Caring for Mom

Not That You Asked, but …

Not that you asked, but …

It's one of the challenges no one warned you about: Taking your baby out in public is an open invitation for unsolicited advice. And the well-meaning advice-givers are not always strangers. Your own family and friends are ready and waiting to weigh in with "expert" opinions on everything from when to start on solid foods to how to get your baby to sleep.

At first you might have been grateful for the input, during the newborn phase when you were hungry for someone, anyone, to tell you what to do. Next, you probably felt overwhelmed by the number of differing opinions from so many sources — who to trust and who to ignore? By now your patience has likely worn thin, so here are some strategies for tactfully dealing with the parenting authorities in your life.

Check yourself. Before you react, take a deep breath. Are you irritated because the advice is unsolicited, or because they are right? Just because someone lacks tact, doesn't mean they're wrong. If it's genuine concern that motivates them, keep your defensiveness in check, and thank them for the advice.

Politely brush it off. In many cases — on the park bench, in the check-out line or at your cousin's wedding — advice from relative strangers can be dismissed with a polite, "Thanks, I'll consider that" or "I'll have to look that up." Be assertive yet calm, and remember that further engagement will only encourage, well, further advice. Let them know you're not open to conversation.

Stand your ground. When it's a grandparent or close friend offering advice you know they have your babe's best interests at heart. You'll want to maintain an open and healthy relationship with them, but when the advice is at odds with your beliefs or established routines, you'll want to stand your ground. Often, their advice is based on the parenting norms of another generation or culture — so back up your choices with facts. Lean on the support of your partner, community and pediatrician. Acknowledge that your loved one's views may have once been valid, or may have worked in their own home, but they're just not your style.

Good fences make good neighbors. Some people just won't take the hint. If someone in your life persists in offering opinions, you'll have to set a boundary. Be honest and be clear. Validate his or her right to an opinion, but convey that you have the right to parent in the way you choose. Assure well-meaning friends or family that you value your relationship with them, but in order to preserve it, you have to set this boundary and ask that they stop offering advice. Then redirect the conversation to a less contentious issue.

Remember that while unsolicited advice can be annoying, it usually isn't a reflection of you or your parenting choices. Trust your instincts, shrug off the unwanted advice and hold your head high.