The Wonderful Wicked Web
Updated: Jul 30, 2018
According to a recent survey, new and expecting parents perform 2.7 times the number of online searches as non-parents. The joy of Google is that the ‘answer’ is almost instant and there’s no judgement! Here are some of my favourite parental searches taken from a Google report:
1. Will my boobs ever be normal again?
2. DIY Pet Funeral Goldfish
3. Where do they serve alcohol at Disneyland?
4. Can I die from sleep deprivation?
The Internet can be a great source of information. "The good news is that parents know more about child development than ever before." - Parlakian. The issue is that it can be hard to distinguish the ‘truth’ from biased and misinformed articles.
Before I had a baby, my instinct was always to comfort a child who was crying as soon as possible; if I babysat my nieces, I wouldn’t have dreamt of leaving them in their crib to cry when they missed their mum. However, once I had my own, I found myself questioning my choice to comfort my baby when she cried: was I spoiling her? Would she ever be able to self-soothe? I turned to Google, and then cried to my husband that we were doing everything wrong and creating bad habits.
I found it helpful to add the phrase ‘attachment parenting’ - or similar -to my searches because I quickly realised that is my parenting style. I believe in responding to my child’s needs quickly and with empathy to build a secure attachment.
Look at the difference the results give without that phrase. One says ‘give your baby the chance to fall asleep on their own’; the other says ‘consider co-sleeping’. No wonder new parents stress so much about their baby’s sleep - there is no rule book for your baby and no ‘right’ answer. And a sleep-deprived parent being told unrealistic rules about independent sleep will only feel more alone and stressed.
It helps to have an awareness of a range of parenting styles to allow you to make an informed decision. Do not fight your maternal instincts. If you want to comfort your baby, then do so. If your sleep arrangements are working for you, and your baby is safe and happy, do not feel you need to change your whole approach because of one internet article, especially if the advice contained within it goes against your beliefs and instincts.
Find sites and blogs that suit your parenting style, the same way you will surround yourself (where possible) with friends who support your parenting choices. Join Facebook groups whose aims match yours i.e. gentle baby-led sleep groups if you want to avoid any version of sleep training and ‘cry-it-out’.
Check out our blog on newborn sleep.
Illnesses and Ailments
Another issue is parents using the Internet to diagnose illnesses. “Parents' independent information seeking is dominated by the use of the internet; this is fraught with problems... searching the internet risks information overload, inconsistent information and, as a consequence, increased anxiety about their child's health.”
Most parents in this study (linked below) “just want to check, when they want support from their virtual social network, and when they want to check self‐diagnosis in order to try to avoid the inconvenience of, and risk of criticism from, an appointment with a doctor... to access social support during antisocial hours: ‘you don't want to have to disturb your friend at 3 o'clock in the morning’"
But remember, the Internet is no substitute for instinct. And without an examination, many illnesses cannot be diagnosed. Visit your GP or pharmacist wherever possible with concerns, or call 111/999 as applicable. In the time you may wait for people to respond to a Facebook post asking for advice, your baby’s symptoms may worsen.
Lastly, remember that people choose what to share on social media, and people are unlikely to admit or describe at length the challenges they have faced. This means many parents may feel alone in their struggles.
"For women who have been successful in other aspects of life," - such as their careers - "failing to live up to being a textbook mother, by not having a textbook baby, can be very challenging, triggering the obsession to 'fix' the problem rather than relaxing into parenthood." - Dawn Barker.
There are some popular bloggers who aim to show ‘real-life’ parenting, and these are welcome break in an online world filled with idyllic images that fail to prepare new parents for the challenges of parenthood.
The more open and realistic we are about these challenges, the better prepared we can be to tackle them with patience and understanding.
Of course, Ordinary Mothers is an online source of support and advice. Our information will reflect the views of our team and our experiences. So we hope that our approach to parenting resonates with you as a reader, gives you helpful information, and reassures you that you are doing an amazing job. If you have feedback on any of our content, or want to help contribute, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
What is the most annoying or worst thing you've seen on the internet? Comment to let us know.