Sorting out advice from relatives

“How do you deal with well meaning relatives who offer their advice/opinion on the `right’ way your baby should be doing something? For example: My 4 month old wakes up once during the night for a feeding (we’re nursing), and I’m being told that he should be sleeping through the night by now. How do I limit visitation and discuss child rearing differences politely without causing family wars?”

“First, avoid contact, if possible, with non-supportive people – you don’t need to be around people who make you feel inadequate. Next, remember that each child is an individual and he or she will eventually sleep through the night, drink from a cup, say `mama,’ walk, etc., when he or she is ready. Forget the averages and
comparisons to your friends’ kids ore even your own history. Finally, my response was (and is), `I don’t mind getting up once in the middle of the night to feed her, she needs that and that’s what I’m here for. When she’s ready to sleep through the night she’ll do it.”

“It seems that no matter what your child is doing, someone will have a comment or suggestion! Our son slept through the night at four days, and this seems to cause more uproar in our family than if he were 6 months old and not sleeping through! And it seems as your child grows there are only more `should’s’ – He should be sitting up by now; Eating solids by now; Walking by now; talking; potty trained; able to read; riding a two wheeler; walking alone to school; doing algebra; getting ready for college! Whew – before you know it they’re grown up. I try to focus less on the comments and more on my child.”

“I was once told by a relative that because my baby was not crawling at 6 months, he would not learn to read! Don’t take these things seriously – you know your baby best and they all sleep through the night eventually.”

“It seems that everyone has an opinion on what is right and wrong for a baby. I would just listen to what is said, and then do what you think is right. You are the baby’s parent, not them. Just say: `This works best for us!'”

“Having encountered the same type of input from people I’ve simply learned to let well-meaning advice go in one ear and out the other. I use the information that makes sense to my husband and myself and let the other information go straight through. If your relatives are truly well-meaning, then they are genuine in their efforts to help. Remember that all children are different and your relatives experiences may be valid – for them. Take the information with kindness and then do with it what you wish. This flood of information used to drive me crazy, but those constant reminders to myself to smile, and be kind saved me and my family a lot of heartache.”

“Just repeatedly smile and say, `Thanks for your input. We’re happy with our method right now.’ Do not argue or discuss it further than repeating your previous statement! They may become exasperated but you will politely prevent the `family war’ because it takes 2 sides to fight.”

“Polite is the key word. I’ve been given enough advice for 5 mothers (much of it contradictory) and I listen to it (in case there’s something I might think helpful), but remember that your child is yours and you are ultimately responsible for her. If you want to, explain why you’re doing what you are, but don’t expect approval and
don’t rely on it. Fortunately, my husband is very supportive of my decisions regarding day-to-day child care and we both thank family members for their advice and when necessary, explain that this is the way we’re doing it. I, too, was worried about `too much’ visiting but needed to remind myself how much my relatives loved my son and wanted to be with him and that the visits wouldn’t last forever. P.S. – My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was 6 months or so – until he was ready.”

“Most important – make sure your relatives and friends call before coming for a visit, and if you don’t want company, politely but firmly tell them not to come, and `schedule’ periodic visits. When they give advice, just smile and tell them that you and your spouse together with baby’s doctor feel that the job of parenting should be left to the parents. I’ve had the same problem – this statement does work.”

“Probably the best thing to remember, right from the start, is that the person speaking has the best of intentions, most likely. He/she isn’t trying to make your life difficult, they truly want to offer (what they consider) advice and support. One way I deal with unsolicited advice is to smile and say `what an interesting idea’ or some other such comment, then completely discard inappropriate ideas. A dear aunt once told me that I should seriously consider seeing a chiropractor for a colicky baby. While I personally was horrified, I merely said, `What an interesting idea.’ A more blunt response is to smile politely but firmly and say, `That subject is not open for discussion. I realize and appreciate your concern, but my husband and I are handling things OK.’ Then refuse to acknowledge any more discussion. Or, you can try to point out where your ideas come from – pediatricians, respected experts, good child rearing books, other friends’ experiences, etc. If none of these things work, remember the painful but true expression `You can’t please all the people all the time’ and accept that some family members may get angry no matter what you do, so you have to do what you feel is best for your child, no matter what others might think or say. As long as your child is healthy and happy – stick to your guns. You are doing the right things.”

“I had this problem with my folks and I just agreed with everything they had to say, yet kept on doing what I felt was right. They realized that their baby had her own baby and it was time to let go and let me raise my son the way I felt I should.”

“The best way is always to be direct and kind. Perhaps remending relatives that just as each person is different, each baby is individual in its patterns and schedules. As long as you are comfortable with your baby’s patterns that what matters most for now – especially with one so young.”

“I am always open to advice and listen attentively, but deep down I trust my own intuition. You could say that the night feedings are not detrimental, are normal, and will pass. If they are causing strain on you or your baby, take their advice and see it works!”

“Listen politely, but keep in mind your own instincts of what is right. Then go ahead and follow what your heart tells you. People only mean well, but you should let it in one ear and out the other if it doesn’t make sense to you. They will never know!”

“I had similar problems with well-meaning family members regarding my husbands’ and my decision not to feed our baby any food/beverage containing processed sugar or chocolate. We discussed this with our pediatrician who agreed with us) and he provided us with a list of foods and liquids that our child should have as well as those which should not be consumed. By distancing ourselves from the issue and making our pediatrician the `bad guy’ we were pleased to get far more cooperation from our relatives. Hope this helps.”

“When my parents and in-laws give me their ideas, I acknowledge them and then drop it. Some times I even tell them I’ll try it just to get them off my back. I don’t try it, but they’ll never know whether I did or not since I only see them every couple of weeks.”

“First remember that they only want the best for your baby so try not to be angry with them. And remember to feel good and confident with your choices. No one knows your baby better than you. If you like, politely, confidently and happily discuss the reasons behind your choices.”

“When a simple, `Every baby is different’ doesn’t do, I may say something like, `If my pediatrician isn’t worried about it, I’m not going to worry.’ Or you may say something like, `From what I’ve read, it’s within the range of what’s normal.’ And sometime I have had to look my mother squarely in the eye and say, `Mom, this is my baby.’ No wars are started and she get the message.”

“You can very politely thank them for their concern and input. You will consider their advice and opinions when making your child rearing decisions. For any advice on medical, feeding, sleeping issues, etc., tell them you have or will talk it over with your doctor.”

“My mom won’t quit telling me what I should and shouldn’t do. It has gotten to the point where I walk away or turn on the TV. But maybe you could point out your generation gap and say, `We don’t use a clock, I feed her when she’s hungry and she’ll know when she needs to omit that feeding.”

“I’ve politely told my relatives that every baby is different and develops at its own pace. Also, I tell them our doctor says the baby is doing just fine for her age. My baby is 10 months old and is still waking up at night! You just do what is best for you and your baby. Also, you could jus agree with them and then do what you think is best.”

“Our relatives are always making suggestions, some of which are helpful. Our parenting style is different; i.e. the family bed, weaning our baby, etc. I graciously accept their advice, then keep what I can use and let the rest go. My son is 7 months old and working to nurse several times a night still. Surround yourself with parents who hold the same values that you do (La Leche League), for support when your family gets you down.”

“I find if I don’t take the advice personally or defensively, I can listen better and politely. Paraphrase the advice or opinion and that way they know you understand what they are saying without getting into a debate.”

“Both of my children woke up at night to nurse long past the time others expected them to be sleeping through the night. I decided to just tell people they were sleeping fine if they asked me because I was comfortable with their sleeping pattern and if I said they were still waking, I got more advice than I wanted and I got judgments that I was `spoiling’ them. An excellent resource book on this is NIGHTTIME PARENTING, by Dr. William Sears.”

“I just smiled and nodded, then did what I thought was best.”

“There are many different ways of mothering in our culture and all over the world. You are doing things the way you feel is best for your baby. If you are comfortable with nursing one a night, don’t let another’s opinion change your stand. There are many views on sleep and nursing depending on who is giving the advice. So do what you think is best for your family.”

“My breast fed baby (now 2 years old) didn’t sleep through the night for probably a year. Mothers’ milk is so easily digestible that your baby is hungry more often than if he/she were on formula. As far a well-meaning relatives go – your best response is to smile politely and listen, or shrug your shoulders and change the subject. You can always say, `I’d rather lose sleep because my baby is better nourished than because she is not.'”

“My `pat’ phrase is, `That is very interesting, I’ll have to think about that.’ It is totally non-committal, sounds like you are going to `obey’ the person with the `right’ way and frees you up to do what you know is best. After 4 kids, I’ve pretty much learned the patterns. Incidentally, none of my kids slept through the night until they were done teething.”

“I have found out already that no matter what you choose to do with an issue in your child’s upbringing, someone will always find fault, especially if you are doing something different than the norm. I always thank people for sharing their opinions and acknowledge their feelings and beliefs without directly `informing’ them I’ll do what I deem best for my child. I focus myself on the people who share my belief system in whatever aspect. For instance, night nursing, La Leche League is very supportive and informative with all nursing issues. For whatever issue your concerned with, seek out the resources you need and good luck!”

“I think a lot of how you take advice depends on your self-esteem as a parent. You have to be confident that what and how your family handles different situations is right for you. Much of this comes from experience (I can say that after 3 kids). I felt the same way (unsure) with my first.”

“Remind older relative (i.e. grandma) that times change, and what may have applied when she was raising children may not apply now. Then change the subject.”

“Every child sleeps through the night at a different age – some early, some late. You don’t have to tell friends and relatives about what you’re doing. It’ your business, not theirs.”

“Just remark that every child is different and that you feel lucky your child only wakes up once during the night. Many children are still getting up 2 to 3 times at that age. Then bring up another subject.”

“Everyone has their opinions so the best thing to do i try to take it in stride. If it gets too bad the bet way to handle the situation is to be open and honest about how you feel.”

“Life is full of choices and you and your husband are free to choose how you will raise your child. Listen politely, and if you’re worried about family wars simply keep your opinion to yourself. People offering unsolicited advice will be less adamant if they know you’re listening. Then do it your own way. Get a copy of TEACH YOUR CHILD TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT at the library. I found it a good resource. My first three children took over a year to sleep through, but I `wised up’ for number 4. We `taught’ him at 6 months.”

“Every child is different – even siblings. Some children learn things slower than others, some faster. There is nothing wrong with people discussing the differences of their children, in fact it can be helpful. But, telling you that you are wrong in what you are doing when you know your child best, is wrong. If it isn’t a problem that is bothering you or the child, then it isn’t a problem.”

“One way to deal with well meaning friends/relatives is to listen politely to what they have to say. Then say, `Thank you for your advice, I’ll think about it.’ Then drop the subject and walk away. You won’t change their mind by arguing, that only creates more bad feelings. Next time you’re asked if your child sleeps through the night, just say yes. Because the baby doesn’t really wake up if their needs are met quickly. My first slept 6 to 8 hours by 2 months old. My second has had stomach troubles and awoke every 2 hours till at least 4 months old. He didn’t sleep `through the night’ until at least 1 1/2 years old.”

“Hooray for you – at least you’re still nursing! I know too many moms that have been discouraged by `well meaning’ relations (or others) saying `baby isn’t getting enough.’ Baby’s tummy is small and can’t hold enough to make it until morning. Your little girl (& mommy too) benefit from the extra cuddle time in the quiet hours. These days are gone all too soon! Absorb all the advice given you, especially the words of experience, but remember she’s your baby – you have the final word. And it sounds like you’re off to a good start!”

“Don’t volunteer information that they will automatically give their opinion on. If they do say something, simply reply that every baby is different and drop it at that.”

“Listen to your heart, not the in-law’s. Besides a breast fed 4 month old should not be sleeping through the night, and I’ll bet a formula feeding parent told you this. Go to a La Leche League meeting!”

“Firmly but politely let people know that, `this isn’t a good time to visit right now.’ You have rights also as a recovering first time mom. Rights to your privacy and rest – take them because life only gets busier. As far as well meaning advice – try to keep a sense of humor and maybe think of ways to not set yourself up for unwanted

“You may as well listen to everyone’s advice. Someone may have one idea that will help you. After that, go with your own instincts because you know your baby best.”

“I usually just let them say what they want. Disagreeing with them only seems to lengthen the conversation. It’s a real issue for me though. I quote my pediatrician, or a recent study and give the supporting information that convinced me of it validity.”

“This is a father responding and what I’ve found is that it is much better to put your feelings second and your child’s first! What I mean is, be grateful that yourrelatives care enough to offer concerned advice, rather than not caring! It is never easy to listen to `advice’ but when it is well meaning, it is worth it!”

“I have three children (11, 3 & 1) and always got `well-meaning’ advice or questions. `Are you sure she’s getting enough to eat?,’ etc. I finally decided I had to tell friends and relatives that my babies and I were learning together, and had to follow our own instincts until things were `right’ for us.”

“My 7 month old still wake up once a night and eats. I don’t mind because he drinks 8 oz. so I know he’s hungry. As long as he wants to eat, I’ll feed him.”

“If you need help from an impartial source to support your arguments, your pediatrician is a great person to ask for information. He/she can refer you to books, answer questions, and assure you of your daughter’s well-being.”

“I can relate to your late night nursing’s. My daughter did the same until she was 14 months! And she stopped only because I decided it was time he could sleep without that one `comfort feeding.’ It’s hard to decide what to do, especially if this is your first baby. I get lots of advice too, and always listen openly and thank the advice-giver. If my friends and in-laws get too opinionated, I firmly say, `This is what I’m comfortable with. I know my daughter.’ You really have to listen to what you want to and know what is best for your baby. They’re all so different.”

“Well meaning relatives and friends usually are just trying to be helpful or speak from experience. I try to purposely ask questions about subjects that are relatively harmless or that I know we have similar views on so that my relatives will feel `helpful.’ I tend to avoid subjects I know we have differing opinions on.”

“I have a 4 year old and a newborn and one thing I’ve noticed over the years (and have been saddened by) is that people, both relatives and strangers, feel free to criticize anything you do. Amazingly, strangers even comment on the physical appearance of a baby (from pictures) they’ve never even met. He’s too big for his age, too little for his age, too fat, too thin, etc. Sit down with your husband and decide how you two want to raise your child and then do it. Another way to handle it is to say that you discussed the matter with your pediatrician and he suggested that you do exactly what you’re doing. But get a handle on it now because it doesn’t stop! You will never do the `right thing’ except for yourself. Enjoy raising your child your way! By the way, if your little sweetie only wakes up once a night I’d say you’re all doing great! She’ll sleep through the night when she’s good and ready no matter what anyone says. Good luck!”

“Just remember that in most cases `Mother Knows Best.'”

“I have found that although telling family members that you don’t want their help can cause `family wars,’ simply reminding them that each child develops differently can often bring you peace from advice you don’t need. If your relatives seem resentful, point out the things your child is doing ahead of schedule.”

“My daughter didn’t consistently sleep through the night until she was over a year old. Each child is different so don’t worry about what others are telling you. Just follow your child’s lead. She will sleep through the night when she doesn’t need her nightly feedings. The bet advice I got was to pick 1 or 2 people to listen to about what to do, or what to expect with your baby. With the rest of the people, just say thank you for your thoughts, I’ll give it a try and then change the subject.”

“The idea that a 4 month old `should’ be sleeping through the night is absurd. I meet all the relatives advice with, `You’re probably right.’ Then I go ahead and do what I think is right. They just want to be acknowledged as an expert. Don’t let them get to you.”

“Explain the easy digestibility of breast milk and the need for a night feeding. If getting up doesn’t bother you, it shouldn’t bother people outside of your house.”

“Look them straight in the face and ask seriously, `What is your real concern over the baby not sleeping through the night?’ That way you can either dispell their concerns or catch them off guard and make them realize that they really have no concern. (Especially when it’s not them that gets up at night!)”

“I am reading a book right now that could help with family pressures. It’s called, MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER, by Norma Jane Bumgarner. In chapter 4 she gives suggestions (and the words) about communicating in a non-threatening manner with husband and family. One thing to say is, `My doctor says…., or My doctor thinks it’s best for baby to…,’ etc. The main thing to remember is that each and every child is unique and different. What works for one will not necessarily work for another.”

“The nicest thing anyone ever said to me when I cam home with newborn twins was my mother-in-law’s comment that, `I never had twins so I can’t give great advice.’ It was her way of recognizing that each individual situation is different and every person needs to work out their own best way of doing things. Find support for your ways and just smile and ignore it when offered conflicting advice.”

“The real question is do you mind feeding your daughter at night? If you don’t, just say something that takes the pressure off her actions. For example, `I like cuddling her at night.’ If being up at night drives you wild, set yourself a time limit for how long you’ll do it (i.e., until 5 months, 6 months, until she does without on her own for 2 nights, etc.).”

“Feel confident in your abilities as a parent, and in the decisions you make for your child. Smile when you receive unsolicited advice, but remember that you know what is best for you and your baby. Also, nowhere does it say that a 4 month old should sleep through – neither of mine did.”

“Get an answering machine and screen your calls. If someone drops by for a visit politely tell them you’re too busy to visit and don’t let them inside. They’ll remember to call ahead next time.”