Before I had a baby, I was completely oblivious to the insane number of choices I would be forced to make as a new parent. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, an innocent Google search on “birthing options” (try it if you don’t believe me) left me awestruck and somewhat terrified at the seemingly endless multitude of options. Would I opt for the epidural or would I go natural? I could even get real crazy and go for a pudendal block, narcotic pain relievers, or nitrous oxide. What birthing philosophy would we subscribe to–Lamaze? Hypnobirth? Bradley? Alexander (I could be making these up right now and you probably wouldn’t know the difference)? Midwife or OB? Birthing center or hospital? Water birth? Should we bank the cord blood? Do people really encapsulate their placentas?!
I got so wrapped-up in making choices for the labor and delivery that I soon realized after our son was born that I had done NO research on how to keep a newborn alive. He was way smaller and way more fragile than I had imagined (I had never spent much time around newborns, and had (stupidly) sort of expected him to come out looking like a toddler; already walking and talking, possibly even shaving). We were now faced with even more questions, these ones far more pressing since a wrong answer could lead to his untimely demise, and a slow-response would certainly lead to shrill, ear-piercing wailing: Why is there black tar in his diaper? Is he latching properly? Should we schedule-feed or feed on demand? Should he sleep in our room or in his crib? Is that baby acne or smallpox?
Because I felt so completely inadequate, I spent whatever free time I had (mere minutes it seemed, if I wasn’t cramming in a short, crappy nap) speed-reading baby books. I honestly think I read What to Expect the First Year, Happiest Baby on the Block, Baby Wise, and the Baby Whisperer all in two days. Each book promises to get your baby sleeping through the night, nursing like a champ, and generally acting like a content, pleasant human being if–and only if–you do EXACTLY what they tell you to do. The problem is, each book tells you to do something different, which is why I totally loved this blog post on supposed “expert advice” when it comes to baby sleep.
My (long and rambling) point is, if the experts can’t even get it right, why are we as parents so judgmental when it comes to the decisions that other people make for their kids? I’ve met more than one set of parents who get real snobby at the idea of jarred baby food passing through a child’s lips–as if hand-mashed organic carrots are the cure for cancer or the catalyst that will ultimately lead to a 300 IQ score. I allowed myself to feel like crap at 2 a.m. as I desperately searched for tried and true methods to get my baby to sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time, when I read nasty comments from moms who equated “cry it out” with child abuse, or who said if you nursed your child to sleep you were lazy and creating negative sleep associations. I’ve gotten sideways glances and stink-eyes for letting my 18 month old drink out of a bottle (cow’s milk, no less), for allowing him to eat ketchup with his fingers, and for admitting that I let him watch TV when he’s driving me nuts.
If you want to bottle-feed your baby, don’t let people shame you into breastfeeding. If you don’t have the time or energy to hand-make vegan gluten-free teething biscuits, stop worrying, I ain’t judging. If you’re a baby-wearing attachment parent, awesome. If you’d rather push your kid in a stroller than wear a Baby Bjorn, that’s cool too. Co-sleep if it makes you happy, don’t if it makes you grumpy. Get the epidural, or go natural. Do Pinterest projects while your kid naps, or hang out in your sweats and take a nap yourself. Just love your kid, trust your instincts, take care of yourself, and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. You have way too much to worry about as it is.