Everyone does the very best they can for their baby. That’s a given.
My best doesn’t look like your best and your best doesn’t look like your coworker’s best and her best doesn’t look like her cousin’s best.
That’s exactly the problem. Best for Babies is subjective.
As a parent, you can’t successfully achieve what Best for Babies looks like on paper. The paper Best for Babies exists only in a vacuum. It exists solely in a world where every single family has the exact same schedule, jobs, family network, social network, emotional range, spiritual beliefs, medical record, childhood upbringing, etc.
When we take Best and Optimal and apply them to real life situations, suddenly, it’s not so obvious. What might be “best practice” quickly becomes irrelevant and what is assumed as “best for babies” becomes a big, ugly beast: Shame.
I had X type of birth. I fed my baby via Y. My baby started sleeping through the night at Z months.
“But don’t you know what’s BEST for BABIES?!”
Yes. A healthy parent is what’s best for babies. It is the epitome of what matters.
People get outraged at the saying, “We want a healthy mom and healthy baby” as the outcome of a birth. If we expand our view on “healthy”, this saying is the crux of exactly what we want for births – and it’s exactly what we need for parenting the baby we welcome into our arms.
Healthy isn’t only a measure of bodily survival. It’s a measure of the WHOLE person. Mental health matters just as much as physical health.
Mental health is dependent upon SLEEP.
Mental health is dependent upon feeling safe – physically and emotionally.
Mental health is dependent on a sense of control and confident decision making.
Mental health is dependent upon a shared workload.
Mental health is dependent on real support, sans judgment, from a variety of relationships.
Mental health is dependent on overcoming isolation.
Mental health is dependent on having a space to vent and have uncomfortable emotions without condescending remarks such as, “Welcome to parenthood.”
Mental health is dependent upon addressing chemical imbalances and mood disorders without fear of being chastised.
Mental health is dependent upon being able to find and implement real solutions when any of these factors are in jeopardy, instead of being inundated with feedback that says hopelessness is a normal part of parenthood.
So the next time you’re tempted to pass quiet judgment – or worse, actively express judgment – to a parent who is doing their best for their baby, even when it’s WILDLY different than what’s best for your baby…
It’s that simple.
You don’t know the context. You might think, “Maybe they just weren’t educated enough,” or “What a lazy choice,” or “So selfish of them to put their needs above what the latest parenting method says is best for baby,” but what you don’t see is everything BEHIND that choice.
You can assume all you want. You can give your best guess.
But you’re missing the context. You aren’t privy to all the shades of gray that complete the picture. Nothing, NOTHING, is black and white in parenting. Nothing is black and white in adjusting to a new baby (no matter how many times you’ve done it before).
So unless you’ve offered to provide that parent what THEY say they need, then you don’t get a seat at their board of advisors.
Until you’ve ensured that every piece of their physical health and mental health is accounted for and intact, you don’t get to decide what’s best for their baby.
Let’s seek not to create an echo chamber of parents who make all the same decisions – whether met with success or with detriment – and instead strive to accept our fellow parents with open arms, open hearts, and open minds.
Because we truly are all in this together, and by developing the ability to care more about the people around us than only the choices they make, we’ll overcome the guilt of parenthood and design a world where every baby gets a healthy parent.