Congratulations, you’re pregnant! For the next (at least!) 18 years, you will be getting advice on how best to care for this new bundle of joy. Your mom, your mother-in-law, your next-door neighbor, that woman in your book club, that person you don’t really know how you know on social media, the other moms at the playground … all will offer their personal stories of parenting success. How great to have so much help! It takes a village, after all. But, maybe you weren’t asking for advice. Maybe your mom and best friend are giving you conflicting strategies. Maybe you appreciate it, but all this advice is getting a little overwhelming.
People have been raising children since the beginning of our existence. If there were a single right way to do it, we would have figured it out by now. Bookstores wouldn’t have full sections on parenting. A Google search for “parenting advice” wouldn’t come back with more than 40 million results. It turns out that there are lots of ways to parent. There will be an infinite number of decisions to make as you raise your child, and for better or for worse, many people in your life may have input into the “right” decision. You are under no obligation to follow their advice. Go back and read that last sentence again, because it’s important. Most advice is given in the spirit of trying to help, and it’s kind to receive it graciously, but you don’t have to follow it. Let go of the pressure to parent like someone else, because the parent who knows your child best is you!
Now that you’ve freed yourself from having to follow others’ advice, you can make a decision about whether you want to follow it. Hear it, consider it, put it in your toolbox. Endeavor to raise your child according to your own cultural practices, religious principles and ethical standards. When you come to a new situation and are struggling to come up with a solution, reach into that toolbox if you need it. Try out some of that advice if it seems right for your family, but remember that what works for one child may not work for another. Also keep in mind that even if it is not the right advice for this child at this moment, it may be right for this child in the future or another child down the line. A full toolbox is never a bad thing; just make sure you’re using the right tool at the right time.
OK, you are now empowered to filter through parenting advice from all the well-meaning people in your life – some of which will be absolutely amazing, and some of which is best ignored. Where else can you get good advice? Your pediatrician or family doctor can be especially helpful in sorting out many parenting issues, especially in regard to the health and safety of your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics has several great parenting books for sale at http://shop.aap.org/for-parents/ if you like to have something on hand to reference. Alternately, if you prefer to narrow down those 40 million Google results, try https://www.healthychildren.org/ or https://kidshealth.org/.
When in doubt, trust your mommy instincts on the best decision for your child and the best resources for you as you navigate your parenting journey.
Eleanor Eichman, MD, is a pediatrician at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.