Parenting Advice I Love.

By: Jen Shoop

Before mini was born, I received more than my fair share of solicited and unsolicited parenting advice. There were empassioned entreaties on breast-feeding, on co-sleeping, on not co-sleeping, on sleeping when the baby sleeps (sigh), on discipline, on the use of language (i.e., “don’t refer to yourself in the third person, as in, ‘Mom said no!'” and “never tell a child she is good or bad; tell her she has made good or bad decisions!”), on first foods, on exposure to peanuts, on baby led weaning, on doctors to see, on doctors to avoid.

Amid the advice whiplash, a friend of mine — and mother to three — wrote this in a card:

“My only advice to you is that you know best. You are the mother. Trust your instincts!”

I loved her for this message of empowerment and encouragement. Aside from its potent truthfulness in implicitly acknowledging the fact that every child is different and that only you, as the child’s mother, truly understand the full picture when making a decision, I also clung to the casual and kind way in which she opened the door to the Mom’s Club and held out her hand. “You’re one of us,” was the subtext. “Your opinion is equal to anyone’s over here on this side of the fence.” I had been grappling with the unsettling feeling of outsidership as friends who already had babies would exchange knowing looks with one another, or would tell me, “Oh, just wait until the baby comes.” I had been feeling un-initiated, rube-like. And in some ways I was. There is simply no way to prepare for a child and — like every mom — there are things I thought I would never do pre-baby that I have done post-baby. “I would never co-sleep!” I remember thinking, recoiling at the thought. At the time, I didn’t realize how bleary and exhausted I would be and how appealing having her next to me would be from a convenience standpoint. I didn’t exactly co-sleep with mini because I was too terrified I would somehow crush her in my sleep, but I kept her in her bassinet glued to my bedside like a sidecar on a motorcycle. And then, these fateful last words: “Children under two should have no screen time.” Mhm

But still. Despite the fact that no woman can be expected to intuit what it will feel like as a new mom (and indeed — I have learned that the process of matrescence required a recalibration and even shedding of expectations) and what contingencies and realities will factor into her calculus when making the millions of everyday decisions she faces, I love my friend for making the space for me to trust myself as a mom, for signaling to me that I was enough and that my opinion and instincts mattered more than anyone else’s in the raising of this child.

And so, this is the principle bit of advice I pass along to friends who are expecting. Trust yourself! You can do this! And you know best! The subtext, too, is that what might work for me may not work for you. And that’s OK.

What’s the best parenting advice you ever received?

Post Scripts.

+Practical advice on preparing for motherhood.

+One of my major objectives with nursing this go around is to be a bit more level-headed about things and to give some thought to myself and my own self-care as I evaluate options. Last time, I had a chronic undersupply and spent the first month glued to a pump, breastfeeding, or supplementing/topping off with formula. I then committed to breastfeeding and topping off with a bottle (removing the pumping step) for almost seven months. It was exhausting work and feeding her kind of took over our lives. I had it in my head that every single ounce of milk I produced *had* to go to the baby because I was producing so little. I am still proud that I made it to eight months and I came to enjoy nursing her. But I have already implored Mr. Magpie to remind me to be realistic and a bit more generous to myself this go around if something similar happens. If I want to have a few glasses of wine one night, I’m going to let myself, even if it means pumping and dumping. If I can’t produce enough milk from the getgo, I’m going to do what I can but accept that formula will need to be a big part of the equation and make earlier peace with it. Or so I tell myself, pre-post-partem-hormones…

+All that said, I came across these and BINGO. How many of you fellow moms felt like you were wasting precious milk as you nursed on one side?!? Ordering. I’m also doubling down on the number of nursing bras and nursing-friendly outfits I have. I tried to get by with the minimum last go around, which meant I always needed to do laundry and/or would sporadically need to “make do” with a sports bra. No longer. I liked these in the early days — the pull-down style is so easy and comfortable; and these for everyday use. They’re not the chicest undergarments but they are definitely the best IMHO.

+My parents brought mini this dollhouse book from my childhood, which expands into an actual pop-up dollhouse! It is THE PERFECT THING for small Manhattan apartments, as it can be collapsed and stowed like a book, and it’s around the right size for her beloved Little People collection.

+A lot of parents-to-multiple-children have suggested that baby boy “give” mini a gift when he is born. (Did you do this?) I am trying to think of what a good gift might be — maybe this darling mixer, as mini loves to bake with me nowadays? Or a high-chair for her babydoll to continue to reinforce the idea of caring for baby? Other recommendations?

+Does mini need to wear this or this when she goes to meet her baby brother?!

+How to recover from a c-section.

+Now mini can match me!

+IN LOVE with this sweet dress!

+This swimsuit in the stripe or lobster-print is so precious.

+This of-the-moment bag is on sale!

+OMG this is amazing. As someone who has written an ode to the em dash, you know I love me an Oxford comma.

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25 thoughts on “Parenting Advice I Love.

  1. After listening to so much advice and feeling so overwhelmed (primarily on the issue of sleep which has never gone well for me), I had a realization that helped. It dawned on me that we humans have put people on the moon, computers in our hands, and we understand protons and electrons, if there was ONE right way to get a baby to eat/sleep/share we would have figured it out by now.

    There was also one day when I was in tears and my mom said “you are the perfect mother for her” and it reminded me that the relationship was between me and her and we would sort it out.

  2. On parenting and trusting your instincts: yes and yes and yes. I’m definitely learning to do this, as a mom to a 15-month-old. Given my educational and professional background in early childhood special education, I will say that I tend to fall into the camp of reading and obtaining information — give me the peer-reviewed research! I want the evidence base! (Ha!) But I’ve since learned that this can be paralyzing. I’m learning to trust that I know my child and I am making decisions from a place of love. Yes I will make many mistakes, but she will learn from me too that mistakes, and learning from them, are part of life. I read somewhere, “when you parent YOUR way, you parent the best way.” I love this message of empowerment!

    The other thing I noticed, particularly in those early postpartum months, is how sensitive I’d become to others’ comments about my parenting decisions, whether they meant to judge or not. I don’t always respond, but in my mind I have held on to this statement: “Good for you, not for me.”

    I’ve noticed too that the pendulum on birthing and parenting seems to swing from one end to another, without much lingering in the middle. There was a time in which I heard many women went for elective scheduled c-sections. Now we’re seeing so many messages that seem to say, breastfeed or bust! –> pun intended, ha. (I supplemented with formula.) Go for a natural childbirth! Epidurals are the enemy! (I had an epidural, pitocin, and a c-section). I find that this has fed into a lot of guilt and even grief. In the end, we all need to make decisions that are best for our individual babies and our families, and to trust the decisions we’ve made.

    1. 100%! I wish I could use the 100 emoji like 50 times right here. You are so right. It is really hard to tune people out when they say things that seem judgmental of your parenting, even if you know they did not mean whatever they said with malice. I try to practice the same mantra, but sometimes things just crawl under my skin and live there. I usually find, after days of private browbeating and roiling in my own frustration, that if I am honest, I am upset by whatever was said because of the possibility that I was wrong in what I did, and that I should have known better. And so I say: “Good God, Jen. Give yourself some grace. This is your first time doing this! Maybe you didn’t do it exactly right, but you’re learning and making the best decisions you can.” I mean, truly! I know I parent her with the purest of intentions and I need to trust that. (And also know that whatever someone else thinks has an equal percent chance of being fallible…)

      Anyway, so much to think about here but you are 100% right and I’m so on your same page here. You do you / you do you / you do you.

      It’s been fun chatting with you this afternoon!


  3. Not a mom myself, but one thing I’ve heard consistently is that when your older child walks into the room for the first time after you’ve given birth to your second child, they will suddenly look ENORMOUS to you!

    1. Hadn’t thought about that yet — but you are SO right! She’s going to look enormous!! I can’t wait for that moment. xo

  4. I applaud your decision to take it easy on breast feeding the second time around. I did the same, and my experience was so much better. And my second daughter seems just as “good” as the first one that I killed myself trying to breastfeed until she was one! Ha. My second daughter “gave” my first a pretty bracelet and necklace combo when the first came to the hospital (they are 3.5 years apart, but I still think a 2 year old would like jewelry). The first daughter still wears them and remembers they were gifted to her by the baby. xoxo

  5. I see others already suggested the Haakaa. It’s wonderful.
    I have a 12 week old baby girl who has some feeding issues. The Hatch changing pad scale has been a lifesaver for us! The measures how many ounces she gets when nursing so I know if I need to supplement after with a bottle. It is pricey but for us, it was worth it.

  6. Great advice! The times I feel like I truly failed as a parent I wasn’t listening to my gut.

    When my second son was born, I had a gift for him to give his big brother but he was sort of too young (2.5) to make the connection. This time around my boys were 4 and 1.5 and the older one seemed to get it. He still talks about how his sister gave him the truck when she was born (middle one had no idea what was happening-poor kid). I read somewhere that when the big brother/sister comes to meet the new baby you should have the newborn in the bassinet so your arms are open to hold your older child. It eliminates some of the jealousy. I’m not sure if it’s true for everyone but it seemed to work for my kids.

  7. Our daughter chose a stuffed animal for her new baby brother (a small dog Jellycat which he now loves!), and he “chose” (with some help :)) a stuffie for her that he wrapped and gave to her at the hospital when they met for the first time. It was sweet, and she loves talking about how she gave him the doggy even more than she loves the stuffed animal she received! 🙂

    1. OOO YES! I just remembered this brand — a friend of mine (whose advice I implicitly trust) had the same recommendation but I never ordered one last go around. Definitely added this to cart. Love all of the fun colors. Thanks for the tip! xo

  8. I’ve shared a lot of these thoughts as we just welcomed our second girl. Try the Haaka instead of the milk savers, it’s the new thing and it works! I also took my older daughter shopping to pick out a gift for the baby and she loved it and it was a sweet memory for me too.

    1. Thank you!! Second commenter to suggest the Haaka and I love the idea of having mini pick out her own toy for the baby!! Thank you!

  9. The best parenting advice I got was “raise the kid you have, not the kid you want.” I had every preconceived notion and unrealistic fantasy of what parenthood would be like, and Rho quickly and rightly rocked my world and taught me to be HIS mom. I have no such fantasties when I think about R2 – frankly, I find it nearly impossible to imagine life with both boys – but I’m looking forward to it with open eyes and a heart that explodes everything Rho hugs my belly and says “I looooooooove my baby brother.”

    1. OMG how sweet?! Love that. And love that advice, too — a reminder to let go of expectations and roll with the punches. xoxo

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