New motherhood is a special, sacred, and very personal journey, but it can also be overwhelming and scary. They’re trying to figure out how to keep a tiny and fragile living thing alive, and to make sure it grows up to be a well-adjusted person, for the first time EVER, on top of all the other stuff she’s already been doing. That’s tough. It’s important to remember, when talking with a new mom, to avoid making any rude or thoughtless comments, especially those that target the mom’s appearance, mothering skills, or her baby’s development. Pointing out anything negative could make her feel vulnerable, defensive, and upset.
Read on for some of the most vexing things that shouldn’t be uttered. And when in doubt, just smile and say, “Congratulations!”
Don’t Criticize Her Parenting Skills, Looks, or Plans
1. “Wow, you look tired!” This is never a good observation. New parents are experiencing midnight feedings, round-the-clock crying, and loads of soiled diapers. The last thing you want to do is tell a new mom that she looks as peaked as she feels.
2. “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” This is nearly impossible advice to follow. She’d rather get things done. Taking a shower, cleaning the house, or turning her attention to the hundred other things on her list will take precedence. If you truly want to be helpful, offer to clean or cook while she takes that nap you’re suggesting.
3. “He/she looks nothing like you!” This can be extremely offensive or upsetting, even if you’re just trying to be funny. Mothers often form a strong bond with their child, and pointing out their perceived lack of shared physical characteristics may imply a weaker connection between them. Instead, try, “He/she is the cutest baby I’ve ever seen!”
4. “Are you going back to work soon?” How is this any of your business? Let the new mom enjoy her private time with her youngster, whether it’s short-lived or permanent.
5. Anything about her weight. Once again, never call attention to a new mom’s physical appearance. She is trying her best to care for her child and juggle the huge demands of her new role. That’s enough.
Don’t Make Rude Observations About Her Child
6. “Your baby sure does cry a lot!” Whoa. Are you the crying police? All babies cry; please don’t make a new mom feel she isn’t doing a good job or that her baby is unhappy by pointing it out.
7. “It only gets worse as they get older!” Actually, that’s quite untrue. A parent’s love grows more and more as time goes on, and the mom gradually regains (at least a little) more time for herself.
8. “Why aren’t you breastfeeding?” Many moms struggle with breastfeeding. Don’t make her feel guilty about what’s not coming naturally to her. In fact, unless she brings it up, there’s no reason to discuss her personal decisions about feeding her baby.
9. “So, are you ready for another?” Don’t try to speed up the process — let the new mom enjoy the time she’s having now with her precious newborn. Also, you may not know if she’s struggling to get pregnant again, so zip the lip.
10. “Did you really want a boy/girl?” Shush. A new mom is happy and proud of her little one, regardless of gender. Don’t diminish this by implying that she’s missing out.
Above all, be positive and helpful when talking with a new mom, and you won’t risk offending her.