Being a parent is an incredible, fulfilling and ultimately beautiful experience—and yet, it’s probably the toughest job you’ll ever have. From Day One, parents face immense pressure and criticism while navigating information overload (coming from every direction!). When you’re offered one opinion from a friend, another from your mother-in-law and something else entirely from social media, how do you possibly begin to feel confident in your own decisions? It can be challenging, to say the least, and it impacts everything from swaddling and sleep training, to how you feed your baby. All of these elements can be a major source of confusion and stress for new parents.
As a leader in infant nutrition, Nestlé believes that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for babies but realizes that everyone’s feeding experiences and needs are unique, and that all parents should be supported as they embark on this journey. Some mothers aren’t able to breastfeed, some mothers need to supplement with baby formula, and others may choose not to breastfeed for a multitude of reasons. This is a valid personal decision that women should feel empowered to make for themselves and their child with the help of their healthcare provider, but unfortunately, many new moms experience feelings of confusion, shame or guilt.
Nestlé recently commissioned The Parenting Index, a global study designed to raise awareness of the many the pressures faced by parents, and the negative impact this pressure can have on the mental health of families around the world. One of the key findings was that half (51%) of parents feel significant pressure and judgement, both from external sources such as social media and from themselves.
It’s time to create a more inclusive, authentic, supportive parenting culture where parents can feel confident in their decisions and raise happy, healthy kiddos. To get started, here are some great tips from Carrie Bruno, a registered nurse, parenting expert and Founder of MamaCoach.ca:
Say goodbye to unsolicited advice (and be selective with whose advice you value)
Just because someone gives you parenting advice doesn’t mean you need to take it to heart, Bruno says — just say thank you and move on. When you do want guidance, turn to a trusted friend or family member who makes you feel confident and supported rather than relying on sources that may actually make you feel confused. “You are doing great, and asking a question should be helpful, not cause insecurities,” Bruno says.
Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everyday tasks and the mental load of parenting, it may help to reassess your own expectations and simplify your life. This is especially true for parents who are transitioning back to work or struggling to find balance. “Your baby will not know (or care!) if they are having a three-course dinner or a crock pot meal,” Bruno says. “Don’t overschedule yourself or your family. Choosing simplicity in as many areas as you can gives you more mental clarity and time for yourself.”
Embrace what works for your family—and be kind to yourself
Every child is unique, and so is every parent—so why compare yourself to others? It’s okay to do things your own way, particularly when it’s working for your family. Parenting is—and should be—very personal. How you feed your baby is a good example. “As a society, we must acknowledge that while breastfeeding is best, for some families, breastfeeding is not always an option, whether by choice or by circumstance,” Bruno says. “Families deserve to feel confident and empowered about their decision on how they choose to feed their babies.” In the first six months, this may include breast milk, breast milk supplemented with baby formula, or formula.
“To overcome parent shaming, we must all work together as a community and understand that it is much healthier to support other parents. We all are bringing up our babies slightly differently and there is more than one way to parent. Have faith in your instincts and abilities, and the rest will fall into place,” says Bruno.
As the years go on, you’ll face new and different challenges, but you’ll be able to tackle them with confidence because you have honed your own parenting style. You know your family best, and you’ll always be there to do what’s best for them. And, as the years go on, you’ll have opportunities to support other parents on their own journeys, contributing to a more positive culture for other moms and dads. This parenting thing may not be easy, but it’s worth it.