Parenting

PJ Parenting Roundtable: Should Parents Trust Their Instincts or the Experts?

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Every week PJ Parenting writers weigh in on parenting issues large and small and you have the opportunity to share your insights in the comments section below. We’d love it if you’d join us for a cup of coffee and some great conversation!

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Question: Do you trust your instincts or the experts?

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Megan Fox: Mothers are given their instinct to know what’s right for their children for a very specific and important purpose: to protect their young. I have always regretted the times I did not listen to that instinct. For instance, my third child, on the day of his birth, was treated very roughly by a nurse and I wanted to stop her, but was caught up in a pain fog and in not wanting to make a scene and so I didn’t. As a result of the nurse’s mistreatment, my son landed in the NICU for several days with a hole in his lung. Had I followed my instinct to have her thrown out of the room, it wouldn’t have happened. It’s always best to listen to the voice or intuition that steers your decisions.

There is a strong bond between mother and child that is physical as well as emotional. I can smell “tired” on my children. They have a scent that only I can smell coming off their heads that says “I need a nap.” I can hear my baby cry even if he’s in the church nursery with 9 other crying babies and I’m rooms away. I can hear his specific cry. These are the things that make me a little bit superhuman when it comes to my kids. I know that I’m the only one who is super sensitive to them and their needs. Because of that, my input is more important than anyone else’s. Experts are great to consult with when you have needs or concerns, but experts will never know your child the way you do. It’s always good to question experts if their advice goes against your instinct.

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Julie Prince: For me, it has always been my instincts. Having different experiences, they have never steered me wrong. This comes with time. Nobody knows your child better than you. My instincts have gotten so good that I have been able to diagnose my children based on their symptoms before the doctor does and I am usually right. I am not saying I am an expert by any means, or that I don’t always consult with our doctor, but I read about almost every single childhood disease known to man with my first!

Finding the right pediatrician has also made all the difference. Our doctor is in tune with me and with my children and I have developed a trust and strong bond with him. He listens to my concerns for as long as I like and I have rarely, if ever, disagreed with him.

There have been times when I have actually asked for another doctor in a emergency room because I knew what they were doing to my child was wrong. I never feel badly about speaking up when it comes to my children knowing that if you get a feeling from your intuition that something isn’t right, it probably isn’t.

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Brianna Sharbaugh: My life is lived with a healthy consideration of the worst case scenario. Having a nurse for a mom meant that I ALWAYS heard the worst case scenario. Have an ingrown hair? It could swell, cause sepsis and your whole leg might need to be amputated, to give a real life example. When I was pregnant, I had a single high blood pressure reading at a doctor’s appointment. My awesome doctor, knowing it was foolish to excite a pregnant woman with what-if’s, said it was no big deal. I should come back in two weeks, and they would monitor it. I called my mom before I even left the doctor’s office. She calmed me down by talking about bed rest. Bed rest and possible early delivery (although not likely if my BP was lowered through bed rest). Immediately I had no fears. I know this is not rational thinking, but knowing the worst case scenario helps me determine if my instincts or the experts (whose advice is often in conflict) should be heeded.

For example, when it came to introducing solids to my son, we evaluated baby-led weaning, where you give baby soft foods rather than mashing them up. We knew the worst way that could end is with choking, but since my husband and I both know the Heimlich maneuver and we pay close attention when our son eats, we decided to go ahead with it (and we love that we did!). When it comes to car seat safety, I know the worst case scenario is a baby shooting out of the car, so there is absolutely no messing around with car seat safety. We do not leave carrying handles up when in transit, we always test to make sure the straps are tight enough and double check that the chest clip is secure at the nipple line. Researching and considering the worst case scenario help me to make decisions — and also let me know when to ignore the experts and trust my instincts.

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Rhonda Robinson: I could recount endless anecdotes of intuition — my own and that of friends — so striking it’s hard not to confuse it with divine intervention. From something as common as randomly checking a toddler’s mouth and retrieving a deadly object, to knowing something was just “not right” with a sick child.

Intution is the first line of defense. It’s a mother’s keen knowledge of her own child that makes her the expert where her child is concerned.

We need good doctors, nurses, teachers and baby-sitters. All play a vital part in the lives of our children.  All of the knowledge they bring is only enhanced by an attentive mother’s love and intuition—it can never replace it.

When it comes down to having to decide which to choose, I am a strong believer in following a mother’s instincts. I’ve never regretted following mine. However, I have had bitter regrets following expert advice when it contradicted my own intuition.

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Susan L.M. Goldberg: Let’s just say that the experts don’t help the cause of a new parent as much as they claim. Case in point, my mother was the one to suggest giving our son a little water when tummy troubles surfaced. According to the “experts” babies shouldn’t get water until the age of 6 months. Why? Because they will get over-full on water and stop eating. Sound idiotic? It is. Why? Because the “experts” think “giving water to a baby” means attaching a nipple to a 16 ounce bottle and letting them chug. Half an ounce, twice a day, solved what the pediatrician could not.

Most of the advice that has worked so far has come from parents (our own or friends with kids).

Experts rely on statistical analysis and CYA mentality. Sure, your kid might sleep better on his tummy, but “X number of kids died from SIDS last year, and although we can’t determine why, we aren’t going to be the ones to tell you to put your kid on his stomach. We don’t want to be sued.” Remember, when it comes to the experts, it is almost never about the help you need, it is about what answer will best prevent their malpractice premiums from rising.

Look at the source and ask where they get their information from and what their motivation is in giving the answer. When they rely on experience and have nothing to lose, honesty has a better chance of winning out.

And another thing when it comes to experts: never expect them to give you all the information you really need. We were told zip about formula feeding and were in a lurch when we wound up having to go that route. Self-preparation is the best way to know you are ready to face the challenges ahead. Knowing whom to ask is only half the battle; you must know what to ask as well.

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