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Beware the Know It Alls: How to Handle Unsolicited Baby Advice

Unwanted baby advice from family, friends, and strangers -- why so many people give it and how to deal with it gracefully.
By Diane Lore
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD

The battlefield: Tamara Derosia's baby shower. The fighting words: Baby wipe warmer.

Oh sure, for those who worry about global warming, the recession, and house foreclosures, this might seem, um, silly. But certainly, it wasn't that way for the two women who were driven to debate the device -- baby's comfort versus frivolous financial waste.

"I was somewhat stunned," says Derosia, the creative director in the Atlanta office of the public relations firm Cohn & Wolfe. "Each side was defended with such passionate conviction you would have thought we were discussing something that could potentially affect the child's health, development, and future."

For those who are pregnant, you think you're a pro -- you've endured the patting of strangers, the prying questions about your "birth plan," your baby's name, and whether you're going to breastfeed. Eyebrows raise every time you go near alcohol, coffee, Diet Coke, soft cheese, shellfish. Suggestions have been made about what you should do with your cat -- once a furry little friend, now carrier of horrible pregnancy outcomes.

And yet, you are still a rank amateur. Once Bouncing Baby arrives, you will discover that everything -- how baby sleeps, what baby eats, why baby cries -- is up for open, public debate.

Right down to the humble baby wipe warmer.

"There are so many people who want to direct you on how to be a good mom," says Debbie Thompson. Thompson is a pediatric nurse practitioner and a neonatal specialist at Children's Medical Center, Dallas. "Much of the advice is helpful," she says. "But a parent must remember that each child is unique."

OK, that sounds good -- and most parents believe they can stay sane under stress. But take a couple of months of sleepless nights, a week without a shower, and an inconsolable baby in a Target aisle -- and a parent should be nominated for sainthood for not lunging at passers-by who feel the need to dole out helpful hints.

"With the first one, we got a ton of unsolicited advice about everything under the sun," says Daniel Hallac, a New York City dad of two. Hallac is also co-founder of kid mondo.com, a website that lets parents journal, store first photos, and keep growth charts. "It really freaked us out trying to deal with all of it."

Try dealing with twice the advice.

Shari Schmidt, of Palos Hills, Ill., has twins, now 4 years old. She's been "coached" on sleep schedules, matching outfits, baby food, and haircuts.

"My family was -- and still is -- horrified that the girls didn't like meat. My grandmother was worried their teeth wouldn't develop properly. My mother was worried it would stunt their growth," Schmidt, a marketing consultant, says. "Our pediatrician is OK with it, and so are we. Everyone else thinks it is a form of child abuse not to feed the girls Chicken McNuggets. I'm sure all parents receive lots of unwanted advice. But it seems to come at me like a tidal wave."

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