MUMS ON THE INTERNET
I’ve always laughed at people who have the time to argue on social media with strangers. I’ve always wondered what they get out of being ‘keyboard warriors’. I’ve also never been one to have online friends, of course unless we’re talking MSN circa 2006 when SmarterChild spoke back and you would have hundreds of contacts when you knew about 10 of them. My friend list on Facebook has never been more than 500, I choose not to accept anyone I’ve never met, similarly, if I wouldn’t say “Hi” to them on the street then why would I want them on Facebook. To sum up, I’ve used the Internet over the past few years to Google if I’m dying, how to cook something or if dogs can eat it and keep in touch with friends and family. Until, I became pregnant.
The pregnancy/Mum/breastfeeding world online is chaos. It is the best and worst thing all tied into one. I’ve never come into contact with such supportive, incredible, informative women, that are just as equally a terrifying pack of wild hyenas ready to pounce on your parenting skills dare you step out of line. It’s made motherhood so much less lonely, but all the while more daunting. I can’t begin to imagine how someone struggling with motherhood copes on these groups. I consider myself quite a laid-back Mum and have luckily (whether this be down to me or not) been blessed with a happy, content baby - making the last 7 months a breeze. With this in mind, it’s been easy for me to click off and take no notice of the BS on these Mum groups. It doesn't bare thinking about how someone that takes strangers opinions personally, is feeling crap about themselves as a mother because their baby cries all day, asks for help on a Mum group and gets slaughtered in cold blood.
The three biggest topics I am a group member of are Baby Led Weaning, Breastfeeding and babies born from Dec-Jan 2016/17.
Considering statistics of Breastfeeding in the UK (1% of Mothers breastfeeding past 6 months) I would say I am one of a very select group. I don’t however, feel this makes me above anyone else and feel it my duty to shame those who don’t, jump down others throats for doing anything but breastfeeding or spend my days trolling other Mums on the internet. I have seen so many women get slandered for combination feeding (breast and bottle) or dare suggest breastfeeding should be for babies and not toddlers or God forbid asking anything about bottles/formula on a breastfeeding group. So many women have been abused with statistics and judgement it’s a wonder anyone still reaches out to these groups for information. The breast is best community are armed with pitchforks out to get innocent bottle feeders. I think it puts so much pressure on women who try to breastfeed and for whatever reason it doesn’t work out for them, who just, at the end of the day, want to feed their baby. They shouldn’t be made to feel worse or guilty about having to bottle feed. As daunting as these groups can be, I’m still a member of these groups and do read the comments on the photos and have picked up some good advice but 9/10 the comments could easily start an argument which is the last thing a new Mum needs.
Baby Led Weaning I can understand why they need to be strict as giving the wrong advice could cause a baby to choke. I have found BLW groups so helpful to know how to cut foods correctly, find good meal ideas, watch videos of babies gagging to know the difference between gagging and choking, knowing how to cook certain meals and a good heads up on products you wouldn’t think contain honey but do! However, the women who mention still feeding their babies purees alongside get told they’re on the wrong page and they’re not doing baby led weaning, how dare they!! I did get wrapped up in it all and for a moment was the biggest puree hater in the world, and I hadn’t even started weaning Oscar yet. After jumping in myself and trying a bit of both, purees really aren't the end of the world like they make them out to be. I’m glad I tried both to make a decision for myself rather than trusting others bias and smug opinions.
Babies born the same time as Oscar is a much smaller group of about 300 women. Women who I feel like I actually know. I speak to them mostly everyday through comments, likes and pictures. Everyone’s personalities are so clear to see through the comments they make. It has been so incredibly helpful to be going through the same stages/leaps as all the other Mums and with the majority of them not on their first child, theres plenty of good advice. Anyone who has posted something I’ve disagreed with I’ve simply blocked them. I didn’t announce it, nor argue, just blocked and life went on. There has been a lot of ups and downs in the groups and as a hormonal bunch its bound to happen. But incredible things have happened, we pooled together our money and raised a lump some for a lady who's baby had to wear a corrective helmet that the NHS wouldn't fund, I’ve been inspired by another Mum to pump and donate my milk and I also learnt I wasn’t alone with my iron tablets destroying everything below the belt!
The internet has helped me massively in making new friends and connecting with old friends. With babies it can get difficult to meet up and especially to make new friends but the internet allows you to connect with people without having to even leave the house! I’ve reconnected with an old work colleague who was my boss back when I worked in pubs behind the bar as our babies are a few months apart and it’s been so nice having an old friend in the same situation to chat about our babies everyday! We haven’t met up as she’s moved a million miles away but it just proves the internet can connect people in so many ways! I’ve also made new Mum friends local to me that I’d never even heard of. It felt so weird to be chatting online to other girls, like I was Mum-dating.
Social Media has made me realise how anal I am on SIDS and safety. A cute picture with a thousand likes and I’ll see the bumper up or the multiple teddies in the cot. A post of a newborn watching her ‘favourite film’ could be the cutest thing but I call BS and think that baby shouldn’t be watching TV! I’m a total cynic. The biggest cord that struck with me was a Mum on one of the groups talking about using Hungry Baby Night Milk which just doesn’t sit right with me and I’m sure it doesn't sit right with that babies belly either! We, as Mums, are all sleep deprived but I would never stuff him with a thick, cloggy, paste just to get him to sleep! Formula filling, cry it out and early weaning are the three main things I can’t bare seeing. But ok ok that’s enough opinions for now, before I start a riot by barking up the wrong tree.
Google has been my best and worst friend. I don't need to tell you how it's the number one worst thing to do if you're feeling unwell- to Google it. But as an adult even if Google would have you think you're dying you'll probably put it off as it means a trip to the Drs. When it comes to your baby, Googling becomes terrifying. You want to ask the Mum Group what this rash is or if this is normal but you don't dare expose yourself as a parent who let their child get 'that rash'. It wouldn't be long anyway until Admin came along and shut yo' ass down stating that the Mum group strictly cannot give medical advice. For every article you find or book you read; you can bet there are a million other with a million other views. Every baby is different so sadly there's no "How to raise your baby. A foolproof guide". For every piece of research on a topic, you can bet there's two totally different views.
And not forgetting, "I did it with my son and he turned out fine", the GOLDEN asshat advice award goes to... yes, Linda, from Sotton with two kids whos Facebook profile states she is a "Fulltime Mummy". Thanks Linda, thanks for your input.
Mum groups are not for the faint hearted. You must have the power to click off when you see something that bothers you or you will get sucked in. There are so many other and better things you could be doing with your time as a new Mum, or even a second or third time Mum, than arguing with strangers online about breastfeeding/weaning/how to raise their child. Let the internet be a great way of keeping contact, making new friends and getting advice. Take everything you read with a pinch of salt and make your own decisions. But most importantly, trust your gut - maternal instincts are second to none! No one knows your baby better than you.