10. Nod, smile, and ignore. The least confrontational of the ways of dealing with unwanted advice can be one of the hardest, especially if you know for certain that the info is wrong. No matter how warm it is, someone is going to tell you that your baby should be wearing a hat. A simple nod, quick smile, and fast exit might be your best “out”.
8. Promise to look into it. This is a great way for dealing with the information overload givers. If your friend is rattling off statistics about babies who start on solid foods at age 6 months versus 9 months, you might be best off looking interested and saying “Thanks, I’ll look into that!” and then doing so, at a later date if you think there might be something to it.
7. Change the subject. Nice and non-confrontational, simply talk about something, anything, else. Most people won’t circle back around to the advice if you’ve got them talking about something else, but if they do, you can use this one endlessly. Movies, TVs, something funny your kids did, or, in a pinch, politics and religion – that may turn a little ugly, but hey, at least you’re off the parenting advice!
6. Agree, even if you don’t mean it. This is another non-confrontational strategy that is sometimes the easiest way to get the person to move on. “Your baby should be wearing a hat.” “You are so right! I can’t believe I forgot it.” Now the person has nothing left to add or argue with and you can move on.
5. Ask for a demonstration, if safe and applicable. One new grandma kept telling her daughter (the new mom) that she wasn’t swaddling properly because the baby kept getting loose. Letting her swaddle the baby a few times allowed her to realize that it wasn’t the swaddle, it was the Houdini powers of the baby. Maybe the person really does know a faster or easier way to diaper, or maybe they will soon learn that baby techniques are rarely one size fits all! If nothing else, you can get a break for a few minutes while someone else cares for the baby.
4. “I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work for us.” When I had problems getting my youngest one on solid foods, everyone and their mother had advice for me. Of course, having dealt with it for months, as well as talked to my pediatrician and a specialist about it, their advice was repetitive and unhelpful. After many, many times hearing that I should (fill in the blank), I finally started telling people, “Yup, did that. Did that one twice. Did that one for a week….” until they ran out of ideas.
3. Correct misinformation. As doulas, sometimes we know the advice we are hearing is not only unasked for, but also incorrect. If you know that the person is giving wrong and potentially dangerous information, it might be best to gently correct them. Many mothers have heard that putting baby cereal in bottles of babies as young as a week old can “help them sleep”. The latest research suggests that this is not true, and while it may be used for babies with reflux on recommendation of a pediatrician, for those without, it has no benefits and possible consequences later on.
2. Answering honestly. Sometimes the best path is high road – flat out tell the person that what you’re doing is working for you, or that what they’re suggesting isn’t for you, or whatever is true. If you’re feeling kind, add a “Thank you for your concern.” If you’re done being polite for the day, there’s no shame in being straight with someone. “I know you’re trying to help, but it’s just stressing me out more” or “Thanks, but I’ve got this.” One woman reported telling a stranger who was commenting on her parenting, “Uh, you don’t know us” and another told us she has said to several people, “This is my baby, I’ll figure it out.” While we always advocate kindness, sometimes the message is best heard when it’s not sugarcoated.
1. “My pediatrician said….” This is a great way to shut down the well-meaning advice-givers. We’ve found it especially useful for the older relatives giving outdated advice! So if your Great Aunt Matilda tells you that she started her babies on solid foods at 2 weeks old, telling her that you’d check with your pediatrician, but that he said to only stick to breastmilk or formula at this age. With many folks, this is an argument ender. If she keeps at it, just tell her “Thanks, but I’m going to stick with what the doctor said.”
Hope this helps! Remember that your baby will thrive with your mothering and that you’re doing a great job. Mommying is hard work and there’s not just one right way to do it
See the rest of our Doulas' Top 10 series here!