On Friendly Advice

This post, by Lorna, is brilliant.  Not just because it has footnotes, but because it calls out the moaners, the complainers, the naysayers.  It calls out the people who pass judgement as a gut reaction, without thinking about what they’re saying.  And it makes me think about the line between well-meaning advice and interference (it’s a lot more blurred than we often admit, even to ourselves).  

Also, did I mention this post has footnotes?

Over to you, Lorna: 

I love asking people for advice. I love to listen to their recommendations, experiences and stories. If I was looking for a new hairdresser then my friends, colleagues and twitter would be my first port of call. I’d pick one based on stories of great haircuts and special offers. When it comes to conception, pregnancy, birth and parenting, however, we all seem to go insane.

 

I’m in the market for a new Ob/Gyn (Lord, I’m so American already.) This should be simple. I should look up the one closest to me and make an appointment and it would all be fine. I did that last time and I had a crappy experience, so now I’m on the hunt. Internet reviews are a horrible way to find a doctor, but I don’t really know anyone here to ask, it’s a kind of personal question to drop on my husband’s colleagues’ wives in a bar (he’s a physicist- he has NO female colleagues) and my few friends here don’t have insurance, therefore have no access to healthcare (almost 30% of 25-34 year olds in the US are uninsured.) This leaves me using online forums.

 

It’s here I’m starting to see how parenting judgements are so permeated into our culture. If I pick Dr. A, I am choosing a ‘medicalised birth’ with all the attendant judgement that goes with it (and believe me, there was a LOT of judgement) if I choose Dr. B, then I am going the ‘natural’ route (not really sure how having a baby is ever unnatural.) I just want someone who will help me get pregnant, stay pregnant and have a baby at the end. I’m not really ready to make decisions about my parenting philosophy. It is insane that I am not even pregnant and am starting to feel the pressure. The easy answer is to avoid the internet. The internet is notoriously crazy when it comes to parenting tribes. If I had local friends, I certainly would stay well clear.

 

Except those we know and love are not necessarily any better. A good friend put a reasonable request for advice to her Facebook friends- ‘Who loves their pram? Shopping tomorrow, give me your recommendations?’ Now to me, this is an invitation to give the make and model of your pram and the reason you love or hate it. That is how it started, pram owners happily recommended a few different makes and models with some handy tips on things to remember (for example, make sure the pram fits in the boot of all the cars it’s likely to be in, not just yours…) Then the snarking started. Some mums were unhappy that other people had recommended prams that didn’t lie flat for newborns, causing back problems. The poor girl who originally asked the question all of sudden had a Facebook page of ranting, raving messages about how car seats can turn babies into the Hunchback of Notre Dame and using a car seat style pram is tantamount to child abuse.

 

I had never heard this before, so decided to investigate. A quick search of a database of medical journals shows there is some research to suggest that you shouldn’t leave your child to sleep in a car seat as a replacement to a cot, but if the car-seat is at the right angle (45 degrees) you should have no problem with short-term use. This is nothing to do with back problems, but rather oxygen levels in the blood of premature babies or those with respiratory problems[1],[2]. Not one of the complaining mums mentioned this. Instead, they used personal attacks, spouting off opinions that don’t appear to have any evidence base. Even a quick google search of this subject yields next to nothing (YOU are at much greater risk of back problems from lugging the bloody thing around…)

Common sense seems to go out the window when we start throwing around parenting advice. Common sense tells me that I shouldn’t leave my baby in ANY position for a long time. The recommended time limit for leaving a baby in a car seat, whether in the car or pram is 2 hours[3]. You’ll be incredibly lucky if a newborn lets you leave them there for 2 hours, never mind setting the alarm to move them around a bit. If you cannot afford a fancy pram and have a simple travel system, or that’s all that is available, like here in the US, the snarky facebook messages can cause guilt and worry, something no new mum needs.

 

Guilt and worry can be piled on from so many angles. Kirstie Allsopp caused a bit of a furore on my twitter feed recently by criticising the NCT. Lots of mums were livid that she was criticising an organisation that had such a positive impact on their lives. My experiences with the Health Visitor made me very wary of one of the local classes. The health visitor was left to pick up the pieces when, as just one example, a mother had chosen to keep taking medication and formula feed rather than give it up to breast feed.The NCT tutor had, not so subtly, suggested she was being selfish. Now not all classes are like this, and in fact other women who had been in the same class had a really positive experience. The tried and tested medical evidence suggested that the benefits of the mother’s medication outweighed the benefits of breast-feeding her infant. Someone without that evidence should NEVER suggest to a mother that she will have difficulty bonding, or that she is being a bad mother.

 

The anecdotal recommendations we give one another are great and helpful, and my friend ended up buying the pram one of the first commenters recommended to her, but it is always worth remembering that personal experience is just that: personal. During a time when our friends, and even strangers, are desperate for information, a little kindness, self-awareness and a dollop of common sense are still a necessity. But whilst I’m at it, can anyone recommend a good Ob/Gyn in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills?


[1] Journal of Neonatal Intensive Care- DeGrazia, M. 2007 (6) pp 19-23

[2] Pediatrics- Bass and Mehta, 1995 (August) pp 288-290

[3] US National Library of Medicine- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810673/

Categories: Becoming a Mother
19 interesting thoughts on this

18 Comments

  1. Vivienne
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Oh yes. Everyone has something to say about everything when it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting I try my best just to say, ‘this is what works for me, but there is x,y,and z, none of them are wrong so just see what fits’. No judgement, no pressure – after all, you are only the expert of your own baby so how can you ever say what is right fir another?

  2. penny
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I need to show this post to the busybody family friend who told me that under no circumstances should I be eating icecream on our trip to Florence. Using rhetoric like “oh but you MUSTN’T!” accompanied by horrified expression and repeated pleas to not do it for my baby’s sake…. Luckily I didn’t smash my dinner plate over her head, but it was a close thing.

    Px

    • Vivienne
      Posted February 18, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      I got seriously reprimanded on twitter for eating a medium rare steak….the devious pregnant person that I was daring to eat anything that hadn’t been nuked in the cooking process!

      • Posted February 18, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        Seriously, do people these people REALLY think they’re being helpful? Do they really think we’re that stupid? *gah*

        Luckily I never tweet about my crack habit – can you imagine!

        Px

    • Posted February 18, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Why on earth would ice cream ever be a bad thing?

      • penny
        Posted February 18, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        Why would you take someone’s joy without checking the facts? Icecream is NECESSARY (especially when there can be no gin!)

        Px

        • Posted February 18, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          I am already planning on getting ice-cream cravings when I am pregnant. The husband is happy to go for ice-cream runs at any time, as he, as a father, will need some as well.

    • Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Well this sounds like rubbish.
      Who would deprive someone of ICE CREAM??!?! That is criminal.

      Maybe you should just unfriend everyone who is a crazed uber-parent with a million very strong opinions and just keep your friends who helpfully tell you what worked for them (without being dictator-y about it). I’d say the same goes for weddings/choosing a career or university/choosing your favourite coffee at Costa. But with less crazy untrue “medical” advice.

      xxx

      • Liz
        Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        I got told off by a girl at work for eating a smoked salmon sandwich! Rah!
        But ice cream?! Seriously….

    • Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      What the hell is wrong with ice cream?! Mental

  3. Abbie
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Hi ya,

    I have a 6 month old and was given about 100 pieces of conflicting advice during my pregnancy and in the end I just ignored about 99% of it. I used my own common sense and judgement along with proven medical advice from my GP and midwife.

    My advice is go with your gut. Don’t worry about labels and what other people think. Just do what feels right.

  4. Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I agree that social media is a godsend for garnering opinions etc. I become irrationally enraged when a Facebook status such as ‘I just fell down three flights of stairs and I’m seven months pregnant, any advice fellow mums?’ pops up – for the love of all that is good and holy get off the Internet and seek medical help!

    Rant over.

    I very much enjoyed the footnotes! Xx

  5. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    ugh, so true. it winds me up no end and I’m not even pregnant (my own sister being a terrible culprit!)

    and btw, some people choose not to eat ice cream because it can contain raw eggs but I’m not going to go round telling anyone not to eat the ruddy stuff!

    • Posted February 18, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Italian ice-cream however, requires italian-meringue for the making, and in that case egg-whites are cooked :) So, no danger for Penny in Florence !

  6. Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    A very apt post as I travel to meet a friend for lunch & pregnancy/baby advice. The majority of my friends have children & I’ve thought through those friends whose advice I want, & shall actively seek, and those I shall smile, take any gem & try not to extend the unwanted advice.
    On the whole advice thing I once read a wise statement. As the listener to someone to think ‘Are they asking for my advice or do they just want me to listen?’

    • Fran M
      Posted February 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      …smile, take any gem & try not to extend the unwanted advice.”

      That’s exactly what I (try) to do when offered unwanted / unhelpful advice and a nice way of putting it!

      Love that saying about asking for advice vs just wanting someone to listen, too. I think people can be selfish even when interacting with other people – or perhaps it’s that we react too quickly. We zone into what we can contribute to that discussion, throwing in our own experiences and opinions, without truly considering what ‘gems’ will help the other person in their current predicament.

      I know I’m guilty of that anyway! I suppose it’s all about tact and timing.

  7. Posted February 18, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Great post Lorna… like you said, common sense, politeness and grace go a long way. I do not get why this kind of conversation can be so divisive. There are as many parenting styles as there are parents, and I believe, as children do not come with instruction manuals, that we all figure it out the best way we can, with the information that we have, along the way.
    Life is messy and can get hard… but we all turned out pretty well in the end, and we keep learning.
    Gut feeling and love and advice from experts should help too.
    I wish we would be nicer to each other…

  8. Lee-Anne
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Ooh I love a post with footnotes.

    Its so scary asking for advice while pregnant but wait until you have had a baby, mummy mafia seriously comes into play along with listing your baby’s achievements – “Yes Mickey has three poops a day, oh does Chloe only do one, poor you” Is a conversation I have recently had with a complete stranger. And that is mild compared to some of it.

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  • By On Friendly Advice | Love Advice on February 19, 2013 at 3:29 am

    [...] from: On Friendly Advice ← Reflections: Knowing Your Own Love | Baggage Reclaim by Natalie [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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