How to Handle Unwanted and Unsolicited Advice
As soon as you announce that your family is growing, be prepared for advice to start rolling in! From family members to random strangers, everyone has something to say! Some pieces of advice are helpful; some are annoying and others just down right odd.
I wish I could tell you WHY everyone feels the need to dish out advice, maybe it is human nature: people want to share their own experiences with you, they want to prevent you from making the same mistakes or go through what they went through. I think empathy plays a huge role, people feel compelled to help or solve a perceived issue for someone who is in need, especially if they have been in your position.
Hearing all the advice can make parents-to-be and new parents feel incredibly overwhelmed, confused and often times stressed out. So how do you know what to believe or what advice you should follow?
How do you respond without hurting feelings or offending someone? First, consider the source giving you the advice and the advice itself. Is it coming from a health care professional? Your mom, sister, best friend? Or the mom sitting next to you at the park, your Facebook group or the person helping you register at the baby store? Is the advice based on a cultural norm that you may not be aware of? Is it harmful (giving a newborn water or diluting formula)? Helpful (babies should always sleep on their backs, not their sides or tummy’s)? Harmless (you should burp the baby for at least 10 min after every feed)?
If you are concerned about getting “too much” advice from someone, think about setting boundaries and “off-limit” topics early, therefore you are saving both the advice giver and yourself a headache and hurt feelings. If the offender is still offering unsolicited advice, remind them about the boundaries, change the subject or limit contact with this person(people) for a while. Some strangers just like pregnant women and babies, so if the advice is from a stranger, just smile and nod and go on your merry way.
If time permits and you are up for a conversation, stop and listen to what they are saying, take a deep breath and think about the intention or motivation behind the advice. Sometimes you can laugh it off and other times, it may get under your skin. Ask yourself, is the person just trying to be helpful? Do they have personal knowledge or firsthand experience about the advice they are giving? Are they just spouting off what they have heard because they want to feel important? Is it true and you just don’t want to HEAR it?
Being pregnant and having a new baby is an incredible and overwhelming time in your life. Transitions are happening daily, sometimes hourly and you are trying to figure it all out. Don’t let some unwanted advice throw you in to a tale spin and make you doubt your instincts. You are the parent and know your body and baby better than anyone else. Trust your gut!
Besides the “mind your own business” “no one asked you for your opinion” or “shut up” which might all come out anyways, try some of these replies:
”Thank you for your opinion or advice but I/We are going to do what we think is best”
“Thank you, I will take that into consideration. I had never thought of that.”
“Times have changed and so have recent guidelines, so we are going to stick with …..”
“Parenting is a learning process, what works for some babies, does not always work for others.”
“Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, but I was not looking for advice.”
“I am in the process of researching ….right now, I appreciate your advice.”
“I hear ya, but I am comfortable with what I am doing.”
“I’ve got it covered, but thanks.”
As a nurse educator, childbirth educator, lactation educator, postpartum doula and consultant, I have heard many stories and dispelled many myths in my 18 years. I wanted to become a registered nurse for a variety of reasons but most importantly was my passion for supporting and educating families who were welcoming a baby into their home via delivery, surrogacy or adoption. In the hospital setting, however, I would run around for 12 hours doing patient care, assessments, procedures and charting but hated that I could not spend the quality time needed to help educate my patients about new baby care and how to take care of themselves during the 4th trimester.
I have often been in the position of hearing remarks from well-meaning family members and friends as they “share/give” their opinions on various topics. I honestly do not believe that they are trying to persuade parents to do what they did or what they should do, but they are looking for a way to connect or relate to the person they are giving advice to. They might lack the knowledge or understanding but truly mean to be helpful. Sometimes though, it can trigger negative, protective feelings and lead to parents feeling flabbergasted, angry, confused and unsure.
With shorter hospital stays, large patient loads and busy hospitals, thorough discharge teaching can be hard to “fit in.” The newborn channel or a discharge class are not always offered or easy to attend. In addition, the hospital is not the greatest learning environment because of all the interruptions, visitors, physical discomfort and adrenaline high from delivery. With the numerous distractions at the hospital, copious amounts of paperwork given and signed and discharge instructions for mom and baby to comprehend, it is no wonder why sleep deprived parents are overwhelmed as soon as they get home.
I am saddened that a lot of families do not have support once they get home. The postpartum period is such an important time and is often ignored and under valued. Moms have been followed closely during their pregnancy, especially in the last few weeks, have 24/7 access to a call light while at the hospital or birth center and then they get home and have to take care of themselves, a new baby and possibly other children or family in the house. I love that my job as a home visiting registered nurse, lactation educator and postpartum doula allows me to spend as much time as families want to help them feel knowledgeable, empowered and confident in their decisions as parents.
Welcome to parenting! Every day is an adventure and everyone has an opinion, solicited or not. Feel free to take it or leave it. On the other hand, if you are looking for advice, choose who you ask and be open to their reply. Knowledge is power! Knowledge helps you feel empowered!
In part two of this blog, we will discuss some of the major topics that solicit unwanted advice and how to help educate others and make them feel as if you do value what they have to say.
PS-If you feel that what you have to say is really important, please ASK for the parent-to-be or parents permission first. If they say no, then please refrain from telling them. If you are asked for your advice or opinion, be honest! Always feel free to turn the question around and encourage the parent to research some answers themselves to see what feels best to them.