A newborn or a baby bump can feel like a magnet for commentary sometimes. All sorts of people, even strangers, want to talk to you. From asking questions about the pregnancy or new baby to sharing an observation to throwing out a piece of advice, there are some common remarks pregnant and new moms hear all the time that would be better off said a little bit differently. A general rule of thumb is to steer away from sharing strong opinions, unsolicited advice, and leading questions.
Don't Say: "You look huge!" or "You look tiny!"
Instead Try: "You look great! How are you doing?"
The baby bump of course draws a lot of attention. But instead of commenting on the way the woman's body is carrying the baby, a general compliment is a safer bet. Comments about the size of her belly may make the mama feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, or just irritated.
Don't Say: "You think it's hard now! Wait till ______."
Instead Try: "It's such an adjustment. Hang in there, you're doing great."
"Wait till the terrible twos!" "Wait till you have another one!" "Wait till you hit a sleep regression!"
The "Wait till _____" comments were one of the most discouraging parts of brand new motherhood for me. I can't even count how many times I heard it and how much of a gut punch it felt like on the already tough days. When a person is struggling with something, being told that it only gets worse is really hard to hear. It's like saying "It's only going to get harder!" to someone on Mile One of their first marathon. "Keep it up!" or "You got this!" are much more appropriate remarks. Even when intended to be relatable and honest, a warning of how much more difficult it gets isn't helpful or necessary. It's best to pull out your inner cheerleader when talking to an expecting or brand new parent.
Don't Say: "Wow, you've got your hands full!"
Instead Try: "Can I offer you a hand? You're doing a great job."
The "hands-full" comment has become a bit of a punchline in online mom communities. It is said to moms ALL the time and the consensus is that it's annoying. It states the obvious, doesn't offer help and is just sort of awkward. If you feel inclined enough to make this comment, try adding on an offering of help or a compliment.
Don't Say: "Don't register for _____. It's a total waste."
Instead Try: "We didn't use _____ much, but it's different for everyone!"
The two products I was adamantly warned by moms to be useless registry items are ones I use multiple times a day. And on the contrary, one of the items I was told is a must-have was something I never found a use for. Every baby and every parent is different. Some products that feel like staples in one household are unnecessary in others, and vice versa. Instead of sharing your family's preference as the spoken word of truth, mention your experience and acknowledge it might be different for them.
Don't Say: "Get the epidural!" or "Go natural!"
Instead Try: "I will be thinking of you. You'll do great!"
In general, it's not smart to tell a new or expecting parent what to do when they haven't asked. It's also wise to withhold commenting on divisive topics without knowing how the parent feels. Epidural or natural, daycare or nanny, private or public school... whatever the divide is, remember unsolicited advice is usually more for the giver than the receiver. The parents may have strong feelings one way or the other, or may be unsure what to do and overwhelmed with all the suggestions. It's hard to hear your own voice when people are constantly giving you their two cents. Rather than sharing your thoughts on how you believe childbirth or parenthood should be approached, say something general that is supportive or encouraging.
Don't Say: "Are you breastfeeding?"
Instead Try:"How's feeding going?"
Breastfeeding can be a very sensitive subject for a new mommy. Many moms plan to breastfeed but are unable to due to a variety of reasons outside of their control. Being asked about it could trigger feelings of sadness or loss. The question can also feel like an insinuation that breastfeeding is the right way to feed. The "breastfed vs. bottlefed" mommy wars are hard to ignore and elicit feelings of guilt and shame for many mommies. And for mothers who have made the choice to not breastfeed, this question might make her feel like she has to explain herself. A general question gives her the option to share what she's comfortable with surrounding an often delicate topic.
Don't Say: "Isn't motherhood the best?"
Instead Try: "How is motherhood going for you?"
Leading questions are tricky. You never know how the mommy's day has been going or the state of her postpartum mental health. Even though it's surely not the intention, a comment like this can make a struggling mama feel guilt and shame for having a hard time. Keeping it general with a touch of support is the safe way to go. She will likely be grateful to be asked how she's doing, since most of the time people ask how the baby is.