Written by: Caroline Wheeldon-Wright
“Can you believe she said that?” remarked my friend following a tense visit from a relative a week after giving birth to her first baby. Everything had started so well. Flowers and congratulations followed by cuddles. Perfect. One hour later: cut to my friend sobbing in the bathroom, clutching her new born and wondering how on earth she (this obvious failure) was ever going to keep her baby alive! So are you off to visit a new Mum? How to make sure you’re invited round again.
I’m just popping in!
Make sure the new Mum is visitor ready. It differs from woman to woman. I wanted to hibernate for a couple of weeks but my friend welcomed people almost immediately. Never just turn up and make your visit a short and sweet one, be mindful that she will be tired, about an hour worked well for me.
You thought your birth story was bad…let me tell you about mine!
You must let the new Mum share her experience, it isn’t a competition as to who had it the worst or who earned a drug free labour medal. Listen, empathise and support but don’t make it all about you. If she asks for your opinion or to relate your experience then go ahead but otherwise let her talk.
Isn’t breastfeeding wonderful?
Don’t be presumptuous. You don’t know if breastfeeding has worked out for this new Mum, despite best intentions breastfeeding isn’t always possible. Other women make an informed choice not to breastfeed and may not agree with you. If the new Mum is breastfeeding, it can be very hard. The toetingling pain of those first two weeks may fade with time but if you breastfed then try and remember those initial days when you want to do your best but it all seems unmanageable. Again, it is best to listen, empathise and support the new Mum in whatever choice she has made.
I always did it this way
We all have our ways of doing things. Your wellmeaning advice could relate to feeding, changing a nappy or dressing, but please don’t forget that this woman is approaching childcare in her own way. Don’t raise insecurities and doubt with a ‘know it all’ approach.
You must sleep when your baby does
Yes it might sound like perfect sense (I heard this advice myself countless times) but the reality of life as a new Mum doesn’t always work this way, particularly when there are siblings involved. More helpful would be an offer to do a few chores or to bring round some home cooked food.
My baby slept through the night by week four
Is that really true or just wishful thinking? The last thing a sleep deprived Mother needs to hear is how your little darling defied all the odds and slept. You could end up making the new Mum feel resentful and angry. Don’t go there and avoid mentioning routines!
You look exhausted! Or any other appearance related comments
The new Mum might well look exhausted (didn’t we all?) but she doesn’t need reminding of this. Becoming a Mother takes it out on your body and can have real repercussions on body image and confidence, so avoid drawing attention to anything that has the potential to upset her. Tell her she is doing well and offer your support. For goodness sake don’t even mention baby weight – why would you?
When are you going back to work?
Why on earth would you want to send her thoughts down this road so early on? Avoid bringing up the world of work as she cuddles her newborn. There is plenty of time for that conversation further down the line, let her enjoy those first few special weeks.
Isn’t he small/large/bald/loud/unusual looking?
Please, just say something like ‘your baby is gorgeous’ or ‘isn’t she wonderful?’ Anything other than this could be taken very personally at this emotional time and a seemingly innocuous remark could really stick. ‘He doesn’t look anything like you’ is also a loaded comment so leave well alone. Your words could sound unkind to a sensitive new Mum.
When are you going to have another one?
Ouch! Let the woman get over this birth first!