In a world of overwhelming internet advice …..

In many ways I am happy that I had my babies before Google.  True story!  For advice I had to rely on face to face consultations with medical professionals.  My weekly catchup with my Child Health nurse couldn’t come soon enough. I would absorb everything she told me (well, let’s be honest – in my sleep deprived state) and I would head home and forget most of it.  Alas the next visit couldn’t come soon enough.  This cycle continued for months.

My child health nurse became my life line. No, her advice wasn’t always right for me and I didn’t always follow through

…. BUT …

I didn’t have thousands of other opinions, judgements, bias and advice thrown into the mix that mum’s today have thanks to the internet and the infamous Dr Google!

Who hasn’t googled anything pregnancy or baby related???
Maybe it was when you were/are pregnant, and a random stranger started discussing delayed cord clamping.  What did you do? You went home and Dr Googled benefits of delayed cord clamping.

Maybe it was someone at work telling you all about inductions of labour, placental encapsulation, pain relief, hypnobirthing, vaginal delivery v’s caesarean section or maybe it was how to prepare your breasts for feeding.  Again, you went home and Dr Googled them all!

Thank god pregnancy is 9 months, it gives you time to ‘research’.
Maybe it was when your baby arrived, and you were struggling with breastfeeding, sleeping, swaddling or your baby had a weird rash on its bum.  What did you do?  You Dr Googled it.

Maybe you are on a mother’s group forum. The online mother’s village. Multiple mum’s post multiple questions or scenarios daily asking for advice about everything.  You read every recommendation (and there is usually a good 50+ .. all differing opinion I will add) and take it all in.  Confusing you with every sentence, but you continue to read all the responses, because you might be missing something. If the truth be told, all that reading does just makes you question what you are doing. So, what do you do?  You read some more and do a few more google searches.

Maybe you are following a Instagram page of a gorgeous socialite (and there are loads of them!!). She seems to have her shit all together: endless gorgeous photos of her and her baby.  Her life seems perfect.  Why isn’t yours?  What is wrong with your baby? Why isn’t your baby sleeping though the night or happily playing under their play gym. Maybe you need to buy the expensive play gym this mum has for her baby. Maybe your baby will like that more?   And why don’t you look like that in a bikini 6 weeks postpartum?  The compare games begin.

Anyone can out anything on the internet.  ANYTHING. And it’s not only advice.  It’s day to day living.

I know I am guilty. I have yelled, cried and even had a tantrum to get my kids to get that ‘perfect photo’ to post.  All my followers see is a beautiful photo. They didn’t see the drama it took to get that photo and the now miserable kids (and mum) in the car.

I have mum’s whose babies are crying and unsettled all day but the minute they smile they take a photo and post it on social media.  No one knows what an awful day that mum has had and how much she is struggling. All they see is this gorgeous baby happy and smiling.

I’m still upset over a post on an open public forum about P2B.  A mum wrote that I didn’t save her sleep. She stated that I said a baby at 3 months of age should be sleeping through the night. WTF. I have NEVER said that in the 25 years I have been doing that. What can I do about that?

Anyone can put anything on the internet.

The internet will give you unlimited advice and information. This advice is full of mix opinions, people’s personal opinions, bias and a good amount of judgement thrown in for good measure.

If you don’t believe me, try that search for sleep training advice. That’s a minefield topic on its own.

I recently read an article by Alice Callahan – author of a new book about science and parenting offering some great advice on the internet.
She stated that the key to using the Internet is to sort out evidence-based information from the rest. If you want to understand why newborns get vitamin K at birth or how we know the recommended immunization schedule is safe and effective, you do not want answers from random people on the Internet. What you need is careful, objective and repeatable science. Not anecdotes or old wives’ tales, but data.
Next time you question something parenthood try the following (reference to Alice Callahan):

  1. Seek face to face medical professional’s advice. Know that no Web site can be a substitute for a healthcare provider. If you think your child is really sick, or something isn’t right – don’t bring their symptoms to Facebook and Dr Google. Get real medical care.
  1. Select Web sites carefully. Start with sites from universities, medical organizations, children’s hospitals and governmental organizations. These will give you evidence-based information that represents scientific consensus on a topic. If websites are selling you dietary supplements or a fishy conspiracy theory, these are not reliable sources for health information.
  1. Don’t assume something natural is better. This is a common assumption of parenting blogs, building on our deep desire to keep our children safe. But the natural world is full of deadly toxins, and just because something is natural doesn’t make it safe. Coconut oil may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it makes a good sunscreen. Measles is a natural virus, but the vaccine is far safer than getting hit with the infection.
  1. Scrutinize credentials. If you’re reading a blog or news article, realize you’re trusting an individual to interpret the science. Make sure that person has advanced training in science, seeks input from experts or has a record of careful analysis.
  1. Look for peer-reviewed science. An online article about scientific research should provide citations or links to peer-reviewed journal articles so you can check them. Abstracts of these are available through databases like Pubmed and Google Scholar
  1. Be skeptical. Was this scientific study conducted in petri dishes, in mice or in humans? If humans, how many were included, and was it a population similar to you? Does this study show one factor causes another, or is it showing a correlation? Can you think of other factors that could affect that relationship?
  1. Look for scientific consensus. One study is never that useful on its own. A critical part of the scientific process is replication. Scientific knowledge is built slowly, over time, through studies conducted by different researchers in different populations. That’s why we can feel pretty certain about it. If you encounter information vastly different from the scientific consensus, it’s probably not accurate. As for any new finding, it may be cause for excitement, but look for replication before you change your life over it.
  1. Question your own assumptions. It’s human to seek information that confirms our beliefs rather than challenges them. Check yourself by searching for contrary information.