As a mom, you try to do right by your child. In any given day, that may involve dozens of choices about what you think is best. Sometimes, though, other people feel comfortable criticizing those decisions—either because they made different ones or because they believe they have more expertise.
That’s what happened to actress Julia Stiles last week after she posted to Instagram a photo of herself holding her newborn son, Strummer Newcomb Cook. As sweet as the image was, some Instagram users mom-shamed Stiles for how Strummer was placed in his baby carrier.
Stiles, 36, wrote in her post: “It was brought to my attention that in the previous photo I am not holding my baby correctly. Wow, I didn’t expect that. What was supposed to be a shoutout of products I like suddenly becomes an invitation to comment on my baby, and my ability as a mother. That’s the internet for you, the carnivorous plant from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’.”
She continued: “I was trying to keep much of my son’s image private, including, I guess, his little feet. And it was just a photo taken at home, not how I normally carry him around. Thanks for the concern, anyway. Yes, Mothers, always read the safety instructions.”
Stiles and husband Preston J. Cook welcomed their first child, Strummer, on October 20. In the first photo, 5-week-old Strummer was bundled up in a baby carrier, with his feet tucked in and face out of view. His positioning upset some Instagrammers, who left comments saying a baby’s face should be “visible and kissable” while in a carrier.
Although that advice is sound, the way some people went about saying it wasn’t exactly kind—which is, unfortunately, a common experience for today’s parents.
According to a survey released this year by baby food company Beech-Nut, more than 80% of millennial moms have reported being mom-shamed over everything from how they hold their babies to giving them formula instead of breast milk.
And another study released in June found that six out of 10 mothers in the United States report being mom-shamed for their parenting skills. Sixteen percent of moms surveyed said they were criticized for child care, while 70% said they were judged for how they disciplined their child. Other common areas of mom-shaming included diet and nutrition, sleep and breast- versus bottle-feeding.
Stiles, though, won’t let the mom-shaming get to her. She also had another important message for the mom-shamers out there: “Instead of writing snarky comments about a 5-week-old, try dancing around your living room to a Clash record. It’s way more fun.”