Well-meaning attempts at conversation are made by well-intentioned people to new moms who are homonally hyped up, sleep deprived, and uncertain how to navigate the newborn baby territory, and often those comments make these new mommies second guess their own instincts.
Here are a few of my pet-peeves that people have either said to me or to friends of mine with whom I've had this conversation:
1. "If you're anxious, the baby can sense that."
No. crap. You're kidding? REALLY? Any self-respecting new mom that has read ANY parenting book or magazine article has heard this, unless they've been living under a rock. And if they haven't, that's okay too because if they've had their baby home for at least a week I'll guarantee they've picked up on this tidbit. Saying this to a new mom shames them for having normal feelings of anxiety that ANY person would have after caring for a new baby that's on their 3rd hour of an afternoon crying jag. By drawing attention to the fact that her anxiety is making the situation worse negates her right to be frustrated sometimes. It's not all roses all the time with a new baby, and you're not a bad mom if your baby cries and that makes you anxious. It was such a relief when a friend said to me once, "You know my newborn son was having one of those afternoons where all he could do was cry, and I had just about lost it, so I put him down in a safe place, and I just went outside and screamed. As loud as I could."
2. "Is mommy starving you to death?"
Ok, this is something you don't say to the baby. But I'll bet when this is said to baby, mommy is within earshot. With each of my children when I was breastfeeding, especially in the early days, if they opened their mouths for any reason at all, I put my boob in it. It was the one thing I could do that would stop the crying and make everyone in the house happy for at least 20 minutes at a time. And a lot of times, this happened every hour that I would need to do this. So for someone to come visit, hear the baby whimper, and automatically assume that the baby was being "starved" even if it was said in a sing-songy baby voice was devastating to me as a new mom.
3. "Is the baby sleeping through the night?"
Because the answer is almost always no. And it is then implied that you are doing something wrong as a new mom when your baby is not sleeping through the night at 2 months old. Some people are this lucky!! I so far only was this lucky with 1 of my 3 children (my 3rd is only 7 weeks but I don't see her sleeping through the night anytime soon).
4. "Well I raised (insert number) kids and they all turned out fine."
I don't care how many kids you raised. And if you were raising kids before 2000, things have changed just a little. It is no longer safe for a baby to sleep on its belly, and carseats are required by law. I know your kids survived sleeping on their stomachs and rode in the front seat of the car beside you, however, a lot of smart people got together and did some studies and discovered that a lot of kids died because of those parenting practices. Therefore, new recommendations and even laws were passed to protect as many children as possible from dying unnecessarily. When it comes the safety of children, please don't make a new mom feel ridiculous for doing what she feels is necessary.
5. "Just give the baby a bottle."
This comment right here is what cut short the breastfeeding relationship I had with my son. Not all babies go from bottle to breast easily, and the chances of that happening sky rocket if a bottle is given too soon. It's called bottle-preference, or nipple confusion, either is equally detrimental to breastfeeding. It's not as easy as just giving the baby a bottle for everyone.
6. "Maybe your milk is not rich enough."
This one was never said to me but it was to my mom. All I can say is LOL! How crazy!
7. "It's okay to take the baby out in public before she gets her shots, it will build her immune system."
Not everyone has the same feelings as me on this, but I kept all my babies in until they had their first round of shots. My pediatrician told me that if my newborn were to run a fever before the first round of shots, protocol was for the baby to have a spinal tap because it was likely that it was meningitis. There had been confirmed cases of pertussis, which can be deadly to a newborn, in the county we lived in and surrounding counties. These were reason enough for me to keep my babies home, and screen visitors as much as I could. It is ridiculous to think you can build a baby's immune system by "innoculating" her with exposure to sickness. A baby's body is spending all its energy growing in the early weeks; why would you want to subject it to sickness too?
8. "That's not a real smile, it's just gas."
For lots of new moms, those first smiles are the only tangible reward she gets from baby for all the hard work she's putting in caring for her newborn. Don't steal her joy!
9. "Don't hold the baby all the time, you'll spoil it."
You can't spoil a newborn baby. ALL newborns want to be held, all the time. It's not a new concept you're teaching them by holding them. They are born wanting to be held. They have gone from being in the warmest, coziest, safest place on earth, constantly being rocked, swayed, and serenaded by their mommy's voice and heartbeat, to being thrust out into a cold, hard, bright world, and having to wear clothes and diapers. So look at it this way, all babies are born spoiled.
So there are a few of the things you shouldn't say to a new mom.
How about things you should say? Here are some suggestions:
1. What can I bring you for dinner?
2. Where is your laundry room?
3. Would you like me to take your older kids outside to play while you and baby nap?
4. You're doing a great job ;-)