“Everyone tells me something different.” It’s the number one struggle we hear from new parents. When it comes to parenting questions such as diapering, feeding, sleeping and even choosing a baby swing, everybody’s got an opinion. Every sister, neighbor and web forum offers you a new idea, often with the conviction that this is The Way to do it. And if you’re hearing these million different things, it can drive you crazy and leave you feeling lost.
So why is it that there are so many different suggestions for just one simple problem? C’mon, isn’t there just a right answer?
Well, yes and no. There is an answer. But it may take a few tries to get to it. Here’s why…
1. Even simple questions involve lots of different factors such as child’s age and temperment, medical and birth history, current developmental stage, family goals and values, etc. So what worked for one person may not for another. Unless BoogieMama78 on Babycenter asks you all the right questions, she can’t really give you a personalized answer.
2. People base suggestions on their personal experience. So ask ten moms get ten answers.
3. Sometimes there really is more than one way to do it. 2+2=4 but so does 1+3.
So what do you do?
1. Seek experienced input from both professionals and other parents who share your style, goals and values. If you wanted to learn to knit, you’d ask someone who had made a few sweaters you like, not someone who gave it a go and either didn’t care for knitting or who makes scarves you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. Same with parenting. If you had, say, a breastfeeding question, ask a friend who breastfed successfully for a little help and advice.
Remember, though, that friends will mostly be sharing personal experience. While that may be useful, it may not reflect a broad range of experience. So also seek out professional experience. A pro, such as your pediatrician, IBCLC or experienced nurse, should be taking a broad perspective – Instead of “this worked for me and my three kids” it should be “this is what has worked for 85% of the hundreds of kids I’ve seen.” With a broad, professional perspective, you’ve got a better chance of getting the best suggestion first. She should also be assessing your unique situation and using evidence based practices. (see next)
2. Look for evidence based suggestions rather than anecdotes. “Evidence based” means a suggestion has been examined in a scientifically reliable way, preferably a controlled, double blind study. “Anecdote” means this worked for one mom one time. You’re less likely to waste your time on crazy talk if you look for evidence based practices.
3. Use your gut. Even when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re still the expert in your baby. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If something rings a bell, it might be worth trying. Also, communicate openly with your health care provider about what your intuition is telling you so they can help you find the best solution for your unique situation.
And Hang In There. In no time, you’ll be the experienced mom doling out free advice to all the newbies.