A new mom's guide to navigating unwanted advice

7 Minute Read

Oh boy. The holidays are coming. Let's talk about something every new mom faces: a tidal wave of advice, wanted or not. It comes from everywhere—family, friends, that lady in the grocery store who thinks she's the baby whisperer. We get it, it can be overwhelming.Unfortunately, there's no magic solution for dealing with unsolicited advice. And it can be especially hard to navigate in the first few months postpartum because you're already feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and incredibly vulnerable in this new role.We don't have a magic pill, but here's what we've learned navigating this ourselves (and talking to some therapists).

Understand why people want to give advice

Everyone suddenly becomes a baby expert the moment you announce your pregnancy. It's like they can't help themselves. There are a few types of advice you'll likely encounter.First, there's the 'old-school wisdom' —think grandma’s remedies and ancient baby sleep rituals. Sure, some of it's timeless, but other bits? Not so much. Then, there's the 'latest trend' brigade, armed with all the newfangled baby gear and techniques. And don't forget the 'horror story sharers' —they love to recount every parenting mishap they've ever encountered. It's enough to make you want to hide under a blanket with your little one!But here's the deal: most of the time, these advice-givers mean well. They're coming from a place of love, experience, or even their own anxieties about parenting. Remember your Aunt Linda, who insists you need to swaddle the baby like a burrito? She's not trying to drive you nuts; she genuinely believes she's helping. It's important to remember that this advice is often more about the giver than about you or your baby.

How to handle unwanted advice

You’ve got a bundle of joy in one hand and a mountain of advice in the other. What now?Handling unsolicited advice can feel tricky, but here are some strategies:

  1. Active Listening, Then Deflecting: Sometimes, people just want to feel heard. Give them a moment, then gently steer the conversation away. For example, “That’s an interesting point, Aunt Meg. By the way, did you see the cute outfit we got for the baby?”
  2. Validating but Not Committing: Acknowledge the advice without agreeing to follow it. Say something like, “That sounds like it worked great for you! We’ll consider it if we need more options.”
  3. Using Humor to Lighten the Situation: A little humor goes a long way. Respond with a chuckle and a playful comment like, “With all this advice, I could write a book! Speaking of books, have you read any good ones lately?”
  4. Firm but Kind Responses for Persistent Advisers: When the same person keeps giving advice, a firmer response might be necessary. Try, “I know you mean well, but we’re really happy with how we’re doing things. Let’s focus on enjoying our time together.”
  5. Seeking Advice on Your Terms: Sometimes, flipping the script helps. Ask for advice on something specific. It shows you value their input, but on your terms.

You'll master the art of the 'smile and nod.' Remember, you don’t always have to explain or justify your parenting choices. Sometimes, a simple “We’re trying something else, but I appreciate your concern” is all you need. And for those relentless advice-givers? Have a few go-to phrases ready, like “I'll keep that in mind” or “Our pediatrician suggested this approach.”

Polite but Firm: Setting Boundaries

t’s totally okay to say, “I appreciate your advice, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Can we talk about something else?” No need to be a superhero here; it’s okay to let people know when their well-meaning advice is actually piling on the pressure.Here are five ideas to help you set kind but firm boundaries:

  1. Preemptive Statements: Sometimes, addressing potential advice before it’s given can help. Say, “We’re trying a specific approach recommended by our pediatrician, and we’re sticking to it for now.”
  2. The Power of Body Language: Non-verbal cues can be powerful. Crossed arms, minimal eye contact, or even physically stepping back can signal that you’re not open to advice at that moment.
  3. Redirecting the Conversation: If someone starts giving advice, try redirecting the topic. For example, “I appreciate your concern, but I’m really needing to talk about something else right now. How’s your new garden project going?”
  4. Setting Clear Limits in Sensitive Areas: For topics you’re particularly sensitive about (like feeding or sleep training), be more direct. Say, “I find conversations about [topic] quite stressful, so I’d prefer not to discuss it.”
  5. Enlisting Support from a Partner or Friend: Sometimes, having someone else to back you up can make boundary-setting easier. A simple glance or a pre-arranged signal can prompt them to step in and change the subject.

Build a community that's got your back

Creating a circle of trust is essential for navigating the complexities of new motherhood. Think about the people in your life who give you energy rather than drain it. These could be friends who are also moms, a relative you trust, or even a neighbor who's been through it all. These are your people—your village. Having a regular coffee date or phone call with a fellow mom friend can be a lifeline. It’s a safe space to vent, share, and laugh about the ups and downs of motherhood.If certain people or groups are consistently negative or not in line with your values, it’s perfectly fine to unfollow them or step back from the relationship. Your well-being and that of your baby are what matter most. Make it clear in your network that you’re all about support, not judgment. This can help create an environment where everyone feels safe to share and ask for advice without fear of criticism.

Trust your instincts and reach out when you need to

Remember, even with all the advice and opinions, your instincts are incredibly powerful. You know your baby better than anyone else. Trust that inner voice; it’s your superpower.But hey, even superheroes have sidekicks, right? Never be afraid to reach out for support when you need it. Whether it's a question about feeding, a concern about sleep patterns, or just needing someone to say, “I’ve been there too,” your support network is there for you. And if things feel overwhelming, seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness.Motherhood is a journey with its highs and lows. It’s perfectly normal to feel confident one day and unsure the next. That's part of the adventure. Remember, seeking help and support isn’t just good for you; it's great for your baby, too. When you're supported, you're able to be the best mom you can be.Trust yourself, lean on your support network, and most importantly, enjoy the ride with your little one!

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