Is it just me, or did becoming a mother come with about 500 pieces of conflicting advice on every topic imaginable – sleeping, feeding, education, childcare, working, not working, brain development, foods, allergies, formula, breastfeeding, toilets, nappies, bedding, clothing, toys, drinking, eating, holding, settling, rolling, crawling… and I seemed to be saddled with all this from multiple channels about 10 minutes after announcing I was pregnant! It’s no wonder that us mothers feel overwhelmed from the start and afraid of so many things.
So to all the future or currently wondering mothers out there – here is the anti-advice I wish I had received when contemplating motherhood with all it’s quirks.
1. Calm Down – It’s not likely to be anything life threatening. Your baby will be quiet and active at different times of the day than a regular person until their own rhythms come together, this doesn’t mean that they have a problem. They may pick up a cold, a cough, a slight temperature or a strange habit as they explore their surroundings, but none of this is usually cause for a visit to the doctors office where they are likely to pick up more germs. Your baby needs you to be the calm person in the room and ignore the overactive imagination of your mother in law / well meaning friend / fellow mother.
2. Ignore The Hormones – You will be amazed what the first few weeks of motherhood hormones make you do. All of a sudden, you are completely overcome with love and protective instincts and you will try to do it all and be all to this little creature. You need to let other people in (especially your partner) so that they understand from the moment you get home that this whole journey is a partnership. Start as you mean to go on and don’t try to do it all – let your partner / mother / friend do the night feed, the nappy change, the calming down. It’s important that your baby be comfortable in more than one environment.
3. Your Baby Is You – There is a lot of generic advice out there on what babies should be doing at what point and when to introduce something to them and what is appropriate and “normal”. Your baby is not “normal” – s/he is incredibly special because s/he is you and is wired just like you are. Try and tap in to that and find the right solution, not fit them in to what the book / site / person says should be occurring.
4. Failure Comes From Expectations – Don’t put firm expectations on what your baby will and won’t do because they aren’t able to work with you. They can take their cues from you, but they are not able to know that they are meant to be asleep at 715pm at the latest, so expecting them to do this will make you feel like a failure. Keep expectations to a minimum and work on getting slow and steady wins rather than a baby who performs.
5. Your Mother Did What Was Best – And just like everything else in life, what is best in one generation doesn’t necessarily fit what’s best now. Your mother / mother-in-law / friendly aunt will have wonderful advice on how they did things, but you are now in charge so don’t let them take over and re-create your childhood. Let your life lessons influence your child from the moment they are born.
But the greatest anti-advice of all?
Stop listening so much and have fun with the mothering thing. Babies are not only resilient and strong, but hysterical and endlessly fascinating. Don’t lose the wonder to panic and if you feel yourself doing this, talk to someone – share the burden of worry and let other people help you. A fully rounded child needs interaction and guidance from a lot of people in order for them to be independent and thoughtful adults.