How The 'Mom Advice' Industry Preys On Desperate Mothers — Even In Italy
Mothers everywhere are struggling with the pressures of parenting in an increasingly individualistic culture. Enter the rapidly growing empire of parenting influencers who promise to help – at a price. In Italy, where mothers have long been seen as models of strength, the novelty is particularly acute.
TURIN — Roberta T. is nearly 40 years old, holds a responsible job, and is raising a six-and-a-half-month-old daughter. Lately, she has been posting in the Facebook group Mami Club, which hosts 40,000 members exchanging parenting advice. Roberta has sought advice on how to paint a room without the baby inhaling paint fumes, the best sanitizing wipes, which baby carrier to use in hot weather, how to get her baby to fall asleep, and, most recently, which cup to buy to teach her child to drink water.
She is not an exception: in the vast world of the internet, there is an articulate answer for every maternal doubt. For example, on "how to teach a child to drink from a cup," there's a small treatise by Verdiana Ramina, a dietitian and published author with 240,000 followers on Instagram. The instructions are detailed - the child should sit with a straight back and be able to open their mouth by themselves, for example - and they come with a link leading to her Amazon page with "shopping tips." She claims a percentage of profit when items are purchased through this link.
Thousands of new mothers take to social media every day in search of childrearing solutions. They are the ideal customers for online courses, consultations, masterclasses, and webinars on parenting. There are coaches for breastfeeding and baby-led weaning, courses to learn "respectful parenting" and becoming "outstanding moms." Some of the internet personalities behind this growing empire are midwives, educators, or childcare professionals, while others have no formal education or professional qualifications.
Although their profiles vary, the narrative is often the same: their Instagram profiles are cheerful and well-curated, with advice interspersed with humorous parenting videos. They all encourage signing up to payment-based subscriptions or join their Telegram groups.
Does it still take a village?
Tata Pia introduces herself as a "certified sleep coach since 2002." She offers three types of consultations: NannyOne, Plus, and Month. When asked about her certification, she explains that she attended "a course on childcare, which naturally included a section on sleep and sleep hygiene." She emphasizes her years of experience, mentioning that she used to be a "traveling nanny" before becoming a sleep consultant. She criticizes her "inexperienced" competitors, accusing them of "letting babies cry [to sleep]." She adds, "In a few years, there will be hundreds [of such consultants], and I don't think it's fair."
Indeed, the number of sleep coaches is growing, and there are even academies dedicated to this field.
For instance, there's the newly established DolceNanna, offering 100 hours of training with prices available upon request. There are also courses by Elemiah in collaboration with Le fate della nanna, among the most renowned names in the industry, offering in-home consultations that can cost thousands of euros. Veronica Remordina, who leads a unique parent coach school, promises to transform "educators, pedagogists, and psychologists into sought-after and recognized family experts who deliver tangible results."
When did parents become so fearful? The archetype of the Italian mother is slowly eroding...
On Instagram, you can find courses on sleeping, eating, potty training, playing, dealing with tantrums, and understanding that tantrums are not just tantrums. The list is growing longer and experts are mushrooming, but the idea is the same: for every problem, there is a solution; just follow the method, and of course, pay for it.
When did parents become so fearful that they need detailed instructions for every aspect of parenting? And when did they become so insecure that they are willing to spend big money on online consultations? Those who sell these courses and consultations can prey upon a large audience – new mothers desperate for help. The archetype of the Italian mother is slowly eroding, particularly due to the reduced reliance on community and increased accent on individuality. It doesn't take a village anymore, just one mother and the glamorous universe of motherhood splashed on social media.
Screenshot of fertility coach Clamoroby's YouTube page.
Feeling like a failure
Eva Dietmann has two Instagram profiles. One is Azalea Geranio, a "super consultant of all trades" who parodies the world of parental coaching. The other is Mamma Eversiva, where she talks about motherhood in a "neuro-diverse way."
Often those offering these courses lack qualifications or appropriate credentials.
She explains, "Many moms, after seeing my parodies, write to me to vent their frustrations. They feel inadequate, like failures, because after taking a course or paying for a consultation, they can't follow the 'method' or achieve the promised results. But often, those offering these courses lack qualifications or appropriate credentials. They present dubious certificates, claim to be 'continuously self-educating,' and jump into giving parents instructions on raising happy children, as if there were a one-size-fits-all [formula]."
"Even though there are some interesting courses out there, the ones sold on Instagram are absolutely generic. This is a problem because the role of pedagogy is to discover the potential of each individual and then tailor resources for them; there are no [fixed] recipes," explains Irene, an educator who focuses on "pedagogical counter-narratives." She adds, "On the web, there's this dynamic of over-helping, where people ask for and receive a ton of advice. But listening to others doesn't allow us to connect with ourselves and find our own solutions, the ones that work for our family unit. The danger is to be continually conditioned and fall into a virtual world that has nothing to do with reality."
What the internet knows about fertility
Among the most controversial pages on social media are those of fertility coaches or consultants who attract followers from among the thousands of women who, for various reasons, are struggling to conceive. In her Instagram bio, Andreia from Vitainblu Blog defines herself as a "certified fertility coach [and] sexual health and conception consultant." She has more than 20,000 followers and sells "mini ebooks and thematic videos," as well as "SOS consultations" lasting 40 minutes. The more expensive option is called "one cycle together", coming in at 150 Swiss francs ($168).
She promises, "I will tell you when and how to use ovulation sticks, the best times to have intercourse for conception, in my opinion, and many other little tips, both traditional and non-traditional, to try to increase your chances." When accused of lacking adequate academic qualifications, she responds that "her diplomas are recognized in Switzerland" and that she's "fed up with the accusations."
Roberta Rodà, known as Clamoroby on Instagram with over 20,000 followers, introduces herself as follows: "Can't get pregnant? Let's understand why together. I'll save you time, book your call." In her biography, she mentions "experience gained over the years and careful sensitivity." She has a degree in Law and Economics and emphasizes that "my fertility coaching does not provide medical or psychological consultations." She presents herself more as a "guide who points the way" and "someone to talk to."
A call about ovulation costs 120 euros, one about the assisted reproductive technology process costs 120 euros, and the "Clamoroby follows you" package is priced at 750 euros.
A mother sits with her two babies as they all look into an iPad.
Busting the trap
"I was on the brink of falling into the hands of a fertility coach myself. That's when I started to take an interest in this world," says Camilla Fasciolo, a new mother and divorce lawyer specializing in family law. "I'm part of a non-profit organization, Mamma in Pma, which provides support to couples going through this difficult journey," she continues.
"I decided to study the profiles of fertility coaches, and I was initially alarmed by their advertised fees and [service] descriptions. The amount of messages along the lines of 'they didn't follow our advice, that's why they're not getting pregnant' worried me even more. Some women have shared their stories with me, describing how they fell into this network in the depths of despair and found alienating, judgmental, and guilt-inducing mechanisms."
So, Fasciolo decided to compile names and file a report with the Genoa prosecutor's office. "Many accounts that present themselves as coaches don't limit themselves to mere motivation but offer counseling and support services, even services typical of recognized professionals," her report states. "Examples include profiles that offer assistance with fertility, ovulation monitoring, conception support, and health checks, which should be limited to the gynecological-obstetric sector."
"It made me feel even worse than I already did."
After she posted her report on her Instagram profile, other women were encouraged to share their experiences with Fasciolo. One of them wrote, "I depended on her words, I was truly convinced she was a friend. I realised something was wrong when she suggested I quit psychotherapy and follow only her."
Another woman shared, "I relied on a perinatal grief coach, and it made me feel even worse than I already did. Obviously, this lady has no qualifications, and I feel terrible at the thought of others turning to her during such a delicate time." This coach goes by the name SaraonFeet. On her page, she describes herself as a "Perinatal Grief Coach, Menstrual Female Education, Mindfulness Trainer, and Intuition Awakener."
Camilla Fasciolo concludes, "I understand perfectly the despair and disorientation one feels when a pregnancy ends badly or when dealing with difficulties in conception. That's why I feel compelled to do everything I can to prevent other women from turning to those who promise to help but are only looking to swindle money."
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