I might have some unreasonable expectations. When I voted in a presidential election for the first time, I was honestly surprised that balloons and confetti didn’t fall from the ceiling when I placed my ballot in the box.
So after delivering my first child, I figured that everyone that came to see me would just go on and on about what a rockstar I was. In reality, most people that came to see us, barely knew that I was there. Being a new mom is such a interesting time. You feel elated and overwhelmed with the emotions that you have for your little one. You’re exhausted and trying to do your best to keep a little fragile life alive. People mean well, but sometimes their questions and comments (coupled with CRAZY hormones) just don’t seem helpful. So here’s a few things to avoid saying to a new mom.
1. Are you breastfeeding?
I am a very private person. I was raised in a proper southern home where we didn’t talk about much. Being pregnant and having a baby opened me up to a whole world that I wasn’t used to. People touching my belly or asking me weird questions about my body. I was floored the first time someone asked me if I was breastfeeding. I had no idea that it was super common to talk about my breasts to just any old joe. So here’s the deal… breastfeeding is hard! I had an unusually hard time. Some people choose not to breastfeed at all for what ever reason. Sometimes those reasons have already brought the mom to tears many times. It’s such a new world when you become a mom and every decision you make you have already thought and re-thought a million times. Unless you suspect that someone is just not feeding their child at all…how they’re feeding their baby is not really any of your business. So if they don’t bring it up first, don’t ask. There could be a reason why they aren’t talking about it.
2. Is he/she sleeping through the night?
People would ask me this when my baby was just one week old. Of course, being a new mom I had no idea what was normal. Now I think back and all I can think is “Of course my ONE WEEK old wasn’t sleeping through the night!” Sleep and babies is such a touchy subject. Every mom wants to get more sleep than she is getting. Your stories about how your baby slept all night long when they were three days old, don’t help. Moms are trying to navigate the world of sleep training, attachment parenting, co-sleeping, cry-it-out, flexible schedules, etc. It’s hard to figure out what to do when it comes to sleep and if your baby isn’t sleeping, answering this question honestly can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong with your baby. Instead ask “can I hold your baby for you while YOU sleep/shower/pee/eat?”
3. Work will be there tomorrow, just hold that baby.
This, to me, is a grandparent thing to say. I think this is something that people who are reflecting on their lives think about their time raising their children. Yes it is true that dishes and laundry will still be there tomorrow if no one does them. However, at some point in time the dishes have to be done. In my case, I work from home. I am a contract employee and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. My employer told me to take all the time I needed, but at some point in time, I need my paycheck. This little saying, is just something that will make a new mom feel guilty as she puts her baby in a bouncer or a sling so that dinner gets made or laundry gets done.
4. I think he/she is hungry!
Babies cry so that they can communicate a need. That need is not always that they are hungry. I can remember feeding Caroline (which was a task that included tubes connected to a syringe and nursing and pumping) getting her totally satisfied and “milk-drunk”, handing her to someone to hold and them promptly saying “I think she’s hungry”. I wanted to cry. No. She can’t be. I JUST fed her. Have a little faith that the new mom is tracking every feeding and watching her baby like the mama bear she is. She will not let her baby go hungry. Just let the mom figure out when their baby is hungry is again.
5. With my first one…
Fill in any thing you want to after this. Sometimes people LOVE hearing the stories about your precious babies. Sometimes, it’s just not the time. I had milk supply problems. It was incredibly hard for me to not be able to feed my baby the way that I had planned. Almost every time that the topic of baby feeding came up when I was a new mom, someone would proceed to tell me how they had so much milk that they could have fed a small army of children. Several times people went on and on about the stockpile of breast milk that they had because they had SO MUCH milk. As I blinked back tears, I would always think “how is this helping”? Hold on to your story until after the new mom has been a mom for awhile. I’m sure she wants to hear them and swap mom-war stories, but when she’s hormonal and still navigating a new world of mommy-hood, it just might not be the best time.
Admittedly, most of the things that I didn’t want to hear as a new mom were a product of out of whack hormones. But since that’s part of it, just be a little sensitive. Let the mom take the lead on what she wants to talk about. Offer advice when asked and just offer support to her. It’s a whole new world as a new mom and just getting a high five for the awesome job of being able to keep another human alive will go a long way.