Unsolicited advice mothers: Illustration of a mother holding her baby while people scream with a megaphone in her direction.
Illustration: AdobeStock/ Nuthawut; AdobeStock/ ira_qiwi; AdobeStock/ zilvergolf. Collage: VICE.

Please Stop Giving Unsolicited Advice to New Mothers

The pressure people put on first-time parents can all too easily crush them.

This article originally appeared on VICE Romania.

Giving birth is an extremely personal experience. No matter how much I read or talked about it before it actually happened, I still wasn’t prepared for the wave of anxiety, fear and pure love that engulfed me that day. It's beautiful, but it’s also scary and it can feel extremely lonely.

This is all to say that, when you become a mother for the first time, you need a lot of non-invasive support because you just have so much to deal with. But that’s not how things work in the real world; a lot of people will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, even if they don’t know your circumstances at all.


From random people on the street, to well-intentioned friends, relatives and strangers on parenting groups on Facebook, you will likely receive a barrage of tips on your baby’s nursery, toys, food, doctors, habits – you name it. I felt enormous pressure to do the right thing, even when I received just too much information to be able to understand what that meant.

In my case, the solution was therapy. It helped me get in tune with what was important for me and my child and learn that there are no perfect mothers, just good enough ones. Because being a good mum means first and foremost living in harmony with your child and yourself.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Pregnancy and beauty standards

During my pregnancy, I felt pretty good – no nausea, no pain, I only physically realised I was pregnant when the baby started to kick. So I was very active the whole time, I did sports and walked a lot, I ate almost anything and I occasionally drank a glass of red wine. The only thing I gave up was smoking. I was also lucky not to gain too much weight, although the first thing people asked me was “How much weight did you put on?”

Isn't it great to talk to a pregnant woman about her weight? In my case, comments were mostly flattering – people told me how good I looked and that my face glowed. But please, people, never comment on the physical appearance of a pregnant woman.


Vaginal birth versus C-section

I gave birth by C-section because the baby had changed its position, meaning it could no longer come out vaginally. That was a shock to me. I was determined to give birth “naturally” and everyone kept telling me what a wonderful decision that was, how easy and how important for the baby’s health it was. So when I heard that wouldn’t be possible, I was devastated – I cried and worried so much. But actually, that was all for nothing. The operation went okay, I recovered very quickly and the baby was fine.

It is not your place to tell someone how they should give birth. Nothing bad happens if you do not experience the “miracle of natural birth”. I have absolutely no regrets.


In my experience, breastfeeding was anything but magic. My little girl was not gaining weight because she could not suck on my tit, so the doctor advised me to feed her formula. I struggled and tried everything, but when she was five months old, she vehemently refused to suckle, and my body stopped producing milk. I blamed it on my doctor, I blamed it on the fact I was too young, I jumped through all kinds of hoops to explain this so-called failure in my head. Secretly, I was glad I escaped.

This period was really awful for me; I felt so inadequate. But at six months – when you’re supposed to diversify your baby’s diet anyways – my little girl started eating whatever I gave her. She was not so dependent on breast milk all the time. 


I'm not the only one. I have friends and acquaintances who have faced similar problems and who gave in to external siren songs of “hire a breastfeeding consultant”, “don’t give up”, “keep the milk in the freezer” and “buy a more high-tech breast pump”. 

People shame mothers who don’t breastfeed their baby for at least six months to a year and dare to feed them milk powder. Just mind your own business! Breastfeeding is not obligatory; it’s for the mothers who can and want to do it. We know it's healthy. We know research shows it gives babies a bit of an advantage. But sometimes, it’s just not possible. And formula is just fine.

The baby’s diet

Carrot was the first vegetable I gave my child, and she ate just half a teaspoon of it. But when I said that out loud, it seemed like the questions would never stop. “Where did you get the carrots?”, “Are they organic?”, “Did you bring them from the countryside?” Same goes for any kind of food I made the mistake of talking about (after being insistently prodded). Honestly, I didn't have time to get to a special expensive organic store and I also couldn’t afford it in the long run. These discussions are nonsensical and they don’t help anyone. 


A friend of mine once posted on Facebook, “If a pregnant woman who lives in poverty drinks tap water and nothing bad happens to her, why would I buy bottled water?” I kept thinking about this whenever people brought up annoyingly elitist unsolicited advice. It helped me stay anchored in reality.

The baby’s clothing

If you’ve ever been online as a new mum, you will have seen a million images of babies dressed from head to toe in beige, white and pastels, like pure little angels. But why would you be expected to buy expensive wool tights for a three-month-old baby, given that in three more months they won’t fit? Also, they’re beige! They’ll get dirty in a matter of minutes.

Oh and while we’re on the subject, there’s a specific group of people whose seemingly only purpose in life is judging how you choose to dress your baby. “Put a hat on their head, there's a draft in the museum", “it’s winter, you haaave to cover their neck and mouth”, "is she a girl? Why isn’t she wearing pink?" Stop.

The baby’s sleep

My baby is now six years old. She almost always sleeps alone, she doesn’t suck on her finger and she can easily take a two-hour nap on a bench at the park or at her kindergarten. But when she was growing up, I was led to believe that anything from rocking her to sleep to giving her a pacifier or leaving her alone in her crib would traumatise her and forever ruin her sleep health. 

Well, these are all normal habits that have worked fine for us when we were babies. Sleep is complicated – no two children are the same and you have to try to find the right method that suits your child. The most important thing is getting them to sleep as much as they need, not how you do it.


For my baby, sleeping was difficult at the beginning. Sometimes, I had to get out of the house at 3AM with a two-year-old in the pram to get her to fall asleep. Sleep patterns can generate a lot of chaos in a mother’s life, so just don’t butt into it. As new a new parent, you just try things out. And if things get tough, you don’t need a reminder that you can turn to a professional.

I also had to learn not to give unsolicited advice

I was recently talking to a friend who was still at the hospital because she had just given birth. I told her to leave her baby with the nurses and ask for painkillers, so that she could get at least two hours of sleep. I told her this because I thought she wouldn’t have the luxury of sleeping once she left the hospital. I told her this because that’s what I wish I had done. 

Then, I realised that maybe, she just wanted to hear her baby breathe next to her, just like I did. Maybe what I said was stupid and she probably didn’t appreciate my advice. It genuinely came from a good place, a place of trying to correct past mistakes and help her have the best motherhood experience possible. 

People are allowed to make their own decisions, even if they aren’t optimal or what someone else would have chosen. We just place so much pressure on mothers that sometimes, we forget that’s true for them, too.