Things people say about your baby and the effect it can have on your mental health
When you have a baby, it feels like everybody has an opinion/view/advice and is only too happy to share that with you. My question is – who asked you anyway? And why is it okay for you to share that opinion with me when I didn’t even ask?
I understand that the question/opinion can sometimes be open to interpretation. Still, there is a definite difference between someone genuinely asking the question and someone asking to simply question how you are raising your child because they would do it differently.
So, here is just a selection of questions/ opinions that people have asked me and some of my other mum friends.
Is he sleeping through?
This is such a difficult one. People need to sleep. Lack of sleep can make you go a bit crazy, so you would do anything to try and get your baby to sleep for longer. BUT, babies are not designed to sleep through the night. Babies wake in the night to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome); that’s why I didn’t mind too much when Baby J would wake in the night. Also, he was exclusively breastfed and breastmilk is digested quicker than formula, so he would wake more often in the night for a feed.
However, food isn’t the only reason babies wake up at night. It might be for comfort, they’re too hot/cold, need a nappy change, they’re uncomfortable, or they might just be missing their mummy or daddy!
The trouble is, you can feel like a really terrible mum with no idea what you’re doing when that one mum from your Thursday baby and toddler group has been bragging about the fact that her little one has been sleeping through from 12 weeks old and here you are, held together with caffeine, dry shampoo and concealer barely making through the four-month sleep regression. But just to make this clear, YOU ARE DOING NOTHING WRONG. As I said above, babies are not designed to sleep through the night.
Is he talking yet?
This is annoying when it is followed up with, ‘So and so was talking in full sentences by the time they were 17 months old!’ Babies will start making mama and dada sounds from as early as six months and can begin forming 2 – 4-word sentences between 18 months and two years. So, no, my one-year-old is not talking yet.
Is he walking yet?
Again, this is annoying when followed up with, ‘So and so was walking at 11 months old!’ Babies can take their first steps anywhere from 9 to 17 months. But honestly, what does it matter when they start walking? They’re not going to get to age 11 and still be crawling everywhere, are they?
He’s so little
What can I do with that information? How big do you expect him to be? He’s not the size of a Borrower. As adults, we’re all different shapes, and sizes and babies are too. When I get the comments saying how small he is, it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, like not feeding him enough or something. If you’re not hungry, you don’t eat, do you? (Well, I do, but that’s my issue.) I’m not going to force food down my child’s throat. Also, I’m 5ft 1. There are 10-year-olds taller than me, so Baby J is not going to be 6ft, is he?
He’s a big baby, isn’t he?
Again, like above, what do you expect the mum to respond with? If your baby is hungry, you need to feed them. You can’t let them go hungry! They’re growing so fast; they need the calories. Also, take a look at the parents. If the mum and dad are tall, they’ll probably have a bigger baby. By saying to a parent that they have a big baby, you’re making them feel like they’re overfeeding their child.
When are you going to take their dummy away/give them a dummy?
Baby J wouldn’t take a dummy. He just didn’t want one. However, it didn’t stop people from telling me that he ‘needed’ one. Why does he need one? It is equally annoying when people ask when you’ll take the baby’s dummy away. Whether you’re a working parent or a stay at home parent, you have many things to do. So, if you can get 10 minutes of peace and save your sanity by letting your baby suck on a dummy for a bit, then go for it.
Do you do [insert obscure baby group here]?
I go to playgroups, I did baby massage, and we (mostly me!) love Caterpillar Music but honestly, when some of the mums asked me if I did baby yoga or whatever, I felt like I was making Baby J miss out. I thought it was so important to get Baby J socialised that I didn’t think about how it affected me. At the height of my anxiety, I averaged two groups a day each week! I barely had time to sit down and eat before we had to get out the door again. Plus, I needed the time to change Baby J, fit in his nap and breastfeed him. Needless to say, I wore myself out. And did all the groups make a difference to Baby J? He was three months old, what do you think?
I only feed my baby homemade, fresh, organic, blah blah blah
Yes, when I started weaning Baby J, that was the intention. Like all good intentions, it soon went out of the window. Yes, we have healthy, homemade dinners (mostly 😬), but what about those days when you are physically drained, or your anxiety or depression is playing up, you’re run down, you’re ill, or you just fancy the damn pizza. On those days, of course, you’re allowed to give your little one a treat. Baby J loves chicken nuggets and smiley faces. We just make sure he has a lot of veg to go with it. Give yourself a break; you’re allowed to now and then.
Is he good?
How do you even begin to answer this one? What makes a baby ‘good’? Should your 6-week old baby be sleeping through the night, feeding every 4 hours on the dot and self settle? Would that make them a ‘good’ baby? NO!! How ridiculous is that? You can’t expect your baby to do these things. When you’re thirsty, do you look at the clock and think to yourself, no, it’s only 11 am; I’ll have to wait until noon before I can have a drink of water. You wouldn’t do that, so why would you think that your baby is being ‘bad’ if they’re crying for a feed before their ‘set time?’ Sometimes I feel that we have unrealistic expectations of what our babies should be doing and what makes them ‘good’.
When you are asked this question, it can really make you feel like a bad parent with no idea what you’re doing, and you start comparing yourself and your baby to other parents and babies. All babies are different, just as all adults are different. Just because your baby has a different sleeping and eating schedule than your friend’s baby doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong and that your baby is bad.
I admit it; even I’ve been guilty of asking some of these questions. When I first became a mum, I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing my best. Being asked the above questions really made me question myself and my abilities. I thought that people were looking at me, thinking that I had no idea what I was doing.
Comparing yourself to other parents is always a bad idea. If there were one correct way to parent, there would just be one book on the subject, but there are millions of books. The only thing you get out of comparing yourself to other parents is worry and upset.
So I’m asking that you just think before asking any of the above questions. Is there a better way you could phrase it? You never know what the mum or dad is going through, and by asking that question, you don’t know what it will do for their mental health. Maybe if you have a suggestion, rather than saying, ‘I do it this way, you should try it too’, try saying, ‘I tried doing it this way and found it really helped my little one; it might work for your little one?’
And the big one for me is just to offer your support. Sometimes people aren’t looking for an answer; they just need someone to offload on. So make them a cup of tea, crack open the biscuits and offer your ear and shoulder.
Now I realise that I come across as quite angry in this post. I don’t mean to; I just worry about new parents. There is so much pressure to be perfect, but the perfect parent doesn’t exist. Let’s start supporting each other and showing some love! What do we gain out of being mean? ❤️❤️❤️