not simply advice. Listen for things you can put in your toolbox, and then one day you’ll be able to share those tools with other new moms who are finding their way, too.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

Should We Compliment Other Moms for Breastfeeding?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Should We Compliment Other Moms for Breastfeeding? I’m all for the public ‘atta girl and know personally there have been times when perfect strangers may have given me a boost without their knowing. Parenting is tough stuff. Whether it’s troubles with nursing, lack of sleep, the challenges of going in public with one or more children, or life happening around the kids, kids make everything more complicated. A voice of recognition and encouragement can sometimes lift a little weight from the proverbial parenting shoulders.

During World Breastfeeding Week in August I saw the on-going effort of both normalizing breastfeeding in public and encouraging the competence and confidence in mothers to feel comfortable to nurse in public (or however they see fit for their particular preference). It’s a week (month really) that brings excitement into the community of mamas with young ones. I’ve nursed three babes with varying amounts of ease. I’m all for normalizing nursing, whenever and wherever. I am not particularly proactive or stagnant if ever the opportunity comes up to speak about breastfeeding.

We’ve heard the stories. There’s the stranger who pays for a breastfeeding mama’s meal. Recently an older woman came and cut up a nursing mama’s food for her. It’s unclear to me if we are normalizing or glorifying breastfeeding. Let me be clear: I’m all for supporting other moms, dads, families, and… people in general. I’ve spent years nursing babes. I’m all about spreading the love. I’m just not sure where that line blurs into this larger trend of feeling the want/need to compliment complete strangers for their parenting choices and those implications.

I think part of the problem associated with complimenting parenting, here in the United States at least, has to do with a seemingly predisposition toward black-and-white, this-or-that, me-versus-them, right-or-wrong, good-or-bad mentality. I’m not against the complimenting so much as the underlying judgment that often accompanies it. Let’s not pretend I’m observing anything particularly new: Mama drama and parent shaming are common phrases associated with parenting, especially in the early years.

Dr. Amy Tuteur makes a case for not celebrating breastfeeding in a way that becomes, what she calls, moralization. I also wonder if this “moralization” of breastfeeding (cloth diapering, low/no technology, homeschooling, no-schooling, organic, baby-led natural parenting, etc.) encourages a sort of self-deprecating parenting. I sometimes hear things like: “I’m constantly afraid I’m messing up my child” or “it’s a sign that you’re a good parent if you think you’re doing it wrong.” What does that even mean? Many of us are either actually feeling incompetent or not wanting to come across as confident all while feeling the need to dole out approval and appreciation to others. Most of us probably fall somewhere in between.

Every new mother negotiates all of her life experiences when she decides if, how, and when she feeds her child. Part of the conversation is private—we all bring our stuff to the table in how we make our comments and how we receive someone else’s comments. We can’t leave out the public aspect, the culture we contribute to, with all of our collective words, actions, and judgements. So let’s give compliments, but maybe we can initiate reflective complimenting, observing our own selves and intentions as we observe and send judgement out to others.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 5 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

My Pregnancy: Week 12

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Cat’s out of the bag! We are officially having a baby. We are at about 1 person hoping we have a boy, 3 who don’t care, and 47 others who insist, hope, and even pray that we have a girl. I nod, smile, and say I’d really be excited either way. It’s the truth. There is the possibility that when we find out in a couple of months I will feel some disappointment. Right now I can see great joy in having another little guy or a little gal. No matter what our family make-up, it’s the love that makes us complete.

Of course there was the woman who said we “need to have a girl so that [our] family is complete.” There are the two family members who refer to my fetus as a “she” as smoothly as if it were true. These, predictably, come with the comments about knowing how babies happen and now we’ll really go crazy.

Only one single person of the fiftyish who have made a comment actually asked what I wanted and just listened to my response. There were a few who asked and when I said I’d really enjoy a girl or a third boy, they would follow up with “well I really hope you have a girl.” It definitely felt like they just dismissed my feelings and almost felt like fake interest, asking me only so they could then espouse their thoughts on the matter. I feel a little like a point of interest mostly for the sake of other people’s opinions. I feel a little lost, unheard, and annoyed.

Not to mention the smidge of rage I feel at some of the borderline sexist comments of two boys and a girl being just perfect. Do we still live in the time of an heir, a spare, and the lone girl as a political pawn to be married off for advantage? But maybe that’s not what they mean at all. Maybe they just go with what we have and believe in the value of reproductive anatomical variety. I try to just assume the best but often wonder if that is feminist of me. These could be opportunities to confront silent sexism, you see. The sociologist (and woman!) in me regularly considers investigating further.

I have many wise sisters-in-law. I refer to them often. The eldest, with three boys and a girl, gave me some advice upon my request. In asking how to deal with all the comments she said she tried to remember people were just trying to connect to her. We often don’t think to connect by simply listening; we also aim to connect by sharing stories, thoughts, and opinions. I could make the pregnancy a time to talk only about me (or at least a little about me!) but I can also see it as an opportunity to connect with other people.

I’ll be honest that I’m still struggling a bit with the idea of connecting because it feels like I’m giving a whole lot in all these conversations and so few people are listening to me in return. But I’ve concluded it’s not kind for me to take the compounded annoyance I have built up from conversation after conversation and put that bitterness on the next person who shows interest. I have snippy remarks I’ve considered and even put out there a time or two. They leave me as dissatisfied in the end as saying nothing at all.

The only person who doesn’t care is our three-year-old. He has learned a lot about anatomy lately. First he learned that mommy has a baby in her belly, and he does not—a very important clarification. He then learned there is a stomach for food and a womb for baby in the belly. Now he knows we all have hearts “way up here,” and got to hear the “wooshymoosh” of baby’s when at the doctor this week. When asked if he wants a brother or sister, he thoughtfully replies, “I just want a baby!”

Me too, son. Me too.

Annie is a mom of two toddlers finding comfort in breakfast foods and the excitement of one little baby on the way. If only she could find time for even more sleep. 

Photo Credit: Peaceful Parenting