As society continues to remove the taboos surrounding childbirth and the difficulty of adjusting to parenthood, the discussion surrounding being a better and more sensitive support system has been quite prevalent.
As much as we have progressed in creating awareness of the delicacy surrounding this time, many people still struggle to know what is tactful and what is offensive.
We all know a few key greeting cards line for welcoming a little one into the world, and a quick google search will provide you with a dozen ways to congratulate the couple.
But beyond that, you might wonder how to navigate conversations and show support towards new parents, especially if you’ve never been there yourself.
Thankfully, we have put together a guide on everything you should and shouldn’t say to new parents so that you can be helpful instead of hurtful.
What To Say To Someone Who Just Had A Baby
If you want to support new parents, there are few key phrases that will help them the most.
Pretty much any congratulatory phrase will do.
But they just brought a new life into this world, and that is no easy feat, so make sure you acknowledge and celebrate this milestone.
If “Congratulations” feels too simple, you can go for something like “you did it! He/she/they are perfect!” or “We are so happy for you” will work too.
Is there anything I can do for you?
More than anything, an offer of help will be well received and much appreciated. Of course, only make genuine offers.
Sometimes new parents will hesitate to reach out for help, so if you really want to make sure they know you are serious, make specific suggestions instead of leaving it open-ended.
Can you bring them dinner? Hold the baby so they can take a shower? Babysit so they can spend an hour alone with their spouse?
Once you have settled on something you can do to lighten their load, you can add a subtle “If there’s anything else you need, please let me know”.
You’ve got this. You’re doing great.
Words of affirmation are so important for new parents’ well-being.
Especially for first-time parents, it can be quite overwhelming to adjust to a newborn’s needs and try to find their stride when it comes to parenting techniques that work for them.
Letting them know “you’re doing great”, “you’re such a good mom”, or “you have great instincts” will do wonders for helping them to silence their doubt and listen to their gut.
How is your recovery going?
Adjusting to life with a newborn and sleepless nights aren’t the only challenging things about new motherhood.
Regardless of how she delivered, she will be going through a significant recovery process, mentally and physically.
While everyone thinks to check on how the baby is doing, it may not be as obvious that you need to check on how mom is doing.
Some questions might feel too personal, so try to gauge the nature of your relationship before asking anything pressing.
If you’re just a casual acquaintance, just letting mom know you’re thinking about them, too, will suffice. Closer friends should consider checking in on their emotional and physical well-being.
Let me know when you’re ready for visitors.
Do not invite yourself over, and do not ask “can I come visit now?” with a sense of urgency.
If you put them on the spot, they might oblige even if it’s not what’s best for them right now, and that is unfair.
They are trying to balance their new baby’s sleep/feed schedule, get some rest themselves, and recover from a physical trauma.
Instead, put the ball in their court by saying “let me know when you’re ready for visitors”. To be extra kind, you can add the assuring caveat, “it’s okay if you’re not yet. Take your time.”
It’s okay to be overwhelmed.
Empathize as much as you can. Letting them know that it is overwhelming and okay not to love every second of it is so helpful.
Especially if you are a parent yourself, a simple “I know how you’re feeling” can go a long way. Validate their feelings and open yourself up to be a sounding board.
They may want advice, or they may just want to vent, but this lets them know that you are a judgment-free member of their support team who understands what they are going through.
What Not To Say To Someone Who Just Had A Baby
Now that you know what you should say to support a friend or family member who has recently given birth, you may be wondering what you shouldn’t say.
There is certainly a big list of faux pas that are just insensitive and unnecessary.
When will you be having another one?
Just don’t. They are probably really overwhelmed with the baby (and potentially other children) they have at this moment. Her body may still be recovering.
This means they are focused on the day-to-day, not when they will get pregnant next. Even if they do have a “plan” for how many kids and when to have them, this question is just insensitive.
It dismisses the significance of the recent birth and family changes and puts a lot of pressure on people.
They will have more kids if/when they are ready, and they will share those plans with you only if they deem it “your business”. Otherwise, leave it alone.
Anything to do with losing or not losing the baby weight.
This is just not polite or appropriate. Their body just created life is healing from trauma and adjusting to a major change.
Don’t put undue pressure on a postpartum mom who may already be struggling with body image issues. She may not want to lose every single pound. In fact, some mamas love embracing their curves and stretch marks.
Others may desperately want to lose weight but can’t get it to come off fast enough. Her health and weight journey is the business of her and her doctor only.
Don’t ask questions, and don’t make unnecessary comments.
Have you tried…
Quit offering up unsolicited advice. Expecting parents are bombarded with so much advice, “research,” and judgments leading up to their baby’s arrival and throughout their child’s life.
Chances are, they have made educated and calculated decisions about how they are raising their child and why.
They also might just be doing what feels right for their family, learning on the job, and following their instincts.
Both methods are totally valid, and your “advice” will come off as a judgment of their parenting choices more than anything. If they need your help or opinions on a specific issue, they will ask.
This means that you should keep your thoughts on breast/bottle feeding, co-sleeping, sleep training, schedules, babywearing, and just about everything else to yourself.
Also, they will put hats and socks on their baby if needed. Chances are, the baby just pulled them off, so leave this one be.
Do not minimize their delivery experience.
While you might not do it on purpose, the way you talk about their delivery is important.
Regardless of whether they had a C-section, medicated hospital birth, non-medicated hospital birth, or home birth, avoid words like “natural”.
All ways of bringing their baby into the world are natural and should be applauded.
Also, they might be experiencing some upset surrounding deviations from their birth plans or choices they didn’t get to make.
For this reason, don’t say one is easier than another, compare/contrast, or say things like “just be happy you have a healthy baby.” They are, but their feelings about their birth experience are also valid.
Be sensitive and kind, and don’t try to find the silver lining. If they are struggling, acknowledge their struggle instead of dismissing it.
You look tired…
They probably know, and they probably feel more tired than they look. This is just unnecessary. They are physically recovering, and they are operating on next to no sleep.
Pointing out how tired they look will make them feel worse, especially postpartum mothers dealing with body image. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Do not minimize their current experience.
If new parents open up to you about how hard the adjustment has been, do not negate their feelings by turning it into positive, or worse, a competition.
Seemingly harmless phrases like “you’ll miss this stage” make new parents feel like their experiences are unusually hard or that they are coping worse than others, which is unfair.
Also, it’s not wise to tell someone who is in survival mode, “if you think that’s bad, wait until…”
They just need to get through today, and you are both minimizing their current experience and making them feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
When are you going back to work?
We understand the curiosity here, but it usually ends up coming off as a judgment.
They might not know yet, they might be anxious about having to go back too soon, or they might be grappling with balancing their career and their new role as a parent.
Don’t rush them and try to be understanding of their choices. Some will choose to be stay-at-home parents, while others get back to it right away and outsource help.
Both are okay and completely up to them. If you are going to ask, don’t try to convince them one way or the other.