You know a new mom as soon as you see her. She's got spit up in her hair, bags under her eyes, and something in her outfit that is seriously mismatched. She's exhausted, emotionally worn down, and probably doesn't even know what day of the week it is. Still, in all of her hot mess glory, she's a warrior because she's giving everything she has to a tiny human that can't so much as say thank you to her for everything she's doing.
New moms need a lot of support from the people they love. They need encouragement, compassion, and grace for this season of their life because, frankly, they're probably drowning a little bit. If you're wondering what you can do to support her, you can start by never saying the following..
10 "Rough Night?"
When it comes to new parents, it's safe to assume that every night was a rough night. It's one thing to ask your best friend that after a night out in college, it's quite another to ask her when she's a walking zombie with a tiny baby attached to her. Yes, it was probably a rough night, but instead of the subtle (dig) joke at her appearance consider giving her some love by offering to take the baby so she can have a nap or running an errand for her so she doesn't have to drive while sleep-deprived. The funny "rough night?" moments will come again later in life, now is not the time.
9 "Enjoy Every Minute!"
The thing about being told to "enjoy every minute" when you haven't showered in three days and you genuinely don't know if the stain on your pants is from a dirty diaper or spit-up, is that it's extremely difficult to muster a smile and an "Oh, I am!" to be polite. Hindsight is 20/20, but when you're in the weeds as a new mom people telling you to enjoy this time is extremely unhelpful. Instead, offer to let her get a shower while you throw in a load of laundry and help her feel like herself again so she can enjoy the moments.
8 "Your Baby Should Be Doing 'X' By Now"
Milestones. New moms live and breathe by baby milestones because they're constantly worried their baby isn't healthy or developing at the appropriate pace. The thing is, though, that so many factors are at play for when babies decide to reach any of their milestones. There's a reason each big developmental mark has a wide timeframe for when it will happen because no two babies are alike and it's meant to be a guide not the final word on child development. If her baby isn't grasping things by the time it's supposed to, rest assured mom is aware and keeping a watchful eye on it - no need to point it out to her.
7 "Let Me Show You How I Do It"
There is nothing more demeaning to a new mom than someone insisting they show her how it's done. If she's struggling to get a good burp out of her baby and you happen to know a better approach, try saying, "I learned to put them over my shoulder in the hospital too, but I found another way that seemed to work better for my baby. Would you like for me to show you?" Asking her permission gives her the chance to say no (and say yes) without having to feel like a failure as a mom - which is every new mom's worst fear.
6 "Are You Breastfeeding?"
How a mom feeds her baby is no one's business but hers. If she's come to you with questions on digestion or another tummy problem her little one is having, ask her "okay how are you feeding the baby?" rather than just assuming she's breastfeeding. We've all heard that "breast is best" but all also know that as long as the baby is eating, it's fine. That still doesn't help a new mom who struggled and tried to breastfeed and it just didn't work out feel better about admitting (what she may feel is) defeat to someone who just assumes she's breastfeeding. Tread lightly when it comes to how mamas feed their babies.
5 "So, When Are You Having Another?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe once my c-section wound actually heals I can start to think about that". You don't know what kind of labor and delivery this mom had, it could have been horrific and she could be going through PTSD. If that's the case she may be scared to even think about having another baby. In fact, even if she had a perfect experience she probably isn't thinking too much about a sibling while she's hyperfocused on keeping the first baby alive.
4 "You Know That's Not Safe, Right?"
There are "by the book" things that every parent should follow (like recommendations for reducing the chances of SIDS or car seat safety) and there are other safety measures that are a little more lenient. New moms are in survival mode and if there is something they can do to make their baby happy and quiet (especially if it's colicky) that may not be exactly perfect, there is no need to point it out to them. Chances are that mama knows that her Rock N' Play was recalled, but it's the only thing that will keep her baby quiet. Unless you see something that has the baby in danger in that moment, let it go.
3 "Here's How I Lost The Baby Weight"
Weight is a sensitive topic for people no matter where they are in life. A woman who has just had a baby, after carrying it for 40 weeks, is very likely not looking like she was before she got pregnant (and no one should expect her to). Another person's weight should never be a topic of conversation in general, but for some reason people think pregnancy gives them a "get out of jail free" card. It doesn't. Don't talk to a new mom about her weight or her body unless she specifically asks you for advice or you're simply going to tell her "you look great".
2 "If You Think This Is Bad, Just Wait Until They Are Older!"
Do you know what the last thing a struggling, in-over-her-head new mom needs to hear? "It gets so much worse". There are seasons of a child's life that are easier than others on parents and they come in waves. Any veteran mom knows that the first three months with a baby are insanely hard, but months 6-9 is one of the sweet spots. If a new mom is in the trenches, telling her that this is "soooo much better" than the toddler years will not make her feel better, it will make her panic and wonder what she's gotten herself into. Don't scare her, tell her she's doing a great job and encourage her to hang in there.
1 "Make Sure You're Eating Well!"
People mean well when they tell a new mom to take care of herself. The thing is, unless it's her partner telling her, it's going to fall on deaf ears. She'd love a real meal, a full night of sleep, and a massage but the reality is that she's hardly able to eat a handful of grapes, let alone make a gourmet organic meal from scratch. Instead of telling her to do something she'd probably like to do more than anything, send her dinner or come over to her house and make it. Let her sit down and actually eat while you hold the baby for an hour. That will be so much more helpful than telling her something she already knows and desperately wants.