top of page

Episode 49: Debunking Parenting Myths and the Impact of Mom Shaming with Sharon Mazel

Brief summary of show:

Do you ever feel overwhelmed in your parenting journey? Whether your kids are newborns or teenagers, it can be so easy to compare our own parenting style to those around us.

In this episode of the Natalie Tysdal Podcast, Sharon Mazel joins me to talk about common parenting myths and the impact mom-shaming has on us.

Sharon Mazel is an internationally recognized parenting and pregnancy expert, content creator, speaker, parenting coach, and mom of four with over two decades of experience in this field.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [3:15] What happens when we do too much pregnancy research

  • [5:47] How to know which resources to trust

  • [9:47] Biggest pregnancy myths debunked

  • [21:02] The truth behind mom shaming

  • [30:40] How to create your own family values

Sharon has written for as well as various publications including Parenting Magazine, BabyTalk Magazine, The Washington Post, and others. Sharon began her journalism career as a television news writer and producer for nightly news in New York City and received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and an undergraduate degree from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Sharon

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Hi everyone.

[00:00:00] It's Natalie and I have a college age daughter, a high school daughter, and a son who is in middle school. But today we're going to rewind things a little bit and talk about pregnancy childbirth and parenting those little ones today. Things have certainly changed and I have gotten better. The three kids that we have by first pregnancy, 21 years ago, 10 years between my first and last things were different, but I'm a big believer that we have to keep learning.

[00:00:29] I would never tell someone that what I experienced at 21 years ago would be the same for them today. Science is bad. Research is better. We absolutely have to keep learning. I am excited to bring you one of the best experts on the topic of pregnancy and parenting today. I'm a little bit biased because not only is she a parenting and pregnancy expert, but she started her career as a journalist, just like me.

[00:00:56] Her name is Sharon Maizel and she is a parenting expert, a content creator, a speaker, a parenting coach. And she's a mom of four with a grandchild on the way she is a trusted source for new parents. They turn to her for advice, for tips. And of course, for recommendations, when they get frustrated with parenting and pregnancy issues. So when preparing for a family. Yeah, everyone has advice, right? Your neighbor has advice. Your grandma has advised your best friend has advice. Of course it's well-intentioned. But some of that advice might not be so great.

[00:01:47] There are so many myths when it comes to fertility pregnancy and being a mom. And that is exactly what we are going to talk about today. So be sure to share this episode with anyone, you know, [00:02:00] starting a family. And if you're not in that time of life, I know you're still going to love this conversation with Sharon, as we have fun talking about what we went through and how things have changed through the years.

[00:02:14] So never stop learning. That's my motto today. Let's get started.

[00:02:18] Sharon joining me now. And I want to talk about this notion of the myths with pregnancy, even fertility. And then Sharon, beyond that as a new mom, we tend to, especially with social media to jump right into this, I should be something or the Internet's telling me to do that. What are your

[00:02:38] Sharon: thoughts?

[00:02:39] Sharon: Gosh, you know, there's so much information out there these days, and it's such a blessing, right? Because we can Google any question that we have. We can go onto social media and find an answer. We can pick up books, we can read blogs. And then what happens though, is that we don't find one answer. We find 50.

[00:02:56] Mm. And a lot of times those 50 answers are contradictory [00:03:00] or they'll say one thing, you have to do it this way, or you have to feel that way. Or you have to bounce back exactly like this. And then something else will say no to you have to do it that way. And you have to feel that way. And what happens with all this information is that parents.

[00:03:15] Get confused and overwhelmed and stressed. And it's a problem because this is a time when we are naturally, right. When you're pregnant or when you have a newborn, when you're naturally worried, am I doing everything right? Am I doing right by my new baby? And so the information is great, but we have to give ourselves some grace.

[00:03:34] I always say, as parents to really take a step back and a deep breath and say, you know what? Aside from things like. About safety. It really doesn't matter one way or the other, if I do it this way, or if I do it that way. And I always tell parents, the most important thing that you should do is to do a feels best for you to do what feels right for you, because that is what will be right for your baby.

[00:03:59] If you're doing [00:04:00] something because you read it somewhere and it doesn't feel right for you, and it's not going to be the right thing for your family or for your baby. To, to when parents hear that sort of permission. I see the stress just kind of melting off their shoulders because they realize, oh, I don't have to do it a certain prescribed way that everybody else is doing it, or that everyone's telling me I have to do it.

[00:04:22] There is this notion of feeling what feels right for you and then doing what feels right for you. And when you feel good about that as a parent, then you become the best parent possible for your.

[00:04:33] Natalie: Yeah. It's, it's interesting how social media in particular, I mean, obviously the internet, but social media in particular is so awesome and giving us ideas and teaching us things, but at the same time can work against us because first we go down a million rabbit holes of.

[00:04:50] million things we could be doing or should be doing, and we just spend too much time on it, but also not knowing who to trust. What, what advice do you have for [00:05:00] people in that? I know your Instagram in particular love the information that you put out in how you help people, but would you advise people on knowing what to trust?

[00:05:10] Big world

[00:05:10] Sharon: of the internet.

[00:05:12] Sharon: It's such a great question because there are so many competing experts out there. If you will. And. Who or which experts is the one for you? So I always say to start with your doctor, your pediatrician, when you're talking about your kids or OB GYN or your midwife, if you're talking about pregnancy, when you find a trusted medical professional who is knowledgeable about his or her profession and what the updated science and data and research shows, that's going to be your best expert to start.

[00:05:43] So that's about the medical side and that's about the safety issues and that's about the latest recommendations and things like that. But then there's a whole nother part of parenting, which isn't about how many ounces of formula to feed my baby or at what age should my baby starts solid.

[00:05:59] There's [00:06:00] also, how do I discipline my child or do. Uh, Exclusively breastfeed or do I do both formula or breast milk? There's so many questions that parents will have that there is no one particular answer. That is the right or only answer. And so. After you've, you've taken the information from, from your medical professional that you trust, then you could find someone whose philosophy aligns with yours.

[00:06:27] So again, because any way is right. So if you're going to be the type of parent that wants to make sure that your baby I'll give I'll use this example that your baby is sleeping. Four and a half months old, right? I'm not passing judgment on whether you should, or you shouldn't. That's a personal choice.

[00:06:44] There are going to be experts on social media, on the internet and books that will give you tips and strategies on how to do that. If you're going to be the type of parent that says, no, I I'm going to. Allow my baby to sleep. However he or she wants to. And for however long he or she wants [00:07:00] to, and, or I'm going to bring my baby into the bed with me and, or I'm going to, to, you know, let my big outlet when I hold my baby.

[00:07:06] There's so many different ways of helping your baby sleep. And then you could find an expert that says, okay, there will be no sleep teaching, no sleep training, no crying. No, but there's so many different ways and there's no one right way to. So when you find somebody who shares a philosophy with new, a parenting style with you, then you can trust that person if it works for you.

[00:07:28] But again, nobody is going to be that perfectly aligned source for you because there's so many different ways of doing it. So I help my followers know that. Information that I give, whether it's through my courses or through my coaching or on my social media, that I am doing everything from evidence-based medicine, I'm reading the journals, I'm interviewing the professionals.

[00:07:51] Whether they're the doctors or the. physical therapists or the speeding specialists, I'm reading all of the current data on the research. [00:08:00] So what I am talking about is evidence-based, but I also have a parenting philosophy that may not align with, with a parent. And so that's fine. I don't have to be the end-all and be-all expert for every single parent.

[00:08:12] And so there is so much out there as we just mentioned that a parent can really choose what works for them. And even in terms of getting that advice then receiving that infamous. That is such

[00:08:23] Natalie: important advice from, well, before you have a family all the way through you and I both have children in college and beyond.

[00:08:32] Remembering that it has to feel right to you. It just has to, it's almost like w we know that the internet maybe has taught us that even more, that everybody's got an opinion. So let's go into a little bit of the change since you've been in. Industry and following and become an expert in parenting and pregnancy so much has changed.

[00:08:55] I'm an eternal learner. I know you are as well, especially with the research that you do. So [00:09:00] what's changed. And let's talk about some of the myths that maybe when we were pregnant Let's start with pregnancy, how those things have changed. What are some of those myths that people still talk about today?

[00:09:09] Even

[00:09:09] Sharon: on social media?

[00:09:11] Sharon: So there's a lot of pregnancy myths. I think one of the ones that I always seem to get questions about is coffee for some reason, because there's a sense that you can't drink coffee when you're pregnant. And it's a myth because you can drink coffee when you're pregnant and it's not.

[00:09:25] If you are drinking the right amount of coffee or not exceeding what the recommendations are, which is around 200 milligrams of caffeine. So, you know, obviously if you're drinking a espresso, right, which is highly caffeinated, that's going to be a different amount than if you're drinking decaf or lattes or something like that.

[00:09:42] Um, So 200 milligrams of caffeine is perfectly acceptable. with all experts and OB-GYNs and midwives, and there seems to be this myth that just continues to perpetuate. Um, You cannot have any coffee of when you're, when you're pregnant and I feel bad because so many parents, I just did [00:10:00] a, something recent on social media about what P what moms in particular looking forward to after they deliver.

[00:10:06] some of the comments were like, I can't wait to drink coffee again. And I'm like, oh, you could have had coffee all those nine months. So it's just you know, in pregnancy there's a lot of myths, certainly. That perpetuate. And of course with parenting and that newborn stage, there's a lot of myths that, that as well, but

[00:10:23] Natalie: once again, that's evidence-based so everybody, you could know a little bit, but 200 milligrams, what else?

[00:10:29] It, pregnancy in particular better are just myths. And, you know, I, I did find out with each of our three that we were having girl, girl, and then boy, however, I know that's not always a hundred percent accurate in an ultrasound. But even the way you carry a baby there are a lot of myths and everyone seems to think, oh, you're having a boy.

[00:10:48] I can tell because. This type of pregnancy or your stomach's outfitter up high or whatever is

[00:10:54] Sharon: any of that? So I have four daughters and each time I was pregnant and I'd never found out what [00:11:00] they were beforehand and, and, and those days certainly the ultrasound was not as, as precise as they are today.

[00:11:05] And we didn't have the NIPT tests, which are the, you know, which you can now see what the um, biologic sex of the baby is from the blood test. So I would literally be stopped in the street. People would stop me say you're having. Oh boy, because you're carrying out in the front, your nose, hasn't gotten bigger, your hips haven't gotten wider.

[00:11:21] And I was convinced with certainly with my first baby, that of course I'm having a boy. Everyone's told me I'm having a boy and I'm in the delivery room, but we, you know, we had a video camera going and you can hear when the baby comes out and the doctor says, oh, it's a girl. You hear my husband's. But we were told it's a boy knows exactly, but her nose.

[00:11:43] Right. So yes, unfortunately for those moms and dads are expected moms and dads who want to paint the nursery a particular color based on how they're. None of those old wives, tales are true. You so much of how you carry is based on your body type and [00:12:00] how you eat or how you exercise or how you don't eat and how you don't exercise, where you carry your weight when you're not pregnant.

[00:12:06] How you're feeling, what season it is. I mean, there's so many things that contribute to how big the baby is. Right. But that contribute to um, how you carry it. there is nothing in the data are, or in reality that aligned how you're carrying with whether you're having a boy or a girl.

[00:12:22] And, and just remember, everyone will be 50. It will be correct 50% of the time. So if you have people say, you're definitely having a girl, they'll be correct around 50% of the time. And so

[00:12:32] Natalie: funny. And so many things like this um, yeah. My children came out very different from the moment they were born, one screaming and one just as happy and calm as could be.

[00:12:45] And I remember someone saying like, well, that's how they're going to be the rest of their lives. Anything about those first few months? The first week that we can identify. Is there any science base to that?

[00:12:58] Sharon: There is no science-based that I [00:13:00] know of, but I think, and you could probably speak to this as well.

[00:13:02] Right? I think between the two of us, we have seven children. So I think that I, with my second

[00:13:07] Sharon: child um, when I was pregnant with. She was, I used to call her my little boxer because she just moved so much more than my first child did. And she would really like be boxing all the time. And so in my head I thought, oh, this must mean that she's going to be very active.

[00:13:23] Um, It happened to be true. She was much more active. She was walking before she even hit 10 months. but that's an anecdote and that's my anecdote. An anecdote does not equal data. Is it true? Right. You'll hear parents say, oh, well, my baby, as soon as he was born, he just was so stubborn and he's still stubborn and he's 15.

[00:13:42] So is that true? Can it happen? Of course it could happen. Is, is it scientifically based that it will definitely happen? No. And, and I would caution even though I'm guilty of this as well, but I would caution us as parents not to prejudge our children. Our children are unique and beautifully so [00:14:00] unique.

[00:14:00] And if we can. Just honor them and their personalities as it emerges. That's a beautiful thing to be able to watch them grow into the people they are destined to become while we help along the way. And I think you know, if we start with these preconceived notions of, oh, he's, he's a difficult child or, oh, she's really shy that that really puts sort of a label on our kids that we don't have.

[00:14:23] They don't deserve. So. So I, I, you know, I, that's something that I think all parents struggle with. And we're probably all guilty of it, but sometimes it helps if we take that step back and say, you know what, I'm not going to label her as you know, shy or difficult or label him as wild or diff you know, or, or hard to or picky eater, even, right.

[00:14:42] Even those kinds of things. Sometimes become self-fulfilling prophecies. So I always find parent. Yeah. Like remind parents, especially in those early stages, but newborns to just get to know your baby, because just watching how your baby's personality shines through. You'll see it even from the early days and [00:15:00] then just let them develop and honor those, those personality traits.

[00:15:03] Because it's so it's so much fun. Yeah. I mean,

[00:15:06] Natalie: to, to have labeled they one child. With screaming from the moment she was born would be very unfair because she was also a very colicky baby. And so for her to think later in life, I've been difficult since I know you have, you actually were born with some issues that were hard for us to discover.

[00:15:23] So I couldn't agree more. We don't want to put any of those labels on. So another. Maybe not, not to say that. Don't say things like that because they could certainly change. And she is actually such a lovely, wonderful, mature young woman. Now I would never want any of my kids to think that um, okay. So let's go into the baby toddler years and myths around um, some of those.

[00:15:48] Sharon: Sure. So I think, you know, you, you mentioned before about things that have changed over over time and, you know, people always say, you know, how much has changed, right. When, what has changed from 20 years ago, 30 years ago, [00:16:00] 50 years ago, and a lot has changed. One of the things that Pavey parents will hear from their mothers or mother-in-laws, or grandmother or grandmother in laws is don't hold the baby too much because you're going to spoil the baby.

[00:16:10] And that's something that has been passed down, certainly from generation to generation. And there's this fear that new parents have that if I'm constantly holding my newborn, that my baby will be spoiled. And that's really a myth when you're talking about newborns. So certainly if you're talking about a one-year-old and you're constantly holding your one-year-old, that's something that you don't want to do.

[00:16:31] We want to encourage independence, but when you're talking about a three week old or a six week old, or even a two month old you know, we have to remember that this child. Just born a couple of weeks ago and holding your baby is not going to spoil him or her holding your baby will give your baby a sense of security and attachment and comfort and knowledge that you are going to be there for him or her in a way that they can count on.

[00:16:58] And that's so [00:17:00] valuable. So I always remind parents that when you hear well-meaning people give advice of don't hold the baby too much, you know, you're going to spoil the. And it's just not true in the beginning, really. Allow yourself that opportunity to hold the baby because your baby needs that comfort, right.

[00:17:14] Babies like to be rocked like to be held well, whether they're sleeping or crying so don't ever feel that pressure to put the baby down because someone tells you, you can't hold the baby. And I will say just, coming back to what we were talking about before. Also don't feel that you can't put your baby down.

[00:17:31] If you need a break and you need just some time away for yourself, even if it's two minutes to go to the bathroom or five minutes to shower or 10 minutes to. Run into your room, close the door and scream, right. Or cry do it. Your baby will be fine. Even if you let your baby cry for five minutes alone in a safe space, because we also have to remind ourselves as parents that we're not just caring for a baby.

[00:17:56] We're also caring for ourselves. And it's okay not to hold your baby [00:18:00] 24 7 and it's probably. For you to have that break. So I always, again, there's, there's so much in parenting that it's about finding the right balance. It's not a, you could only do it this way. You only can hold your baby all the time or you can't hold your baby all the time.

[00:18:13] it's about finding a balance between what works for you and what feels right for you.

[00:18:18] Natalie: Since starting my own business, I have discovered something I never knew. I would enjoy so much. What is it making my own graphics? Maybe you've seen my YouTube cover templates, Instagram quotes, and carousels. Also Facebook infographics. Can I tell you how much fun I'm having and how easy it is to make these.

[00:18:39] Canva. I even do it on my phone. It's that easy. If you're looking for a simple way to make graphics for social media, maybe school, I'm a teacher as well. So I use it for that. Or even for work, you're going to love canvas. There is a free version of the program, but the provost. So worth it, it's $119 [00:19:00] and you can also pay monthly.

[00:19:01] I share my designs with my team at school and at home where we collaborate on designs. And I'm going to give you 45 days free of Canva pro. If you go to my website, Natalie Favorites, just click on Canva. Once you get there, I may get a small commission if you purchase through this link, but that's just to keep my website and my podcast going.

[00:19:27] So thank you once again, Natalie and click on Canva.

[00:19:34] Well, I want to talk more about kind of the, the baby toddler years and some of those myths, but you you've just said something that I think is really important. And then. Myth is that you have to be a perfect mom and, boy, I tried really hard to be that and I failed miserably.

[00:19:50] And then I felt like a failure. Like the things are just going to happen. Your body is changing and that that's okay. You know, we see more than ever [00:20:00] today. Social media is a blessing, but it also has a way of making us feel bad about ourselves. If we're not in check in knowing that. It's going to take some time to get used to this.

[00:20:12] My body is going to take some time to bounce back if it bounces back physically, but that notion and that whole thing that we see now, I don't ever remember. Do you that the term mom shaming, when we were at Newmar?

[00:20:26] Sharon: Not when we renew moms. It's definitely, I think it's part of the explosion of information and accessibility to that information.

[00:20:33] Um, In the olden days where you just had, you know there wasn't 24, 7 news TV news, and you just had there wasn't the internet, right? So you just had newspapers and you just had play groups or playground mom talk. You had a much smaller circle of, of advice being lobbied. And then all of a sudden, these days we have this explosion of opportunity to interact with other moms and dads who are [00:21:00] going through the same thing that you're going through, which is that blessing.

[00:21:03] But then you also have this notion of, wow, everybody is doing so much better than I am. And, and they're telling me to do it this way. And then making me feel bad about my choices and why does everybody on social media look like they have it all together because I don't feel that way. And so the sense of.

[00:21:20] I'm feeling that my life is horribly imperfect compared to everybody else's life on social media is just not true. Everyone was struggling but not everybody is presenting. The struggles and the mom shaming, I think, is really such a shame that it's happening because. everyone's just trying to do their best and everybody is just trying to get through the day.

[00:21:42] And it's hard to get through the day when you have a baby or a toddler or a school aged kid or a teenager. It is hard to get through the day. Yeah. When you have someone saying to you, or you perceive that someone is saying to you, well, you're having a hard time because you didn't do this right. Or if only you did that with [00:22:00] your child, things will be fine.

[00:22:02] That's not good for your own psyche. And, and I think that's so much of what I do or try to do as a parenting expert is to. Not only inform, but also empower parents to be able to feel secure in their choices as a parent, and to feel secure once they'd gather the information to make those choices. Be able to say, yeah, this is what works for me and for my unique baby and child.

[00:22:29] And so I'm going to kind of ignore all the noise that I'm hearing from the internet, from social media, from other moms in the playground or dads, it's not just mom shaming, it's also dad shaving. But I think the sense of security in your own abilities as a parent and security in your child's ability as a child really goes a long way in helping To give a parent the ability to have confidence in their, their family and their journey as parents. And I think that's such an important lesson [00:23:00] for all of us to learn and to internalize and to continuously remind ourselves. Yeah. And some really good

[00:23:05] Natalie: examples of that. Breastfeeding versus formula feeding, you know, feeling guilty, it didn't work for you or letting people say something about that, that then guilt, you like don't feel guilty for anything as long as you're doing your best.

[00:23:18] And you're doing the research and you're trying, but I, I think that's an example. And then. Going back to work, you know, maybe they need to go back to work, but they look at other people on social media and they feel guilty. So those are just a few examples that come to mind when you talk about.

[00:23:36] Sharon: Yeah. I mean the breastfeeding formula one is a great one.

[00:23:39] It's so important for moms to know that breastfeeding. It does not always come naturally to all new moms. It's not always possible for all new moms. And while breast milk is an incredible gift that you can give to your child. If you can't. The formula is another incredible gift that you can give to your child.

[00:23:54] And this sense of if you're not breastfeeding or pumping and bottle [00:24:00] feeding the breast milk that you're less than, or that you're an imperfect mother is such a shame because it's not true. It's just not true at all. I love the example that you gave about the working um, going back to work. Another example that comes up a lot certainly on social media is starting to feed your babies. There's a very big movement now. And evidence-based that you can start giving your baby finger foods, not just purees when you start solids at six months old. There are some people who become very.

[00:24:29] Militant, I will say about that. You could only do it this way or only do it that way. And it stresses parents out because if they're not comfortable right. That there's, there's a sense of purees. I'm more in control, like feed my baby. That's fine. Um, There's also this sense of, oh, I have to give my. Finger food.

[00:24:46] It's called baby led weaning and let the baby self-feed. That's wonderful too. These are both great options. And, and again, back to what we keep on saying, if it doesn't feel right for you as a parent, and if you don't feel comfortable giving your baby only [00:25:00] purees or only finger foods, then your baby will sense that you're not comfortable with that, and it will create problems at the table.

[00:25:06] So and unfortunately there's a lot of shaming around that. I see them in the parenting world. What's your you're feeding purees, or I can't believe that you're thinking you're feeding finger foods. Isn't aren't you worried about choking and neither of those are correct. Right? Because babies won't choke from the finger food and purees are fine.

[00:25:23] We as adults eat purees we'd applesauce, we yogurt. We guacamole. I mean, these are purees, so there's nothing wrong with either way or doing both. and, and so it's, it's unfortunate that, Parents often feel that everything is very black and white. I could only do it this way. I can only breastfeed exclusively, or I could only do baby led weaning, or I could only do formula or it can only do purees.

[00:25:47] It's not, you could do all both, either. You know,

[00:25:51] Natalie: it's really, if listening to you and I'm thinking about all of the experts out there, because we have access to all of these experts and I follow, and [00:26:00] I have interviewed many of these experts, but oftentimes an expert takes a different approach than what I'm hearing from you.

[00:26:07] And it is you have to do it this way. I mean, that's kind of what a lot of experts do, but I'm, I'm listening to you and I'm thinking. Yeah, this is all coming from all of the research that you do, the science. And, and I love this approach because I do think it's important that we know what else is out there that we're, you know, we're following these people, we see it and we say, okay, you have it.

[00:26:30] It's kind of like the news these days. And we both come from a journalistic background and you think, well, I can listen and I'll be open, but then I'm going to make up my mind. I'm going to decide how I feel, and I'm still going to expose myself to different opinions, but I have to be secure and feel good about what I'm going to do, and then not let the rest of the world influence.

[00:26:52] Sharon: Yeah. I mean, I think that making an informed decision is the most important. So I encourage parents to do their own research,[00:27:00] or to listen to multiple different experts and then to look at their own child or their. Situation and decide for themselves. Again, I'm not talking about safety issues, right?

[00:27:11] Of course you have to put your baby to sleep on, on his or her back. Don't put bumpers or blankets in the crib under a year old. Those of course. And I will always, you know, be very, very clear about what the research shows and what the data shows and what is the healthiest and safest for your baby. But then there's a whole other part of parenting t