As a mother to a 19-month-old and another on the way I can't help feeling that society needs to be more encouraging of new parents.

It seems as if parents are judged on every aspect of their lives from how they provide for their children to how they feed them.

I admit, I used to do this before I gave birth.

I would see parents mollycoddle their children, give them formula and let them sleep in the bed but knew I would be different.


My child would be perfectly behaved and follow the rules, he would be breastfed for at least a year and he would be sleeping all night in his own cot.

Needless to say he rules the house. I stopped trying to breastfeed when he was 3 months old and he spent the first 16 months of his life in our bed waking up at least four times every night.

And that's fine, it shouldn't really matter if you do things differently to others as long as your child is healthy, happy and loved.

My first foray into the awful judgmental side of being a new mum was with breastfeeding.

Throughout my antenatal classes I was told breastfeeding is hard but after six weeks if you persevere you will be fine.

I took on the battle but was told my baby wasn't gaining enough weight so I had to eat breastfeeding cookies, pump for hours and see a lactation consultant.

None of this helped.

I still had a baby who screamed when I put him anywhere near my breast and after hours of pumping I couldn't even fill half a bottle.


So I started supplementing with formula and was immediately told by various people that this is a slippery slope and I would never get breastfeeding right if I did this.

What was I supposed to do? Let my baby starve?

I eventually made the decision to stop breastfeeding completely and I have a happy, healthy toddler who doesn't show any signs of ill-effect from drinking formula.

This didn't stop me feeling guilty and early on I would sometimes avoid going out so people wouldn't see me give my baby a bottle.

I went back to work part-time when my son was 9 months old and after telling people my plans was promptly told "you never get this time back" and "they need their mum at this age" as well as more positive comments about why it was good to get back into the workforce.

I didn't know who to listen to, who was right?

I still feel guilty about enjoying my time at work and wanting to pursue a career while having children. I want both and that shouldn't be an issue, but it is.

As soon as you become a parent you are going to worry for the rest of your life but why do we need to add in the misery of other people's judgments too?

People will read this and say they don't mind what you do, they just want the best for you and they want to give you advice because they know the right way of doing things.

But they do judge, we all judge and everyone's experience is different.

The internet and social media plays a part in how new parents feel. There's so many differing opinions online and hundreds of keyboard warriors ready to wound with cutting remarks.

During hours of research into how to get a baby to sleep better, the internet provided me with many wonderful ideas but also harmful ones.

I read a blog post from a "sleeping expert" about how Sudden Infant Death Syndrome could be linked to letting your child cry even for a minute or they could be as damaged as babies in Russian orphanages.

There's actual research out there to show this is nonsense but it does make a new mother extremely worried.

All parents worry about their children, they all make mistakes and at times think they have ruined their child's life.

Judgment or unhelpful advice from friends, family, strangers or even the internet just makes it worse.

So maybe next time you see a new parent and think you know better, keep it to yourself and instead provide some encouragement.

We're all just trying our best.

Ruby Harfield is a reporter for Hawke's Bay Today.