Unsolicited Parent Advice: Friend or Foe?

We all have those people in our lives, the ones who voice their opinion even when uninvited. The ones who have read the most recent study, or watched a video, or read an article on Facebook. The ones who.know.everything. 

Being a parent makes these people appear out of the woodwork. It seems that all of a sudden everyone is an expert in all things baby, and you start to doubt yourself from the second you walk out of the hospital room. 

The truth is, we are all experts in our own way because we are experts with our own babies. No two babies are alike, so no two experiences are alike. Things change. New studies come out, old studies get debunked (don't even get me started on the whiskey and gum trick for teething) and things change. They always will. 

I often think about being a parent now versus being a parent 30 years ago. I'm lucky enough to have my mom help nanny for Lennon so I can make a living, and while this is truly one of the best experiences for myself and my daughter, I can't help but notice some discrepancies in our "mothering" of Lennon. Don't get me wrong; it's nothing I would consider a game-changer or altering in the sense of extremity, but more so just an observation. 

I think of those first early months of Lenny's life when sleep was the monster in the bedroom we had to battle every night. As a newborn, we relied on the swaddle and swing to get her down. She eventually progressed to the Rock N Play (if you are a new parent and don't know what this is, I assure you THIS is a game-changer) and then eventually the crib. When she outgrew the swaddle, we moved her to the Merlin Sleep suit (another must have) and that did the trick. This is where the discrepancies in mother vs. mother started coming in. 


My mom was concerned that the sleep suit didn't allow her to roll over from back to belly and that she was "uncomfortable." My mom threw that word around a lot. Uncomfortable. I explained that the point of the sleep suit was to keep her on her back to prevent SIDS, and the most recent studies show back is best. She wasn't buying it. She said, "How would you like to be stuck on your back all night?" I responded, "If it meant I could sleep through the night, I'd be fine with it." She wasn't buying that, either.

In addition to sleep habits, food was a huge eye opener to just how much things have changed in the last few decades. When Lenny started eating solids around six-months, my mom wanted to feed her everything under the Sun, including peanut butter. She said, "When you were a baby, we never had to worry about allergies or pesticides or chemicals. We fed you guys everything." She even wanted to give Lenny whole milk even though my doctor strongly advised against it to a point where she prohibited it. Lenny was still a breastfed baby at this point and didn't need milk from any other animal than myself. 

"Hell," she once said, "You had peanut butter pie at your brothers first birthday party." (Based on some suspicious old family photos, I am also quite certain that my brothers were riding on the floor of our car at this point in our lives, but that is an entirely different story in it's entirety!) She told me I was worrying over nothing, regardless of what the doctor had said. 

One time, around the age of eight or nine months, my mom was concerned that Lennon wasn't crawling forward yet, only backwards. She reached the conclusion that we most likely "held her too much" and not giving her the floor space that she needed. Held a baby too much? Is that even a thing?

Don't even get me started on the pacifiers.

Opinions will come and go; from family (mainly moms) and from friends (mainly seasoned parents) or even from friends and family members who don't even have kids. That would be like me trying to teach a pilot to fly when I've never seen an airplane.

The point of all this is adapting to change and accepting of the kind of parent you want to be versus what kind of parent others think you should be. We are the best moms/dads we know to be. 30 years ago when my mom was raising me as a newborn and my brothers as toddlers, I am sure there were things she did that her mom (my grandmother) probably laughed or snickered at. And I am sure that when Lenny becomes a mom, I will offer her my unsolicited and uninvited advice as well, only to be met with eye rolls and sarcasm. It's just the nature of the beast. 

We, as parents, need to understand that while there may be websites, blog posts, support groups, books, etc. not one or all of them are "right" per se. They offer the best advice based on the most recent studies and findings, yes. They now tell you that SIDS is at an all-time low just from having babies sleep on their back. Great news! But, the rest you learn as you go, as you make mistakes, and as your mom continues to voice her opinion (just kidding, mom!). 

Truthfully, things have changed over the years and will continue to do so. DO NOT lose sleep over the fact that your little one still has to have your boob in her mouth to fall asleep, or that your son chooses your husband over you when he's upset. DO NOT compare your child's development to other children's growth and development. Accept that all kids are different. My kid crawled backwards until she was 9 months and one week, and turned out fine! I stressed, lost sleep, brought her to the doctor, lost more sleep, only to come to the conclusion that I had a lazy kid. Lazy Lenny. 

At least now we have a cute nickname for her.