10 things you say to a new mom that almost always offend her!
We live in a society that prides itself on handing out advice, suggestions and criticism left, right and centre. Most of us are experts on politics, food, relationships and everything under the sun; or like a dear friend of mine quite aptly calls it ‘muft-mashwara.com’ (free-advice.com).
Then, why would motherhood be any different?
The fact is that a girl is conditioned to expect this barrage of advice/criticism from the moment she throws up for the first time (or as they insist on showing in Bollywood movies to indicate that she is ‘with child’)!
So, this poor dear who has been listening to things like “eat almonds to have a fair-complexioned child” and “look at beautiful people to have a nice looking baby” is under the delusion that finally, finally she will thwart off all unwanted advice and call the shots because after all, she is a mum now.
She is in control. Right?
She couldn’t have been more wrong in her life.
First of all, she loses all sense of control the minute that little ball of cuteness (and mischief) pops out of her. Ask any mum and she will tell you. She probably doesn’t even remember the spelling of ‘control’ now! So, if you’re a control freak and a to-be mum, watch out!
Secondly, the advice, criticism and suggestions actually come pouring in after she becomes a mum. Mind you, not all advice is bad. But there’s such a plethora of it that it can make her head spin. If she follows her mum’s advice, her mother-in-law criticises her; if she listens to her sister-in-law, her sister laughs in her face.
And then there are the things that one should never, ever, ever say to a new mum.
1. “You look exhausted!”
“Really? Because the last time I looked in the mirror three months ago, I didn’t look half bad.”
Seriously, she is up all day and almost all night nursing, changing, burping and/or rocking her baby. She sleeps on her feet. She eats on her feet. Heck, she would poop on her feet if she could. If she’s brushed her teeth, that’s an achievement!
And you’re telling her she looks exhausted?
2. “You’re still carrying the pregnancy weight, aren’t you?”
Okay, small talk is one thing but why would you say this? Why? Maybe she has a slow metabolism or maybe she’s going through postpartum depression (PPD) and is eating everything she can get her hands on.
Honestly, sometimes keeping quiet is the best gift you can give to someone. This is one of those times.
3. “Your baby looks underweight.”
See number two for gifting your silence to someone.
Would you like it if someone called your baby underweight?
No, right? I didn’t think so.
4. “Is she sleeping through the night yet?”
But of course! She’s also driving a car, solving complex mathematical equations and she just won a tennis tournament!
5. “Are you still nursing him?”
And this is your concern because…?
Too often I think our society is obsessed with discussing the very topics that it claims are taboo. Case in point, a couple gets married and at their first family dinner they are asked when they plan to have children. Sex is a taboo subject but somehow in this context, no one shies away from it! Same goes for the female anatomy when it comes to nursing advice and criticism.
6. “But why would you give something artificial (formula) to the baby instead of your own milk?”
Again, there is simply no respect for a person’s privacy. Perhaps, she has medical issues, maybe her baby can’t latch on, her husband might be averse to it, she could be going through PPD or it is simply a matter of personal choice.
How and why does it make a difference to you?
7. “When are you planning the next one?”
She has been wearing the same yoga pants for three days, is looking for her glasses while they are perched on her head and doesn’t remember if she had breakfast or not. But of course, she knows exactly when she wants to have the next one (notice that ‘whether she wants to have another baby or not’ is not even a consideration).
8. “He’s quite a handful, isn’t he?”
He’s her ‘labour’ of love and you call him a handful? (Only she is allowed to do that and that too in private).
9. “You should let her cry it out.”
Yes, so that the stress hormone called cortisol that the brain releases when a baby cries in distress can flood his teeny tiny brain, leaving him unable to deal with stressful situations later in life.
Besides, following a particular parenting style – be it Cry It Out (CIO) or attachment parenting or a mix of both is really up to the parents and their baby’s personality.
You can do whatever you want with your own kid. Thank you.
10. “XYZ baby is the same age as yours but he looks bigger and is sleeping through the night.”
Why. Would. You?
Most people dish out advice and judgement as a goodwill gesture to the new mommy. However, they fail to understand that more than advice she needs to be assured that she’s handling mommyhood well.
So, next time you see a new mum looking dazed, drained and doubtful, bite back the multitude of suggestions that you were going to drown her in.
Instead, give her an encouraging smile, a warm hug and tell her that she’s doing a fantastic job!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.