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When to take or leave Parenting advice

Support from other parents can be a lifesaver and professional advice (such as from your Health Visitor or from feeding cafes) can sometimes be essential.  But, as new mums and dads, feeling vulnerable and uncertain, we are overwhelmed by a tsunami of contradictory and emotionally-laden advice. 

There is something uniquely unhelpful about the tone of much baby advice, in that it often comes with the explicit message that you are somehow being cruel or damaging your child if you do anything other than follow this piece of advice to the letter (which, by definition, will mean ignoring the advice of another guru offering completely different advice, but with the same “follow my advice or your child is doomed” message).  The journalist Oliver Burkeman neatly described this as the “diabolical genius” of the baby advice industry; sleep-deprived and desperate, we seek more and more advice, looking for the morsel that will guarantee the future happiness of our child (or even just an unbroken night of sleep), even when we know such a morsel is unlikely to exist.

So – if you find the advice helpful, keep seeking it and using it.  But if, like many, you find yourself addicted to searching for that magical piece of advice that will transform your baby into a through-the-night sleeper who always feeds perfectly and never cries, it may be time to stop – or, rather than wasting precious nap times searching the web, ask the advice of a qualified professional such as your GP or Health Visitor.

Resist the temptation to compare yourself with others

In particular, don’t compare your worst moments with other people’s best moments.  When your baby is crying inconsolably and raising stares from everyone else in the cafĂ©, it’s tempting to look across at the mum playing peek-a-boo with her giggling child and think “What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I be like that?”  Forgetting the giggles you enjoyed with your little one on the way there.  Or you’ll remember the mum who claimed her baby was sleeping through the night at six weeks, and forget that a week later she was complaining about feeling tired after a bad night. 

What you don’t see – or unconsciously filter out - is other people on their worst days, or how they are really feeling inside.  We have a tendency to select these “snapshots” of other people’s best moments, forgetting that things are never perfect all the time for anyone (a bit like when we scroll through other people’s curated Insta-feeds).

Focus on the positives

Partly because of our tendency to focus on the negatives (particularly when we are sleep-deprived), it’s easy for us to engage in “all or nothing thinking”: when your child misses a nap and is grisly in the late afternoon, we forget the calm morning and it can feel like the whole day is a disaster.

There’s lots of research evidence to suggest that something as simple as taking time at the end of each day to reflect on three things that we have achieved, or feel we have done well, can boost our mood.  It doesn’t matter how big or small those things are (it could be something as simple as dealing with an explosive nappy or managing a walk in the park), the important thing is to acknowledge and give yourself credit for those achievements. 

If you have the time and energy to write your three things in a diary or journal, that’s fantastic; but even just taking a minute or two to make a conscious mental note of those three things before your head hits the pillow can be incredibly helpful.

Develop your relaxation skills

Quick relaxation exercises or self-hypnosis can help to refresh you when have a few minutes spare, but not enough time for a nap - such as when your baby falls asleep and you have no idea whether they will wake up in 5 minutes or 5 hours!  Learning to relax the body helps to relax and release tension from the mind, reducing stress.  Some exercises, such as “7-11 breathing” (for relaxation) or “5-5-5” (a quick mindfulness exercise which can help you “re-set”) take less than two minutes – they, and some other ideas to reduce stress, are explained here: Ways to reduce Stress

Remember – things change all the time, and things will get easier

Parenting is hard.  It’s relentless and can be exhausting.  Parenting a baby or toddler is even tougher.   If you’re suffering from lack of sleep (and you probably are), multiply that again.  Acknowledging that things can be hard doesn’t mean that you love your child any less, or that you are unable to appreciate the positives of parenting.  It can be helpful to remember that everything is just a phase, that things will change and get easier over time (although each stage of parenting brings its own, unique, challenges).  That’s not an entreaty to “savour this time” – personally, I found the baby stage incredibly tough, and felt a pang of guilt when others told me that I’d miss it when they were at school.  If I don’t miss it, does that mean I don’t love them enough?  Every parent is different.  Whilst some parents love the baby stage, others (me included!) can’t wait until they are walking, talking pre-schoolers.  As it turns out, I’ve taken more joy from parenting as my children have grown and it’s only now they are both in primary school that I find myself wanting to hit the “pause” button. 

To find out more about how hypnosis can help you reduce stress and anxiety or achieve change in your life, contact Mimi Fakhri on 0203 8686393 or email mimi@relaxmindtherapy.co.uk

To find out more about Mimi visit her website Relaxed Mind Therapy 

If you’re worried about you or your baby’s health, or if you feel you may be depressed, consider contacting your GP or Health Visitor.

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