I Don't Trust My Instincts
"Everyone says to trust your instincts, but it's hard to do when you're so new at all this parenting stuff."
It's true: as a first-time parent, you have no idea what you're doing. Yet you desperately want to get it right. "As a result, I've seen a lot of moms hand their brains over to Dr. Expert, rather than listen to what they really believe to be right," says mom and parenting lecturer Julie Barnhill, author of One Tough Mother (Baker). "But you spend more time with your baby than anyone else does, so you really are the pro. Trust in this fact, and go with your gut. Try whatever you sense will work best, and if it doesn't work, then speed dial your doctor or friends."
Yes, it's a bit of a leap of faith, but you won't truly gain confidence as a mother until you take it. "As a newborn, my daughter Leah wanted to be held constantly -- she'd cry the instant she left my arms," says Tisha Crews Keller, of Tallahassee, Florida. "When my mother came to visit, she said, 'You'd better put that baby down. You're going to spoil her!' But I truly felt I was doing the right thing for Leah -- making her feel safe and loved. Leah grew out of that phase. And now, at 19 months, she's a very independent, unspoiled, and not at all clingy child. It took a lot for me to trust myself and stand up to my mother, but I'm glad I did. With every little success like this, the more you believe in your instincts as a mother."
What can also make you second-guess your instincts: a case of TMI (too much information). It's so easy these days to open a book, go online, or text your relatives whenever you have a baby-related question. Having all this advice at your fingertips is invaluable, but there comes a point of overload. "I totally fell into the TMI trap!" Levinson says. "I would read everything I could about, say, getting my daughter to nap -- and that's when I'd stress out and doubt my instincts the most. There'd be so much advice, a lot of it contradictory, that I'd end up even more uncertain about what to do. I've made it a rule to educate myself to a degree and then just go with what feels right."
"Also realize that even if your instinct turns out to be wrong, it's not going to have a disastrous effect on your child," Barnhill says. You'll try another approach. "What's nice is that you learn together. That's part of what builds the relationship between you and your child and makes you a stronger mother."