New mothers are a Pandora’s Box of emotions. A fussy baby, sleepless nights, hormones, and recovering from labor can make her more sensitive than her usual self. Even well-intentioned words from family and friends can come across as insensitive.
Every new mother’s experience is unique, and here are a few phrases for what not to say to a new mom:
“This is the easy part. Just wait until they’re older!”
For anyone who knows what it’s like to be a new parent, this statement brings no comfort. It is thoughtless and dismissive towards the real hardships that come with being a new parent. Raising older children has its challenges, but new parents will discover this for themselves when their children are, you guessed it, older! A more polite thing to do is empathize with the new mom’s needs and help her focus on all the beautiful gifts that a newborn brings.
“It’s better to…”
Unless you notice that she’s putting her child in explicit danger, it’s best to keep your advice to yourself until she asks for it. Topics from breastfeeding to sleep training to returning to work are personal choices. If you like, you can gift her with your favorite book on parenting and motherhood. She can read it on her own time and take the tips that work best for her. We should be charitable in thinking that every new mom is trying her best!
“So does this make you want to have more?”
Parenthood is a huge learning curve. I don’t know a single parent who had all the answers from the start. Figuring it out is what makes the journey beautiful! That said, it takes a long time to adapt to caring for a new baby and becoming comfortable with new parenthood. Instead of leading her into thinking about the future she may not be ready for, encourage her to talk about what it’s like to be a new mom. This means being open to listening to the good times as well as the bad, and offering to help where she needs it. Few new moms will refuse an offer to nap while you watch her baby for an hour.
“You and the baby look…”
Parents and their doctors take careful measures to ensure mom and baby are both healthy and well. A new mom may be struggling with shedding a few pounds, and her baby may be struggling to gain some. There’s no need to shine a light on these potential insecurities. Tell mom she’s beautiful, and stop comparing her baby and her physical attributes to your own child. Babies and mommies come in all shapes and sizes, all of which are special and wonderful!
For more of my new mommy tips, read: Pregnancy Etiquette: When Baby Arrives.