7 Things NOT to Say to a New Mother (Plus 3 Things You Should Say)

Black and white image of mom holding baby

Thing #1 NOT to Say to a New Mother 

Working mom holding a sippy cup

Are you going back to work?

Unless you’re the boss of her (and I’m guessing you’re not) this is a loaded question and it’s easy to imply there is judgment involved, whether or not you actually feel that way

{Continued: Thing #2}

Thing #2 NOT to Say to a New Mother  

Baby sleeping in a stroller while a black cat looks at her

Is she a good baby?

Seriously? “Well, she has fangs and killed our cat while we were sleeping, but other than that, she seems really sweet.” There are no good or bad babies

 {Continued: Thing #3}

Thing #3 NOT to Say to a New Mother 

Twin babies laughing on a blanket

He’s so cute.

When “he” is wearing a dress. Sitting in a pink car seat. Consider it equally true that a baby with a lot of hair, chubby cheeks, and long eyelashes is not necessarily a girl. If you’re unsure, stick with safe. “What beautiful eyes!” or “Your child is adorable!” both work.

{Continued: Thing #4}

Thing #4 NOT to Say to a New Mother 

Baby nursing

Are you nursing?

Here’s the thing. If this person is your friend and they want to talk about it, they will. If this person is a stranger, quit asking about their boobs and what they do with them. Especially if you’re a dude. It comes off as creepy.

If you want to offer support, a better bet is – “I know a great lactation consultant, if you’re ever interested” or “Those early days of non-stop nursing were hard for me. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you!” If they want to continue the conversation, you’ve left it open for them to do so.

{Continued: Thing #5}

Thing #5 NOT to Say to a New Mother 

Mom with newborn

You shouldn’t hold him so much. He’ll be spoiled.

I’m going to go ahead and say it: You CAN NOT spoil an infant by holding him too much. He was held 24/7 for the almost 10 months he was hanging out in the uterus, so anything done now is actually cutting back as far as he is concerned.

{Continued: Thing #6}

Thing #6 NOT to Say to a New Mother 

Woman feeling tired with an iron in the foreground

Just wait, it gets worse.

Really, Dr. Doom? Because in the midst of sleepless nights, feeding challenges, spit-up stained everything, and no sex, that’s really what a new parent needs to hear, right? Your toddler/teen/40-something child may be giving you issues, but there’s no need to take it out on the new mom.

{Continued: Thing #7}

Thing #7 NOT to Say to a New Mother 

my belly

You’re having another already?

Once you have a baby, you may be one of the lucky few who leave the hospital in normal jeans and hit the gym to “tone up” since you’ve already lost the baby weight after your 6 week check. For the rest of us, delivering the baby means dropping the 7-9 lbs of baby + placenta + amniotic fluid we were carrying, but still carting a little extra cushioning and a squishy, looks-like-you’re-five-months-pregnant belly. This stage can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. If a woman already has a child with her, make no assumptions about whether that belly is vacant or currently occupied. Trust me.

{Continued: Thing #1 You CAN Say}

Thing #1 You CAN Say to a New Mother

Yummy pasta with red sauce

I’d love to bring dinner by. Which night is good for you?

Don’t tell a new parent to call you when they need help – chances are, they won’t. Instead, offer up a specific way to help them, and ask for a time that’s good for them. That hot meal will be appreciated.

{Continued: Thing #2 You CAN Say}

Thing #2 You CAN Say to a New Mother

Woman feeling frazzled

I remember feeling totally overwhelmed during this phase.

Sometimes it’s nice to hear that you aren’t the only one struggling.

{Continued: Thing #3 You CAN Say}

Thing #3 You CAN Say to a New Mother

Woman speaker with black background
LCSTRAVELBUGGIN, Flickr

Nothing.

Just be there to listen. Let her talk about her struggles, her joys, her fears. Laugh with her. Cry with her. Do her dishes for her. Just be there.

{Related: Baby Proofing: 3 Unexpected Dangers Around The Home}

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7 Things NOT to Say to a New Mother (Plus 3 Things You Should Say)

Sara McTigue is a secret agent, cupcake chef, award winning author, photographer, and PTA mom. At least, that is how things look in her mind. When she isn’t testing the bounds of her imagination, she is a mom to three amazing and hilariously funny children, wife to a charming and handsome man, and thoroughly addicted to reading. With a BS in English Education and an MA in English Literature, words – and their ability to shape our lives and thoughts – are an everyday fascination. Af ... More

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41 comments

  1. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    Can we not forget “you look tired”. A visitor of ours kept saying that to me after we came home from the hospital. For one, no woman likes to hear that, EVER. Secondly, I’m a first time mom and just brought home my NEWBORN, of course I’m tired! I know I look tired! I don’t need anyone to point it out.

  2. I’m due in 6 days. …
    So naturally this is the time for everyone to tell me how to be a “good mom”… I just (semi politely) inform them that I have managed to keep my first daughter alive for 5 years and she is better behaved than any of her friends. .. so I think that pretty much makes me super mom….

  3. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    “Sleep when the baby sleeps” should be added! Do you wanna come do my dishes, laundry, and housecleaning while me and baby sleep?

    • Profile photo of Erin Erin says:

      “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is about as useful as “clean when the baby cleans.” On the odd occasion that my newborn did decide that she wanted to sleep in her bed and not on my chest, I rejoiced and reveled in some rare “me” time, and the fact that my house looked like a bomb site in those early weeks was driving me NUTS…so yes, I used that time to tidy up and make my living space more livable!

  4. Profile photo of Jasmine Jasmine says:

    you are forgetting a few. when someone has to tell you that everything from sleep to feeding that you are doing is wrong. you can title it “your doing it wrong!”

  5. Profile photo of kaitlynn kaitlynn says:

    Amen we know in our hearts how to love and care for our babys we don’t need any wanna be know it all telling us how to act, puts stress and anger in our minds, we need love and support not commands on how others think we should raise our flesh and blood.

  6. Profile photo of Michelle Michelle says:

    even i know not to say these things!!

  7. Profile photo of LRRILEY08 LRRILEY08 says:

    I have 3 children, I just learned how to ignore the so called experts. And I don’t give advice unless asked. People don’t realize the sensitivity that comes along with being pregnant and having a newborn. I believe that saying nothing is the best choice.

  8. Profile photo of Maureen Maureen says:

    One thing a number of people delighted in telling me was the tendency for incontinence during delivery. I was already scared of giving birth, let alone thinking of the embarrassment of losing control.

  9. Profile photo of JessiLoveday JessiLoveday says:

    I was picking up the car yesterday from my boyfriend’s place of work, and his boss stopped me and asked me how much weight I’ve gained. I’ve known this man for ages (he’s also my dad’s employer) so I just took it in stride and told him. What killed me is that he looked surprised and asked “is that normal?”

  10. Profile photo of Mary Mary says:

    I wish more people took these sort of things into consideration before saying stuff. Don’t they realize that their off hand comment can hurt our feelings? Especially when we are stressed out and dealing with all the changes; mental, physical, psychological…

    Ex: Im just starting my sixth month and barely have a bump to speak of. One morning I overhear my grandmother talking on the phone to her sister “Oh yeah she’s really been showing. She’s a lot bigger than she used to be, you should see her…” On and on it went. The way she described it you would think I look as though I’m nine months pregnant with twins.

  11. You have 3 kids and they are all boys and you have just conceived a 4th baby boy, people say oh no another trouble again, another baby boy. thot u wer going to have a girl. seriously think of wat u say and how it affects the new mom…

  12. Profile photo of Angela Angela says:

    I just think that it’s hilarious that if your baby is in a pink outfit, sitting in a pink car seat or carrier, that people still say “he”. Maybe it’s just one of those things, but seriously people…. take a moment to think about what you are going to say BEFORE it leaves your mouth. I’ve heard that shoes aren’t so tasty…lol.

  13. Profile photo of Bethany Bethany says:

    People can be so insensitive sometimes. Something not on here that you shouldn’t say is a negative opinion about a name you’re thinking of for your baby. When I told someone I worked with a middle name that I was thinking of for my son (very special name for both sides of the family), she made a face and said “Yuck. I don’t like that name”. It was hard to bite my tongue, but what right did she have to say that. People just need to remember how sensitive you are feeling at that time and to definitely think before they speak.

  14. The thing that is frightening is that every one except for the last has been said to me. People drive me just batty. Another thing you might want to add to the list is… "Don’t you think you should lighten up a bit?? My child LIVED on hotdogs." Or insert whatever you would like into the hotdogs equation. This baby isn’t theirs.. he is MINE. So, let me raise him the way I feel he should be raised. UGH.

    • ugh for reals. The lighten up just gets ya the worst. You just feel like yelling at them I just went through 9 months of carrying this baby and… and then however long of labor, then the sleepless nights and exhaustion. Don’t you dare tell me to ‘lighten up’

  15. Profile photo of JZL JZL says:

    When I was pregnant with my son (our first) everyone seemed to want to tell me their horror stories of having their kids. WHY DO PPL DO THIS? Why would you tell a new mom all the scary stories when I was already stressed about the whole thing in the first place. Also, once we found out we were having a boy, non stop questions of are you going to circumcise? Its no ones business whether we were or weren’t. All the breastfeeding questions too….seriously people its NON OF YOUR BUSINESS! So those of you who are pregnant now…tell them its not their business. Relax, and don’t worry about what its going to be like when you have your little one. Once you hold them nothing else matters! Honestly I’ve had people ask if I’m still breastfeeding…I totally ignore the question. Also, the people who called my son a GIRL when he was in all blue or totally boy clothes…so annoying. People are blind I swear. My son was born with a lot of hair and I ended up getting his first haircut by the time he was 11 months old because I’m all about my son looking like a little boy. We have been blessed with an easy baby. We couldn’t have asked for better! He’s 13 months old now and walking everywhere!

  16. Profile photo of JessiLoveday JessiLoveday says:

    If a stranger touches my belly I will be screaming harassment. Or punching them in the throat. The only exceptions to this would be children and very old ladies.

  17. Profile photo of JessiLoveday JessiLoveday says:

    Every person ever who has given that advise has no idea what they are talking about when they are referring to newborns or little babies in general. However, my mom did get this advise from the doctor about my little brother, who was 18 months old. He wasn’t even trying to walk because if he wanted to move she picked him up.

  18. Profile photo of JessiLoveday JessiLoveday says:

    If anyone mentions baby weight, they will be getting punched in the throat, regardless of if I know them or not. And the "advise" for not holding a baby too much is for toddlers who should be learning to walk, not newborns who can’t even hold their own heads up.

  19. Thank you for that! I agree! And it’s none of anybody’s business if I hold my child "too" much. I held all three of my children constantly. Or should I say, when they wanted me too. Which I think was quite often. lol My two older children ages 20 Yrs and 18 Yrs turned out just fine.

  20. Profile photo of Brittny:) Brittny:) says:

    i hate it when people would ask if i already had my baby and i dont even look 9 months pregnant any more and when i was they would ask " havent you had that baby yet?" well it was quite obviouse that i hadnt yet. i carry mine all the time and hold him. hes my first. i know every one is going to do that with their first.

  21. Profile photo of Guerita<3 Guerita<3 says:

    I loved this article.. i totally agree with thing 5 how can you spoil a baby by carrying him. especially if his the first baby you are going to want to carry him all the time..

  22. Profile photo of Alisha Alisha says:

    Every day I get someone asking "When are you due? You’re huge!" I hate it because I still have 3 more months to go and I’m only gonna get bigger. I really haven’t gained much weight, my belly has just gotten big fast since this is my second child. When I was pregnant with my first I got the "Are you sure you’re really that far along?" crap. You just can’t win!

  23. Profile photo of Sara McTigue, CLCEditor Sara McTigue, CLC says:

    Megan – thanks for the comment. I can see how that comment may still be a tricky one, but I always hope that an offer of help is seen as just that – a kind offer vs. a criticism. Knowing how many women struggle to nurse when they really want to, I feel like it’s important to let other women know that you’re supportive – but that should be of breast OR formula feeding. The important part is that baby is fed, right?

  24. Profile photo of Vannessa Vannessa says:

    i HATE when people tell me that it gets worse, or for me, how bad its going to be. i am a young parent, and this is my first child but alot of people have told me some people end up making it out to be worse than what it really is. i just choose not to listen when they say how ‘bad’ it’s going to be. i know i will have alot of sleepless nights in the beginning, but i will get through it just like they did. & as for when my child becomes a toddler, i know how i want to raise my child, and she’s isn’t going to be half as bad as how some parents raise their children.

  25. Profile photo of Megan Megan says:

    I agree with everything but the tips on the nursing one. Having someone say “I know a great lactation consultant, if you’re ever interested” or “Those early days of non-stop nursing were hard for me. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you!” can be JUST as demoralizing when spoken to someone who literally cannot produce enough milk. It comes off as "If you’re not nursing exclusively, you must be doing something wrong!" Just my two cents. I would much rather it be left at "Are you nursing?" in which I would answer "Yes, but we supplement with formula" and leave it at that.

    Still, the whole thing should be avoided if possible. I used to received a ton of flack for supplementing, but better to use some formula than let my baby starve.

    I particularly appreciated the gender swap point, too. I can not tell you how many elderly women said, "What a cute little boy!" — Really? REALLY? With a pink headband and a dress on?

    • I mostly agree with you on this one because there are a lot of women you think you’re ‘a bad mom’ for not nursing. It was extremely difficult to nurse my baby (my physical reasons) and I was only able to nurse for a week because my baby wasn’t getting enough to eat. Whatever it takes to keep the little one fed and healthy. Luckily I didn’t have comments about this.

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