Being a new mother is an incredibly vulnerable and emotional time. Yet, unfortunately, new mothers often have to deal with pretty hurtful comments from well-meaning family members, friends and even strangers. In fact, a study by Today found that 63% of new mothers have been shamed or criticized for their parenting choices. With this in mind, it’s important to know what not to say to a new mother.
Why comparing a baby’s appearance to their mother is not (always) okay
Another common comment new mothers hear is “she/he doesn’t look like you.” While it may seem harmless, this type of comment can make a new mother feel like her bond with her baby is being questioned. In fact, a study by Parenting found that comparing a baby’s appearance to their mother can lead to decreased maternal sensitivity, which can have long-term negative effects on the mother-child relationship. So next time you’re about to make such a comment, gauge the situation wisely, and perhaps offer alternative words of encouragement.
Why comments on a woman’s body after giving birth are harmful
One of the most common things new mothers hear is “you still look pregnant.” This type of comment is not only hurtful, but it’s also incredibly damaging to a woman’s body image. A study by Body Image found that women who received negative comments about their postpartum bodies had a higher risk of developing body dissatisfaction and even depression. Needless to say, it’s important to remember that a woman’s body goes through a lot during pregnancy and childbirth, and it’s unrealistic to expect her to bounce back immediately.
Why questioning a new mother’s choices is not respectful
New mothers have a lot of decisions to make, from choosing the right baby items to help her take care of her newborn to deciding whether to breastfeed or not. It’s important to remember that these decisions are very personal and should be respected at all times. When someone questions a new mother’s choices, there’s a possibility that it might make her feel like she’s not doing what’s best for her baby. A study by Pediatrics found that parents who felt judged by healthcare providers weren’t as motivated to seek medical care for their children (which needless to say is very important early on). That does not mean however, that one shouldn’t offer helpful advice at the right time, in the right way. The secret is to do it with the right attitude and the right time. And more often than not, just making yourself available to help with whatever is needed is the best thing you can do for a new mom.
New mothers need support and encouragement – not criticism and judgment. When we make hurtful comments (knowingly or unknowingly), we undermine a new mother’s confidence and make it harder for her to navigate the challenges of motherhood. Instead, we should try and offer support, empathy and understanding whenever possible. By creating a healthy support system, we can help new mothers navigate the challenges of motherhood with confidence and grace which in turn will help her and her newborn thrive.