The One Word All New Parents Hate

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And How New Parents Can Turn It To Their Advantage

It amazes me how some people generalize their own experience with the expectation that it holds a truth for others. We’ve all encountered this in our lives and it’s not always welcome. One word says it all.

Should.

New parents are prime targets. They can’t go very far without hearing…

“You should nurse your baby like this. You should dress your baby in warmer/cooler clothes. Shouldn’t your baby be sleeping through the night by now? You should be feeling like your old self already. Shouldn’t you have lost your baby weight? You should have visitors over. You should keep visitors away.”

And the list goes on and on.

pregnant woman

There’s no doubt that well-meaning friends, family and even strangers are doling out this kind of “advice” to be helpful. But the truth about this word is that it’s only cloaked in helpfulness. Should is used to say what the best or correct thing is to do. With few exceptions, notably where health and safety are concerns, there are many different ways to be a successful parent; to have a happy baby; to raise a family.

Why other people feel the need to insert themselves.

New parents are at their most vulnerable when sleep deprived, hungry and seeking answers to questions about bringing up baby. They are more ready to accept advice from others who are confident in their answers even if those answers don’t fit their lifestyle, views on parenting or outlook on life. Veteran parents, grandparents and friends want to help, feel close to you, feel valued and share a camaraderie. But sometimes their good intentions backfire and make new parents feel inadequate, judged and even shamed.

baby on mom's shoulder

Parents, who are at a loss for what to do when faced with challenges their new baby brings, such as an inconsolable baby during “the witching hour,” a baby who won’t latch or take a bottle or one who has cradle cap or a diaper rash, look to others for answers. Understandably, the challenges new parents face can be daunting. They might even ask other parents or strangers on online forums, “What should I do?” They want the right answer, the one that will work for them, the one that will bring them some relief. There’s false comfort in believing that there is the answer, as much as we wish it was so.

The good news…

The good news is that there’s usually no one right answer. Yes, that is good news! That means there’s a wealth of tools in a new parents’ toolbox. There are many ways to soothe a baby; there is a collection of bottle nipples on the market; multiple nursing positions; a variety of comforting bedtime activities. So much of caring for a new baby is trial and error.

A soothing technique that didn’t work last week may work today. A baby lotion that caused a rash on one baby worked great on another. One mom hates a nipple shield; another swears by them. And it’s all ok.

Collecting information from others is a great way to build your storehouse of tools and techniques to meet the inevitable challenges. Sharing our stories, wins and failures inform all of us on possible things to try when we’re faced with a similar situation.

There are very few absolutes in raising a baby and new parents will continue hearing the word should where it doesn’t belong. We can’t control others’ language but we can try to interpret their words to be something more meaningful. That should help us all.

woman touching pregnant belly of another woman

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