I hang out with a lot of young moms. They are amazing women who work really hard doing a hard job. Raising little people is a big deal and we could use your encouragment, especially when we have a new baby. Yet, sometimes people say things to us that just make everything worse.
Inspired by things that have been said or done to myself or a young mom I know, I've made a little list of some things that you don't need to say to new moms. Ever:
You look tired.
Oh my goodness. Why, why, why would you ever say this to anyone? Because here's how it sounds in her head - "Oh no. There are circles under my eyes. I should have put on concealer. I should have done my hair. Everyone else here has on clothes that match (and fit!) and that don't have spit up or snot anywhere on them. Why did I even bother to leave the house?" If you think she's looking bad, keep that opinion to yourself. If you really are concerned about her being tired, say this instead: "What can I do to help you?" Or even better, "Let me [wash those dishes, make that bed, open that door, play with that toddler, change that diaper, insert other important mom task here] for you."
Here's a gift for your baby! She has to wear it on Easter. And you just have to have pictures made of her wearing it. And send them to me tomorrow. And save this gift in a special spot for generations, because it's going to be an heirloom.
By adding obligations to the gift, you just made it about you, not the baby and definitely not her. For most young moms, it's a struggle to get everyone in the house fed and clean, and a bigger struggle to keep the house in order. She's already feeling inadequate because of something she's not getting done - losing the baby weight, writing in the untouched baby book where she's supposed to be recording every joyful moment, or teaching her baby Chinese because her friend's baby is already bilingual! Don't give a gift with obligations. Just don't. Adding a task to her To Do list is not cool. NOT. COOL.
Wow! That baby sure can scream!
What's that you say? My baby, the one I'm holding in my arms while desperately trying to rock him/give him a paci/sing him his favorite song, is crying? Thanks for telling me about those ear-piercing shrieks! I'll get right on that. Seriously, if she's not in the vicinity of her child or is truly unaware, you can say something - nicely - but, there's no need for you to point out that "someone sure is unhappy."
Oh, that baby needs a nap.
Think long and hard before saying this one. Because that mama knows her baby's schedule and that he just woke up from a nap before you saw him. What he needs now is a diaper change...
Oh, that baby needs to nurse.
You used to be so skinny.
That's just mean. Even if it sounded nice in your head, it's just mean. Having a baby, whether birthing her or adopting her, means things are a little different now and we all need to work on being okay with that. Mmmkay? You can help by finding something to compliment her on. Also, I bet you used to be skinnier too. We're not 19 anymore.
Have you been eating strawberries? Because that's what's giving your baby acne. And making her hair fall out. So you'd better not be eating strawberries!
Unless you are a medical professional or can present compelling (and current! current!) medical evidence, you really shouldn't be giving advice on how someone else's baby should be sleeping, or eating, or whatever, unless the mother just asked you for your opinion. Sometimes, it might be okay for you to tell a brief story about what worked for you and your baby. Sometimes. Be sensitive to her eyes glazing over (that's when you volunteer to do the laundry while she lays down) or tearing up (that's when you give her a firm hug and tell her she's doing a great job because she's about to lose it). And seriously, strawberries are giving my baby acne? How does that make sense?
Your baby needed a haircut/her ears pierced/a puppy/to try peaches so I did it for you.
This is one the grandparents are especially guilty of. (Not my kids' grandparents though. They're pretty awesome.) That baby is not yours, no matter how much you love him, and the parents are the ones who get to decide about haircuts, ear piercings, puppies, and peaches. The mama is putting in the hard work of night feedings and blowout diaper changes, so she deserves to be in on every single new moment. Never do anything that could be remotely sentimental or picture worthy or a "first" OR remotely objectionable without the mama! Unless she told you to go give that baby peaches while she took a nap. Then it's all good.
My baby woke up every two hours every night until he was 18 months old.
My baby slept through the night as soon as we brought her home from the hospital.
To the mom of a new baby, both of these statements are pure torture. You may not remember, but sleep is more precious than gold when a baby is new, and a sleep deprived mom is not functioning very well. The first statement sounds like she's never going to feel human again, and the second sounds like she's doing something wrong because her baby wakes up at 2 am and wants to socialize.
So...don't say this stuff or anything similar to the new moms you know. Be the person who gives her grace when she says something awkward or forgets your birthday because she only got two hours of sleep. Be the person who tells her she's looking awesome and her baby is too. Be the person who quietly tells her there's spit up on the back of her shoulder so she can get it off before anyone else notices. She'll be a better mom for it, and she'll always think of you fondly for your kindness.