Whose baby is it anyway?

Reading time: 5 min

When you become a new parent, some things are imminent. Each baby comes with their own package of added benefits like sleep deprivation, guilt and, my personal favourite, unsolicited parenting advice.

Suddenly everyone feels duty-bound to get involved, offering wisdom, judgement and criticism to “help” you do it the “right” way. And everyone seems to think their way is the best way. I beg your pardon, but whose child is this anyway and could you be any more condescending? The fact is, there is no set way to raise a child. How can there be when each child is as unique as a snowflake? Your baby is an original, one-of-a-kind original design and none of them come with an instruction manual. What works for one person is not best for everyone and it’s ridiculous to assume a one-size-fits-all approach. This is your baby and ultimately you will make the choices that you feel are best for you and your baby, regardless of what your critics say.

My feeling on this is how you do things is far less important than the outcome. Love doesn’t come from a bottle, dummy or your breasts – it comes from you. And you know that you love your child more than life itself and that you are doing what you feel is best for your bambino.

It was a lot harder the first time around when baby Number One was born. By the time baby Number Two entered this world, I found it a lot easier to cope. Number One had turned out pretty awesome thus far and I realised that dealing with the many stresses – unwanted advice and judgement included – was really not too bad this time around. I’m not saying there was less critique; I just handled it better.

“The fact is, there is no set way to raise a child. How can there be when each child is as unique as a snowflake?”

Looking back, here’s what I discovered about how I managed to deal with the situations that irk me. This realisation happened purely incidentally while I was chatting to a friend and fellow new mummy who was having a tough time dealing with the undermining family “advice” and prying interference from strangers.

Firstly, are you confident in the choice you have made? If you have doubts about your decision and wonder if you should have made different choices, your lack of confidence leaves you feeling defensive and sensitive to criticism from others. We often don’t realise that we are our own worst critics, especially when it comes to our children. Speak to your paediatrician, midwife or medical practitioner – get expert advice to set your mind at ease. Reach out to supportive moms who have made similar choices (I found it was much better speaking to moms who bottle fed) who will give you genuine support. Be kind to yourself. What matters most is that your baby is healthy and thriving – how you achieve this will vary from others. You need to figure out your own rhythm.

If a close friend or family member challenges your choices, be the better person and support their parenting choices, but stand by your decision. Don’t feel the need to defend yourself and set limits of how much time you spend with these people. Having said that, there are times when you’ll have to bite back a response and try to be tactful, for the sake of all involved. In such instances, try one of these replies – and never underestimate the power of changing the subject.

Diplomatic responses for family members:

  • Interesting point of view. More tea?
  • Yes, I’ve considered that but it didn’t work for me. Did you hear about the Dali Lama?
  • I make my choices based on what works for us. This cake is delicious, did you bake it yourself? I must get the recipe.
  • That’s good in theory and it may have worked for you, but it’s not so easy in practice.
  • Oh, did that work for you? Interesting – tell me about how it was back in your day. Wow, how things have changed since then!
  • I’m glad that worked for you. I’ve tried that, but my baby responds better when I do this.
  • I know it might not work for everyone, but we’ve decided to try this and it’s working pretty well. You should try the salmon, it’s delicious!
  • It’s not my first time. I’ve had some practice and I’ve got it, thanks. 

Responses for strangers (said with tongue lodged firmly in cheek)

  • Well, if this one doesn’t work out, we’ll trade him in for a new one and start again.
  • Thanks for the advice. Can I get your number, so I can call you whenever he cries?
  • Nope, he’s not hungry; he’s just crying because I forgot to give him his whisky this morning.
  • Why yes, he probably is hungry, I haven’t fed him in days.
  • Nope, I don’t think he needs a nappy change – perhaps you stepped in something?
  • I’m not sure why he’s crying, it’s not my baby. I just stole him from a department store an hour ago – we’re still figuring this out.
  • Thanks for the tip. Since we’re so close now, I simply must return the favour and offer you some of your own unsolicited advice.

Also read:

No such thing as a supermom
What to do when your baby doesn’t want to sleep