There is no shortage of advice on offer when a new baby arrives. If it isn’t a grandparent or neighbour putting their two cents in, it’s the overwhelming amount of conflicting advice online.
For any parent, but especially first time mums, processing it all while being wholly responsible for this new little person can be daunting.
Add to that the constant fear of being judged for our parenting choices or our child’s behaviour and it is no wonder one in three Australian parents are reluctant to seek advice, according to a recent survey.
More than 1000 parents of children aged up to five years responded to the online survey by Pregnancy, Birth and Baby (PBB).
Melbourne mum Annie O’Keefe, who took part in the survey, tells Babyology she “tortured” herself for more than six months trying to get her son Evander to breastfeed.
“Throughout my breastfeeding journey I felt a lot of judgement and a lot of people trying to help but not quite getting the big picture,” Annie says.
“I tried my best but I couldn’t do it so we went to mixed feeding and I found there was judgement on both sides of the breastfeeding journey.
“I tortured myself for six-and-a-half months but in the end he self-weaned because he just wasn’t interested in the boob.”
Perhaps the most concerning finding from the survey is that most parents turn to friends and then family before seeking advice from healthcare professionals.
Annie says she understands why mums turn to friends and family instead.
“I’m a new mum in a city by myself,” she says. “My family is on the other side of Australia and I’ve got the beautiful support of my husband and his parents and his family, but it’s not the same as having my own family.
“I know there are a lot of people in that same circumstance, especially in Melbourne.”
More than half of the parents surveyed say they have compared themselves or their child’s progress unfavourably with others.
But Healthdirect Australia clinical analyst Gail Hart tells Babyology often parents are their own worst critics.
“People are very hard on themselves and they compare themselves to other friends and their children, they can harshly judge themselves and think, ‘there’s something wrong with my child, they’re not sleeping’,” she says.
“But the main message we want to get across to parents is you’re not alone. You are not the only parent that’s got a child that’s maybe not sleeping, not settling or not feeding as well as you’d like, or a child that has hit the terrible twos with tantrums – you’re not alone, there is support out there for you.”
Gail says it is “concerning but not surprising” to find health professionals were third on the list of who to call for advice.
“The thing that concerns us is that sometimes the information parents may be given by friends and family might be a little outdated and inaccurate – not everyone keeps up with the latest information and we’ve all been there with the old wives tales,” Gail says.
Gail says the aim of PBB is to respect parents in the choices they’ve made, for example if they choose to bottle feed over breastfeeding.
“It’s about respecting the parents’ decision and recognising their child is at the core of all the decisions they make and they are doing the best they can,” Gail says.
PBB is an Australian Government service provided by Healthdirect Australia. It provides parents online, phone and video call support from maternal child health nurses seven days a week.