Having a baby makes you a magnet for unsolicited advice. Good advice, bad advice– everyone has something to say. And even when it’s good, solid advice, it often feels like judgement: “Make sure you support that baby’s head” sounds just like “You’re doing it all wrong, stupid.”
Before I even had the baby, some random lady at church was telling me I should schedule feedings so the baby wouldn’t be spoiled. I fumed all the way home. I’d already done my research on the subject, and knew the importance of feeding on demand for adequate milk supply– especially in the early months. This woman’s children were long since grown, and the research had moved on without notifying her. Two weeks in a row now, another lady at church has advised us on holding the baby correctly. What she’s saying is absolutely right– we should be supporting his head at all times, and being careful to keep his spine straight. I KNOW these things. I’ve read an entire book on the subject and if you ever want to check it out, Esther Gokhale‘s 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back is a fantastic read, whether you have back pain or not. Anyway, this woman is telling us about proper baby posture and care, and she’s absolutely right, but it sounds like judgement. You’re not doing it right. And the thing is, I am actually trying to do it right, but my baby weighs over twelve pounds at only six weeks, and I just flat don’t have the arm strength to hold him correctly for more than a couple of minutes– which is partly why I’ve been so obsessed with finding the right baby sling arrangement. And I don’t speak enough Spanish to explain that to her. It’s incredibly frustrating to get advice I know to be good, and still feel judged by it.
Oddly, not all advice feels that way. Delivery is important. When the lady on the bench yesterday pointed out that the baby’s nose was blocked while he was nursing, that didn’t feel judgemental at all.
The thing is, I find myself on the opposite side of the problem too. My brother and his wife had a baby a week after we did. I’ve just run across a slew of articles criticizing the overuse of acid suppressing drugs in infants, for reflux. Basically, as long as the baby is growing normally, you shouldn’t give them drugs for spitting up. Baby vomit is not acid and does not damage the esophagus the way adult reflux does. And the drugs have some nasty effects in the long term — especially worrisome in infants because they can interfere with calcium absorption. Yet they’re the flavor of the week in pediatrics. Thing is, I feel like I can’t even forward the articles, because I know it’ll come across as judgement. And it is. It’s basically me telling my sister-in-law “you have too much blind faith in the medical profession and you should do your own research. I’m right and you’re wrong.” Which would be really bad for family relations. I lack the exquisite tact to be able to do that without offense.
It hurts to bite my tongue that hard.