Being a mom, let alone a first-time mom, is challenging, from changing routines and making career adjustments to maintaining a household and keeping track of everything. Toss in sleepless nights, dirty diapers, milk spit-ups, and heartbreaking cries, and the last thing they want is unsolicited advice.
As women try their best in their new job, the inevitable stress, shame, anxiety, guilt, and loneliness all kick in. New moms need support and comfort from their loved ones. Many would appreciate a pause on unsolicited parental advice, judgments, and pressures that can make them feel worse. We’ve compiled a list of things to stop telling first-time moms—because they don’t want to hear it right now.
15 Things to Stop Telling a First-Time Mom
1. “Your body will bounce back.”
Women’s bodies drastically change during pregnancy. They can gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds, or they get stretch marks almost anywhere on their bodies.1 Their breasts may enlarge, shrink or sag, their feet may grow and other postpartum body changes they may not expect.2 For new moms, seeing their bodies alter before their eyes is hard to accept. But knowing there’s a possibility it may not go back to its original state post-childbirth is even more challenging.
While you may feel like you’re offering comforting advice, making comments about a mom’s body can plant a seed of insecurity and vulnerability. It’s best to refrain from making remarks about what may or may not happen and, instead, help them to love and accept whatever changes came from the miracle of creating life.
2. “Wait until they’re ___.”
Often, veteran parents remind new mommas that parenthood will only worsen with time. Wait until they start walking. Wait until they’re talking. Wait until they get older. For women new to mom life, these comments can give them the impression that their issues are being minimized.
Every stage of a child comes with challenges, whether facing their terrible twos or entering middle school. In these moments, first-time parents are simply looking for a loved one to listen to them and provide them with the hope that their situation will only improve. Try instead encouraging new moms by telling them how great they’re doing at every stage.
3. “Sleep while the baby sleeps.”
The rationale behind this bit of advice seems like a no-brainer, but it’s an action that’s unlikely to happen. When an infant is down for the count, parents typically rush to take advantage of those two to three hours3 by showering, eating a meal, doing laundry, or cleaning up around the house.
4. “That’s not a big deal; my child did ___.”
It is human nature for people to find commonalities and relate to others by sharing their own experiences and circumstances. Although this comes with good intentions, it can make moms feel like you are making comparisons instead of validating their feelings or experiences.
Recognize that others may feel different emotions and thoughts toward a situation you may have experienced, but it does not mean what they’re going through shouldn’t be taken seriously. Every parent and newborn are different and needs your support and comfort.
5. “It goes by so fast.”
There’s no denying that parenthood flies by. One moment, you’re carrying an infant in your womb for nine months; the next, they’re off to college. For mothers who just gave birth, their focus is only on savoring precious moments of the present. They want to take in that addictive newborn scent4 that makes you feel gooey inside, the adorable coos, the first gummy smile, and everything else in between.
Telling a mom that “it’ll be over before you know it,” or “they grow up so quickly,” or a variation can also make them question if they’re doing a good job as a parent, especially if they’ve missed out on some moments, like a bath time or two or their child’s first steps. Childhood is meant to be fleeting, and it’s nearly impossible for parents to witness every new thing their infant does.
6. “Enjoy every moment.”
Like the previous phrase, advising first-time mothers to soak in all the moments can do more harm than good. Parents may feel guilt and shame if they’re not experiencing the endless joy people insist they should feel. It’s helpful instead to remind moms and dads that it’s completely normal to feel a little bored watching their baby or that there are moments that aren’t enjoyable. Admitting and sharing all the real experiences doesn’t make them horrible parents.
7. “You look tired.”
According to a survey by Sleep Junkie, new parents miss roughly three hours of sleep each night during the first year of their child’s life.5 Research backs up the claim that new parents aren’t sleeping enough, but it’s not a stretch to say they’re exhausted.
Pointing out the obvious doesn’t provide a sleepless parent respite. Try offering mom a break by staying with the baby for a few hours so she can nap or help her run errands to focus on other household tasks.
8. “Are you breastfeeding?”
Thanks to open and honest discussions surrounding formula-feeding and breastfeeding in recent years, it’s now considered an unwritten rule to refrain from questioning a parent on how they choose to feed their little one. It comes across as mom shaming, and it’s a private matter that is, frankly, no one’s business. What matters most is that an infant receives the necessary nutrients to grow and develop through milk. Being fed is best whether it’s formula, breast milk, or donor milk.
9. “When are you going to try for another?”
It’s almost as if the moment two people start dating, the vicious cycle of personal questions ensues, from asking if a wedding is on the horizon to when they plan to have a baby. And once a couple welcomes their firstborn, they quickly ask when a second will be on the way.
Trying for a child is a private matter. There are many physical and emotional reasons why a mom may not want another baby, is not trying for another baby, or has plans to wait a few more years. Ultimately, the question can subtly pressure new moms navigating motherhood. They need to let their bodies heal before considering adding a second or third kid to the family tree. (Read: 5 Reasons to Stop Asking Women When They Are Having Babies)
10. “You’re going back to work already?”
Only 11 states and the District of Columbia provide paid family leave in the U.S.6 As a result, some parents can’t afford to stay home with their newborns. Even though they’d probably prefer to take time off from their job and experience all the fantastic milestones their baby will achieve firsthand. With many new parents feeling guilty about using childcare, it’s best to comfort them that their choice is best for them and their baby.
11. “Wow, you’re so lucky you can stay home.”
Parents who get paid family leave or plan to take a hiatus from their careers to focus on their families may also receive judgment for staying home. Some people even rudely refer to this period as a mom’s “vacation.” Sure, cozying up on a couch with your bundle of joy in your arms is beautiful, but doing laundry, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, feeding the baby, constantly changing diapers, and barely showering—on repeat, may we add—isn’t the respite parents dream of.
Maternity and paternity leave is a challenging time that deserves much-needed respect. Not only are first-time moms and dads adjusting to a new way of life, but they’re also figuring out a sleep and feeding schedule and how to keep up with the house and care for themselves.
12. “I don’t like the name you chose.”
Naming a child is a big deal. A name can come from a deceased family member or someone influential in their life, a parent’s favorite book or movie, or be a name they randomly came across and adored. No matter the moniker a parent chooses and how they came to their decision, someone will always have an opinion on whether they like it. Remember: it’s not your child, and you do not have a say in the name choice. Be respectful of the parent’s decision and learn to embrace the name.
13. “Just let them cry it out.”
Some veteran parents vouch that “cry it out” is a wonderful sleep training method that allows infants to learn to fall asleep faster. But it’s not for everyone. Some moms prefer to avoid shrieking wails at all costs. They like to rock their little ones to sleep and pick them up whenever they start to sob. Often, these cries signal that something may be wrong, like a dirty diaper or a call of hunger. Avoid telling a new mom to ignore these calls and let them decide what method their household prefers.
14. “You’re going to spoil them by carrying them too much.”
It can be hard for first-time moms not to snuggle their babies all day, especially when they’ve finally waited nine months to hold them in their arms. It not only allows them to give their infant a sense of love, affection, and security but also helps strengthen their bond—which can help speed up a baby’s brain development!7 Just know that it’s impossible to spoil a newborn.
15. “You’re already going out?”
Parenthood is challenging and can take a physical, mental, and emotional toll on women and men. New parents must carve out time for themselves and their significant other to maintain a healthy state of being. First-time moms should not be shamed for wanting a date night soon after having a baby, especially when they need a break. They’re allowing themselves to recharge their batteries to be even better parents by taking a few hours to enjoy a moment of peace.
Remember that all a first-time mom wants is for you to listen to them and reassure them that they’re doing a fantastic job. The bottom line is that she gave birth to a beautiful, tiny human and is raising them as best as she can. That is a huge accomplishment and deserves only praise.