Why I don't regret ignoring unsolicited baby advice

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When you’ve just had a baby, there is no end to the unsolicited advice you receive. Nor to the subtle and less subtle tut-tutting when you don’t follow the advice.

Yet it felt as though my babies just didn’t seem to work the way people were telling me they should, so I ended up guiltily following my babies’ leads and hoping no one would find out that I was doing everything “wrong”.

Now that they’re teenagers, I have the luxury of tallying things I don’t regret doing, in spite of the dire warnings I got about how badly I was messing up.

This is not advice. It’s just reassurance that if these are your decisions, it’s probably all going to be okay.

Decision 1

When you’re struggling to get your baby to latch, and it feels like someone’s holding a blowtorch to your nipples, and you’re crying tears of pain and self-pity and frustration, people like to shout: “Use the bottle!”

I don’t know why I was so stubborn, but I didn’t. Here’s why I’m glad:

  1. The convenience and speed – the fast-food factor – of breastfeeding isway underrated.
  2. Finding out that I could fatten up a baby using nothing but me had enormous benefits for my body image and general self-confidence.
  3. I lost weight quickly. Apparently this doesn’t happen for everyone, but it did for me.
  4. Sitting for hours and hours every day to breastfeed calmed me way the hell down. I was a frayed, stringy mess about my new gig. Being forced to just sit helped to let all the silt in my head settle slowly down until I could figure out how to mother my way.
  5. I slept more. Working out how to feed and sleep at the same time was the best multi-tasking parenting skill I ever learnt.
  6. I spent less. Nappies are frigging expensive, so having free food for one member of the household was great.

Decision 2

We copped serious flack for eventually “giving in” to the family bed.

“Babies in the marital bed will drive a wedge between the parents” was one particularly worrying warning. Then there was the “you’ll never get them out of your bed again” and “you won’t get any sleep”. But when my husband groggily said one night: “Just put him in bed so we can all sleep,” it was a turning point.

  1. I slept more, not less.
  2. I worried less, not more.
  3. There’s this fuzzy, indescribable benefit you can’t really describe without sounding silly: all sleeping together and waking up together is a Very Happy Thing.
  4. Kids eventually they move to their own beds of their own accord and it becomes one of your many parenting lessons in letting go.

Decision 3

One of the direst warnings I received was “if you pick him up all the time, he’ll want you to pick him up all the time”.

This was a bit terrifying, because sometimes I would have to pick up other things, or use both hands at once. What if I spent the next two years of my life being unable to use my hands for anything other than holding him?

Yet, when we were touching, the baby was happy. When we weren’t, the baby wasn’t.

So I figured out how to sling them on to my back and tie them in nice and tight and voila! Happy baby and free hands.

********

Babies feed often, sleep erratically, don’t understand routine and like to be held. A lot. These are all appropriate baby things, even though they’re mostly extremely inconvenient for adults.

But I don’t regret “giving in” to the baby things. Everything turned out fine, even though I was, according to some, doing mothering all wrong.

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