I became a mother in a pueblo in Guatemala. Shockingly (to me), women here gave me advice in the same way they gave me tortillas – freely, and with the best of intentions. Overwhelmed, I yearned to learn how women from my own culture would deal with the three thousand questions I faced as a new mom.
Naturally, I turned on the computer.
I quickly discovered that every single person who has an offspring – and many who don’t – has an opinion on how to raise your newborn child. No matter where they live, people love to give advice to new moms.
They’ll tell you how to:
- Sleep with baby
- Sleep without baby
- Travel with baby
- Leave baby with dad
- Use cloth diapers
- Use Pull-Ups
- Breastfeed baby
- Bottle-feed baby
- Feed baby
- Let baby feed herself
- Frame her art
- Clean up her art
- Issue time-outs
- Listen to tantrums
- Allow iPads
- Ban Netflix
- Lean in to work
- Lean in to motherhood
As baby became a toddler and then a child, the advice dissipated a bit, but it was there. And the issues changed. Here’s a sampling: Should we keep teaching 4 languages to our kid? Should she learn to read phonetically? What do you do when you get overwhelmed? Are sassy and strong-willed synonyms or antonyms?
One day, baby on my hip, I asked a local woman how you know when to start your baby on solids. And she told me something that completely flipped my way of thinking.
“Mash up some black beans and stick a little bit in her mouth,” she said. “If your baby doesn’t look interested, then wait. Simple as that.”
Something clicked. I realized that everyone will tell us what to do. Advice is everywhere, and the noise can get loud. But in the end, there’s a reason why giving advice doesn’t work.
In the end, there’s only one voice that matters – it’s not mine, it’s not theirs, and you know what? It’s not yours, either.
It’s your child’s.
What they don’t tell you is this: when the baby is hungry or sleepy, you will know. You’ll know when she’s sick or in pain. There will be tears. You may need to duck a few bananas, but eventually, you’ll understand.
If baby doesn’t look interested in starting solids, wait.
You need to read your baby, not your baby book.
Sure, books can help. and words of advice too, but the answers are all there, in your little one’s way of screaming and giggling and fussing.
So shhhh, everyone, shhhh. Let the new mama lean in close.