baby

'Isn't your partner a star!' The 10 things you should never, ever say to a new mum.

"So, when are you due?"

I was three weeks postpartum and waiting for my takeaway coffee.

This was just an innocent mistake of course, but at the time, it really stung.

WATCH: It's okay if your first and second pregnancy symptoms don't match. Post continues after video.


Video: Dr. Joseph Sgroi YouTube Channel.

When I brought up the topic in my mother’s group chat I thought, 'Surely this would be the worst comment any of us had encountered'. But according to my own personal focus group for new mum horror stories, this is just the tip of the postpartum iceberg. Before long, my phone was nearly vibrating itself off the table with WhatsApp notifications.

Being asked if you’re pregnant after your little miracle has left your body is just one of the most self-esteem bashing things a new mum can encounter. 

So strap in as we journey through the top 10 worst things to say to a new mum...

1. "Rough night?"

Okay, I’m starting off gently here. Who doesn’t hate being asked if they’re exhausted or sick on a day when you’re actually totally feeling yourself? 'Nope, this is just my face!'

Adding insult to injury, I’ve only been asked this question after the nights my baby has, mercifully, slept through.

2. "Don't worry, you'll lose weight with breastfeeding."

Firstly, I wasn’t worried, thanks! 

Secondly, it’s not necessarily true. Breastfeeding does result in a higher daily energy output, but studies on this one have failed to show anything more than a trivial difference between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mums. 

The reality is, a person’s body size is determined by numerous internal, external, and genetic factors. Commenting on someone else’s size is never okay. And it is never acceptable to assess a postpartum woman’s body and assume she could, should, or will lose weight. 

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3. "Oh, you've really bounced back!"

On that note, it’s important to mention that even seemingly positive body critiques can be really harmful to new mums. Bounce-back rhetoric is capital-P Problematic. 

For some, this would be received as nothing other than a nice compliment, but to those of us with a history of body image issues, disordered eating, or actual eating disorders, this 'compliment' says a lot more about the person giving it than it does about you. 

It serves as a reminder that as women, postpartum or not, our bodies are being watched, studied, and judged. It also alludes to a belief that our bodies are not okay, just as many are, forever changed by the miracle they have just birthed. 

4. "Is he a good baby?"

'Uh, no. He’s actually a real dud.'

Seriously, let’s not be categorising babies as "good" and "bad". They’re babies for goodness sake. They’re all absolute miracles in their own right. 

5. "My, what a big baby!" 

This might seem like an innocuous observation, but to a new mum, I can tell you that observations on your baby’s size, shape, appetite, sleep habits, milestones, and temperament are triggering to some new mums. 

A new mum’s impulse to compare their baby to others around them is strong, and having strangers or loved ones draw attention to something 'unusual' about their baby can be just plain stressful.

6. "Oh, you're giving her formula?"

The baby feeding militia need to take a giant step back. Bit further. Yep keep going, right up the back there. Okay now sit down and zip it. 

The way you feed your baby is your business and yours alone. A fed baby is a thriving baby so let’s just leave this one there. 

7. "Enjoy your freedom now, it only gets harder from here!"

For me, this started long before giving birth. I had a very tumultuous pregnancy and was too sick to stand up for much of it, sleeping only four hours a night and generally living in what I imagine to be the seventh circle of hell. 

Having people tell me to "enjoy your freedom/sleep/life while it’s just the two of you" was bewildering. But I was shocked to discover that it continues well into new motherhood. 

Listen to birth stories on Mamamia's podcast The Delivery Room. Post continues after podcast.


8. "Newborns are easy. When he's a toddler, he'll be SO full on."

Continuing on from the above, I understand the urge to impart the wisdom of your own experience to those about to embark on the same journey. But that’s just it, it’s not the same journey. 

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Everyone’s baby, life, marriage, and circumstances are completely different. And what’s a difficult period for some, might end up being utter bliss for others and vice versa. 

Instead, try something like, 'You think you’re loving it now, it only gets better as they grow'. 

9. "Isn't your partner a star!"

Well, not really. They’re just being a parent. 

A lot of women I know have heard this one when their husbands have been spotted in the wild, just being a dad. 

It can be infuriating as the primary caregiver to have your efforts largely ignored, while the secondary caregiver gets worshiped for their involvement. 

And lastly...

10. Any and all unsolicited advice about how to raise your child.

Even classic hits like, "Sleep when the baby sleeps" or, "You shouldn’t feed him to sleep, it creates a bad habit". 

If you feel the urge arise, stifle it. If a mum wants your advice on something, she will ask you. 

What worked for you might not work for her and you offering your two cents will probably just add to an already dizzying array of "best practises" that she’s trying to find a path through. 

If you’ve found yourself guilty of any of the above, please go easy on yourself. New mums get it. It’s tough to know what’s best to say to an exhausted, emotionally smashed mum in her first few months on the job.

So, what should I say?

I’ve had some truly beautiful interactions in my nine months as a mum to a gorgeous baby boy. Some of my favourites so far have been: 

"You’re so good with him, you seem like such a natural mother."

"What a beautiful thing to wake up to every day."

"What a happy baby."

"You’re doing a beautiful job."

In the end, all we need to remember is that every new mother is exactly what her baby needs her to be. 

Remind her of the wonderful job she’s doing, and just watch as her face lights up.

Hannah Vanderheide is a writer, actor, and voice artist with a beautiful new baby boy. She's also a body-neutral trainer, eating disorder survivor, and wellness industry sceptic who loves to write about the sensible side of health.

Feature Image: Getty.

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