This might seem like an immediately harsh title, but looking back I have realised just how many stupid or thoughtless comments I received as a new Mum, and the effect it had on me and my confidence in my new role. It's a bit brutal to call them all stupid, I know, as they probably had good intentions behind them. But here are the most unhelpful things I heard as a new mum.
"Just forget about the birth, baby is ok that's all that matters"
Wow I am so glad you said that. I was feeling really traumatised until you told me to forget it, now I feel so much better! Sarcasm aside, telling somebody to just forget about it is not helpful. Birth trauma is real and can affect the bond between mother and baby, not to mention have long-term effects on Mum's mental health. This is exactly the sort of thing that should be spoken about in order to help new Mums move on.
"Welcome to childbirth"
This absolute gem came from someone who had NOT been through childbirth. Yet they felt this was an appropriate comment to say. I appreciate it was most likely said in jest, but following on from the previous stupid comment listed, this invalidates the Mum's feelings. I was in hospital recovering from what could have been a fatal experience, and reading this felt like a bit of a slap in the face. It was the attitude of 'didn't you know this was going to hurt, just deal with it, women go through this'. What I went through was not a straightforward birth. It was terrifying and the level of insensitivity here did shock me.
"You need to make sure the baby is taking long gulps"
Context is important for this one. This was said to me by a health visitor. My baby latched on perfectly well from the start, but there were problems with my milk supply and concerns about how much my baby was actually taking in. Should the health visitor have simply been explaining how a baby breastfeeds and the fact that they go from short sucks to long gulps, this would have been fine. However this was actually said following that explanation in the accusatory tone of you must make sure the baby takes long gulps.
How exactly was I to make sure? Baby was 9 days old, was I going to have a firm word? Threaten to keep their pocket money? Send them to their room? There was absolutely no way I could control the length of my baby's sucks. I could monitor them. I could try my best to massage my breast to encourage milk flow. But as far as making sure baby took long gulps, I had as much chance of getting my baby to do a cartwheel.
"You shouldn't have TV on, not even in the background"
Welcome to the world of receiving opinions you didn't ask for! Everyone has different opinions on what to do with babies, and although I had no confidence then, looking back now, I did know what was best. I was baby's Mum, no one else.
"Is baby sleeping through the night?" Baby is 3 weeks old, what do you think? So many well-meaning people asked me this, just to enquire how baby was sleeping and how I was. But there are much kinder ways to phrase this question. "Are you managing to get any sleep?" is more thoughtful than implying that my baby should be sleeping more than they were.
"Pam's grandson is 6 weeks and sleeping for 7 hours"
I don't care if Pam's grandson is doing backflips while reciting the alphabet backwards, I don't want to hear about it! My 6 week old was up every 3 hours at best - hearing this was a kick in the teeth and made me feel pressure to have my baby sleep longer (of course if there was a magic way to achieve this, we would all do it!).
"Have you tried x, y, z?"
When it came to breastfeeding, I had problems with my supply. I tried everything. Everything. To name a few; I expressed between feeds, after feeds (to the point of exhaustion), I increased my fluids and calories, I tried fenugreek, teas, heat, I tried everything else you can imagine. In the end when my baby was not gaining enough weight I decided to use formula to top up my feeds. I was extremely distressed by the whole situation. I had received an immense amount of pressure from what I now call the 'breastfeeding brigade', which really affected my mental well-being. I had extreme mum guilt, feeling like a failure.
To then have someone casually suggest "did you try drinking more water?" was beyond insulting. If somebody tells you they have had a huge struggle, generally that means they have tried the obvious, simple and easy solutions to their problem. Duh.
"I'm not a Mum so I don't know what to say"
You do not need to be a Mum to support, encourage and show empathy towards someone else. No new Mum has any idea of what they are doing. It takes time to actually feel like a Mum, and gain any confidence. No one should presume that the instant a baby is born, a woman becomes this experienced all-knowing mother figure. New mum's need all the support they can get.
I will end this post by pointing out that to all of these stupid things I heard, I politely nodded, smiled and agreed. Now this is in part because I am a self-confessed doormat, but also because ultimately it was easier to smile and nod than to stress myself even further by having a conflict. Secondly, the people who said these things are all nice people! We all say thoughtless things, and no malice was intended in any of these comments.
If you've heard any stupid comments as a Mum, leave a comment below. And remember, you are doing fantastically!