The Baby Expert

New parents beware: sightings of the lesser spotted baby expert are at an all time high. Found in streets, parks, shops, pubs and your own home, as well as on the internet, this genus of the family interferus feeds by offering unsolicited advice and passive-aggressive criticisms of your parenting techniques. They are best avoided when tiredness makes it harder to hold your tongue, though as babies attract them, there is no known repellent that works.

The lesser spotted baby expert can be further divided into a number of species: the judgemental acquaintance overfamiliarus, the childless spinster that used to be a nursum, the earth mother organica, the internetus anonymous, the never had kids but I have strong opinions on the subjectumthe my daughter/friend/hairdresser/person I saw on TV had it much tougher than you but they’re still breastfeedingo, and, possibly the most pernicious of all, the had a baby forty years ago and in my day we did it like this and even though it goes against everything the midwives and health visitors and paediatricians say it didn’t do our kids any harmus. This last, often known by their common name of ‘Lady Macbeths’, can become quite offended if their advice is not immediately heeded without question. Best fobbed off with the line, ‘We’ll consider it.’

Unfortunately for the would-be baby expert watcher, no two have the same song. Use a dummy, sings one; never use a dummy, sings another. Teach her to suck her thumb; don’t let her suck her thumb. Cure constipation with laxatives; don’t use laxatives, give her boiled water; change to a different formula; use orange juice; yoga; massage; a cotton bud up the backside. Hold her like this; like this; like this. She’ll be too hot; too cold; too much sun; not enough sun; let her sleep; you have to wake her; you’re feeding too much; you’re feeding too little; too often; not often enough; make her sleep in her cot; she’s okay in your arms; she’s having too much stimulation; she needs more. This makes things rather confusing, and not a little annoying.

What the new parent must remember upon being accosted by the lesser spotted baby expert is that these creatures are experts on their babies, and on babies in general, but they are not experts on your baby. And while they insist on getting involved, the only people responsible for your baby, the only people qualified to make decisions that affect your baby, and the only ones who will have to deal with the consequences of those decisions, are you, the parents. The baby expert will fly away when it detects the scent of another baby elsewhere, and the parent must be able to look themselves in the mirror each morning, or evening, or whenever in the day they can find the time to look at themselves in the mirror, and be comfortable with the decisions they’ve made, and know they made them for the right reasons and not because the baby experts browbeat them into compliance. If you can’t justify it to yourself, just don’t do it.

Libraries are full of what other people think – all that matters is what you think. So during this upcoming season, watch out for the lesser spotted baby expert. It can be a nuisance, but it is more noisy than harmful. And if it gets too much, there’s no harm in reminding it that you are the only expert on your baby whose opinion matters.

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