From the moment you announce your pregnancy, you will be bombarded with unsolicited advice. It can be so overwhelming hearing everyone’s horror stories, their must-have products and dos and don’t for caring for a baby. It is difficult to separate what is good advice and what is bad. As new parents, we want to learn for ourselves but are also terrified of making a mistake.
Most advice-givers will be well-meaning but it is alarming how quickly strangers will share intimate details of their birth story with you. Even randoms on the bus will tell you off for eating something they think you are not ‘allowed’. Essentially it seems that you, and by extension, your baby, are public property as soon as you start to show. The struggle to distinguish solid advice from nonsense goes for the wealth of information and resources online too. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as taking what we find at face value, it is not always obvious what the agenda of the person behind the blog or the website is, and there are so many official-looking sources that totally contradict each other.
My general policy was to ignore everyone besides medical professionals that were giving me personalized advice. I love researching online so I was quite content to look into things, discover articles about baby development and read reviews of products for myself. I had quite a bit of experience looking after children and babies before I was pregnant so I was reasonably confident (ha!) I knew what I was getting myself into.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that there is some good advice that I didn’t follow, partly because of an unwillingness to do as I am told but also because I believed contradictory advice or just wanted to do things my own way.
The advice I wish I had listened to starts with buying baby stuff. Choosing big-ticket items like a stroller or car seat can be really exciting, and makes the impending arrival seem all the more real. I had read lots about the ‘must-haves’ but also read plenty of articles about how a baby can survive with nothing but an old pillowcase to line an empty dresser drawer. There is definitely a happy medium and there is an awful lot of stuff that we didn’t get as much use out of as we had anticipated. A common example I have come across is the bells and whistles kind of stroller. We have one, and I love it, but my baby doesn’t share my love of it. We have days when he will scream if we try and sit him in it, meaning we could get by with just a carrier if we needed to. We bought a lovely side sleeper crib for safer co-sleeping but he hasn’t slept in it since he was about 4 months old. We would have saved thousands if we had waited until he arrived to see whether he was going to be a Velcro baby that didn’t like being put down or at least bought second hand so to ease the financial hit.
I had a completely ridiculous obsession with buying everything new, ignoring all advice to buy second hand where possible. This was fantastic advice, and not just for environmental reasons: babies grow so bloody quickly, and their interests are startlingly fleeting. I spent huge sums on gorgeous French organic cotton outfits that my son wore a maximum of twice. We unexpectedly started using cloth diapers from about 5 weeks, and it takes a while for baby clothes to accumulate into a big enough pile to warrant sticking a load on. When I first started packing away clothes into storage I felt really sad that my baby was growing so quickly, it is such a bittersweet feeling. Now I just get pissed off that I haven’t had my money’s worth before it is time to go up a size.
If my son showed an interest in a particular toy at a stay-and-play session I would go home and buy it, only for it to be cast aside under the coffee table a few days later. Babies genuinely do need very little and moving forward I will definitely be checking to see if I can find what I’m looking for pre-loved before I purchase it new. I wish I had listened when everyone told me not to bother with expensive baby clothes, but I thought I knew better *eye-roll*
I heard so much about co-sleeping being fantastic to ensure a bit of extra rest but I was petrified to let my baby into bed with me. When you have a baby that refuses to sleep in their own cot, this would have saved my sanity in the early days but I was too preoccupied with the safety warnings to relax enough to try. When done safely, co-sleeping is brilliant for mom and baby, particularly if you are breastfeeding. Now at 7 months old I finally feel comfortable co-sleeping with my baby and we both get a better night’s sleep this way. We had a ton of difficulties feeding for the first 3.5 months of his life and I could never get the hang of feeding lying down, despite it being recommended by almost everyone I have come across that has breastfed. I’m pleased I persevered because it makes the million night feeds just a little less painful because I don’t really have to move. Next time, if there is a next time, I will try co-sleeping earlier on.
‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ is so often mentioned, and it used to really irritate me. There are a million things that need to be done when you have a baby; feeding, changing diapers, the extra laundry, and so on. When you have a baby that wants to cluster feed constantly and won’t be put down, it feels impossible to keep on top of these in addition to your share of the normal household stuff like cooking and cleaning. When my baby finally went down for a nap as a newborn it was often for a grand total of 7 minutes, which was hardly enough time to get comfortable in bed, let alone have a nap myself. However, there were definitely times when I just sat scrolling on my phone, or put a load of laundry on when my baby was sleeping because I was convinced he would wake up any second. He would wake up hours later and I’d be fuming with myself for wasting the opportunity. Honestly, almost all household stuff can wait, or make someone else do it. If you are not well-rested it will have such a negative impact on your wellbeing, so in this case, annoying advice is very good advice indeed.