Advice For The New Parents

May 01, 2019

What To Say To A New Mom

& How To Say It

Your friend or loved one just had a baby (or is about to)! This is, of course, a joyous time for all, and we know that you have a lot of helpful advice to offer the new family.

We've put together this post to let you know something important:

The new (or soon-to-be) mom is likely not ready to hear your well-meaning advice.

It's not because she doesn't want to, and it's certainly not because she doesn't value you.

The reality is that the weeks before and after birth are a very delicate time for the mom. Her hormones are adjusting, and she is likely suffering from some major sleep deprivation.

Hearing any sort of advice, however well-meaning it may be, will only add to her stress and anxiety at this time, which is why we advised in our Visitor 101 Etiquette blog that it's best for you to refrain from giving any advice, and let the mom drive the conversation and talk about whatever she so desires. As we also mentioned in that post, it's important to remember that it's not about you at this time -- it's all about the baby and the mom's well-being.

How to reframe common ill-advice into advice that is actually useful:

Common advice: "Sleep when the baby is sleeping." OR "You stay home with the baby, you can sleep whenever you want."
Reality: It really is impossible for any new parent have a consistent sleep rhythm, so hearing this advice will make them feel like they are doing something "wrong", which adds to their already high stress. There are so few minutes of available time in the beginning stages when the baby doesn’t need tending to. During any free time every new mom will try to squeeze in a load of laundry, do some dishes, pump more bottles, eat, let the dog out, take a shower, brush her teeth, and in some cases, catch up on the latest episode of a favorite show.
Alternative advice: "Here, let me help you put away the dishes while you take a quick nap." Unless someone else will complete the chores for her, they still need to be done and if not now, then later.
Helpful, but not really, advice: "Put baby cereal in baby's bottle so they will sleep longer."
Reality: Nutrition advice is best given by licensed pediatricians or nutritionists specializing in infant feeding. If you are neither of these, the best you can be is supportive of whatever the mom and her pediatrician decide.
If you really have to say something, try this: Some babies take a long time to learn to sleep through the night (mine took 15 months!!) If the baby is 6 months or older, talk to your doctor about introducing solids. If you need a break, there's no shame in using pumped milk or formula.
Common advice: "You'll spoil the baby if you hold him too much."
Reality: You cannot spoil a baby and you cannot get enough baby snuggles!! If the baby wants to be held, hold the baby. This is how babies feel safe, and such contact aids in brain development. Not to mention that in the blink of an eye, they will be 18 and off to college, and you can’t read them bedtime stories or watch them sleep anymore.
But if you must: "It's OK to put the baby down in a safe spot if they are content and you have something else to do."
Some moms found this unwarranted: "Don't nurse your baby to sleep, or he will never learn to fall asleep on his own."
Reality: As we said above, feeding the baby is a topic that's best left to professionals to give advice on. Your job is not to be the "expert" -- only to be supportive!
Better advice: "Do what is easiest for you, so that both you and baby get as much sleep as possible."
Incorrect Advice: "You have to breastfeed OR you have to use formula."
Reality: The most important thing is to just feed the baby -- following the doctor's advice and the mom's instincts.
Better advice: "As long as you feed your baby, you are doing a great job!"
In a perfect world, none of these suggestions would arise to offend a new mom because she would be surrounded by a support system ready to help out.
Unfortunately, in our society, maternity rest is next to non-existent.
It is especially non-existent if she lives a distance apart from family, and she is left at this alone.
New mothers often feel pressure to do things "right" and to do everything themselves.
Trust us -- she is trying the best that she can!
If you notice that she is struggling, the best advice we can give to you is to listen to her.
That would be the most welcome gift of all.

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