Are we becoming a society who are becoming too reliant on experts in our parenting?

Sarah - posted on 04/16/2012 ( 36 moms have responded )

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In reading posts of people recently I have seen a trend of mothers who quote what experts say is best, as their reasons for why they believe something, they will often sugest if not outright say that parents who don't are wrong or don't have the best interests of their child at heart, not all are like this, some will say "I choose this but it might not be right for everyone." But when often what experts say is conditional, or contradicts what other experts have said, or has changed several times with new findings even in the 9 1/2 years since I became a mother.

This is not meant to be a debate of one choice vers. anouther, but if maybe parents are becoming too quick to jump on the "experts say" route without at times knowing the reasoning behind why experts say it.

I will sight some examples I recently saw of these:

conditional:

Breast is best (cause it may not be in certian instances)

contradictions:

Alergists say you should start introducing solids from 4 months.

Other experts say you should breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months, and then start to introduce solids.

changing:

you should eat fish at least once a week while pregnant.

you should never eat fish while pregnant.

you should avoid these types of fish while pregnant.

As I said this is not meant to be a debate about individual choices or even really the choice to listen to experts, but rather:



Are we becoming a society who blindly follow the experts without realising what they have said may not apply or be relavent to all?

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[deleted account]

It's irresponsible to not pay any attention to the research that is conducted. The fact is less babies and children die today because research was conducted that found ways to reduce the death rates, that's not to say that all research is correct but to just ignore it would be stupid.



As parents we need to look at the research such as car seat safety, putting baby to sleep on it's back, sterilising etc and make informed decisions as to what we are going to do and why rather than just blindly doing what has always been done. That doesn't mean I will always agree with others parenting methods but I will respect them if they are informed of the pros and cons (where parents put their child at risk I will not respect...such as the idiot who was driving with his kid on his lap instead of in their car se yesterday or the people who beat their kids, I don't care how informed they are I do not respect them!



We should be using all our resources to parent, which includes research and let's remember not everyone has family they can ask for advice so some actually need the expert advice!

Tracie - posted on 04/18/2012

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The experts' opinions only carry weight if there are scientific studies to back them up. I accept fact and proof, not opinion, when it comes to making decisions for my children.

[deleted account]

I do not think society as a whole is becoming too dependent on research, I am sure there are a few extremists out there who will do anything an expert says to do, but most mothers who use research use it objectively.

I use research for just about every parenting decision I've ever made--I didn't have parents or grandparents around when I was a kid to learn from, and I've only got one kid, so I don't have any past experience to draw from either. When I look at advice from an expert, I look at the clinical trials used to derive that advice--I look for inconsistencies, norms, variables, margin of error, and the overall strength of the study, then apply it to my unique situation. When experts disagree, and this happens A LOT, especially in terms of discipline, I read all of it, look at my situation with J, and make a decision. These are decisions I may never have come to had I not considered all of the research because I would not have had all of the information.

I think this is the way most mothers use research.

[deleted account]

Seeking help by whatever means that may be, asking your parents, friends, googling or reading books etc does not mean parents are not thinking for themselves, it means they are providing the best basis for making the choices they do, the decision ultimately is theirs.



Blindly doing what you know is not a productive way to parent, many people only know what was done around them...which is why many abused children grow up to become abusers themselves.



I also find the idea that parenting was brilliant back in the day because they had only instinct laughable, especially when followed by the sentiment that everyone turned out fine! For one they didn't use only instinct they relied heavily on friends and family around them, it literally took the village to raise children. Secondly the children that aren't fine didn't live to tell the tale

Stifler's - posted on 04/20/2012

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People always had others to help not just instincts they had their parents to help.

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Alisha - posted on 04/21/2012

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I go by instinct mostly for how my fiancé and I raise our child. My boy is now 13 months old and doing well, I find that going off gut instinct is best. Think about "back in the good ol' days" when our grandparents etc; dealt with their children. Half of the crap people spew out these days is nonsense. I will not buy into it.



We choose what is best for our child. (ex. sleep times, how many baths to give weekly, eating habits, punishments, learning etc) WE are the parent of OUR child. Not the dr, not your mom and dad or friends or distant relatives. YOU. Therefore you should rely on yourself and natural abilities to come up with what is best for your baby/child. So many people will try and get you to do things their way. Its up to you in the end though.



If you NEED help, by all means search google, talk with health nurses or dr's...but don't purely rely on them. Remember, years ago they didn't have cell phones, apps and computer search engines. They may have had books but that was all for the most part and people turned out fine, if not better in my personal opinion. People used to have respect, manners and hard work ethic.... kids these days are pampered and slack way too much. So whos fault is that?



To all parents, you are your child's LIFE. If you cannot learn to think on your own, how will your child?

[deleted account]

yeah i think at this point there is just too much information out there and it all contradicts. it's hard to know what is best and what's not and it depends on the child involved in alot of cases, so i generally just think that to educate yourself about something is good, but you need to take that information with a grain of salt and use some of your own common sense and intuition as well

Elfrieda - posted on 04/20/2012

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I see what you're saying, but don't you think we're always going to be depending on others to help us figure out what to do with this little creature we're responsible for? I put a lot of store with what my mom says and I watch how my nieces and nephews are being raised very closely and learn a lot from it. I'm not very big on "expert-following", but I also read a lot to see what they think and I take it seriously, if not as The Thing That Must Be Done. So I rely on experts and other people.



If it was just me and my husband with no outside influences (even given that we both had pretty good parents) we'd be at a loss.



I've had people point out that my son was teething and THAT'S why he's so fussy, I've been advised on when to give up his morning nap, and I've been told that he's normal when I'm worried about something. It's helpful. (although I can't really take my parents seriously when they suggest he has an ear infection... they ALWAYS think he has an ear infection)

[deleted account]

Other than the amount of information and number of experts, I don't think it's much different then the generation that followed Dr. Spock. There have always been so called experts on the subject, and I think many people still follow the advice of their parents. Maybe it's just hard for people to discern which information they should adopt into their lives. I have some friends who listen to everything they hear, and others who ignore it all, and maybe that's easier than trying to pick and choose. No research is definitive and I think very few Moms understand how that research is conducted. One study on 10 kids is hardly going to make me change how I raise my kid. Number 1 rule of parenting, every kid is different, as is every parent, but people always fall into the trap of comparing their kid.

Jakki - posted on 04/19/2012

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My instinct tell me to drink several glasses of wine every evening, and to eat heaps of chocolate.

And to lie on the couch watching stupid TV programs late into the night.

Thanks instinct - you're a fat lot of help!

Sarah - posted on 04/18/2012

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by no means am I saying don't research, in fact my problem is with people who don't and that is not to say instinct isn't based on experience, and opinons of others arn't research, THEY ARE just a different kind, and personally I see car safety as one thing (and no expert is saying kids were safer when they came home from the hospital in a wicker basket on the back seat) and how to feed your child or toilet train as anouther. My issue is when someone takes the catch phrase of a finding, without finding out the reasons behind it, many are not absolutes, and don't work for everyone, to not listen to experts would just be stupid, but there is a difference between closing your ears and taking their advice with a grain of salt.

and JEN the fish thing, I get that it's a murcury level thing, the point is more that in the space of about two months during my 2nd pregnancy there was an article on a current affair program talkinng about 'experts' saying pregnant women need to eat more fish, an article on the news about how 'experts' said pregnant women needed to cut out fish altogether because of murcury levels, and then finally in the newspaper an article specifying what types of fish were bad.

And no you almost never 'know' a child is sick until they start to show symptoms, but you can usualy feel something is 'off' that didn't look quite right that made you walk over and feel their head, sometimes it turns out to be nothing other times it doesn't, the instict makes you check, or think it over and get back with an answer later, can you always tell that somthing is wrong no, but when you do feel something is dodgey it usually is

Janice - posted on 04/17/2012

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It often frustrates me when people take their pediatrician's words as gold. Doctors are very smart and know a ton and but the field is always changing and some don't keep up with new research and give poor advice.

[deleted account]

I do sort of see what you are saying, but I've never had an experience like that. I do know J is sick when he gets sick, but not through instincts; I've never known he was sick before he started displaying symptoms of illness.

Also, just wanted to add that I do NOT consider J's doctors "experts" at all. I do consider their advice IN THEIR FIELD because I acknowledge that they know more about that than I do, considering they've been through years of schooling and work with kids in their field every day. That said, I would never ask his somnologist about his eating habits, nor his pediatrician about discipline. Each doctor has a field, and I am lucky enough to have doctors who stay up to date and informed, but that still does not qualify them to give advice without reference. For example, if J's ped told me he had an ear infection I would ask him what he is basing that advice on, and he would give me a list of references.

Stifler's - posted on 04/17/2012

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Exactly it might be your instinct to smack your 8 month old for touching stuff but it doesn't make it right.

Celeste - posted on 04/17/2012

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". instincts don't make you infallible or tell you what the right thing is 100% of the time, adn they're a whole lot harder to listen to when you're scared shitless :)"



Yup, I totally agree!

Kelina - posted on 04/17/2012

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Bahahaha stiflers mum I love it. As to instincts, I'm right there with you when it came to bringing my first home. But my mom gut did have a few things to say about the vaccines. Despite all my research my youngest still hasn't gotten her MMR because something was telling me she shouldn't have it yet. I'm planning on her getting it around 3. Or taking my kids to the doctor because I felt like something was wrong even though I couldn't figure out what it was. Once it was he had and ear infection. The other was she had an eye infection. with a two week old it's incredibly difficult to tell if one of their tiny eyes is slightly swollen lol. instincts don't make you infallible or tell you what the right thing is 100% of the time, adn they're a whole lot harder to listen to when you're scared shitless :)

Stifler's - posted on 04/17/2012

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I'm like Kelly my instincts didn't really tell me anything with my first. I got home from the hospital and was like WHAT DO I DO WITH IT after 10 months of reading about pregnancy and what to do for the birth. With the second things started to make sense but only because I"d read a few books about discipline and things to do with your baby to calm them etc.

Kelina - posted on 04/17/2012

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I think there's a big difference between researching a topic and knowing all sides and looking at one or two websites, or asking your doctor and thinking that just because whoever is telling you this has a phd they know better than you. Thanks to the debating communities on CoM I'm far more informed on ALL sides of many arguments than I would be if I'd set out to research on my own and can often give advice or answers to friends and family seeking it. And yet the friend who comes to me the most is often the most sadly misinformed because all she does is ask her doctor-and my guess is he's working off of information about 30 years old just like my doctor. Yet she goes by what the "expert" says.

Celeste - posted on 04/17/2012

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Kelly-"I have honestly never understood the phrase "Follow your instincts."



The most recent example for me was my twin boys during potty training. They had no interest in going to the bathroom. So, my gut was saying to back off and that's what I did.



Or, another example, when my twins were babies, one of them was crying and I felt that something was "off". Took him to the Dr and it was reflux.



Or, my older daughter, I felt that something was "off" with her. Took her to a professional and my gut was right.





I don't know if that makes any sense LOL But to me, that's "following your instincts".



But of course, I do research on things like, car seats-After researching I felt that rear facing my boys longer was best.

[deleted account]

I have honestly never understood the phrase "Follow your instincts."

My instincts have never told me anything. Perhaps I don't know how to hear/feel them, or perhaps I just don't have them. Surely I'm not the only one like this.

I know how to use logic to make decisions, but logic is based on facts that I already know, which were determined by experiences or research.....so that's not the same right? When I think of "instinct" I think of knowing something even though you have no evidence to back it up.

[deleted account]

Lol thanks april...cindy I wasn't saying that we should only do what the experts tell us too but that to exclude the research experts do would be irresponsible of us, we as parents should make informed decisions. As April has pointed out I do parent both my children differently as they are individual people with different wants and needs, which I wouldn't do if I simply parented from a book; sometimes I read the experts advice and just go wtf are you talking about, that is utter nonsense, then other times I already instinctively do what the experts call revolutionary, then of course there are the times when I think wow I never thought of that, that could work. I parent a lot by instinct but I am always open to new, maybe even better suggestions of how I can help my children reach their full potential and lead happy fulfilling lives!

April - posted on 04/17/2012

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It's also important to note that not all babies are alike, which I know Toni has experienced with her son and daughter. If she soley followed research, she probably would have parented both of her children the same way, regardless of how different they are. She's just saying that it's good to see what's out there so you can make informed decisions. Kind of a "cover all your bases" sort of thing.

[deleted account]

You are right Toni, it is good to be informed. But don't make ALL your discisions based on what the "experts" say or you will only do something if a book or a dvd say its okay to do!!

That idiot who drove with his kid on his lap.... I mean really, you don't need to read a book to know that is idiotic!!! it is common sense and parenting 101.....

April - posted on 04/17/2012

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Yes, i agree that most families are too hung up on "what the experts say". I also would like to point out that i believe many families are giving expert statuses to people that haven't earned such statuses. For example, your primary care doctor is likely NOT an expert on breastfeeding. More than likely, a PCP has only had ONE course on breastfeeding. Far too often, doctors are actually giving their opinions, not facts.



Furthermore, sometimes the experts learn something new! Prime example--last weekend we went to a car seat safety check out. Several policemen were going to cars and inspecting the car seats. When our car came through the line, they were stunned to see that our 3 year old is rear facing. One officer said, "Surely, the car seat isn't made to sustain that kind of weight (35 lbs) rear facing." Another said, "If what you're saying is true (our car seat can rear face to 45 lbs), then the seat must come from another country!"



Then, they called over a friend of theirs who they consider to be the ultimate expert (she's received the most training out of all of them). She looked over the manual, she checked the whole seat out and said, "This is amazing! Where did you get this car seat? We should consider giving these out (they replace car seats that they confiscate)."



Extended rear facing was new to them. I literally saw them go from judgmental thoughts to a light bulb going off. It feels good to teach the "experts"!



However, one shouldn't ignore ALL research and only parent by gut. Instead, one should read the research they can, THEN use their instincts to decide how much they are going to take from it.

[deleted account]

We need to go back to the basics. Listen to your gut, listen to your instincts!!

Its nice to read or hear from people that might know a little better than you and to get some advice. But you are the parent and you are capable of raising a healthy, happy kid..... unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere and can only raise your child with a book or a dvd.....

Jodi - posted on 04/17/2012

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I will research the poop out of a topic, and I may *try* whatever the current trend is, but in the end, we can't all raise our children to be little clones of one another, not all of the research and all of the trends can possibly work for every single parent and child out there. So yes, I hear what the experts have to say, but I apply whatever works for us, even if the "experts" adamently disagree. I have to do what's best for MY child, and that may not be what's best for every other child out there.

[deleted account]

LOL, some of your examples are funny like the contradictory statements on fish. Science is an ever evolving process. Very often scientific & medical concepts change. We have to go with the best evidence we have. However a lot of parenting ideas don't (IMO) come from anything scientific. For example, people feed solids early because that's what they've always done and the baby was 'hungry'. My mother put cereal in all our bottles at 2-4 months because of that. She never read a parenting book in her life but that's what made sense to her and was recommended by her friends.

I think the issue with fish is simply due to the mercury content. This actually does change a lot depending on the fish itself, wild or farmed and the location. Some line caught wild salmon has less mercury than farmed while it's constantly changing in the tuna populations.

I think as a whole, humans do tend to follow authority figures and always have been. I mean, (and I really don't want to start a religious debate) but look at religion. How easy it was for people to burn someone else at a stake becuase a religious leader said they were evil and had to die. I mean we do all sorts of crazy things because critical thinking has never been (until recent years) a valuable process.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 04/17/2012

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Janice---I tend to follow both. For example my son will only sleep on his stomach. I was extremely nervous because it has been shown that statistically that SIDS rates decrease when babies sleep on their back. But he needs sleep and so after trying to get him to sleep on his back the first 2 months, I now let him just sleep on his tummy.

Exactly!

My boy too will only sleep on his tummy. If I would put him on his back, his arms would fly and he would be awake in seconds (since he was born). It is as if he feels like he is falling. He doesn't feel secure on his back. I too, was very worried, checked on him like crazy, had monitors all over my house, at full volume. lol Now he is 18 months and still sleeps on his tummy. I knew what most experts said but that was an instance where I had to do what was best in my situation. I had also mentioned it to my pediatrician and she just nodded her head and said "No problem, if he doesn't like it on his back, no big deal, put him on his tummy". Then she made sure not to lie him straight on his back for his check-ups, as much as she could. This is a opinion that I would go with my experience and not debate using an experts advice, unless I could find info supporting my view (then hey, why not use it, right). ;)

Celeste - posted on 04/17/2012

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Yeah, I agree with Meme and Janice. I do research but I also go with my gut. I don't parent by experts because there are so many out there with varying research. But, I will pull out quotes from resources to defend my decision (usually with my folks). Just for an example, my mom and sister ganged up on me when my twin boys were 18 months and "still" nursing. I wrote them an email citing research.



But, for parenting as a whole? Sure, I may research a topic, weigh the pros and cons and then decide what I feel is best. But I don't base ALL my decisions on what experts say..

Janice - posted on 04/17/2012

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I tend to follow both. For example my son will only sleep on his stomach. I was extremely nervous because it has been shown that statistically that SIDS rates decrease when babies sleep on their back. But he needs sleep and so after trying to get him to sleep on his back the first 2 months, I now let him just sleep on his tummy.

I always research and consider the experts opinions and then decide what is best for my children and family from there. I do often have to defend my choices by saying "current research says this is best."

Sarah - posted on 04/17/2012

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sarah, I totaly agree, by no means am I saying don't listen to the experts, there just IMO seems to be a disturbing trend of just because an "expert" said it it must be right for me, or worse right in all cases no matter what, like the whole breast is best thing where some people don't seem to even understand that not everyone CAN breastfeed. You said where statistics show... I've had someone (not a mum a friend of the family) say to me "I don't need to see the statistics, if an expert says it I trust them." and sadly she was talking in general.

Sarah - posted on 04/17/2012

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I think where statistics can show that one way is safer than another eg babies sleeping on their back rather than front, it makes sense to take notice, but on most things it's better to go with your instinct.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 04/17/2012

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I think for some this may be true but for the majority, I don't. The reason I say this is because even though many here use quotes from experts it is not on everything. A person tends to use an experts advice "only" when it sides with their arguement. If it does not side with their beliefs they use other quotes, such as from articles of others views or they use none at all (just their own experiences, which is still very legit), since experiences often works in certain instances.



One thing to keep in mind, is in most cases there are always two sides to an expert opinion. Meaning, one expert may feel one thing but it is almost always true that you can find an expert believing the exact opposite.



So, where a person feels strongly about a topic, they do tend to grab a quote from an expert but I have often seen, in rebutal, the opposition grab a quote on the very same topic, from a differing expert.



Also, research is a wonderful thing. Since it often makes us feel satisfied about our decisions. I think the majority of moms here are well educated within a transverse amout of topics. Most here, do tons of research on a topic of interest and then they weigh the pros and cons depicted by each "expert" and make their own decision based on the side of information with the higher average (sometimes the side of the lower average). As long as it coincides with their beliefs as well. Meaning most people that do research are either truly looking for information to help guide them and they take a census of what makes the most sense OR they are doing the research to make them feel better about their choices, they have already made.



However, with that said. There are instances where there is no question that all experts feel the same about a topic. For instance when it comes to (as Heather mentioned) car seats, safe cribs, etc. But do all moms follow this info? Nope. I know few moms that have still elected to use drop down side rail cribs. I am sure they have done this because they have never had a problem and feel it is fine, until they do have a problem (this is the minority, I would have to say). ;)



So, in all I think most people already have an opinion, they just need some solidity by researching and ensuring there is supporting info for their beliefs.



ETA: There is nothing wrong with using your gut either. I often research things but I don't always agree. In those situations I go with my instinct or gut. Usually though, I have taken bits of info from variuos sources and developed my own way. ;)



I am a researcher at heart. It is a large part of my career. If I don't know the full answer already, I always open up a search and read away, sometimes for mins, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. It all depends on what info I am seeking and how important it is to me. I don't think though that all info should be taken to heart, there is a fine line with developing your own opinion from info and just going with what was said to the tee. ;)

S. - posted on 04/17/2012

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My friend drives me mad with "what the experts say" all children are different and you can't bring a child up by a text book, yes the experts are right on most things but even they get it wrong, I will look things up that I don't know from time to time but I will also follow my instincts.

Sarah - posted on 04/17/2012

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okay I think the fact that I asked the question in the first place meens I agree, Let me explain why, I worry that people don't learn to trust their own veiws or even to make big decisions about their kids, so what happens if something happens to your child it may not be the first time it's happened to a child but there really isn't any info on the best course of action to take for them, I worry that if I don't make these decisions for myself, (like imunising my kids, I did do it, but not because someone said this is what you should do, I read the info the doctor gave me on the chances of each side effect weighed against the things that would happen if they caught the thing we were immunising for and decided that it was better to immunise.) I'll not trust myself to make a really hard decision that I actually have to make for myself. do I listen to other peoples oppinions on these decisions? absolutely, do I always go with what experts say is best? not if it isn't best for us, do I ever back track if I hear later that I made the wrong choice? if I can, and if it wont cause more problems to change it, than it will to stay.

Lady Heather - posted on 04/16/2012

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YES. My mum always tells me we have too much information now and it's making us nuts. She says winging it was better for the psyche. I agree. It's nice to be able to google all the answers but with.all the conflicting info you rarely get a consensus. So for those things I do what I feel like. I listen to the experts on things are clearly correct. Like extended rear facing is to me something worth listening to. You just have to watch the videos and it is quite obviously safer. But the ambiguous things like feeding timelines and sleep training and such..,I just go with my gut.

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