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Dealing with Unwanted Advice

Have you ever let an insensitive comment about your pregnancy or your baby throw you into a tizzy? You're not alone. Every pregnant woman and new mom has had to endure unsolicited advice from total strangers -- not to mention friends and relatives. But why do people dole out advice so freely?

Why the advice?

Many women feel an instant bond with any pregnant stranger or new mom. This bond causes normal social boundaries to disintegrate, giving people a feeling that they have license to comment when normally they'd hold back.

Rude or undermining comments

It's easy to laugh off some unsolicited comments, but others can undermine a woman's confidence at a vulnerable time. New moms know more than they realize, and should feel confident about trusting their instincts.

Many parents are so astonished at rude comments that they don't know how to respond. But as tempting as it is to respond with a wisecrack or rude comment of your own, it's better for you to rise above it. If you respond to rudeness with rudeness, you're going to feel worse afterward. It's easiest to end the exchange by saying something positive, such as "Thanks for the tip; I'll think about it," before moving on, no matter how ludicrous the advice. If the person is just plain rude, simply excuse yourself and walk away from the situation.

Don't dismiss everything

It's probably safe to ignore most of the comments you get during pregnancy and your baby's infancy, but occasionally you might pluck a nugget of good information from the onslaught of advice. Even if you never learn anything useful, look on the bright side -- listening to all those stories may make you more sympathetic to other new moms in the future.

Smart strategies

Try these techniques to deflect rude comments and unwanted advice:

  • Use your poker face. Silence, coupled with chilly body language (crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact), is a powerful tool.
  • Be honest. Say, "This is upsetting for me to listen to," and walk away if you have to.
  • Keep your sense of humor. A self-deprecating comment ("Yes, the baby may look underdressed, but last week I had him so bundled up I gave him heat rash, so now I'm trying something different") can keep you from appearing defensive -- and help you maintain control of the conversation.
  • Be vague. There's no law that says you have to tell complete strangers your entire medical history. If someone asks you your due date, it's okay to say, "Oh, it's getting close," and leave it at that.
  • Turn it back on them. Say, "Sounds like you had a difficult pregnancy," with an air of finality. You end the conversation but don't insult or challenge anyone.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Latvala

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.