Here’s a common conversation from the first few weeks at the ‘baby and me’ group I attend: Other Mom: “Your baby is so tiny! How old is she?” Me: “12 weeks.” Other Mom: “My baby is only 10 weeks and seems so much bigger!” Cue my internal worry.
Is my baby underweight? I’m exclusively breastfeeding and have no idea how much milk she gets; is it not enough? Do I need to supplement with formula? Should I call my pediatrician or make an appointment with a lactation consultant? What if it all boiled down to: am I doing the right thing as a mom?
What started out as a nice conversation with a potential new mom friend, quickly led me down a path of self-doubt with a touch of mom-guilt. You can see how this can spiral out of control. Upon further discussion with “other mom,” we came to realize my baby actually weighed more than her 10 weeker. Sigh.
Not only did I get stuck in this conversation (and all the emotions that come along with it), I heard other moms in the group having very similar discussions. The first thing I realized is that our babies are the center of our universe. We are so up in their business all day, every day, that they seem HUGE to us and every other baby seems tiny in comparison, even though they may be the same size.
The next thing I realized is that we’re all driving ourselves a little crazy with the unnecessary comparisons. Even if her 10 week-old baby weighed more than my 12-week old baby, this didn’t mean my baby was underweight and unhealthy. This, of course, doesn’t start with our babies. It’s normal to compare ourselves to others. Comparison isn’t a new thing, though it is perhaps amplified in the age of social media.
I went through a lot of this during pregnancy. Every morning, I’d wake up, look at my baby bump, and either think it looked too small (Is everything going OK? Wasn’t it bigger yesterday?) or too big (Am I gaining too much weight? Is my baby going to be enormous?). I’d then google, “baby bump, week X” to see what other women looked like at the same stage of pregnancy.
Why We Need to Stop the Comparison Game
I should know better, but it’s natural to seek out information and compare ourselves. Eventually, I realized that comparing my bump with strangers on the internet wasn’t doing me any favors. I was making healthy choices for my pregnancy. My body was going to do what it needed to do and my bump size would follow suit.
Comparison is always around us. But when it comes to our kids, is comparing them to others detrimental?
It’s hard not to compare your baby.
First, there are the height and weight percentiles, so even if you don’t want to compare, you’re forced to. Then, there are all the milestones. It’s only natural to wonder if your child is hitting developmental milestones ahead of or behind the curve.
Every child is so different, and in new parent groups, you’re surrounded by babies the same age as yours. It’s only natural to look at the baby on your left or right and wonder if your baby is on a healthy track.
But this isn’t good for us or for our kids. Every child will hit milestones at their own pace. There is a normal range for milestones, and those ranges can be huge. For example, you might wonder when your baby will start to walk. According to BabyCenter, the average age is 9 to 12 months. But it’s also completely normal for them not to walk until 16 or 17 months. That’s a huge range. If your baby is at one end of the range (or even outside the range!), it certainly doesn’t mean you or your baby has failed. And it doesn’t mean this will impact their future.
So if it’s all considered “normal,” why are we so wrapped up in comparing our child’s progress to other children? And is this a problem?
These comparisons may start when our children are young and unaware.
“My baby isn’t rolling yet, shouldn’t she be?” But if we adopt this attitude of comparing our child’s success to others early on, it’s possible we will continue to do this as they grow up.
As our children get older, they will become aware of the comparison game. According to My Parenting Journal, comparing can lead to low self-esteem, stress, and resentment, among other negative possibilities.
If you struggle with comparing yourself to other women, whether it’s your body, your mothering abilities, your career, etc., you probably already know that comparing doesn’t feel good.
Getting caught up in when your child will hit their next milestone can take away the joy and happiness of the everyday moments happening right now. Instead of wasting your worry on how your baby compares to their friend/cousin/sibling, why not focus on how happy they are and what they are accomplishing today?
Instead of focusing on what others around us can do, we should focus on bettering ourselves and working towards our own goals. This goes for us and our children. The only comparisons we should make are to ourselves yesterday.
Next time you’re chatting with a fellow mom, pay attention to what you say. Small comments about their kid’s size or milestones may seem innocent, but it doesn’t always come across that way. As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. As a parent, I don’t want to miss out on moments of joy due to unnecessary comparisons.
Feel yourself falling into a comparison trap? Here are 4 quick tips to get out of it:
1. Focus on you and your child
Remember that we all have our own unique strengths and will accomplish things at different times. Instead of comparing your situation to someone else, compare yourself (or your kid) with how you were yesterday.
2. Know your triggers
Endless scrolling on Instagram leaving you feel less-than? Put the phone away. Easier said than done, but take note of what actions lead you to comparing and try to remove them from your daily habits.
3. Change the subject
Along those lines, if you’re in a conversation that is leading you down a comparison path, change the course. Find a conversation that isn’t based on milestones, weight, growth, etc.
4. Trust your intuition
You know your situation better than anyone else. Milestones found on a website are one thing, but you know what’s happening in your own life. If you feel like something is off with your baby, talk to your pediatrician instead of trying to solve it based on those around you.