12 Things Not to Say to a New Mom
August 23, 2017
New moms have plenty to worry about: feeding baby around the clock, dealing with an ungodly number of dirty diapers, figuring out what all that wailing could possibly mean. It’s enough to stress anyone out. What new moms don’t need is to be worrying about what friends, family and random strangers on the street are going to say next about their babies and postpartum bodies. We checked in with moms to learn what comments infuriated them the most and gathered them up into one handy list, ready to be shared with those who may need a reminder on what not to say to a woman who’s just given birth.
1. You still look pregnant!
No kidding. After growing a baby for nine months, things don’t just shrink back to normal in a matter of days—it takes time. Meanwhile, mom doesn’t need to be told that even after giving birth, it doesn’t look like much has changed.
True story: “A friend of my mother’s told me I still looked five months pregnant when I came home from the hospital. I’m not sure what she was thinking or why people think they have a right to comment on your body, but I just laughed it off—even though I was boiling inside,” says Sari D., mom to a 10-month-old. “People need to realize that after giving birth, your body is swollen and healing, and most women are not only physically sensitive, they’re incredibly emotionally sensitive as well. The last thing we want to hear is we still look pregnant, even if it’s true!”
2. Have you lost the baby weight yet?
Maybe she has, maybe she hasn’t—either way, it’s none of your business.
True story: “After I had my first child, a very senior-level (and childless) man in my company asked if I had lost all of the baby weight yet, and where all of the extra stomach skin goes after you have a baby,” says Kimberly G., mom to 2- and 3-year old kids.
3. Wow, you’ve already lost the baby weight!
On the flip side, you may think you’re complimenting mom on her slim figure, but don’t go there. Without knowing how her postpartum experience is going, weight loss can be just as much a taboo topic as weight gain.
True story: “In the few weeks after I delivered, people would comment on how much weight I had lost—all well intended. But I was suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression, wasn’t eating and desperately wanted to have an appetite,” says Amy H., mom to a 7-month-old. “Losing weight was not something I was proud of. Bottom line, commenting on weight loss is akin to commenting on weight gain.”
4. Are you ready to exercise yet?
After giving birth, new moms are sore, exhausted and really don’t want to get hints about hitting the gym.
True story: “Less than 24 hours after I’d given birth, my in-laws came to see the baby. They were looking at my wedding photos and my husband made a comment about how skinny I was back then. Then my mother-in-law chimed in and asked if I don’t like to exercise. She said “it’s not about how you look, we just want you to be healthy,” says N.F., mom to a 19-month-old. “That would be hard enough to hear on any day, but when you’ve just given birth you already feel like a big, fat, deflated balloon. I sat in my hospital bed fighting tears until they left the room and then bawled my eyes out.”
5. Better not have that glass of wine.
Yes, breastfeeding moms need to be cautious about drinking before nursing baby—but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a glass of wine. And trust us, after nine months of sobriety, you don’t want to get between a new mom and her Pinot Noir.
True story: “My mom told me the alcohol from my first glass of wine would go straight to the baby and make him loopy—not what I wanted to hear," says Jillian C. mom to a 19-month-old.
6. Enjoy every minute.
A seemingly harmless comment—but a new mom doesn’t need to be reminded that kids grow up so fast, especially when she’s just starting out on her parenting journey.
True story: “I hate when people constantly tell me how quickly parenting goes by and to ‘enjoy every minute,’” Kimberly G. says. “I know they mean well, but it’s like hovering over someone trying to enjoy a glass of wine and saying, ‘enjoy it while it lasts, soon there’ll be no more.’ It gives me anxiety!”
7. You’re breastfeeding, right?
Whether they opt to breastfeed or formula-feed, how moms choose to feed their babies is up to them. Plus, for various reasons, sometimes moms don’t actually have a choice, and it’s not for you to judge.
True story: “People feel compelled to ask about breastfeeding. Even [my husband] had a lady ask if the baby was being breastfed,” says Leah K., mom to 5-year-old twins and an 11-month-old baby. “It’s not only a personal decision, but sometimes it doesn’t work out for mom and baby for whatever reason, and it can make her feel really inadequate as a mom.”
8. Aren’t you just so in love?
For a mom having a tough time bonding with baby—and believe us, bonding doesn’t always come easily—this just adds salt to the wound.
True story: “I had horrible postpartum depression with my son, and this question sent me into a tailspin every time,” says Stacey C, mom to a 3-year-old. “I was not sooo in love. I didn’t even really think I liked him at first. It made me feel like a monster and a horrible mom. Of course, now that the postpartum depression has settled, yes! I’m in love with him. But those first few days? I wasn’t feeling it, and it hurt so badly to have to fake an answer to that question.”
9. How many months pregnant are you?
Ugh. Not what a new mom trying to put pregnancy in her rearview mirror wants to hear.
True story: “The worst is when you aren’t with your baby and people still think you’re pregnant. It’s embarrassing for everyone,” Leah K. says. “I was having a night out with my husband three weeks after giving birth to twins and got all dolled up—and a woman we ran into asked when I was due! I was so sad thinking I looked good all dressed up just three week postpartum—NOT!”
10. Your breasts look lopsided.
Yeah, they probably do—breastfeeding can do that. But guess what? You don’t need to point it out (or any other physical postpartum changes) to a new mom, especially in front of other people.
True story: “I was introducing my newborn to friends and family, when one of my best friends laughed, pointed at my shirt and said "you’re lopsided!” I was mortified,” says Sarah M., mom to a 9-month-old. “It was true, but I didn’t realize it was actually noticeable through clothes. It made me super self-conscious from then on. I found myself avoiding certain outfits, and on occasion I’d even stuff extra nursing pads on my ‘small’ side to compensate so no one else would notice. Apparently this is a common thing to experience while breastfeeding, but definitely not something anyone should be pointing out to a new mom.”
11. But what about me?
Whatever you say to a new mom, don’t make it about you and your needs. Instead, focus on how you can help her as she heals and learns to care for her brand-new baby.
True story: “The day after my son was born, my mom and husband’s mom and stepdad were visiting. Then the hospital photographer then arrived. My mom asked if the photos were of just the parents and baby. Then as she was leaving, she hugged me and said, ‘Don’t leave me out of anything,’" Jillian C. says. “Never say anything to a new mom that makes it about you and not the mom and baby.”
12. When are you going to have another baby?
A new mom has just made it through nine months of pregnancy, birthed a baby and is now elbow deep in dirty diapers, trying to care for a crying, ravenous newborn on way too little sleep. You can bet starting the process all over again isn’t exactly top of mind for her right now.
True story: “As I was wheeled out of the hospital, a nurse said, ‘We’ll see you back here for the next baby!’” says Cara S., who has a little boy.
Updated August 2017