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Say This, Not That: What New Moms Need to Hear

Friend visiting a mom and her new baby at her home. Baby is laying on the bed.

by Lisa Prosser

Travel with Kids Expert

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Becoming a new mom is simultaneously one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking moments in a person’s life. Your baby is finally here, and you get to embark on this amazing new phase of life. On the flipside, you also suddenly have a new life to take care of –  and one that is 100% dependent on you. Cue the anxiousness! To make it even more fun, there’s definitely no instruction manual for this new… Read More

Becoming a new mom is simultaneously one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking moments in a person’s life. Your baby is finally here, and you get to embark on this amazing new phase of life. On the flipside, you also suddenly have a new life to take care of –  and one that is 100% dependent on you. Cue the anxiousness! To make it even more fun, there’s definitely no instruction manual for this new tiny human, but seemingly everyone has an opinion and they are not afraid to give their (well-meaning but usually irritating) advice to new moms. What new moms need to hear and what most everyone tells them are, unfortunately, very different things!

When my first was born, my husband and I lived in a foreign country, roughly a 16-hour plane ride from any family. We had friends around, but obviously no family nearby to help, and we were completely winging it (and definitely not always successfully). During those first few weeks, it felt like everyone I talked to had opinions about what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our little one. When I look back on how overwhelmed I was by all of the advice, I wish I could have warned my new mom-self what was really worth listening to, and what to weed through and ignore. So if you’re wondering what you should and shouldn’t say to a new mom, here are a few quick tips.

What New Moms Really Need to Hear

What Not to Say:

I can come over and visit! I’d love to just hold the baby.

What to Say Instead:

I’ll bring you lunch (and/or dinner), just let me know a good time to stop by.

Preparing meals takes time, and with a new baby, most parents are just barely scraping by as they adjust to their new life. Chances are, you don’t even need to ask if they would like food – just reach out and offer and I’m sure the tired parents will gladly accept.

Don’t get me wrong, having someone hold the baby is nice (and we love visitors! Please come visit!), but with swings, bassinets, and all the other fancy gadgets out now, there are a ton of options for where to set baby down for a nap. So though it is a nice gesture, it may not be as helpful as you envisioned.

What Not to Say:

How amazing is motherhood?! Aren’t you just so in love and happy right now?

What to Say Instead:

How’re you feeling? (And truthfully share how you felt with your baby during those first few weeks.)

As a new mom, the pressure to bond with your baby from day one is so immense. I expected my son would arrive in my arms, I would look at him, and immediately fall deeply in love. Instead, I was absolutely exhausted after a 36-hour labor, worried about him being okay and healthy, and frustrated with my whole labor and delivery experience.

I absolutely loved him, but the fact that I didn’t feel an immediate connection with him like you see in the movies, made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. Things grew even more tense as we struggled with breastfeeding, and as we all became more and more sleep-deprived. Today, my son and I have an amazing bond, but simply knowing that others had gone through the same feelings would have made me feel so much better, that much sooner.

What Not to Say:

Sleep when the baby sleeps.

What to Say Instead:

Sleep when you can, but nap time may be a good time for you to have some time to yourself.

Sleeping when the baby sleeps is advice that has some seriously hardcore believers, but it is not always practical. And the last thing a new mom needs to hear is to “get more sleep.” Um . . I would if I could, right?

I cannot begin to count the number of times I was told, “You MUST sleep when the baby sleeps; otherwise, you will never sleep again!” However, for me, sleeping when my babies did was definitely not relaxing. My first in particular was not a naturally good sleeper, so I was never quite sure when he was going to wake up from his nap. Twenty minutes? Thirty? I started to dread an early waking, punctuated with cries on the monitor.

Instead, I focused on trying to help them build good sleep habits, and sleeping longer stretches during the night so that I could sleep as much as possible then. I used the short nap time to catch up on email, read, watch TV, or even go for a walk – anything relaxing that allowed for some time to myself, which is crucial for a new mom.

What Not to Say:

Oh, you think this phase is hard? Just wait until your baby starts doing . . .

What to Say Instead:

Every age has its amazing moments and its struggles. Been there. Try to embrace it (but remember that you don’t have to love it). Let me know if you need any advice!

I think many times, seasoned moms have good intentions and simply want to warn new moms about what’s coming during the next phase of their baby’s life. “Oh they’re sleeping well now? Well, get ready for the four month sleep regression!” “Oh, you’re worried about your baby not crawling yet? Just wait – you’ll wish you could go back to the non-mobile phase!”

While some of these may be entirely true, please try to be as positive and gentle as possible with us new mamas! Each phase is almost equally as wonderful as it is tough, but it’s so much more productive to focus on the positives (and offer advice if we ask). Besides, what a new mom does not need to hear is how much harder things are going to get!

What Not to Say:

Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?

What to Say Instead:

I’m sure you’re tired – let me know if you need help or a break, and I’m happy to come over or bring anything you need!

Asking if a baby is sleeping through the night yet can immediately make a mom self-conscious. They start wondering if their baby should be sleeping longer, if they’re doing something wrong, if something’s wrong with baby, and on and on. This is not what a new mom needs to hear!

Remember that every baby is different, and remind them of this too! If they ask for advice, feel free to share your tips on how to get a baby to sleep better. Until then, sleep is probably a topic to avoid, and offering your help is the best thing you can give a sleep-deprived mama.