Dear Moms Groups, Please Stop Giving Out Problematic Advice
Look, before you start typing out your response to me just based on the title of the post, know that moms groups have been a lifesaver for me since day one of the birth of my first child. I think they are a great tool.
I am highly inclined to think that human connectivity on all levels is essential to our happiness. Isolation, both physical and psychological, is detrimental to our health. We also know that when you first give birth to a new baby, you are at high risk for that being a thing.
Enter moms groups, where you can connect with other people who know exactly how bad your nipples hurt, how much you want to physically throw up from exhaustion, who have mastered the please-stay-asleep crawl out of the nursery and have years and years of experience. There are due-date mom groups, local mom groups, niche mom groups, and countless others but they all share a similar goal: to be able to relate to other moms and give/gather advice.
This sounded great to me, so I joined a bunch. I was comforted that almost everybody has moments where they feel like they aren’t a good enough parent. I was given so many product ideas that I had no idea existed. I learned some amazing freezer meal prep that would help me in those early days. I had some great questions on what to ask a potential childcare provider. I wondered what the catch was. I quickly found out, as others can attest, that sometimes these groups can get pretty intense. There are arguments and social hierarchies, and often times they can feel a bit like a somehow more dramatic high school. Yikes!
As time went on though, and particularly after the birth of my second child, I started to realize a more disturbing pattern: these groups were giving out some pretty scary advice, to very vulnerable people, that they weren’t qualified to give. I want to use this opportunity to give examples of what I’m talking about and urge people to stop doing this.
Mom Question: “My doctor says it’s unsafe to go beyond 41 weeks/My Doctor advised me against a VBAC/My doctor says homebirth isn’t safe but/(insert other medical advice they are unhappy about) What should I do?”
Moms Group Answer: “That’s awful, it’s perfectly safe to have a homebirth unassisted after 3 C-sections at 42 weeks. Let me add you to this group of other people who hold this belief!”
Stahhhhhhhhhhp. For real. Giving birth is a really emotional thing and welcoming your baby into the world is a lot to think about. I know in my head I had all of these wishes for how I wanted things to go (spoiler alert: none of them did as planned). It’s an incredibly vulnerable time to let hopes and emotions get the better of you and let birth experience factor over maternal and fetal outcome. Its super dangerous to make these suggestions to women. You are not qualified to do so, and you shouldn’t be pushing your own messed up agenda on them.
As someone who experienced trauma, I have the urge to tell people to avoid VBAC’s. But do I? No, because I’m not their doctor. If a doctor is advising them against something, it’s because they went to a billion years of medical school, have done intense research on this subject, and are using their professional knowledge to weigh out risks and benefits. If a person is really struggling, the best advice to give them is to ask another doctor (did you hear me? DOCTOR!) for a second opinion.
Mom Question: “Should I get an epidural when I deliver?”
Moms Group Response: A mix of “GET THE DRUGS!” and “I had an all-natural birth in a field of wildflowers off the grid and it was the most intense bonding experience I’ve ever had.”
So the best advice to give the mom asking this is to weigh their options, talk to their doctor (are you seeing a theme here?) and make a decision based on how they feel in that moment. Telling them to go one way or the other isn’t helpful; it’s a personal decision that often times changes based on the circumstances of your delivery. The latter of the two groups tends to be more “preachy” and conveys the message that natural birth is superior, which can in turn cause moms to feel bad about themselves. Moms, this isn’t the time to shine or be a show off or to push epidurals on everybody. Shut up about how people decide to receive or not receive pain relief during labor.
Mom Question: “Any idea what could heal this dry skin?”
Moms Group Response: A few brands you can get at Target, followed by 43,984,395 competitive responses of everything from Arbonne to Lemongrass to Essential Oils.
Look, I don’t hate on MLMs altogether. I live in my leggings and love some all natural skincare products, and I actually really love this one essential oil that I diffuse regularly in my house. But stop being predatory and pouncing on every potential product thread as an opportunity to get a customer. It’s annoying at its best and can sometimes be dangerous if you don’t have the right knowledge or expertise.
Mom Question: “I’m struggling to bond with my baby, am depressed, and I honestly don’t think I can keep breastfeeding. It isn’t working. What should I do?”
Moms Group Response: “Breast is best! Breastfeeding releases hormones that help you bond with your baby! Keep at it!”
I’m telling you, the people who are obsessed with and judgmental about breastfeeding come out like moths to a flame on threads like this. I once witnessed someone call formula “poison.” Yes, you read that right. A perfectly acceptable form of feeding your baby was called “poison.” Even worse, I have seen a trend of people suggesting a mom make homemade formula over commercial formula, even though that is potentially dangerous to babies.
Now, how is a mom, who is struggling with some symptoms of what might be post-partum depression, supposed to reconcile or make a safe decision for her and her baby when you have just guilted her? Simply recommend to the mother that she talk to the pediatrician (there I go recommending doctors again) and tell her that however she chooses to feed her baby is best.
Mom Question: “My daughter has had a fever, should I get her 6-month vaccines today?”
Moms Group Response: Cue all the antivaxxers coming out and suggesting that giving vaccines in the first place is a terrible idea, that they are filled with poison, that they cause disabilities, etc.
Antivaxxers, take a seat. Your advice is not only dangerous to that mom but dangerous to society as a whole. Vaccines are well researched and prevent us from getting diseases that you, in your life of privilege, have never been exposed to BECAUSE OF THE POWER OF VACCINES. My eyes roll into the back of my head even typing about this one.
Here’s the thing: My son had a rough winter with illnesses (thanks, sister who is newly school-aged bringing home all the germs). Let me tell you what I did. I spoke to his pediatrician (obligatory point-out of theme again) and we discussed options and on two separate occasions he decided to have us come back for vaccines because my son was too sick.
Moms groups, I’m not saying to never ask anything medical. Sometimes I’m a hypochondriac when it comes to my kids and something like a simple rash, it’s comforting to hear from an experienced mom that they have seen this on their kids before and it was just dry skin. One mom gave me an awesome recipe for butt cream that helped my toddler’s teething rash. But the obvious, rational thing to do in most situations is to always redirect people back to their doctors for the ultimate answer.
Moms groups, you are the best sometimes. I love being able to just vent about my struggles I have some days and just simply hear “me too.” Or hear the hilarious thing your four-year-old said about your nipples in the Wal-Mart check out line. I adore the cute, squishy birth announcements. I love the “we’re in this together.” So let’s keep it at that.
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