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How to Handle Bad New Mom Advice

A neighbor wanted to meet my new baby. She knocked loudly, and when I rushed to the door in hushed tones to explain that the baby was sleeping, she offered this lovely piece of advice: “You know, dear, you really shouldn’t change your entire schedule to conform to the baby, they should conform to you. You should just live your life, and they can come along.” I was far too tired to know what to say. So I smiled meekly and apologized that the baby was sleeping.

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As I closed the door, I felt ridiculous. I knew she was wrong, but still I wondered, “Should I be doing this whole motherhood thing differently?” Two days later, I was in the shower (finally) when I realized what I wished I had said to that “friendly” neighbor of mine: “Well, it turns out I wanted my life to change, and I’m happy to be home while he naps; in fact, if it were quiet enough, I’d be napping too!”

As a new mom, it sometimes feels as though you’re wearing a T-shirt that reads, “How’s my parenting? Feel free to tell me what I should be doing.” Don’t get me wrong, when you are new at anything, advice and pointers from those with more experience can be extremely helpful. The trouble is, there’s a lot of bad advice out there. And the very worst advice is offered up unrequested. I would go so far as to say that any unsolicited parenting advice is bad advice. And while you can’t always stop someone from sharing, you can arm yourself with a few witty comebacks that shut it down and leave you feeling empowered instead of beleaguered.

Below are the main categories of bad new parenting advice and what to say if you hear it—because the only thing worse than suffering through bad parenting advice is thinking of a good comeback two days later.

1. Medical advice from anyone other than a trusted doctor or nurse. In this category, you will find totally unqualified people suggesting that you give your newborn Benadryl so that they sleep, or that 6-week-old babies need to be exposed to germs to make them strong. When someone tries to give you medical advice, try this reply, “Interesting, I’ll have to run that by my doctor.” Or, “Really? Where did you go to medical school?” That ought to end the conversation real quick.

The trouble is, there’s a lot of bad advice out there. And the very worst advice is offered up unrequested.

2. How to feed your baby. I’m not sure why everyone and their mother feels compelled to weigh in on this subject, but if your baby is healthy and growing, you don’t need any help feeding them. Breast isn’t always best. And bottles don’t need to be given at a special angle. You generally can’t make a baby too fat, and there’s nothing wrong with a petite baby either. Rice cereal doesn’t have to be the first food, and you can start solids whenever your doctor gives the OK and you feel comfortable. When someone tells you how to feed your baby, confidently declare, “I feed my baby with one goal in mind, for her to be happy and healthy, so far so good!” Or if you’ve really had enough, just smirk and say, “Is that how you were fed? Because I’m not sure I want my baby to end up like [make a vague gesture in their direction] this.

3. How to love and care for your baby. If there was ever a subject people shouldn’t weigh in on, it’s this; yet, I think most new moms receive some form of advice on how to actually love their child. It might be that ever popular passive-aggressive cliché, “Enjoy every minute.” Or something even more ridiculous like, “If you pick that baby up every time he cries, he will be totally spoiled.” Just remember that you know what’s best for you and your baby. No one can love your baby better than you, and that love is there even when you’re not enjoying every minute. The best response to these preposterous mandates is no response at all. Just smile and walk away, you’ve got better things to do than entertain their ridiculousness.

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As a new mom, it’s impossible to avoid all unwanted advice but it doesn’t have to ruin your day or make you question your parenting. Try to laugh it off and realize that however misguided, these people are just trying to help. Someday you might even find yourself having the urge to give a new mom advice, much like I’m doing now. Remember that ultimately, parenting is about doing what works best for your family and no one is more of an expert on your family than you.

Image via Carla Wiking

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