Monday, August 14, 2006

Baby Advice From Everyone

From pregnancy through the child rearing we've all gotten advice from basically every person around you that can speak. "Make sure you feed the baby every two hours!" "Don't use baby powder or any kind of ointment when changing diapers." "If you would only practice with your baby, he'll be talking in no time, why my niece was saying 'mama' when she was only five months." You get the idea. Sometimes, though well meaning, your friends and relatives can make you feel like you're a complete imbecile who can't even give birth correctly. Of course, along with the advice you get a dose of past ruminations like "Back when I raised my child we used talcum powder and nothing wrong happened." You know you're receiving outdated advice but since they're family you have to be tactful.

So what to do? Who should you heed? That can be more difficult than you thought and part of that has to do with biases and personal experience. Say you can't stand a certain relative, in-law, or whoever, and despite your best efforts to be diplomatic you and your child wind up meeting them. The baby starts fussing because he or she's tired and then you get the unasked and unwanted advice on how to put the child to sleep.

Now even though you may not like that person, actually valid advice may be offered that you would automatically dismiss. One relative that we disliked asked us once why we didn't put any creams on our boy when we changed his diaper. After all, that was perfectly fine for her children back then. Well, we were told by nurses that creams and powders weren't used anymore (though the care package they gave us after the discharge had plenty of samples). So we disregarded the relative, but later on when our son developed a diaper rash I resorted to light applications of creams and he suffered no ill effects from the creams. Therefore, that relative had a point that we refused to heed. This is a case where you actually have to ask yourself if you are exploring all the options for your child

Then there's the other extreme from the health professionals and book writers, who seem to thrive on coming up with the ultimate nightmare scenarios to frighten parents from leaving the house or losing visual contact with their newborn. Oftentimes, the advices are valid, but many parents will agree there are occasions when the professionals come off as self-knowing and even condescending.

It's really a fine line, and the easy answer is to do your research. But in my experiences I have found contradictions from even the professionals. Back in the hospital, I received two different set of instructions on how to properly bathe my son. One nurse said to start with the groin area and work outward, but another nurse said to start with the head and finish with the groin area. In another example, before the birth of our child we attended these classes taught by nurses and we were told not to overdress our baby (something I have read in the books as well) that all we needed to do since we were in sunny Florida was to just put on a shirt or onesie on the infant. The reasoning was that the hot climate meant that bundling up wasn't necessary. Well in the real world I found that impractical. My baby was born in the winter and for those that don't live in the state the temperature usually drops at night during winter. I remember one evening, it was really cold outside and we felt it indoors. I saw my baby shivering as I was changing his diaper so there wasn't any way I was going to put my infant to sleep with just a onsie. Although I didn't use a heavy blanket, I dressed him warmly, now did the sky fall in? No, my baby was fine, but I did monitor him. This doesn't mean I disregarded the nurses' advice. Now that it's summer, the baby only wears onesies.

Of course there words of wisdom that you absolutely must follow and for discerning which they are, usually I found them to be universal from the pros, friends and family. The key is to know how to listen and using common sense. That means admitting to yourself that you don't have all the answers and the basic thing is they aren't trying to be malicious but just have your child's best interest at heart. It's their delivery that could use some work. I find it best to just thank them or play along and if I have time consider and look into what was told to me. Then there are those moments when you have to be more firm with those that overstep their boundaries and remind them that you are the parent and you know what is best for your child.

One good source we found is from other recent parents who are going through the same situations as us and can offer practical and up-to-date info when it comes to a baby. Basically you have to go to various sources, use common sense and play a bit of trial and error with your child. This doesn't mean to treat your baby like a lab experiment but carefully monitor how she or he reacts. As my spouse recently said, "I just listen to my baby. He'll tell me if something is not right." -- J.L. Soto

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