Part of the stress of being a new parent comes from having to sort through often conflicting messages about what's best for you, your family, and your baby. Grandma, Dr. Spock, Elmo - everyone seems to have an opinion on what you should be doing, and what you're probably doing wrong. Worse, this is pared with the realization that - possibly for the first time in your life - your decisions don't just impact you, there is someone else entirely dependent on you, upping the ante of each choice. Still worse - companies know that expecting and new parents are stressed about making healthy living choices, and will try to take advantage of our fears and confusion in order to sell crap like Mummywraps, designed to protect against "electro-smog."
Between the advice from other parents, half-believed "old wives' tales," and books like What to Expect when You're Expecting, it can be difficult to know what - or who - to believe.
Of course, your doctor should be the expert who sorts through all the woo and superstitions, and provides solid facts. Yet, even in the pediatrician's office, new parents can feel insecure about any choice they make, as Elena of California NOW explains:
“Is she still breastfeeding?”
“Yes, we’re still breastfeeding,” I said proudly.
“You need to work on weaning.”
I sat there in shock. After a year of strong breastfeeding encouragement I was suddenly supposed to immediately wean her?
“Well, we were planning to let her self-wean when…” I started.
The doctor cut me off in mid-sentence. “Is she sleeping through the night yet?”
“No,” I said, guiltily wondering if that was somehow my fault.
“That’s because of the breastfeeding; it doesn’t fill their stomachs enough. You also need to move her into a crib,” she said, looking at us significantly, “You need to be able to get more time as a couple. Move her into her own room if you can.”
Jesus Christ, I thought, is she actively trying to destroy any chance of sleep for me?... And who was she to tell us with that knowing look that my husband and I needed “more time as a couple”? When did my baby’s pediatrician get a say in our sex life?
Elena's experience brings up multiple issues new parents often face when at the doctor's office. Parents worry that the decisions they thought were best might hurt their child anyway. There can also be confusion about what is solid medical advice backed up by research, and what is simply a doctor's personal opinion. Finally, there's the conundrum of what to do when your doctor's advice goes against your own ideas about what's best for your family and relationships.
Of course, our blog's contributors include a couple of doctors and medical professionals, so we have to look at these issues from both sides. So, I'm inviting some discussion:
Parents: How did you decide what was good advice and what was baloney? How did you set your boundaries with advice-givers? Did you have any problems with your doctors, and how were they resolved? Finally, what tips would you give young parents just beginning the challenge of deciphering what's good advice and what's complete bunk?
Doctors: How do you help patients make the best decisions for themselves and their families? How do you help them figure out what of the advice they've been given, sometimes from beloved grandmothers, is tripe? Is there such a thing as feminist doctoring, or is it rather a question of having a good 'bedside manner'?