If you’re like me, you may find yourself utterly confused by all the parenting information available to you. You may also find that depending on which friend or family member you talk to, you get many different types of advice about childrearing even from those you love and trust. I've found in my own personal life, all of this confusion causes me to doubt myself more and the times that I feel most certain about my decisions as a mom are the times that I trust my gut more. Over the course of my time as a mother, these are usually the reasons I determine I should trust my gut more.
Every child, every parent and every situation is different – Because of this, you may find that following the advice and instruction of others causes more frustration than it helps. When my daughter Sydney was a little baby she hated being swaddled and I knew that she hated being swaddled. More accurately, she hated having her hands down by her sides. When I sought help from others, they would just tell me that I wasn’t doing it right. After trying countless swaddles, I ended up finding a solution that worked that didn’t involve traditional swaddling. I trusted my gut and eventually got some much-needed sleep. On the other side of that, I’ve recommended the same solution to other moms that were having sleep problems and my solution didn’t work for all of them because every child, every parent and every situation is different.
Google is not the know all, be all source of information – I’m convinced that the amount of information that we have available at our fingertips is what causes us to doubt ourselves so much. When relying on Google, there’s so much information and much of it conflicts one another. Google is a valuable resource that I use often, but I always try to use it as a supplement to my gut. More of confirmation to what I was already feeling or what I already suspected, rather than going to it as the end all be all. Much of what’s on the internet is opinion and not fact and should be taken with a grain of salt. Many, many, many years ago all moms and dads had to rely on was their gut. We should be thankful for the wealth of information available to us that our ancestors did not have, but just like with everything else, we should not depend on it solely and abandon all common sense. If tomorrow you found yourself on an abandoned island with your child, you don’t want to be completely paralyzed when it comes to their care. This is a bit of an exaggeration but the point I’m trying to make is that using our gut allows us to use our own brains and instincts without relying solely on the brains and instincts of others.
Your gut is usually right - If you think about all of those times that you did use your gut, you’ll probably realize that most of the time, you were right. The maternal instinct isn’t some magical force that causes us to know everything there is to do with babies but we typically know when something is off. When you go to the doctor, unless it’s a scheduled wellness visit, you’re typically going because something feels off. You know your baby and when something just feels different. You’re going to the doctor to confirm what you already feel inside. You’re also going so that they can properly diagnose whatever is wrong. Any time I’ve taken my daughter to the hospital, I’m going just as a "better safe than sorry" precaution. I typically know that there is something wrong or what is wrong and 9 times out of 10, the doctor does absolutely nothing to help. The doctor's visit is simply for peace of mind.
You know your baby best – You know your baby better than anyone. They grew inside of your belly and chances are that from the time you delivered until your maternity leave was over (or later if you stay at home), you spent most waking moments with your child. You know their routines and you know their typical behaviors. You’re so in tune with your baby that you can probably anticipate all of their needs before they can talk. You can predict what they’ll do next to the degree that people would think you were a psychic. When Sydney was about 3 months old, we hired a part-time nanny. When the nanny would come and Sydney would be sleeping, I would tell the nanny the time that she could expect Sydney to awake. About 90% of the time I was right. The nanny was always amazed but it really wasn’t all that amazing, it was just me knowing her and her routines.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t depend on other sources to help you in your parenting journey. Those moms from many many years ago often had extended families that they could depend on to help with childrearing. In our modern society, many of us live away from our relatives, some only 20 or 30 minutes away, but other live across the country from their loved ones. We don’t have these extended families to help us so we need to rely on other resources. Parenting is hard and having to do it alone is rough. Use whatever resources you have, just don’t overuse them and don’t underestimate the power of your own instincts when it comes to doing what’s best for your little one.