Motherhood is a defining passage, and one of the most significant moments in a woman’s life is becoming a new mother—whatever that journey may look like. The eagerness that fills a new mama is almost as immeasurable as the joy—and all the other swarming emotions— that will overflow her heart when she gets to hold her little one for the first time.
There is no doubt that being a mother comes with its challenges and hard days. Every good thing does. Especially when you go from being responsible for yourself to now holding the life of a child and their future in your hands. But this doesn’t mean that new mothers want to be reminded of the difficulties associated with parenting every single moment of their journey.
From experience, there are many statements that cover motherhood in a dark and dreary overcast. While most times the intention behind this unsolicited advice is meant to help and make mothers feel less alone, sometimes it does the exact opposite—burdens them and makes them feel like they are doing the worst job ever.
From women who have been mothers for years to those friends or strangers without kids who want to offer their advice, here are some things that new mamas are tired of hearing—and this is what you can say instead.
"Sleep when the baby sleeps."
Easier said than done. Because when the baby is sleeping, a mother is forced to choose between everything else that is calling her name: a shower, an actual meal, folding the laundry or washing the dishes, or maybe just sitting with herself and doing something that she hasn't had the time for. When you tell mothers to just sleep when the baby sleeps, you disregard everything else that she may need or want to do.
While your casual just sleep when the baby sleeps may not seem to do any harm, it may make mothers feel like you are telling them it’s their fault that they are exhausted and worn out. Because rather than sleeping, they chose to spend time with their partner. They made dinner. They tried to spend one moment in the quiet and stillness that they so desperately needed to clear their running mind.
Try saying: If you ever need someone to come over and watch the baby while you take a nap, please let me know. I am here for you and know that you can give more when you are well-rested.
"You're breastfeeding, right?"
When you ask this, you exclude all the other ways a mother can feed her child. While there are many benefits breastfeeding your baby can bring, nobody tells mothers just how hard it can be. Or how lactation support isn’t as easily accessible for all moms. Some try their best and decide to cut their journey short because of the mental or physical load. Others have complications that may not allow them to breastfeed. And some flat-out just don’t want to. And that’s OK.
Whatever the reason, we should be supporting moms however they decide to feed their child, whether we would agree to do the same for ours or not. What matters most is that both mama and baby are healthy.
Try saying: Do what is best for you. As long as you and baby are healthy, that’s what matters.
Related: I didn't breastfeed my newborn
"Enjoy the last days of your free time."
We are not going to prison. Yes, a lot of our time will be taken up by the baby and tending to this little creation, but there will be time for us again. Telling moms this almost equates to telling them that they will never get back time for themselves or time to do the things that they enjoy. But they can and they will.
Try saying: If you ever want a break, don’t hesitate to lean on the people around you. You and baby are in good hands.
"Just you wait…"
Until you don’t get sleep anymore. Until you and your husband are arguing every day. Until your friends stop coming around or inviting you out. Until your baby starts teething. Or walking. Or isn't a baby anymore. Until you can’t even get a minute to yourself. Until you are at your wits-end.
Try saying: Just you wait. These are going to be some of the best days of your life, mama.
"I did this for my children and it worked for me."
Sure you may have had years in the game and now consider yourself an expert at this motherhood thing, but new moms want to—and need to—have their own learning experiences as well. And because every child is different, every mother learns how to uniquely cater to her own child and instinctively knows what's best.
Try saying: You will find what works best for you. If you would like any advice, I can tell you what worked for me, but ultimately you must trust yourself to make the best decision when it comes to your child.
Related: 14 ways to *really* help a new mom
"You’ll spoil your baby if you hold them too much."
Time is fleeting. One day they won’t want to be held—or won’t be able to be held. So I’ll enjoy holding them now as much as I possibly can.
Try saying: Hold them as much as you can, mama. You deserve to. They are blessed to be surrounded by your love.
"When will you be trying for another baby?"
Maybe there is a mama who had a brutal childbirth experience. Maybe there is a mama who had an emotional battle of trying to conceive for years. Maybe this is her rainbow baby. Maybe this mama doesn’t want any more kids. Maybe it’s just none of your business at all. This is a personal decision that mothers shouldn’t be put in the spotlight to answer. And it’s invasive. So just don't ask.
Try saying: You have a perfect family right now. If you decide to try for more in the future, all of your children will have the most amazing mama.
"You don’t even look like you had a baby," or "Don’t worry, you’ll lose that baby weight soon enough."
How about we just not comment on a woman’s body during or after pregnancy—or at all?
Try saying: You look as amazing as you always have, mama.
"Relax, you're worrying too much."
And that’s OK. You go from only being responsible for yourself to now being responsible for a little being. And in today’s world, that can be scary. So instead of telling mothers that they’re being overprotective or paranoid, reassure them that they know what’s best for their baby.
Try saying: I know that motherhood is scary, mama. Trust your motherly instincts, but try not to make yourself too anxious. I am here for you. And if it becomes too overwhelming, try talking to someone who can help.
"Raising a child is hard."
Try saying: You will be amazing. Even when it gets tough, know that you are doing the best you can and I am here to support you.
Motherhood is the best thing. It is not easy, this we all know. But new mamas don’t want to be scared with your negative experiences or dissuaded from trying out things that they want to do to raise their child. Every family is unique and operates differently. So instead of shaming moms when they don’t do it how every other mother has done it, why don’t we gather around and support new mothers in their journey of motherhood? Because all mamas need the encouragement. And the reassurance. And a community to lean on along the way.
Motherhood is the best thing. These will be some of the most amazing days of your life. You've got this, mama. And even when you feel like you don’t, we are here to support you along the way.