If you're expecting your first child, here's something else to expect: lots of advice. When you're pregnant or parenting a newborn, it can feel like you're being bombarded with information — from friends, family members, well-meaning strangers, and oh-so-many opinionated internet articles.
Whose parenting and pregnancy advice should you trust? That depends on the subject matter.
Trust Your Community When There's No Right Answer
Sometimes your loved ones' input is welcome and helpful. Sometimes it's not. Just the sheer volume of parenting and pregnancy advice can be overwhelming, especially when people share conflicting suggestions. It can even start to feel a bit insulting, making you wonder, "Geez, does everyone think I'm too stupid to raise a kid?"
Of course, they're only trying to help. In some cases, having many different opinions can be useful. Every pregnancy is different, as is every baby, so it helps to have a bag of tricks to pick from.
Listen to suggestions from your friends and family about topics that have no right answer, and that don't put your health or your child's health at risk — for example, how to sleep comfortably when you're eight months pregnant, which baby products are worth buying, how to survive the "witching hour" or comfort a colicky baby, or how to get your kid to enjoy tummy time.
Listening doesn't mean you have to take their advice. Just file it away for future reference and do what works for you.
Trust the Internet When the Source Is Credible
These days, it can be difficult to discern genuine health care reporting from "fake news." For example, more than half of the 20 most-shared articles on Facebook in 2016 with the word "cancer" in the title have been widely discredited by the medical community.
Before trusting internet articles that make health claims, check their sources. Credible sources include national health organizations (e.g., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health), professional medication associations (e.g., the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), and medical research that appears in peer-reviewed journals.
Even when information comes from a credible source, it might not be relevant to your unique body, pregnancy, or baby. Discuss what you read with your doctor, who can put the information into context and help you decide the best course of action.
Trust Your Doctors for Medical Advice
When you need parenting or pregnancy advice, there are some questions you ask Grandma or your friend with three kids. Other questions are best directed to your doctor, especially regarding:
Medications and supplements: There's a long list of medications that doctors advise pregnant and nursing women against taking, including over-the-counter meds, prescription drugs, natural supplements, and even essential oils. Some are known to be dangerous, but the majority have simply never been tested on pregnant women. On the other hand, there might be certain medications that you need to be healthy. Your doctor understands the risks and benefits of each medication better than your friends and family.
Diet and exercise: Your best friend's gynecologist told her she could have one cup of coffee every day, and your sister jogged throughout her pregnancy. Are those things safe for you? Maybe, but you still want your doctor's blessing before breaking any "rules" or starting a new exercise regimen because your doctor understands your unique pregnancy. For example, if you have high blood pressure, that cup of coffee might be a problem, and if there are any complications with your pregnancy, certain types of exercise might be dangerous.
Labor and delivery: There are many considerations when deciding on your birth plan — where to have the baby, whether to have a C-section or vaginal birth, whether to get an epidural, and whether to use a midwife or doctor. Lots of people have strong opinions on these topics, but when it comes down to it, the only opinions that really matter are your own, your partner's (if you have one), and your doctor's. Your doctor can help you understand the pros, cons, and risks associated with each option, based on your unique pregnancy and your personal preferences.
Your infant's health: "Your baby isn't eating enough. You need to give formula." "I don't care what the experts say; babies sleep better on their stomachs." "That baby's teeth hurt; give him some Tylenol." "Don't you know vaccines are dangerous?" Get ready for unsolicited advice like this from well-meaning loved ones. They may just be trying to help, but when it comes to your baby's diet, sleep position, and medications, consult your doctor. Pediatricians don't give unsolicited advice unless it's important, and these matters are.
Finally, listen to yourself. Remember, no one knows your body or your baby like you do. And of course, if you're ever in doubt, call your doctor.