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Information Overload: How Much Advice is Too Much When You’re Expecting?

February 13, 2012

A friend recently told us about her trip to a large chain store, where she intended to register for baby items in preparation for her first child. She came to the store armed with a variety of recommendations from friends and family, and had some rough ideas of what type of bassinet she wanted, and the brand of bottles that might work best for her. But as she began browsing the aisles, other shoppers began to interject with unsolicited advice.

“My son NEVER drank out of those bottles. He preferred these.”

“You’re not buying a swing? You must buy a swing. My family never would have survived without this swing right here.”

“You should never use a swing. Who told you to buy a swing?”

“How far along are you? You should have registered months ago!”

My friend didn’t register that day. She left the store feeling stressed and confused, and was overwhelmed by an urge to endlessly google information about crib sheets. She finally registered online a few weeks later, without “help” from strangers with good intentions.

Whether you’re expecting or are a new mom, the unsolicited advice probably started at conception. Between online message boards, brunches with friends, and talks with your in-laws, everyone has an opinion on everything from your nursery to your birth plan. Most of the time, your friends, family, and neighbors are trying to help by offering chronicles of their own experiences.

But when the advice accumulates and much of it is contradictory, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Plus, much of it can start to feel a bit judgmental and authoritative. You can begin to doubt your instincts and your choices when you’re on the receiving end of so many wise words! But remember, most moms are not experts on what will work for you and for your family. And you don’t need to welcome every piece of advice that comes your way. When an acquaintance begins a rehearsed rant on the pitfalls of a particular approach to sleep training, feel free to say, “Thanks for the point of view, but I think I’ll stick with the plan that my pediatrician and I have worked out.”

Of course, you do want some direction during such an important time. Try limiting your sources of information and advice to a few key people. Your doctor, nurse, or midwife should be your go-to person. And if you have a sibling, parent, or friend who dispenses good advice specifically with you in mind, lean on her for guidance. You also may want to choose just one or two baby books, and not the entire parenting section at your bookstore! Moderate use of the internet is important, too. Trust a few websites (like this one!) that offer information from medical professionals. But don’t read every thread on every message board, looking for answers. Most strangers will have strong opinions on what worked for them, but they don’t know you, your baby, or your unique situation.

And remember that as long as you are getting regular pre-natal care and are following the advice of your doctor’s office, you’re on the right track! You, your partner, and your doctor can figure out what is best for you.

Photography courtesy of Flickr.

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