It's hard to be a new mom. I know I'm not the only new mother who felt a little strange when the hospital discharged me and my newborn, sending us home to figure things out for ourselves. People love to offer advice to new mothers, but not all of it is wanted, or even helpful. Before you find yourself giving your best parenting tips to the new mothers you know, make sure it's not bad advice. Here are five kinds of advice best kept to yourself.
In general, don't give advice unless you're asked for it. If you're an experienced parent or caregiver, you might know more than a new mother, but that doesn't give you the right to give advice. New moms often have ideas on how they'd like to care for their own children. They need time to try parenting methods and space to learn to feed and care for newborns. What they don't need is everyone they meet telling them what to do.
If your advice is asked for, make sure it's up to date. Things have changed since I had my first baby 13 years ago. One example is in feeding solid foods. When my first daughter was born, it was common to start solids at 4 months. Now, doctors recommend waiting until at least 6 months. Another example is having babies sleep on their backs instead of their stomachs, which used to be common. Be smart about what you tell new mothers and make sure you know your facts.
Raising kids gives you a certain amount of confidence. I like to say that I am an expert on parenting kids from birth to the age of my oldest child, but beyond that I'm clueless. Advice can often sound condescending if it is given without love and respect in mind. Condescending advice might sound like this: "Oh, you really don't want to be doing that. I know you are new to this, but babies should not be eating strawberries this early." Use your confident parenting know-how for good when helping new moms.
This is my least favorite kind of advice, and it's all too common for new moms to receive. Passive-aggressive advice sounds nice and sugar-coated, but has an agenda hidden behind sweet words. Here's an example: "Look at baby. He's so sad. Uh oh. His mommy forgot his little socks, and so he's going to be cold on his walk." Passive-aggressive advice deserves to be ignored.
If you'd like to offer advice, consider your timing. When a mother is struggling, and her baby is upset, it may not be the best time to share your tips, making her feel inadequate. Having a new baby is overwhelming. Moms can feel extra sensitive, and rightly so. Consider how helpful your advice is in the moment before dishing it out. Also, moms with multiple children know enough about babies that they don't need advice the fourth time around.
Most people have good intentions when they give advice, especially to new mothers. Instead of offering the wrong kind of advice, say something like "I used to struggle with that too. Would you like to hear what worked for me?" Give new moms time to learn and grow in confidence, just like people gave you.
Fortunately for new moms, babies are pretty resilient, and usually forget any simple mistakes their mothers make. Babies and motherhood are both pretty special, so make sure you respect the new moms you come in contact with.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.