Becoming a mother is overwhelming to say the least, with the inevitable sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations and round the clock demands of a newborn to contend with. So unwanted advice or comments on everything from the way she is feeding her baby to her weight are the last thing a mum needs. Here are just a few suggestions of what not to say to a new mum…
“You look tired.”
You think? Of course she does, she’s been up round the clock caring for a newborn. Unless you’re offering to help and look after the baby while she has a nap, stating the obvious is only going to make her feel worse.
“How is she/he sleeping?”
One of the questions new parents get asked about the most is about how their baby is sleeping, with people discerning whether a child is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for how many times they wake up in the night. It becomes almost competitive, with many parents worrying they are doing something wrong if their baby is waking up often.
But the fact of the matter is, not only do most babies wake up in the night, it is biologically protective for them to do so for many reasons, including feeding to meet their energy requirements, and boosting their mother’s milk supply if breastfeeding. Light sleep and rousings in the night can also maintain sufficient oxygen levels, allow more blood to flow to the brain to support its rapid development, and even protect against SIDS. Instead of commenting on how often baby is waking, we should be offering support to parents for what is totally normal behaviour.
“You should do this…”
Unless you have been asked for advice, don’t offer it. You may have good intentions, but often when a mum tells you she is feeling tired or run down she isn’t after recommendations to sleep train or wean her baby, but rather hoping for some support.
“It only gets worse.”
The last thing a new mum wants to hear when she tells you about her parenting struggles is that it gets even worse. Even if that was your experience, it may not be for her, and is likely to make her feel worse about her own situation.
“Mine never did that.”
As we all know, every single one of us is completely different, with our own likes, wants and needs, so it’s not always relevant or helpful to compare their baby to yours or someone else’s.
“You’re spoiling them.”
It is impossible to spoil a baby! If she is happy to spend her time cuddling, feeding and responding to her baby’s every need that is something we should be praising, not saying is a problem.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
This is a great idea in theory, but realistically it’s very hard for many mums to nap when their baby does. This might be their one chance to shower, eat a meal with both hands, or they may have a baby who will only have contact naps, in which case it could be unsafe for them to sleep too.
“You’re making a rod for your own back.”
Whether it’s creating a so-called ‘sleep crutch’ by feeding or rocking a baby to sleep, or by responding to their baby the moment they cry, many mothers will have been told they are making a rod for their own back. But instead of seeing these things as being negative, why not consider they are actually incredibly positive, helping babies to feel safe, happy and loved.
“Have you lost the baby weight?”
We shouldn’t be commenting on each other’s weight as it is, let alone to a new mum, who is likely to be feeling insecure about her new body, may be dealing with recovery or trauma from birth or doesn’t have time to prepare a proper meal for herself. Whether she’s ‘snapped back’ or still looks pregnant nine months on, keep your comments and questions to yourself.
What is the most surprising thing someone said to you in the early days of motherhood?