Social media is the best, and worst
Facebook became a ‘thing’ when I was 18 years old. Writing status updates in the third person, ‘pokes’, throwing sheep - ah the good old days. The cookies and ads tracked every stage of my twenties - I was spammed with ads for toastmasters and harp players throughout my wedding planning year, now, unsurprisingly, I see adverts for baby sleep consultants, bibs and the hottest latest tech to get my baby to sleep through the night (a self rocking crib, apparently, for the bargain price of £800!) After my wedding, I waved goodbye to the neurotic bride groups (all apart from one, about ridiculous bridezillas, I couldn’t leave that one) and joined many conception, then pregnancy, then new mum groups. There is a group for every mum - exclusively pumping, breastfeeding, combi, formula feeding. Groups for different sleep training techniques, weaning techniques, local mums, regional mums - you name it, there’s a group for it. And they are great, really. When we thought Cassie had reflux, but Gaviscon and omeprazole weren’t making a difference, I posted her symptoms on a reflux babies group. One response pointed me towards a feeding aversion book and corresponding support group. I downloaded and read the book in a matter of hours - it described Cassie’s behaviour perfectly. With the support of the group, I started to feed her in a different way, and within a matter of days, her behaviour, and my anxiety, completely changed. When I had a wobble, the support group was there to cheer me on. In Covid times, with limited in-person support (I haven’t even met our Health Visitor, and won’t get contacted again until Cassie is one!) these online communities are so important. Many have rules about being kind and recognising that every parent and family is different, but even so, I think even in a free-for-all, the majority would be safe spaces to vent and ask for advice.
And therein lies the problem. The amount of advice out there for new mums. There is just so much, and it is all different. It was tough enough for us in the early days, when five different lactation consultants told me five different things in the space of three weeks, leaving my head spinning, but in the age of social media and the internet, everyone and their Mum is apparently a sleep consultant, or remote breast-feeding advisor. Sifting through the comments and advice is an absolute minefield - who is a well-meaning, experienced Mum? Who is touting for business? Who is on a ‘sleep program’ which is fine for their baby, but would leave Cassie in bits? It’s enough to make anyone just want to burrow under their duvet. Which is a tad difficult with a four month old demanding entertainment and taking inconsistent naps. So ironically, in a blog post moaning about too much advice, my advice for new mums would be - listen to it. Take it in, try the suggestions if you like - they might just work, but remember that every baby is different and just because someone is giving you advice, or some miracle worked for their baby, does not mean that it is the ‘right way’. If Sally from the ‘First Time Mumma UK’ group has a two week old who is sleeping through, great. But if your six month old still wakes for food twice a night it does not mean you are doing anything wrong. Babies are chaos and they don’t read books or comments!
Now, I’m off to ask three different mum tribes for advice about ending the four month sleep regression. Six weeks in and it’s no joke. I must be doing something wrong, right?