In baby’s first year of life, parents make thousands of decisions. Should I breastfeed in public? Which stroller is best for my child? Where should I deliver my baby? Which pediatrician is best? Should we sleep train our baby? The list goes on and on.
Many of these decisions are based on instinct, while others have more to do with personal beliefs and goals for your baby. You may even research questions to make a more informed decision.
But whatever choices you make, it seems as if everyone has an opinion on the “right” decision and feeling judged is inevitable.
“Pregnancy and parenting seem to invite the world in, where people offer feedback and unsolicited advice,” said Laura Hlavaty, PhD, pediatric psychologist in Akron Children’s Lois and John Orr Behavioral Health Center. “Unfortunately, judgement comes with the territory and parents can feel it whether something is said verbally or through body language.”
Judgment is harmful, can create feelings of shame, and even influence parents’ decision making and tempt them to doubt their instincts. Sometimes, the fear of judgment can be so powerful that it can paralyze parents in their decision making.
So, what should parents do? Dr. Hlavaty offers 5 ways parents can cope with the judgment that is inevitable in their daily lives, while making the best decisions for their baby. You can’t control what others think of you, but you can control how you think about yourself and how you will respond to judgment.
Become smart researchers
When you understand the reasons behind your decision, it can create conviction in your choices. So, do some research to help you come to a conclusion. Seek out people who are educated on the topic, such as your child’s pediatrician and your own providers. You may even find different friends and family are great resources for certain topics. While researching online, only use credible websites, such as zerotothree.org, healthychildren.org and kidshealth.org.
“There are a lot of opinion blogs on the internet and even false information, so parents must be smart researchers,” Dr. Hlavaty warned. “But don’t feel like it has to be exhaustive research. There may be several options that are the right choices.”
Find your support network
Extra help and support are essential for parenting. There is no pamphlet on how to raise a child. Find your inner-circle of positive friends, family and medical professionals who can support and encourage you — both physically and emotionally. They can be your sounding board during tough times and lead you to the answers you’re looking for to make the best decisions for your baby.
Stop making comparisons
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to other parents, but it’s important to recognize that the comparison you’re making is most likely not apples to apples. Everyone’s situations and circumstances are different: This mom may not be working, while another may have more social support than you. Social media can make it easy to compare yourself to other parents, so limit your time on it. You have control to turn off your devices and instead, focus on your own life.
Tune out the judgers
Our thoughts can influence our feelings and how we react. Take for example, you’re at the grocery store and your baby starts wailing. You may immediately think, everyone’s looking at me, or I’m a bad parent for bringing my baby hungry. Because of these negative thoughts, you may react more harshly than you normally would at home.
Judgment only causes more stress and makes it less likely that you’ll handle these challenging moments in sensitive, appropriate and effective ways for your child. Recognize these negative thoughts when they pop up and tune out the judgers so you can stay focused on what your child needs. Don’t give judgers the power by allowing them to influence how you respond to your baby.
Stop judging yourself
If you find yourself falling into a pattern of constantly blaming yourself, change your perspective. Instead of focusing on the past, look forward and think of ways you can do things differently. Maybe you’re blaming yourself because your baby was born prematurely, or for stopping breastfeeding after going back to work. Take control of your future by talking to your provider, a lactation consultant, partner and others about changes you can make for a different outcome with a future pregnancy.
“As parents, we are our children’s advocates and it’s our job to make the decisions we think are best for them, regardless of what other people think,” said Dr. Hlavaty. “For the most part, there is more than one answer to every decision, and as long as your baby is loved, fed, clean, safe and well cared for, that’s all that should matter.”
If you’re struggling to make decisions for your baby, talk to your provider. It could be something more, such as postpartum depression. You can contact Akron Children’s pediatricians for questions about making decisions for baby and our Lois and John Orr Family Behavioral Health Center at 330-543-5015 for concerns about your mental well-being.