Thanks, But No Thanks: Dealing gracefully with unsolicited advice

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When my newly pregnant friends ask me what’s the one thing I wish I had known earlier, it’s simple - I wish I had a strategy to deal with the cascading stampede of unsolicited advice. It begins the moment people know that you are pregnant and apparently doesn’t end anytime soon either. I confess how unprepared I was until one day I had reached my limit.

The mother in me had had ENOUGH!

The therapist in me was fascinated with the motivations of people to want to dole out what was ‘clear as mud’ unwelcomed micromanaging of motherhood.

The therapist in me recognized that we can’t change other people’s behaviour but we can be in control of ourselves – how we choose to see, interpret and manage other people’s behaviour; and, so this post is to help demystify why people might be bursting with unsolicited advice and some strategies to handle it with grace.

Now, before I go further.  I would like to add that not all unsolicited advice is "bad" or "unwelcome."

Sometimes we don’t know that there’s a solution to our struggle unless someone else recognizes it and steers us to a better outcome. The wisdom of ‘been there, done that’ can be helpful.

Sometimes someone may notice something potentially dangerous in the short or long term and if it could save my child’s life or keep them safe from serious harm I would absolutely want to know.

Unsolicited advice can be a blessing when it is:

  • given in genuine kindness      
  • spoken with sensitivity      
  • humble enough to know that it’s 1 of many ways of doing something, and    
  • most importantly, honours the characteristics and relationship of the parent and child together

So why do strangers, family, and friends feel compelled to give advice?

Let’s assume with the benefit of grace that it’s coming from a place filled with the best of intentions… Maybe it’s because:

  • This was hard won wisdom – things that they wished had someone told them and this is a way to pass it forward
  • Just want to be helpful/ needed – in the absence of concrete action ways to help, they offer advice (which they believe to be less intrusive)
  • 'Know it all’/ ‘survived it all’ types – some people believe that the way they did it was best
  • Assuming they have a right to give advice – often a generational thing, where older generations feel this is their role in society and in many cultures the role of an elder is highly valued
  • Nostalgia – Comes often from a place of longing to once again experience this phase of life and feeling that it went by too fast. For those past child-bearing years, there may be a sense of wanting a “do over” with the wisdom they gained from trial and error the first time around.

"Nice Words" and Boundaries

So what to do when you’ve had enough…

To the stranger:

DEEP BREATHS, SMILE and say “Thank you” – The End.

  • If you found it valuable, consider it. If not, fluff it off. That was easy, right? Because you’ll likely not see this person again frequently and you have no vested interest in the relationship. But that’s easier said than done when it’s someone you care about and have a relationship with. You can thank them for noticing you and your beautiful child in a busy world without committing energy.

To the person who is TICKING you off:

“Please help me understand where you are coming from, because this is how it is coming across to me…. As (your feeling)”

  • This is likely a communication problem that causes misunderstanding. By acknowledging how it makes YOU FEEL, you allow them the opportunity to re-phrase and apologize. If they will not see how they caused you hurt that’s a bigger problem.

To the know-it-all:

“I know you mean well, but please don’t assume that my approach will be the same as yours”

  • It gracefully honours that there is more than 1 “right” way to do things and reminds this person of boundaries.

To the person who challenges your decisions over and over:

“Thank you but I’m already operating with an informed decision.”

  • This type of person will likely want to get into a whole long drawn argument until you give in and cede to their point of view. If you have already decided what is best for you and your family, it is energy draining and counterproductive to engage this type of person in a “rational” argument. They want to WIN not necessarily understand your decisions. Disengage and move the focus to something else that is neutral.

To the micro-manager:

“Please just enjoy being a __(role)___ and leave the parenting to me/us”

  • Do you have someone hovering over your shoulder and clicking their tongue “tsk tsk” as you try to change a diaper, nurse, give a bottle, shush and rock the baby and on and on. Or swoop in and “re-do” it “correctly” and it seems that nothing you do is “right” or “good enough”. This sort of behaviour needs FIRM boundaries, left unchecked it can undermine your confidence as a parent

What's my favourite line, you ask...

Finally when you need to shut it down once and for all, a gentle but clear reminder that you are ALWAYS on the mission to do what is BEST for YOUR CHILD. Here’s my favourite line:

“The thing I LOVE about being (child’s) MOM is that I know him/her better than anyone else”

Please pardon me …. This one piece of advice….

RECLAIM your CONFIDENCE, EMBRACE your LOVE

 and know that

YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!

xo Ramona

Ramona Fernandez, Psychotherapist

For the last 10 years I have dedicated my professional work to specialize in women’s reproductive health, fertility and reproductive loss as a counsellor, researcher, ethicist and professor.  I am humbled by the majesty of nature, that brings together so many things with such precision at exactly the right times to make a life. I also bear witness to the deep suffering that comes when the imagined future didn’t work out as hoped.  My knowledge to be your guide as you navigate this path comes from my professional training but also from the empathy of personal knowledge, as I’ve borne 5 pregnancies to bring into the world 1 beautiful child that lived.  I am a psychotherapist with a specialization in perinatal health and reproductive loss. I have a Master’s in Counselling Psychology, Certificate in Grief & Bereavement, and a PhD in Health Professional Education on the topic of high risk pregnancies involving fetal anomalies. I’m currently an adjunct professor at Western University in Counselling Psychology and have taught at Western, Ryerson and Yale Universities. 

Well Parent: Nutrition While Pregnant & Breast/Chestfeeding

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Well Parent Nutrition While Pregnant

Healthy eating is an important part of good health, and an integral part of disease prevention and immune system support.  It is important that you eat healthy to ensure you are at optimal health to grow and care for your baby.

During pregnancy and while breast/chest-feeding your body provides all the nutrients a baby requires, often at the sacrifice of the parents needs. Good nutrition is important to help you keep your energy, and replenish reduced nutrient stores so that you are feeling great while growing, caring for and feeding your baby. Eating a well balanced diet filled with vegetables and good protein is the best way to achieve this.

Healthy oils such as raw olive oil, coconut oil and other unsaturated fats. Raw nuts are an excellent source of healthy oils, and a great source of protein and other micronutrients

Protein is an important part of good health. When choosing plant sources, be diverse! Mix and match! By eating a variety of legumes, nuts and grains  every day your are providing all the building blocks for healthy bodies and brains

Complex carbohydrates These can include beans and legumes, whole grains, rice, quinoa, fruits and vegetables. But beware the easy trap of pre-made simple carbs such as pastas, breads, and crackers…although they do have *some* nutritional merit, and are a wonderful addition to the diet in small quantities, they don't offer the biggest bang for your buck for nutrient needs, and can fill you up quickly

Vegetables and fruits Eat lots! They are excellent sources for micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. Don't forget the dark leafy greens, which are excellent sources of iron and folate: Spinach, Kale, collard greens…

Well Parent Nutrition While Breast/Chestfeeding

The beauty of breast/chest-feeding is that the nutritional content of breastmilk will always be exactly what your baby needs, but it is important to eat well so that you are getting exactly what you need.  

Many parents are often concerned about the nutritional content of their breastmilk, and worry that their babies are not getting what they need. Your body is made to breastfeed, and it will ensure that  your milk is filled with everything it needs for baby's growth and development. It will use all its resources to stockpile breast milk, regardless of parental nutrient levels. If your baby is eating well, and gaining well then your baby is very well fed.

All in all, parental diet has little impact on breast milk nutritional content (breast milk will always have the right stuff in it) (1).  However, there are a few exceptions:

Fat   Fats are incredibly important in brain development and growth, and although the amount of fats you consume has minimal impact on the amount of fat in breast milk, the type of fats that you eat IS important (1, 2). If you are eating the 'not so healthy' fats found in deep fried foods, potato chips and french fries the composition of those fats will be the composition of the fat in your breast milk. But if you are eating healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and olive or coconut oil then the fats in your breast milk will be that of the healthy fats. How neat is that?

Water soluble vitamins    The amount of water soluble vitamins (Vitamin C, B complex vitamins) found in breast milk depends greatly on maternal intake (2). These vitamins are not stored in the body, so both mother and babe are dependent on food to provide these vitamins (3). This is why it is important to eat a healthy well rounded diet so that both babe and mom are getting the vitamins they need. So, where can you get these important vitamins? You guessed it…Veggies! All those bright colourful veggies like red and yellow peppers, brussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens are rich in those C and B vitamins. B12 seems to be the tricky one, most sources of B12 are derived from animal products, however alternative sources include nutritional yeast (I’ve got a great recipe for nutritional yeast popcorn..yum yum yum), fortified tofus and soy products.

Calorie counting? Often new parents find that they have increased hunger. The caloric need of a breast/chest-feeding parent has increased with the increased demand from breast/chest-feeding, this makes it so important that you listen to your body. Every person is different, and as a result what every person needs is different. The same goes for thirst; while breast/chest-feeding, a lot of the water consumed will be used to produce milk, and many parents often feel an increase in thirst. My advice? Drink when you are thirsty! Water, coconut water or natural fruit juices are great ways to hydrate. Eat when you are hungry! Or do both at once with a smoothie!

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It all comes down to the basics when growing and breastfeeding your baby…take care of you and your body will take care of baby.

If you are interested in learning more about eating well while pregnant or  breastfeeding, or looking for tips on how to manage feeding a baby while feeding yourself...give us a call at Rebirth Wellness Centre! We would love to have a chat with you about how we can get you feeling and being well.

xo Rebecca

References:

1.    Fraser, Diane, Cooper, Margaret. (2009). Myles Textbook for Midwives, fifteenth edition. Elsevier Limited

2.    Park, Eileen. 2012. Class notes-Nutrition and Biochemistry

3.    Baby Center  www.babycenter.ca

Rebecca Robertson, Breastfeeding Counsellor, Doula, Childbirth Educator

I am a birth advocate, a breastfeeding educator, and especially an advocate for mothers and the choices they make. As a doula my main role is to support mothers and partners to ensure a satisfying and positive birth experience. I am trained in providing emotional and spiritual support, as well as physical comfort during labor. I completed a DONA training course in 2009 and it sparked my love for supporting laboring women. Since then I have been inspired to continue my learning to provide the best support I can with additional studies in lactation and natural medicine. Some of the things in my tool kit include massage, acupressure, and items to help with visualization and relaxation.  I am trained in different stretches and birthing positions to improve pain tolerance and pushing efficacy, as well I give lots of encouragement! In 2012 I enrolled in a Lactation Medicine Program at the Centre for Breastfeeding Education. There I was instilled with this goal "To enable the mother to manage her own breastfeeding experience, so she will be empowered to achieve her own breastfeeding goals." I accumulated over 90 hours in lactation specific education, as well as hours in observation at their breastfeeding clinic. Since that time I have been supporting new moms as they transition to motherhood and begin the breastfeeding relationship. During my time studying Naturopathic medicine, I was fortunate to expand on my knowledge on lactation medicine as well as how naturopathic medicine can play a role in the perinatal care of women and their new babes. I am passionate about my job, and I bring lots of enthusiasm and love for what I do.  

Six Steps to Escape the Mom Spiral

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Today felt like a mom fail. I couldn't get anything right. According to my toddler, the pants were wrong, the shirt was wrong, the breakfast was wrong, the shoes were wrong and even the method of transportation to school was wrong. It was a GREAT start to the day. You know, one of those days where you're right on the edge of falling apart or not giving a *!@#...it could go either way. 

Step 1: Questioning

So after dealing with an epic temper tantrum throw down at daycare drop off, I climbed back into our minivan (infant in tow) and began the process of what I like to call "the mom spiral". For me, the mom spiral is not just a downward one; it's full of all sorts of fun ups and downs. Mom spirals may be different for everyone and have different triggers, but for me it usually goes like this: step one is an incident resulting in me questioning a parenting choice (big or small). 

Step 2: Indecision

I am wracked with indecision over what I should or should not have done, could have done better or should have known better about.  Step two almost always involves some aggressive Googling; and, even though I am always the first to advise my other mom friends to NEVER Google something when in this state of mind…I of course ignore my own advice and type on.

“Hmmmm maybe someone else has gone through the same thing,” I think to myself.  

This quickly turns into “I must have done something that contributed to my child behaving this way”, or, my favourite, “how could I not have known that when it seems that all these other moms in this forum from 2011 knew about it.”

Either way, it is not often a constructive use of my time and definitely allows my mom spiral to continue. 

Step 3: Mom Guilt

This part of the mom spiral is the most draining and consuming. Unfortunately, this is the part of the mom spiral that I find myself stuck in and obsessing over the longest.  

Step 4: The Punishment

Since I clearly don’t have it together I guess I better punish myself with tasks, errands and chores. I often catch myself in this pattern where I keep busy with “things to do”. These are things that I have decided HAVE TO GET DONE now. As a result, anything else that I had planned for myself must wait. 

Once I’ve spent some time trying to run away from these feelings of self-doubt and mom guilt through obsessive multitasking it's time for…

Step 5: Exhaustion

I stop for a moment and look around only to realize that maybe I overreacted. 

How do I escape the "mom spiral"? 

Step 6: Commence Pep Talk

Ok breathe…don’t be silly. You’re not a bad mom. There is nothing you could have done differently. You did the best you can. A few years from now you won’t even remember this and more importantly neither will the kids. They will remember you being happy. They will remember you having confidence in yourself and encouraging them to do the same. They will remember you leading by example and picking yourself up after a bad day. They will learn to be kind to themselves if they see you being kind to yourself. So, yup, today was a bad day. I got yelled at by my toddler in public and had to make an impromptu performance of my parenting skills in front of some daycare parents and a few pedestrians. I got to take a spin on the "mom spiral". But it's ok. Tomorrow is another day and until then I am going to lean into the moments of joy, hug my kids a little harder at the end of the day and go to bed with a full heart ready for a fresh start.

Does the pep talk always work? No, of course it doesn't.  But I have always found remembering my successes as a mom helps a lot. So does a good cry.

If any of you moms out there have encountered “the mom spiral” or perhaps have dealt with your own version of it, please know that you are not alone. And the next time you are out and about and see another mom who is maybe having a bad day, send a little smile their way so they know they are not alone either. A little smile goes a long way on a bad day.

xo Adrienne

Adrienne MacDonald, Postpartum Doula

I am a mother of two children, two dogs, one horse and a cat.  I am currently completing my Postpartum Doula certification through Doula Training Canada and am fully insured as a postpartum doula in training. Some previous work experience that I bring into this new role includes many years volunteering in crisis intervention with Victim Services as well as a career as a legal assistant, where I learned both compassion and professionalism.

New parenthood can feel both exciting and overwhelming. Nothing can prepare us for this journey. Sometimes, the only way to get through the day is with the help and support of others. Some of my best and most valuable postpartum experiences were receiving the support and encouragement of another person when I was feeling vulnerable. It is through these moments that my passion for helping others navigate the postpartum period emerged.

I believe that when it comes to parenting, there are often 100 different ways of doing the same thing.  It’s our job as parents to choose what works best for our family, and it’s my job to provide you the support you need to make safe and healthy choices that help you achieve your goals during the postpartum period.

The Top 5 Foods to Make More Milk

Isn't it amazing how quickly the boob obsession can take over your life as a new parent? Am I making enough? Did they drink enough? Is the milk good enough? Are they getting the hind milk? What is hind milk?….? Thats the thing about breast/chest-feeding, it’s a little unnerving not knowing how much your baby is drinking. But here's the thing about that thing (too many things?), you don't need to measure the volume of breastmilk your baby is drinking to know if they are getting enough. The key is to look and listen to what your baby is telling you.

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Revolutionary thinking, I know.

When you are able to look and listen to your baby, and decode what it is that they are telling you, you learn so much.  If you are struggling to decode the mysterious signals your baby is sending in relation to hunger, drinking and satiety then let's chat in person. Once you have someone guide you to see the simple cues baby sends, it can change how you feel!

Also, I have a confession.  I have you here under a ruse...I've mislead you to believe that we are going to talk about how to increase your milk supply through food. And we WILL get to that...but first let me say this: the NUMBER ONE way to increase milk supply is to have a great latch, with baby draining the breast well.

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If your baby is latching well (big wide mouth, asymmetric on the breast, full tongue mobility), and able to drain the breast well, this will be the absolute *best* way to continue to produce the milk that your baby needs. It is supply and demand, if your body gets a strong signal to make more milk, it will!

Sometimes the stars don’t alight for this process to run smoothly right from the beginning, and that is ok-and completely normal. But getting you back on track is without a doubt the best way to make more milk. Sometimes other factors, like mood, sleep and breast-chest feeding parent nutrient, come into play as well. Please, if you are struggling reach out, use your community, we want to support you.

So, if you are reading this because you are struggling to produce enough milk for your babe, or your babe is gaining "slowly" then the number one way to boost that milk production is to consult a lactation consultant or breastfeeding professional. If you have and are still struggling, then see someone else.  The guidance you get can be invaluable for your breast/chest-feeding journey. There are so many ways that we can adjust latch and change breastmilk intake to help your baby and our body communicate effectively to get those mammary glands Rockin' and Rollin'.

Milk Boosting Foods

If the number one way to increase milk is to have a great latch, then what's the deal with milk boosting foods and teas?

Milk boosting foods are foods that will slightly increase the amount of water that is circulated to the mammary tissue.  When these foods do this it provides more water for your body to use to make milk. Being well hydrated is important for the galactogenisis process. These foods are high in protein, iron and B-vitamins, which provides some of the important building blocks for galactogenesis to occur, as well as supporting recovery in the post part period, and supporting overall wellness. Increased food intake and milk production go hand in hand. It is important to eat when hungry and drink when thirsty.

Having said all this, if you are looking for the top 5 foods to *support* the milk making process then here they are:

Adding these foods into your diet as a part of a healthy diet can help support the milk making process. And thereby slightly increase the amount of milk you make. Some breast/chest-feeding parents respond incredibly well and drastically increase production, others not so much. A simple way to add these to your diet is to start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, a handful of almonds, a spoonful of flax meal and Brewers yeast sprinkled on top, and a big glass of water.  For a more involved recipe here is my favourite Lactation smoothie recipe.

If you give it a try let me know what you think, or if you have any other questions send them my way. And as always, Nurse on!

~Rebecca

References: Compr Physiol. 2015 Jan;5(1):255-91.

Rebecca Robertson, Breastfeeding Counsellor, Doula, Childbirth Educator

I am a birth advocate, a breastfeeding educator, and especially an advocate for mothers and the choices they make. As a doula my main role is to support mothers and partners to ensure a satisfying and positive birth experience. I am trained in providing emotional and spiritual support, as well as physical comfort during labor. I completed a DONA training course in 2009 and it sparked my love for supporting laboring women. Since then I have been inspired to continue my learning to provide the best support I can with additional studies in lactation and natural medicine. Some of the things in my tool kit include massage, acupressure, and items to help with visualization and relaxation.  I am trained in different stretches and birthing positions to improve pain tolerance and pushing efficacy, as well I give lots of encouragement! In 2012 I enrolled in a Lactation Medicine Program at the Centre for Breastfeeding Education. There I was instilled with this goal "To enable the mother to manage her own breastfeeding experience, so she will be empowered to achieve her own breastfeeding goals." I accumulated over 90 hours in lactation specific education, as well as hours in observation at their breastfeeding clinic. Since that time I have been supporting new moms as they transition to motherhood and begin the breastfeeding relationship. During my time studying Naturopathic medicine, I was fortunate to expand on my knowledge on lactation medicine as well as how naturopathic medicine can play a role in the perinatal care of women and their new babes. I am passionate about my job, and I bring lots of enthusiasm and love for what I do.  

Finding Yourself In Motherhood

Finding Yourself In Motherhood

You have just had a baby... you are beginning the beautiful journey of motherhood. This new life depends on you for feedings, sleeping, changing, stimulation, teachings and most importantly love. You...They are counting on YOU! You are their mother and while this can be an incredible role it  can also be overwhelming, exhausting and frustrating. Here's the thing though, they chose YOU so they already know you've got this. I believe in order to feel successful in this new role of "mom" there is one very important thing you must do before you begin the list of everything baby will need... you need to give yourself a little love.

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