Here's what not to say to a first-time mother

First-time moms are super sensitive and on edge because they’re exhausted and have a river of hormones running through them. There are certain things that shouldn’t be said to new moms.

 Mother with newborn baby in the nursing pillow (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Mother with newborn baby in the nursing pillow
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

“Why aren’t you breastfeeding?”  “Where are the baby’s socks?” and of course this classic: “When's the next one?” Here are statements, questions, thoughts and opinions that shouldn’t leave your mouth when speaking to a new mother.

The people who can’t keep quiet and say whatever comes to mind can bring any new mother, even unintentionally, to tears and guilty feelings. New moms are overwhelmed with hormones, they’re dealing with a new situation and a new baby, they barely sleep and they criticize themselves, so they shouldn’t need to hear assertions or statements which will further undermine their self-confidence.

If you recently gave birth, hopefully you won’t hear such external noises, but if that happens, show people who say disturbing statements this article, which outlines what one should never say to a new mother.

Why aren’t you breastfeeding?

First of all, your baby's diet isn’t anyone else's business. If someone is interested in what the baby is eating, that’s fine but criticizing your decision not to breastfeed isn’t. Many mothers don’t breastfeed for their own reasons. Sometimes the baby can’t get enough nutrition, sometimes it’s easier to give a bottle. Don’t try to hide criticism when asking about breastfeeding. This is relevant for nosy people who aren’t close to you and also for your mother-in-law, aunt or sister-in-law.

Why is the baby without socks?

Because that's what you decided. You don’t cause your baby to freeze; if you take off socks, you’ll make sure that they don't suffer from cold. Maybe they just fell off and right now you’re looking for another pair.

The baby is very small/big age-wise

You’re a baby nurse in your free time and we didn’t know? Who are you to judge the baby’s size?  Maybe the mom is dealing with a weight gain that is too slow/fast and this question will distress her? Keep this thought to yourself.

The baby will get used to …

using hands, falling asleep while breastfeeding, you jumping on a physioball. People are determined to comment on your infant’s habits.  You’re doing what works for you and meeting your baby's needs, and you really don’t need to hear outside voices (by the way, if you ask any baby development specialist, they’re also really wrong).

What baby already knows how to do

It's okay to be interested and ask what the baby has learned to do, but in a certain way. Asking what a baby is already doing at a certain age can trigger a mom and make her feel concerned, so be sensitive and specific. Ask if the baby is making eye contact or rolling over. Make sure your reaction is neutral so that mom doesn’t become alarmed and feel that the baby is delayed. 

Time to have another!

You're still recovering from pregnancy and childbirth, is that really what you need to hear? Of course not. There is hardly a question more intrusive and full of chutzpah than this, and even if said with humor many don’t take it lightly. Be quiet until she decides to become pregnant again and announce it, probably not for at least a year.

In conclusion, postpartum mothers are very sensitive so don’t pile on things which will concern them. Only doctors and other health professionals should mention various issues. If you express an opinion, do so with sensitivity, tact and understanding that not everything can be said without filtering.

This article was written in partnership with the JAMA parenting app.