Everyone's An Expert
No mom would ever wear a T-shirt that begs, "Tell me what I'm doing wrong!" But she might as well. "How can you take that baby out in the rain/sun/snow/wind?" the mailman will chide as she pushes her stroller down the block. Later, in line at the supermarket, she hears, "If she keeps sucking that thumb, she won't be pretty anymore!" Her own mom, who should know better, chimes in at naptime with "You'll never get him to go to sleep by himself if you keep coddling him." Over coffee, a childless friend gasps, "You'restill nursing?"

In an ideal world, the only thing anyone should say to you and your baby is "She's beautiful!" (Okay, and "You're back in shape already!" is hereby officially sanctioned.) But here in reality, babies are magnets for unsolicited advice. When strangers subject you to their unwelcome opinions, it's best to smile vaguely and make your escape as soon as possible. If a snappy retort comes to mind, go ahead and use it. Carlin suggests telling the thumb-sucking police, "Well, if she stops sucking her thumb, she's going to scream like a banshee, and that's really not pretty." Or play along. "People always used to tell me Patrick needed socks, and I got so tired of it I decided to have a little fun," says Julia Steury of Afton, Minnesota, whose son is now 2. "I'd stare at his feet, aghast. 'Socks!' I'd cry. 'They were right there! What happened?'"

Whatever gets you through the moment -- one of my friends used to pretend she didn't understand English -- is the best strategy, since it's a pretty safe bet you'll never cross paths with that nosy person again.
With people you don't see often, master the art of the little white lie. The correct answer to the inevitable "Is she sleeping through the night?" is "Yes!" (even if she wakes up every 45 minutes).

"Within two days of having Jack, I realized that everyone I knew had a different idea about everything related to babycare," says Nina Hale of Minneapolis, whose son is now 3. "I quickly stopped letting myself in for criticism by keeping quiet about things most didn't approve of, like co-sleeping."

Friends or relatives you see frequently require a bit more thought, and some careful handling. Advice from strangers is irritating, but advice from someone you're close to can downright rankle. "When my aunt suggested we let six-month-old Vivienne cry it out, I smiled tolerantly," says Margo de la Cruz of San Diego. "But when my mom said the same thing, I flew into a rage."