Monday, 8 July 2013

Six Things NOT to Say to a New Mother

Nothing invites unsolicited opinions like having a baby, and it's amazing how inconsiderate people can be during that delicate period of adjustment known as new motherhood. A number of my friends have had babies recently, so if you're talking to any of them, I hope you'll take these suggestions to heart.

#1 - "You look like you could use some sleep." You think? Maybe the reason I look tired is that I've had a bawling baby attached to my boob for the past 24 hours...

A better option: "How about I watch the baby while you have a nap?"

#2 - "You look great for someone who just had a baby!" — This sounds like a compliment, but it isn't. What it really means is, "You aren't a total wreck, considering that you've just pushed a watermelon out of your lady parts/undergone major abdominal surgery—but the truth is, you've looked better."

A better option: "You look great." Period. And if you can't honestly say that, remember what your mother always told you: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

#3 - "Your baby is crying; she/he is hungry/tired/hot/cold..." — One of the biggest challenges of new motherhood is confidence: it's hard to feel like you know what you're doing when it's something that you've never done before. I can't tell you how many times I've been out with my baby and someone tells me that she needs a hat or her feet are cold (which, by the way, is because she pulls off her own socks. Short of taping them to her feet, there's nothing I can do about that.). It takes time and a lot of patience for a new mother to get in tune with her baby's needs. The most helpful course of action is to give her the space to figure it out for herself.

#4 - "How come you're not breastfeeding?" — I think I've made my opinions pretty clear in previous posts, but I feel that a mother's choice of how to feed her baby is hers and hers alone. Putting pressure on a new mom who can't or chooses not to breastfeed is unfair.

#5 - "How are you liking motherhood? Enjoy every moment!" — This is usually meant as a conversation starter, but the truth is, it's difficult to enjoy the early days with a newborn—especially if you're doing it for the first time. You're probably feeling exhausted; you may feel confused and unsure of yourself. You may have the baby blues. The idea that you have to enjoy every explosive diaper change and screaming fit at 2 a.m. is totally unrealistic.

A better option: "How are you doing?" Offers of help and support are always welcome.

#6 - "Are you going to have another baby?" — Seriously? During those early sleep-deprived days, having more kids is absolutely the last thing on your mind. (In fact, you may be secretly wondering if it's possible to give this one back. Just for a little bit, so you can get some sleep, maybe wash your hair....This feeling is normal and will pass.)  

Let's wait until the cluster feeding is over to discuss that, shall we?

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