While I know that many people don't have bad intentions with the things they say to new moms, there are certain things that you should avoid saying altogether. Whether its because you're trying to offer help or if you're saying it because you don't have anything else to say, these 7 things might serve to annoy or upset the new mom more than they help.
You look tired – Newborns need to be fed every 2 to 3 hours and chances are, she’s living on sleep in 2 to 3-hour increments. This means that she hasn’t entered deep sleep since the baby has been born and is beyond sleep deprived. She also probably hasn’t eaten a proper meal in forever and may not have showered in a few days which means that she probably IS tired and doesn’t need to be told so. Instead, you can tell her that she looks great, but she may see through your lie, so its best to just say nothing!
When can you come to see the baby – Everybody wants to see the baby and for most new moms, all they want to do is sleep! You coming to see the baby means that instead of sleeping, she has to make herself look presentable, make the house look presentable and put on her game face to entertain while you're over. This isn’t to say that you can’t see the baby, but instead of coming over for a "visit", offer help. Ask her if you can watch the baby for her while she sleeps or if you can come and clean up the house or cook dinner for her. Rather than disrupting her already disrupted life, bring back some sanity and peace to it.
If she’s enjoying motherhood – I abhorred this one. Why? Because I was miserable, but I felt as if I had to tell people yes, I was enjoying motherhood otherwise I would look like a monster. Instead of asking her how she’s enjoying motherhood, share a story with her about how you were overwhelmed or had a hard time adjusting with a newborn. Comfort her by letting her know that she’s not alone.
When she's going back to work - Chances are she probably hasn’t thought that far out and even if she has, she may be struggling with the idea of leaving her new baby and returning back to her normal schedule. As miserable as those early days may be, a bond is created. She also may be thinking about not returning back to work and doesn’t need the added stress of the question. You can share with her conflicts you had of your own about returning to work or just not bring it up at all.
How the baby is sleeping - Ummm…like a newborn. Asking the question is like stating the obvious and should be avoided! Furthermore, a baby that doesn’t sleep well for some reason makes new moms feel like failures, even though it's completely normal and common. Hearing that question over and over again reinforces that feeling of failure. Instead, share with her your story of how your baby didn’t sleep. If you’re lucky and had a baby that slept perfectly from day one, then silence will suffice.
If she's breastfeeding – Breastfeeding is hard…really hard. Some women and babies catch on and its easy breezy from the start but for many women, it’s a struggle. From a baby that doesn’t latch properly to not producing enough milk to a baby that nurses incessantly, there are many challenges she may be facing and asking a woman if she’s breastfeeding when she’s having issues is another thing that may make her feel like a failure. Let her know that you understand how hard it is and tell her that as long as she's doing her best, she's doing all that she can. Let her know that needing help doesn't make her a failure or a bad mom, it makes her a human one.
If she delivered the baby naturally – Meaning, did the baby come out of her vagina or did she have a c-section? The baby was in her belly and now its out and that’s all you need to know! C-sections have a very bad connotation to them but in most cases, its not like the woman opted for a c-section. Chances are, that’s what the doctors recommended and that was what was best for either her, the baby or both of them. C-sections are another thing that can make a new mom feel like a failure, especially if she had her heart set on a vaginal delivery. Instead of asking this question, ask any other question about the delivery…what time the baby came or how much the baby weighed for example.
You'll see that there's a common thread here. New moms need support, help, and love, not questions that are redundant or that make her feel even worse than she may already be feeling. Moms are already they're own worse critics and don't need criticisms from anyone else. Having and caring for a new baby is perhaps the hardest thing that most of us will do and a few kind words over questions will go a long way in those early days!