Carolyn Hax: New mom keeps questioning herself

May 21, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi there: I'm a new mom of a pretty fun but challenging 6-month-old boy. I am a decisive person; however, the anxiety I'm feeling over making the "right" decisions or providing him the "right" things has been difficult to cope with.

For example, since I've gone back to work, I haven't been able to pump enough milk and I've needed to start supplementing with formula. I intellectually know this is fine and many babies have formula, but for some reason I'm beating myself up over it.

Also with regard to other things - like when to stop swaddling at night, how and what solids to feed him - I feel so worried I'm going to do something that is less than optimal that might hurt his development. I'm second-guessing myself very often and starting to drive myself crazy, and I know that isn't good.

Do you have any suggestions for how to calm my anxieties so I can just do the best I can and be happy with that place?

ANXIOUS

The anxiety generated by formulaphobia comes from a well-meaning place, but is so needless and widespread that I'll address it separately upfront: To quote a pediatrician, "It's not like you're feeding him poison."

As for the other stuff, it's OK to use the same general approach: Make the best decisions you're able to for your baby, but don't drive yourself nuts trying to make everything perfect. The "why" is easy: Not to give you something new to get all fired up about, but you'll be a better mom if you make a few "less than optimal" choices while remaining upbeat than you'll be if frenzied with the effort to get everything "right."

The "how" is a little more difficult, because you're in a cultural environment where many businesses and bystanders stand to benefit from feeding exactly that parental anxiety.

Still, you can beat it (or just beat it back) by fixing your eyes on what matters most: Kids benefit most from parents who are educated and supportive. Check the research. You've got wiggle room on the details. Trust that your values will nurture your kid completely enough for you to let a few t's go uncrossed.

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