There’s something about having a baby that makes your partner’s mother start oozing a whole lot of unwanted know-it-all attitude. Perhaps it’s because you will naturally defer to your own mum for advice and so your mother-in-law feels a bit left out. For whatever reason, mothers-in-law (MIL) can be really determined to get all up in your face when you are trying to figure out how to care for a baby. They’re also not renowned for reading the room and knowing when to back off. Are you familiar with these?
“Oh I think he’s got a bit of wind”
She loves to blame it on ‘the wind’ and she loves to have a go at eradicating ‘the wind.’ She’s obsessed with ‘the wind’. It’s all about ‘the wind’. And she’s got all manner of tried and true techniques to bring up ‘the wind’. And the inference is, once that’s done, all your problems will be solved and your stupid baby will stop screaming his stupid head off.
“Is he getting enough milk?”
This is the other standard go-to that your MIL will trot out every time your baby cries. Some have also been known to gently (not gently) suggest (insist) that their daughters-in-law stop breastfeeding and move to bottle-feeding so that she (the MIL) can have a turn of the baby more often. And while we all appreciate their enthusiasm for taking care of their grandchild, there’s nothing good to be gained from insisting a woman stop breastfeeding her baby.
“You’re not feeding that baby AGAIN are you?”
And if you’re not blithely starving your baby, you’re probably wantonly overfeeding it. Because unless your MIL is particularly au fait with modern baby care (ie: feeding on demand) she will find the sight of you ‘constantly’ breastfeeding your baby very difficult to process. In her day they put a baby in a routine.
“Does he really need to be wrapped like that for sleep?”
Swaddling goes in and out of fashion and rest assured whatever is in fashion now, wasn’t in fashion when your MIL had her babies. Which is why she’ll constantly question you on whether or not wrapping your baby ‘like that’ is really necessary. My own MIL used to offer to hold the wrapped baby and the surreptitiously loosen the wrapping as she held him, thus unwrapping the baby.
“We used to give our babies a bit of brandy on the pinkie finger to fix wind/colic/sleep problems”
Yes, yes. The old brandy on the pinkie trick. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
“If you keep picking that baby up every time he cries, you’ll spoil him”
This notion that babies are wily little foxes who just want to ‘trick’ you into picking them up is a popular one with the older generation. If she wants to pick him up whenever and for whatever reason, that’s her prerogative.
“Oh we didn’t have any of this fancy stuff when mine were babies, we just put them to sleep in a drawer.”
If it’s not a drawer they were putting their babies in back in the day, it’s a suitcase. About 50-odd years ago, apparently there were no bassinets and babies were put in drawers and suitcases because everyone was so down-home-natural and laissez faire about child-rearing. Not at all like our spoilt, overbearing, uptight generation of gadget mongers.
“That’s an interesting name.”
Whatever name you come up with for your baby, it’s pretty much assured that your MIL will find it ‘interesting’. And by ‘interesting’ she means, ‘weird’ and unacceptable and something she will qualify to her friends whenever she mentions it, “I mean, it wasn’t MY choice of name but …”
“When the baby is born I would like to be known as (insert weird made-up name here)”
While some women relish the day they will become ‘Grandma’ or ‘Nanna’ others find the age-related reality of being a grandmother just too confronting. As a result, they decide to invent their own grandma name and insist they henceforth be known as something like, ‘Maw-maw’ ‘Moo-moo’, ‘Noo-noo’, ‘Ninny’ or any other name that makes them sound fun but not old.
Some MILs believe wholeheartedly that the sound, ‘sh’ is a magical cure-all for crying babies. And while it seems innocent enough, over time it will begin to aggravate you because it implies the crying baby problem is a simple equation that can be solved with a sound from her mouth. Even when you are holding your baby, patting and rocking, MIL will sidle up beside you and start doing the ‘sh-sh-sh’ thing: like that’s helping.