parent opinion

'I just joined an online mothers' group. I've never felt more judged.'

As a first time mum, my head began to fill with questions the second I saw the positive pregnancy test. Now, one year and one beautiful baby girl later, it hasn’t stopped. 

Everything from 'is my bump the right size for 30 weeks?' to 'what’s the right way to introduce peanuts to my daughter's diet?' - there isn't a single question that hasn't gone through my mind.

Fortunately for expectant parents Australia wide, our health system is pretty good at setting up birthing classes, new parent groups, and other support systems.

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Unfortunately, for anyone who had a COVID baby like I did, this was all put on hold or moved online as we went into lockdown and social distancing restrictions came in. 

To add to this, I was the first person in my group of friends to have a baby so I had no one close by to help answer my millions of questions.

This was when I discovered the world of social media parenting groups.

Largely unmoderated, some of these groups are more general pregnancy/baby groups for mums due at a similar time, while others are on more specific topics such as breastfeeding or weaning.

I remember the first question I asked. I had seen some influencers on Instagram raving about a particular type of baby seat. 

I logged on to my group and asked if anyone had purchased or used one before, and if they thought it was worth the three-figure price tag. 

Immediately, I was bombarded with responses.

But instead of helpful feedback, I was met with with judgement, aggression, and accusations of putting my baby in danger. 

I can’t be certain, but I am quite confident that, had I asked this in a group of women face to face, the response would have been warmer and less judgemental. 

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Even more concerning are the medical questions asked and answered in the group.

While the group rules clearly state that medical advice should not be asked for or given, this doesn't really stop anyone.

So on a daily basis, my news feed is flooded with mums to be asking questions, and worst-case scenarios being discussed. 

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Of course, when I was pregnant, this made me anxious about my own baby’s movements to the point where I went to hospital for check-ups on several occasions, purely prompted by things I'd read in the group.

In fact, it led to my baby being induced at 39 weeks, not because anything was wrong, but because I had presented so many times that my doctor and I agreed, for the sake of my mental health, my baby needed to be born.

Now that my baby is here, it hasn’t stopped. 

I live in fear of asking for help or advice on anything in case my parenting is called into question and I’m labelled a bad mum. 

I see women post photos of their car seats to ask if they’re using them correctly and being met with judgement and criticism.

My newsfeed is flooded daily with photos of baby poo (often as I’m eating breakfast) and stay at home mums turned doctors blindly diagnosing dairy intolerances or teething issues, instead of directing fellow mums to visit their GPs with their concerns. 

Every time a mum asks for a formula recommendation, she is met with a 'helpful suggestion' to call the Breastfeeding Association to get assistance with breastfeeding instead.

Being a new mum is hard. Being a parent is hard. Navigating how to raise children who are healthy, happy and thriving is hard. 

Why are some people making it harder? Why are mums being made to feel bad about their choice and their mistakes?

We need to support each other to raise the next generation.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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