There is just something about new moms and babies that invites unsolicited advice from everyone – including people who have never even had a newborn of their own. The sight of a new mom seems to trigger an uncontrollable "opinion reflex" in people that just cannot be tamed, even though it elicits advice every new mom dreads hearing. Strangers, family members, good friends; everyone wants to give the gift of their wisdom, regardless of whether or not it's rooted in any type of fact or reason.
When I had my first baby, I was at the most vulnerable point in my entire life. I was deep in the throes of postpartum depression, I hadn't slept in forever, and yet, I had this constant parade of visitors doling out advice about how I should care for my newborn. The kicker? Most of the advice-givers at the time had not had children in over 30 years. So, while many of their suggestions came from a place of love and well-meaning, a lot of the things that probably "worked" for them when they were new moms, were clouded in the rose-colored haze of long-ago memories. Like the claim that all I needed to do to get my colicky son to stop crying was to give him a nice, warm bath (cue hysterical, screaming baby who was not at all pleased about being naked and wet).
When you're on the receiving end of this advice, it's easy to get caught up in it. New moms are raw (and did I mention really, really tired?) and desperate for magical tidbits that might make their new lives easier. But if you're the advice-giver, think about what you're saying before you actually say it. Are you really giving this advice to be helpful, or just to fill air time? Did the new mom ask you for your opinion? Did you actually try this thing that you recommended, or did you just hear it from a friend of a friend?
So if you see a new mom straining to smile, or running off to change a diaper even though she literally just changed her baby's diaper a second ago, chances are she's not all that into listening to your words of wisdom. No offense.
On Whether To Use A Pacifier
Everyone has a different opinion on, what we call in my house, El Paso (the pacifier). I remember resisting the lure of the pacifier for the first few hours in the hospital, but there it was, all shiny and blue and looking like the perfect thing to plonk into my newborn son's mouth to make him feel less angry at the world. After all, he was just removed from his watery home inside my womb. My mom was totally "Team Pacifier" from the get-go. Most everyone else was all, "Don't start with the pacifier! You'll never get rid of it!"
Well, it took a while, but the pacifier wasn't terribly hard to get rid of. One day when my son was a 3-year-old toddler, the last pacifier we had left in our supply got lost, and I told my son a squirrel took it and that was that.
On When To Introduce A Bottle
Some people love to freak a new mom out by warning her that if she introduces the bottle too early, her baby will never want to breastfeed again. Something along the line of reasoning of, "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" but twisted and turned upside down and applied to nursing boobs. New moms really do not need any more to worry about when it comes to nursing or feeding their babies, so please; keep the advice about poppin' bottles to yourself.
Their Particular Philosophy On Co-Sleeping
"He won't leave your bed until college!" is the rally cry of those who warn against co-sleeping with a baby. Eh.
Before I had even considered whether I wanted to co-sleep, friends with kids warned me that if I merely nursed my son in my own bed, it would send a message to him that sleeping in my bed was now "a thing" and that he would continue to do so forever. Not helpful and, it turns out, not true.
On That "Must Have Thing" You Can't Live Without Or Else
So you have that one dream item that "worked like a charm" getting your kid to calm down, or to sleep, or to start composing symphonies at the age of six months, huh? And since you discovered that "magic bullet" you simply cannot wait to tell all the new moms you know to rush out and buy it for their new babies, too.
I'm guilty of doing the same, but at least my lifesaving purchase was cheap. I was obsessed with a particular brand of pacifier that I still insist everyone with a newborn purchase just in case, because it could be the thing that saves them in the middle of the night and it is pretty low commitment, financially speaking. But when I had my first son, I had friends who told me I absolutely had to have a particular $400 bouncer in order for my life to be complete. Yeah, um, no thanks. Unless you were planning on buying it for me, then I'm game.
The sweetest thing a friend did for me along this vein, was to order me her "magic bullet" and ship it directly to my house. It was a swing and it worked like a charm – once – and then took up space in my apartment for the next five months. Still, it was better than just unsolicited advice.
On What She Should Make Sure Not To Do If She Doesn't Want To Mess Up Her Kid Forever
"Shield thine precious babe's eyes from the evil television and phone screen, for it is The Devil Himself!" This is advice that new moms absolutely do not want to hear. They could give two you-know-whats about how you don't own a television and how you keep your iPads and phones shrouded in sheets when your baby is awake for fear that exposure to screen time at an early age will poison its innocent brain forever.
Honestly, what else is a new mom supposed to do during those long hours in the middle of the night, when she's awake and nursing in the dark, if not scroll through Instagram or her fave Reddit feeds?
On How To Get A Baby To Sleep Through The Night
Do yourself a favor; when someone starts giving you advice on how to get a baby to sleep through the night, start singing the lyrics to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" to yourself because this is going to take a while. People just love to talk about babies and how to get them to sleep and the one thing that worked for their baby and why you need to try it immediately like right now this very minute yeah who cares if it isn't night time yet trust me this will work promise.
Here's the thing: every baby is different, which is why (newsflash) there is no magic solution to getting a baby to sleep through the night. So your friend's advice might have worked for her but, chances are, it likely will not work for yours. So just keep doing what feels right for you. Trust me (no really, you can trust me). This "advice" is coming from a person who literally tried all of the things.
About How She Should Make Time For Herself
You, the well-meaning friend who does not have a child, will be visiting the new mama, and notice that your friend has seen better days. She most likely will be covered in dried milk and spit up, leaking from one boob, maybe wearing pants, and probably not have had time to wash her hair. You, on the other hand, have just come from brunch.
So you pull this little nugget of wisdom out of your back pocket, that you've perhaps heard from a feel-good romantic comedy featuring a new mom. "You should really make time for yourself," you say. And then, without offering to hold the baby so your friend can shower, you apologize that you have to leave after such a short visit, because you have a date or something. Not cool. Don't make this comment unless you're offering to be part of the solution.
About How She Shouldn't Forget To Pay Attention To Her Partner
A new mom is elbow deep in diapers and milk (see above) and probably hasn't seen more than two to three hours of sleep in quite some time. So, you strongly urging her to remember there's another person who needs her attention right now (her partner) isn't helpful. What is this, the 1950's? Should she also show up in full makeup with a martini at the door?
A new mom certainly does not need one more child to pay attention to. She thinks her partner is doing just fine as it is, but thanks for the suggestion.
About How She Shouldn't Try To Control Everything
Oh, hi Captain Obvious! Nice of you to drop in with this morsel of wisdom after that whole thing happened with the baby's birth where nothing was in the new mom's control in the first place and it all went downhill from there. But here you are, talking to fill up space with the reminder that, once again, she can't control things like the baby's sleep, or hunger, or temperament. Chances are, a new mom figured that one out.