A new baby is quite the conversation starter. Sometimes people are nice and complimenting, other times people are rude, and a lot of times people mean well but may say the wrong things. I will never judge a person for well meaning conversation. However, I would like to shed some light on things people say that may be more of a trigger and things that people could say instead to show they care.
When I had my son, almost everyone would comment to say and say, "isn't being a new mom GREAT?" They meant well and I know that. However, every time I heard that it was like a sharp knife. When someone is struggling with anxiety or depression statements like that can only heighten their sense of failure. They want to enjoy it but aren't. When they are in a situation where they have to smile and agree to the greatness of motherhood, inside it may deepen their feelings of inadequacy. I know this is the way it was for me. 1 in 7 women struggle with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. That is a really high number. So even if you think someone is doing just fine, they might not be. One simple thing we can do for new moms is to be mindful of the things we are saying to them.
Here are some things that new moms don't necessarily want to hear:
- Isn't being a new mom GREAT? Let them find their own feelings and their own way about this new journey of motherhood.
- Treasure this time, if I could go back to those days I'd cherish every moment that I could with my babies. For someone who feels like they are in survival mode, this will heap on the guilt that they are a bad mom and not soaking in the moments like they should
- You're gonna miss this. You're right. There are probably moments that every mom will miss. When intrusive thoughts, fears, rage are what are consuming your mind then you aren't going to miss that at all. Some people only see the sweet moments but you have no idea of how hard the sleepless nights are for that mom.
- Are they a good baby? I've never understood this one. Yes. Babies are good. What people are really asking is if they sleep and don't cry much but even if they don't sleep and cry all the time, they are still good.
- When are you going to lose that baby weight? I promise she has thought about it. It's not a topic of conversation that she wants you to bring up.
- Your baby is crying a lot. Are you sure he's getting enough milk? Mothers, in general, are concerned about every little thing so no worries, they've got this covered too. Let it be between the mom and her IBCLC and/or pediatrician about baby's eating. They have it covered, promise.
- Here let me show you how to do it. Everyone has to find their own way. You can offer help but never push your help/way on to someone.
- Is he sleeping through the night yet? As a mom who had a baby who didn't sleep, I dreaded this question more than most. I never wanted to answer because somehow my baby not sleeping meant I was failing. EVERYONE has sleep advice. It made my son a "bad baby" because he didn't sleep. You honestly don't need to know how someone's baby is sleeping unless you're asking because you are about to offer to come take the night shift one night.
HELPFUL THINGS TO DO/SAY
- When can I bring you a meal? Food may be the single most helpful thing for a new mom. She barely has time to go to the bathroom let alone cook a meal. Seat up a meal train. Door dash. Drop of a basket of snacks at the door. Food=love. You will absolutely nourish their bodies and spirit if you ask this simple question.
- Want me to watch the baby while you take a nap? You've covered food. Great. The other sacred holy grail of motherhood- sleep. Offering to take the baby so the mom can nap can really go along way. She may so no at first. Moms may take a while being comfortable letting someone else watch their baby but keep offering. One day when she really needs that nap and the trust is built- she may say yes.
- You are doing a good job.....It gets easier. My kids are 3 and 9 months and I STILL benefit from hearing this. Each season has its own set of trials. Overall though, it does get easier. Please don't tell people it'll get easier by 3/6/9 months/ when they can crawl/ sit up/ walk, etc. When people told me certain time lines it set up expectation and then came disappointments when it didn't get easier at that time. Remind the mom that she's the best mom for that baby and that this season won't last forever. She needs to hear that.
- I remember nursing my babies. I remember how hard it as. I remember the sleepless nights. Sometimes seeing/hearing that someone has been there and is on the other side goes a really long way.
- It's okay to cry. Women often feel the need to be brave and strong for everyone else. Letting a mom know it's okay to cry and not feel okay for once can really take a heavy weight off. Be ready to be there with a listening ear or some resources if she's struggling to the degree that she needs some outside help. If you don't know how to help, you simply reassure her that you will find someone who can.
Remember, you can do hard things. Let us lift one another up and work together on this wild parenting ride.