Have you just had a baby? Congrats! One of my friends just had a baby, and it’s lovely, in the way that it is when your friends have babies. It always is, isn’t it? Especially as this is a friend I’ve known for ages, since university and through all the various ages and drunken stages that followed.
We were talking about how she was, and she asked for advice on something minor (which took me ages to actually remember despite only being in the baby bubble so recently. Moral of the story; don’t ask me). But it reminded me, really clearly, about the new mum wilderness and the wasteland of parenting advice.
Advice comes at you from all angles when you have babies. From the questions you ask to the unsolicited opinions that are dished out left right and centre, often on buses, and as judgement wrapped up in an advice-shaped package. From your mum to the midwife and millions of old ladies in the street and the supermarket (what is it about the old ladies?) Then there’s the Internet, magazines, apps and all those books you optimistically bought but are too tired to make sense of.
And the thing is, most of it is terrible. But when you’re tired and clueless it’s difficult to tell. So what’s the worst advice you could give to new mums?
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone tells you this, like it’s one of life’s great secrets. ‘You must sleep when the baby sleeps’ they say with an arm squeeze and a head tilt. But people who say this clearly haven’t had a baby in a really long while because the precious, precious time when they’re asleep is the only time you have to do, well, everything really. Like eat, or shower, or do jazz hands because both of them are free and you can, or stare at a wall because you can’t do anything else, or stare at your peaceful sleeping baby because when are they going to wake up again? And oh wait, they’re awake again and you’ve not napped. Of course you should nap when you can and you will feel better for it, but pinning everything on this tiny window can leave you in wide awaken frustration, staring at the ceiling.
Good advice would be to try not to kick anyone who tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps (especially if you have a big dose of the post-pregnancy rage).
Sleep when the baby sleeps… when you have a second child. Hahaha. Not. A. Chance. And you’ll be trying not to kick yourself for not doing it first time.
Leave the cleaning! It can wait.. This is, technically, good advice, because no-one wants to do cleaning, especially not when you have a baby, and you shouldn’t do it when you’ve just had a baby (because there’s more important things like the baby, cake and box sets). But if no-one in the house does it, it can get a bit depressing and you will run out of brand new babygros at some point. The best advice would be to get someone else to do it – hopefully a visitor, or the person who gave you the advice. Or, get a cleaner (even if only once).
Anything along the lines of ‘rod for your own back’ – I’ve written about my absolute dislike of this terrible advice before, which has been dished out at me from everything from co-sleeping to extended breastfeeding, and holding the baby too much, all of which are positive choices we’ve made.
‘Doing X will spoil them’ – see above.
Anything prescribed by Dr Google – The path to new mum’s madness is littered with a long Internet search history. There’s probably a whole separate server farm to power the amount of frantic searches based on ‘why won’t my baby sleep?’ ‘what’s *that* mark’ and so on. It’s probably best to stick to tried and trusted sources, and not message boards full of equally clueless mums. When you enter the dark desperate depths of page 17 of Google search results for ‘why won’t my baby sleep in a Moses basket?’ then you should probably stop.
Anything prescribed by Dr Google at 3am – this time is when you’re at the peak of your tired new mum neuroses. Look at Pinterest instead.
99% of what the Health Visitor tells you – I’m pretty sure Health Visitors do have good advice, they’re just pretty stingy about dishing it out. I recently took the baby for her one-year check. ‘How’s she sleeping?’ I was asked, and was too tired to say anything but the truth – terribly. ‘But if she sleeps badly then she won’t rest properly! You must make her sleep’ said the HV. Great, helpful, thanks for that.
Trust your instincts – OK, so this is actually the best advice, but with a caveat. My instincts told me I was going to drop the baby out of the closed window. Or that if I opened it, a heron would fly in and take her, because that would obviously happen. So maybe, trust your instincts but with a pinch of salt.
Or ignore all of this entirely, it’s completely up to you.
What’s the worst parenting advice you’ve ever been given?