Isn’t this hard enough without adding your disapproval to the mix?
After waking up to dozens of notifications from one of my now former Facebook parenting groups, I’m coming here to spread this message: enough is enough.
The notifications came as a result of defending a fellow group member after she dared add a suggestion to a post from a desperate mother whose child was waking frequently during the night. The post was about what appeared to be a hungry child that was no longer being sustained on her mother’s breastmilk; as a result, she woke often and cried all night. The other commenter- in a bid to be helpful- suggested that the mother consider formula if, in fact, it came to be that the child was not consuming enough nutrients. It was a kindhearted comment, made only in the nicest and most considerable of tones, and was intended to help the mother add some more ideas to her list that could be discussed with her child’s doctor.
Based on the responses, one might have thought that this person had commented instead, “Just toss your baby out the window. That way you don’t have to feed her anything!”
The backlash was immediate.
“Such damaging advice,” one person wrote.
“Try solids instead of formula,” yet another chimed in. “Formula doesn’t solve everything.”
And, after a response from me pointing out all of the subliminal anti-formula judgement in the replies that were made in a supposedly anti-judgement parenting group, another comment: “No one is being judgmental; she’s not allowed to recommend formula here.”
Needless to say, I am no longer a member of this group. And to be honest, I would caution anyone prior to joining such a group because of this level of judgement that is aimed at new parents, or parents who are just trying to make it from day to day. People need to fully understand these group norms prior to joining them, because otherwise they might find themselves being preyed upon by the “holier-than-thou” parenting crowd.
In my perspective, a hungry child is a hungry child. And a desperate mother is a desperate mother. Instead of cutting these people down in an attempt to build them back up using our own philosophies as their foundation, we need to treat these issues at face value instead of inserting our own personal feelings into the parenting plights of others. Why are people being criticized after a genuine attempt to be helpful? This overall experience forced the norms of this group into full view and I can say firsthand that what I observed wasn’t gentle parenting; rather, it was a primal act of many powerful predators pouncing on a wounded animal and taking her down with their sharp teeth of judgement and criticism.
The only thing these groups do is pretend to listen to these moms and dads who are struggling and offer them canned advice based on groupthink: no formula, breastfeeding is best, no solids before turning a year old, no bottles. It does not matter what your personal circumstances are because you’ll receive this same advice that is given to everyone. Personally, If I had followed this outdated approach to feeding, my child would have starved to death in the first month of his life. Why does the manner in which we parent our own children affect others in such a way that they feel comfortable tearing apart anything that exists outside of the sphere of their own comfort?
This contemporary “take” on modern parenting culture needs to end. I am so sick of the way that we mothers attack each other over differences in parenting rather than coming together as a unified front. Motherhood (and parenting in general) is difficult enough as it is without adding in the extra challenge of a pandemic. When did we stop being a village for each other and instead made the conscientious decision to judge? Even under this attractive guise of gentle parenting you’ll find the most critical parents waiting in the comments section to tell you that what you’re doing is wrong. And yes, most of these people are mothers themselves, which makes their desperate bid to be relevant in someone else’s life even more pathetic. It’s their way or the highway, and they would rather allow other people’s children to cry all night long with empty bellies than to dare consider anything that flies in the face of “natural parenting.”
Guys, formula isn’t the enemy. Solids and bottles are not the enemy. The enemy is this cloak-and-dagger approach to offering parenting advice that only strictly aligns with one perspective. We are the enemy. Criticism is the enemy, and it is everywhere, even hiding in the background of a seemingly kind and open-minded Facebook parenting group.
I put a post on my own social media recently regarding the difficulty of parenting. I offered to hold other peoples’ babies and play with their older children while their parents take a break because this is what we need in our culture that is so desperately trying to guilt parents into giving up and pursuing options that don’t benefit their children in the long run. We don’t need more judgement and more criticism because hell, we can get that anytime for free at the grocery store. We parents really need to step up and embrace different perspectives on raising babies because we’re alienating those for whom are suggestions are not viable.
Stop telling mothers to continue exclusively breastfeeding if it’s killing them and they’re tired of being up all night and their nipples are sore.
Stop telling parents to avoid formula or bottles, particularly if these things mean the difference between a fed child and a hungry child.
Stop telling parents to avoid solids, or include solids to make up for some perceived nutritional deficit.
And for the rest of us, stop listening to these people. They are damaging and they are wrong.
My advice? Avoid the noise made by other loud people, and be confident in your decisions as a parent. Make your child’s doctor a team member and include them in your decision-making when it is appropriate. Want to supplement with formula so baby isn’t hungry overnight? Go for it. Desperate to try a bottle in order to give your nipples a break? Have at it! You are your child’s champion, not these online parenting groups that consist of people who think they know best.
No, that’s where you go to have salt rubbed in all of your secret wounds, and nobody needs that.