My littlest baby turned 2 a few weeks ago and of course it got me thinking about when she and her brother were first born. While of course I’m sad that we won’t have that teeny tiny baby stage again, I’m also relieved that that stage is done because it’s bloody hard! And often not helped by comments that are well meaning but make you want to hit said person round the head with one of the dirty nappies you’re swimming in.
So, wondering what NOT to say to a brand new, war wounded, sleep deprived and completely overwhelmed mum? Here’s my handy list….
1. When are you due?
True story. Someone I know very well went to the corner shop a week or so after her youngest was born and bumped into someone from her village who stopped to chat and to enquire about when she was going to have her baby. Now I get it, this mistake could happen to anyone. But this woman, oh she couldn’t let it lie, instead of being mortified and apologising profusely upon being told he was at home with his dad she was insistent that Mum was joking! If you ever make the same grave error PLEASE just say sorry, tell the new Mum she looks great and swiftly move on. Or be at risk of being pummelled by the nearest object!
2. You look tired!
No shit Sherlock. A tiny person has just burst into their world and stolen sleep right from under them. They are slowly coming to the realisation that they have no, I repeat NO prospect of finding the kind of sleep they’ve been used to for a very, very long time! There’ll have been tears before your visit and no doubt more tears afterwards so, for the love of god, as with point 1, just tell her/them both that they look great. Or go a step further and offer to take the baby out for a walk so they can grab an hour’s kip.
3. Is He Sleeping Through Yet?
I hear that there are babies out there who sleep through the night from a couple of weeks old. Or so my sister tells me. I’m still sceptical about whether such babies exist, having never been blessed with such good fortune. My tip, if your baby is/was one of these mythical creatures, LIE! Or at least throw the new parent a bone by saying that they never slept well in the day. We need to reassurance in those early days that it’s completely normal for new babies to be awake all night and we certainly don’t need a throw away comment making us feel pressure for our baby to doing something they just aren’t ready for. Also, you’ll know if little George is sleeping through as it’ll be the first thing the new Mum will tell you!
4. I Bet You’re Loving The Time Off!
There’s so many reasons that I hate this one. Firstly it might be time off a paid job but it’s not exactly ‘time off’ is it? I mean, we’re not heading off on a sabbatical. We’ve been left to keep a baby alive 24/7 with zero training. It’s terrifying, exhausting and yes, it can be amazing too…but it’s not ‘time off’. Secondly, the new Mum might not be loving the so-called ‘time off’. When we had Tom we lived a little too far away for daily visitors and I felt pretty lonely quite a lot of the time. Being a first time mum didn’t seem to come as naturally to me as it seemed to come to others and I felt ashamed for missing being in a work environment, as though it meant I didn’t love my new son enough. Obviously I know now with hindsight that it’s ok to not want to be with your baby/child 24/7. Of course for every person who misses work there’s another who doesn’t at all. My point is, everyone’s different. Don’t assume you know what this new Mum feels.
5. Why Aren’t You Breastfeeding?
Or bottle feeding? Or using a dummy? Or not using a dummy? Or co-sleeping? Or trying controlled crying? Trust me people, new mums and dads across the land are full of self-doubt. Don’t add to that by asking judgemental questions. There’s no right way or wrong way. Unless you’re feeding your baby fish fingers at 2 weeks old. Otherwise, we all have our own way. I’ve had 2 children, one was breastfed, the other bottle. One took a dummy, the other hated them. One was and still is a pain in the backside at going to sleep, the other loves bedtime. They’re both happy and healthy though. So, as long as the baby is loved and cared for, who cares if that way is different to yours?
6. You Should Do It Like This…
Woah there, this is dangerous territory. Did the new Mum or dad ask for advice? If not I’d step away slowly. If you’re asked for your advice, sure, crack on. If not, don’t offer it up. Offer to make tea instead. That will be much better received, trust me.
7. Soo, When Are You Trying For Another?
Hey here’s a crazy thought. Maybe these new parents want to see how they get on keeping this one alive before thinking of another. Maybe they just want to enjoy this time. Maybe they don’t want another. Or just see point 6 above and don’t assume.
8. You Forget The Pain Immediately Don’t You?
LIES!!! I can’t speak for those who have had c-sections. I’m sure the aftermath of being cut open can be a tad pretty nippy? I can speak for having had 2 ‘natural’ births. Oh lord. Where did that term come from? There is nothing natural about feeling like you’re part of the Alien franchise when squeezing a cannonball out of your never-to-be-the-same-again lady parts. It’s called labour for a reason….it’s horrific and when you’re struggling to sit down properly for weeks after it’s pretty clear that you don’t forget the pain immediately.
9. Have You Tried Feeding Her?
Oh, now that I think about it, when she started crying an hour ago, it didn’t once cross my mind to try a feed. Butt out Maryyyyyy (disclaimer: before we go hating on all the Mary’s out there, this is a fictional person)
10. When Are You Going To Start Exercising Again?
I’ll make this one simple for you. The universal answer is ‘when I’m good and ready, thanks’. So now you know you don’t need to ask.
So there you have it, my most important ‘don’t ever say it’ phrases to new mums and dads. I hope this helps. If you’re STILL worried about what not to say, safe zones always centre around ‘you look great’, ‘can I help wth anything?’, ‘can I take him for a walk’ and ‘here’s a casserole I made for you’.
Hopefully you’ll have all taken this post in the light hearted nature that it was intended!
However, as I joke, I’m only too aware of how overwhelming it can be when you become a new parent.
So my one piece of advice for you new mums out there, if it’s ok for me to share (and I do get the irony after writing a post about unwanted advice!) would be to talk about it. Talk to your partner, friends, family, health visitor, anyone who will listen. It really will help. It’s ok, not to feel ok. There’s also so many great websites and forums out there designed to help, like PANDAS or NCT. Check them out. And finally: You’re doing great!!!