In an attempt to be helpful, family members, friends and even strangers, often make comments that are hurtful or rude and they are quick to offer up unsolicited advice. With so many different sources offering so many different opinions, it can be confusing and nerve racking. There have been several occasions where I've walked away from a conversation thinking "Wow, I'm a really bad parent".
I've noticed this advice comes most commonly in two forms:
Direct: "You need to get the baby on a schedule right away or it will never work."
Passive aggressive: "I breast fed my baby for a year, because it's nature's 'perfect food' but formula is OK too, I guess."
You get the point...
Trying to take in every single piece of advice became a real problem. There were several times I called my husband at work, extremely upset because some people's advice made me feel "I wasn't doing it right". I was being too hard on myself and putting too much weight into what other people were doing.
I am all for being inquisitive and turning to family and friends for guidance. After all, as a parent you are not afforded the luxury of a "trial run". But I've learned to try to listen to all the advice but be selective about how I apply that advice to raising Sienna.
First, it's important to KNOW your child. All babies are not the same, just like all people are not the same. Therefore, you need to discover what their needs are. When you do take advice from a friend or family member, make sure you are familiar with the kind of children they have.
If another mother is telling you that she put her child on a strict eating and sleeping schedule at 5 weeks, that's ok because it probably worked best for her child and her lifestyle. But Sienna seemed to do just fine without a set schedule in the first few weeks of her life and it gave my husband and me a little more flexibility to let her enjoy the summer weather with her and visits with family out of the area.
Although there are some topics (vaccinations, day care, sleeping and eating schedules, breastfeeding) that seem to trigger more of this, sometimes unwanted counsel it really can come from anyone, at anytime, about anything. Hearing it from strangers or even friends can be a little easier to ignore, when your family speaks, it's hard not to listen. It's also difficult to not try to mimic exactly what they did for their kids especially when you respect the kind of parents they are. It's wonderful that there are so many parents out there eager to give their advice. It shows their enthusiasm for parenting and childcare. But, like most things in life, parenting is a very subjective area. I'm not even quite sure what we are doing now for Sienna will necessarily work if we have another child.
The truth is, if you listen to every single piece of advice and every single comment on every possible topic you will spend more time trying to implement THEIR parenting style, then learning about your child and what his or her needs are.