As a first-time parent, I did a lot of research online. I looked at Kelly Mom, at Dr. Sears, at the World Health Organization. I joined parenting groups and forums, baby groups and pages. We have the internet’s boundless knowledge, facts and experience at our fingertips, we may as well use it, right?
In my years of hardlined internet research, I learned one core fact I think every parent should take into consideration: you can find an expert to back up any belief you have.
It’s true. No matter how you choose to raise your child, you can find someone on the internet to tell you that you are doing it right. For every one person you find to tell you that, there will be 20 more to tell you that you are doing it wrong.
You need to do what feels right for you and for your child. You cannot go by the book in parenting because there simply is no book. Or, rather, there are 80 billion books. As new parents, we often don’t have the confidence to rely on ourselves, on our gut feeling, but with all this conflicting information, it’s really all we have.
Here are a few examples of what I am talking about:
1) You are unsure if you should babywear. Babywearing.com has an effusive writeup on the benefits of babywearing, many parents in your chosen internet forum advocate it, but, then again, there was that recall a while back.
People have been wearing babies for centuries. If you choose to do so, you are following in their footsteps, and they’ve created millions of people, so I’m sure you’ll be fine. Alternately, people have been putting their babies down for centuries, and those babies turned out okay, too.
I never babywore. I had twins. Problem solved. I didn’t even have to look into this one. (Although, I’m sure there are many advocates who would tell me I should have worn them both. Perhaps saddlebag style?)
2) Breastfeeding or formula feeding. Most news stories, experts and websites you’ll see agree that breast is best, but your mother in law, your aunt, and the hospital in which you gave birth are pushing formula.
Again, babies have been fed both ways for many, many years. Those babies made it, and so will yours.
I breastfed for three months. My babies never latched and needed to take my milk from a bottle. I fought tooth and nail to continue, but the babies were less than 10 pounds at that three month mark, my breasts were making less milk, and I had to go back to work. I switched to formula. I’m here to tell you, I am still a good person, and my babies are thriving two year olds. It’s okay, and it’s nobody’s business how you feed your child. Do what’s best for you.
3) Cosleeping. You can find multiple articles for and against cosleeping. Some physicians say it’s dangerous and leads to SIDS or other problems. Others say that theory is rubbish, that cosleeping is good for baby and parents, that it strengthens bonds and leads to a better night’s sleep for all involved. You need to do what’s right for you.
We never coslept. My kids made it.
4) Crying it out. Babywise says do it. Everyone else says don’t. Again, I stick to my adage of doing what’s right for you. In this particular instance, though, I must let my bias show, as I cannot imagine how letting a small baby cry for any long amount of time is good for anyone involved. But I’m no expert. That’s what Google is there for.
And these are just a few. There are so many questions that need to be answered. And once you make a decision, there are several important follow ups. So that if you decide that a pacifier is right for your family, you then have to research what type of pacifier, and when you’re supposed to wean baby from that pacifier, and when you can and can’t use that pacifier, and how often, and for what amount of time.
With all of this ready-made knowledge, we’re essentially taking the intuition out of parenting. I’m not advocating shunning the internet. The information is there, we best use it. I’m simply saying, don’t forget, in all the noise of the typeface coming through your computer screen, to listen to yourself, and, more importantly, to listen to your child.