We recently ran a piece about things you should never say to a pregnant woman. After I wrote it, it was suggested that I follow it up with “Things Not to Say to a New Mom.” Well, consider it done. Here are 5 things you should never say to a new mother, and by “new mother,” I mean a woman with a baby. Even other mothers sometimes say these things, because sometimes we forget. Consider this a reminder.
He/She’s so tiny! She’s small, right? The first weeks of a baby’s life are literally terrifying for most mothers. We’re scared to go to sleep, because we think our baby will die as soon as we close our eyes. Almost everyone I know had the same experience. And my baby, like many, didn’t gain any weight for the first two weeks, making everything so much worse. So, when you said to me, “She’s so tiny!” Do you know what I heard? I heard, “Something terrible is going to happen.” And it was very hard to take.
Is she/he sleeping through the night? Yeah, I read Bringing Up Bébé too, so I know that in France women squeeze out babies with a modicum of fuss, throw on their pre-pregnancy jeans to leave the hospital, then go right home and put their newborns down for the night so they can have lots of sex and eat croissants and fromage bleu. But this is not France and so this is a stupid question. No, my ten month old is still not sleeping through the night. Shut. Up.
That baby is hungry/cold/tired/whatever. These comments always come from well-meaning older women who are strangers. On the streetcar, in a coffee shop. They’re always around, ready to offer their unsolicited input. It’s rude. It’s annoying. But you smile and say something nice, because you know it’s coming from a good place. I’ve been hanging out with this baby all day for weeks, so I know when she last ate and slept, and I’m pretty sure she’s not cold in these here eight layers of clothing. I know my baby and I do NOT need your advice… oh, well, look at that, she was hungry after all. Shut up.
You shouldn’t co-sleep/feed formula/whatever. I mostly heard this about co-sleeping, in the beginning, when she was tiny and people were worried I was going to crush her or something. I wasn’t going to crush her. I get that people were genuinely concerned that maybe I hadn’t heard about how co-sleeping KILLS BABIES (the reality about that seems to be that co-sleeping kills babies if you’re drunk or on drugs. You have to look into the research) but COME ON, save your concern for someone who hasn’t read everything she could get her hands on about every possible danger a child might face. Do you REALLY think I haven’t done my research? If you think that, you don’t know me, and if you don’t know me WHY THE HELL ARE YOU GIVING ME ADVICE?
You’re going to have another one, right? Oh, never say never! You know what? I’m 42 years old. It took five years, nine fertility treatments and tens of thousands of dollars to get me pregnant. I’ve had one miscarriage and two ectopic pregnancies, one in each tube. I’ve been in and out of hospitals, I caught an infection that made me sick for six months, I have only one tube left. The odds of me getting pregnant again are next to nothing, and the odds of a viable pregnancy are even smaller. Oh sure, it could happen. But, you know what else? I’m not sure I want it to. I’m fucking tired. So, please, just shut your mouth. You are being incredibly, incredibly insensitive. And those are the top five things not to say to a new mom, according to me. There’s actually a very simple way to avoid sticking your foot in it. All you have to do is think before you speak. Is it unsolicited advice you’re about to offer? Does your question have the potential to make someone feel bad? Are you about to enforce your opinion on someone who didn’t ask for it? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, say something else instead.