When it comes to parenting, one thing many of us are overwhelmed with is the conflicting amount of advice that tends to pour in. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, people seem to love sharing their wisdom, from a loving yet old-school great-grandmother to an old high school friend who relies on natural medicine. Then there is the vast abyss of parenting forums and articles across the world wide web. The only problem is: How do you know who to trust?
While I love my sweet granny and my old friend, their methods did not seem like the best choice for my children when they were sick. But when you have someone offering advice at every turn or you’re seeking it yourself online, it can be hard to decipher if the advice is safe and accurate, especially if you’re a tired parent worried about your kid.
Here are a few ways to fact check parenting advice.
1. Check the Source
The same critical thinking we had to use for high school research papers still applies: Check your source. The internet is a vast place where so many people come together on social media, parenting blogs, and forums to share their experiences. And while that can help parents, especially new parents, feel less alone, it doesn’t always mean that the advice is safe and reliable. Consider the potential harm done by celebrities who’ve shared their unbacked advice that was later deemed unsafe by pediatricians?
If you cannot track the advice back to a researched and peer-reviewed study, government website like the CDC, or licensed medical professional, then it is probably best to seek other opinions.
Try to remember that .gov, .edu, or .org pages tend to be more reliable than .com and that even reliable advice from trusted sources may not always be the best for your family depending on the situation. Every child is different, and it is best to first check with a trusted physician, which leads me to my next point.
2. Ask Your Doctor
A parenting thread on a forum may seem like it makes a lot of sense for certain matters. But when it comes to your child’s mental and physical health, it is essential to check in with your doctor.
Any parent who has spent time in an online parenting forum has probably seen a lot, from pictures of baby’s rashes to comment battles about whether or not to sleep train. Advice on the internet can seem like the answers to your parenting woes, but the reality is that nearly anyone with a phone and internet connection can share anything on the world wide web. Your doctor, however, has to have a medical degree and experience on treating all types of patients and situations.
And if you are also looking for mental health advice, the experience of other parents can be helpful to hear, but you should always factor in a licensed mental health professional’s diagnosis and treatment plan first.
3. Use Advice as a Guide, Not Fact
While some advice you may be naturally cautious of, it is also OK to give more weight to those you trust most in your child’s life. If your cousin swore up and down on velcro swaddles during the night or an awesome convertible car seat, there may be no need to double and triple check their suggestion. Most advice, like in this article, comes from a good place, and we celebrate when moms share their stories to help each other out.
As we know, however, every child is different, so considering your child’s safety, medical history, allergies, behavioral needs, etc. before committing to a new parenting technique, product, or remedy is important.
When in doubt, double check. If you get in the habit of checking trusted sources, it is a lifelong skill that can help you and your children down the road. For example, if your friend is giving you the baby swing she swore by but a quick Google search shows a recall, don’t disregard that information because it worked for your friend. But if all reputable researches say something is safe, use your gut and trust yourself.