How to Respond to Unwanted Parenting Advice: Your Newborn

Having a baby prompts many people to give you wanted and unwanted parenting advice.  Here are some tips on how to navigate through the minefield of parenting a newborn baby.


Congratulations, you are Pregnant! Now, Here’s My Advice…

As soon as you find out that you will be having your bundle of joy, you will get advice.  Sometimes this is very welcome and supportive.  Quite often though, some advice can be less helpful.

Throughout both pregnancies, I found that many people wanted me to do parenting the way they did.  Alternatively, they wanted me to parent the way that they wished they had.  Other times, they had totally forgotten what it was like to be a new parent and gave advice that they tried with older babies and children.  Not advice suitable for a newborn.

The intentions of these people are good ones, usually.  Nevertheless, some of this advice is more about them wanting to take control of how you parent your child.  If you don’t take their advice, they seem offended.  If you do take their advice, you’ve not done it quite right.  You can’t win!

Where Does This  Advice Come From?

The advice you are given from the day you announce your pregnancy is plentiful.  You have advice from your own parents, your in-laws, your grandparents, aunties and uncles.  Then you have advice from your friends that have had children before you.  You also get advice from that woman that you pass in the street everyday and the man serving you in the shop.  Buying that parenting magazine seems like a must for knowing what up-to-date information you need.

The hospital gives you advice on what to eat and what not to eat.  Everybody else you meet says that the hospital advice is incorrect.  That isn’t what they did when they were pregnant in 1953.  Your midwife gives you some advice.  Your Health Visitor gives you conflicting advice.  Downloading apps on your phone or tablet to help you to understand things more.  You use Google to help with any worries you come across.

That is a lot of advice!

Which Advice do you Take Notice of?

This wanted and unwanted advice floats around in your head for a while.  You are a new parent.  The masses of advice from people that have been parents for ages is now unavoidable.  You convince yourself that they are correct and you are wrong.  After all, you’ve only just started out and they have been doing it for ages.  Plus you are ridiculously tired.  Maybe you are not thinking straight.

Your instincts are telling you that your baby is hungry.  Your helpful relative is telling you that your baby is trying to manipulate you so you shouldn’t be feeding your child right at this moment.  What a clever baby!  Of course, the advice you are given is to put the baby in a pram and put them outside for three hours while you do the housework.  You can’t hear them crying out there and they will soon learn.  I’m not sure what they are meant to learn but it does make you question if you are reading the situation correctly.  Not very helpful, in my opinion.

Ray had some similar issues with a relative:

My baby was around four days old and I was breast feeding, my milk was just coming in so a lot of feeding was happening to encourage milk production. My MIL had driven an hour to come and see us, even though I didn’t want her. All she did was criticise the house etc.

When I said, “Well I’m off to go feed Luke again,” she told me, “Don’t do that, hes not hungry , he’s faking it and if I keep giving into him then he’d just have me wrapped around his little finger. ” When she left she told my husband that if he wanted her advice he’d stop me feeding Luke when he cried for boobs because it would just cause us problems later on.

Ray from Lukeosaurus and Me.

Be selective about the advice that you take on board.  If the advice is something that you would be totally uncomfortable doing or it feels absolutely wrong to you, don’t even consider it.  My children never were left alone in the garden so that I could do the housework.


Examples of Unwanted Parenting Advice

Here are some great examples of unwanted advice that parents received when their babies were first born:

Newborns and Sleep

Obviously, as a new parent, you need your sleep.  Your baby needs their sleep.  When discussing sleep in mother and toddler groups, it is apparent that many first time parents believe that their baby should be ‘sleeping through’ for six or more hours per night.  From day one.

I have often read about worried new parents thinking that they are doing everything wrong because their baby slept for three hours before needing to be breast fed.  Their babies were even awake at 1am most nights.  I have known parents that really wanted to continue breastfeeding yet switched to formula as their babies were not sleeping for the amount of time that they expected them too.  The advice that they had been given was that the formula would help the babies sleep better as breast milk didn’t fill them up enough.  Some of these parents felt guilty about this decision and for others, it worked for them.

Expetations vs Reality

Until you are taking care of a newborn, it is difficult to imagine what it is really like.  I don’t know when the expectations were set that made parents feel a failure if their babies were waking for a feed during the night or not sleeping as long as an adult does.  I think these parents need to know that babies waking in the night is normal.  New parents need to know that it is tiring having a newborn.  This definitely does not mean that you are doing anything wrong.  Newborns have different needs to our own.  They are not sent with an in-build clock that adjusts to their parents’ schedules from the outset.

If your baby sleeps through the night from early on in their life, that is brilliant.  If they don’t sleep through until they are six months old, that is brilliant too.  No baby is the same as another.  Comparing babies sleep patterns is only a cause for worry and guilty feelings that you are not doing enough.  You are doing enough and this lack of sleep won’t last forever.

Your Own Parents/In-Laws

Your own parents care for you as well as your child.  This photo on Instagram from Pink Pear Bear sums this up perfectly.  They want the best for you, just as you want the best for your little one.  In their quest to support you on your new journey, they can sometimes try to offer advice without thinking it through first  Katy describes a moment when this happened in her family:

The unwanted advice that I received as a new parent was ‘You should sleep more’. My husband and I laughed so hard, at my Mum (who has had 4 children herself), that she promptly realised she had said something a little stupid. Clearly we were trying to sleep more, but it doesn’t always work out for a new baby!

Katy from KatyKicker

Oh the need for sleep!  Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to sleep as you usually would have done before your baby arrived?

Cuddling Your Baby

It is ridiculous the amount of times I have heard tales of mums and dads being told not to cuddle or comfort their babies too much.  There are all sorts of reasons for this, apparently.  These include: you will make your baby into a clingy child/adult, you won’t get any time to yourself because your baby won’t let you, they are only attention seeking and you will spoil your baby.  Breast feeding your baby when it seems like they are only doing it for comfort is also a bad thing or so it has been said.

I cuddled my babies.  I still cuddle my children.  Giving babies and children affection shouldn’t be something to feel bad about.  I don’t think you can spoil your children by cuddling them.  Obviously, if you or your child do not particularly like cuddles and prefer to be left alone or have some kind of personal space, that is ok too.  Everybody and every relationship is different. I would say that if you want to cuddle your child or not, do what you and your child need and want.  Don’t stop cuddling your child because someone has made you feel guilty or bad about doing so.  Mo makes some great points here:

Put your baby down, otherwise they’ll get used to you carrying them.

I wish I never stressed about this; I would do anything to hold my toddler as a baby just that little longer now, but we’ll never go back to that time now.

Don’t breastfeed your baby to sleep, or let them sleep in your hands, you’ll create a rod for your own back.

Why not? Breastmilk has a hormone that aids sleep for both mum and babe. This comment is never followed by the fact that babies won’t always need you. Next time round, I’m hoping my baby for as long as my baby needs me – I’ll babywear to make it easier. And I’ll work with my baby to find the sleep pathway that works for us best

Mo from Adventures of a Novice Mum

I think Mo’s advice is great.  There are a lot of things that I wish I’d never stressed about when my babies were little too.  A lot of those aspects I did stress about were because I wanted to do things the way I thought I should do them yet I felt I had to do as I was told due to my inexperience.  This caused a lot of conflict in my mind and made me feel guilty years later.

The Potential Dangers of Finding Advice Yourself

If you are finding parenting difficult Google can be your friend but it can also be your worst enemy.  Forums can be filled with people with very strong opinions and conflicting advice.

Do not use Google. That’s my biggest one. Just don’t. It’s not worth it – everyone has an opinion and they’re all different. You should stick to yours, because you know your baby. Trust your instincts, not some unknown user on a forum.

Amy from The Mighty Duxburys

It’s important never to lose sight of the fact that maybe because someone else is a seasoned parent, NOBODY else is an expert on YOUR baby. Every baby is different, things change – but perhaps most importantly of all – you may have different values!

Kate from The Less Refined Mind

Feeding Your Baby

Many people have quite strong views on this subject.  Whether you breast feed your baby or bottle feed, you do what is best for you and your child.  You have your own reasons for doing one or the other or both.

Beth had some issues with this after having twins:

I was given so much advice when having twins (all from people who hadn’t got twins!) from, “Sticking them straight on the bottle,” to, “You’ll have to get them into a routine straight away.” I always said I would go with the flow when they were here and see what worked for us and them.

I would always say to trust your gut and be open minded. You can’t plan for a baby you’ve never met and don’t know what they’ll be like. My girls are identical genetically but personality wise complete opposite.

Beth from Twinderelmo.

Enjoying Having a Newborn Baby

As Jo says, having a newborn baby doesn’t mean that you will feel the way that you expected to feel:

Everyone says ‘enjoy it’. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t. Things don’t always go smoothly. If you aren’t happy talk to someone about it.

Jo from Conflab Corner

Advice From Professionals

There are so many new and up-to-date ideas that advice can often change within a short period of time, as Jo says:

Health visitors and midwives change their minds frequently. So don’t obsess over dates and times and lines and rules. If you want to formula feed, do it. If you want to add in a formula feed at night while breastfeeding the rest of the time, do it. If your baby sleeps better on his side/swaddled/in bed with you, do it. Use your common sense and you won’t go wrong.

There’s 5 years between my eldest and my youngest. In that time frame weaning advice went from 4 months to 6 months then back to 4 months. If you have a big baby who’s on the 90th percentile and you think he’s hungry go with your gut. I’m not talking about giving solids at 1 week old, but use your mothers instinct.

Also in that time frame the advice went from no co-sleeping to yes co-sleeping!!

Jo from Conflab Corner

Final Thoughts

As parents, we only want the very best for our children.  The years will pass and you will become one of those parents that have got experience.  You will become more confident in your abilities to parent your own children.  As parenting becomes less of a new thing you need to learn to adjust to, you are able to shrug off much of the unwanted advice given to you.

Just remember, all of those people that have given you advice about parenting with a newborn, were all new parents once upon a time.  They found their own ways to care for their children. They are now confident in the methods they used and want to help you find your own ways too.  Sometimes, they don’t quite put their ideas across as articulately as they could but they are trying to support you by suggesting things that worked for them.  Through their advice, they are actually telling you that they were in your position once and that they know how difficult it can be.  When giving advice, they often think about those nuggets of information that would have made the newborn days easier and want to relay it to you.

None of us are experts, no matter how fiercely we argue our case.  Parenting a child is about responding to the needs of individual children as well as your needs as a family.  We all do the best we can. We all make mistakes.  We all have to adjust and try new ideas.  We are all learning as we go along.

So the next time you hear unwanted parenting advice, maybe you could hear it as I do.  You could hear it as, ” I know what you are going through.  I know it is hard.  I want to help but this is the only way I think I can.”


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