While becoming a new parent can be exciting and wonderful, it can also be extremely stressful. Keep some of these tips in mind the next time you encounter a new mom or dad:
What Not to Say
1) “You’re doing it all wrong” – Part of the joy and at times anguish of being a new parent is figuring out the best way to raise your child. While newborn parents may make some mistakes along the way, do not rob them of this experience. Mastering the balancing act of parenthood is an achievement that they can and should have the opportunity to experience, without criticism.
2) “Why aren’t you breast feeding?!/Why aren’t you using formula?!” – Infant feeding has been a really hot topic, especially over the last several years and remains a controversial issue. It’s not uncommon for parents and others individuals to have strong views on this issue, but berating newborn parents for choosing an option you don’t agree with is never OK. Their baby, their decision.
What Not to Do
1) Don’t bombard newborn parents with the latest infant statistics, trends, gadgets and techniques. While there is nothing wrong with some good tips here or there, try not to go overboard. Becoming a new parent is already overwhelming and you don’t want them to feel more anxious than they already are.
2) Don’t assume you know what their baby needs. It can be very irritating for newborn parents to hear that their baby is hungry when they’ve just finished eating, sleepy when they’ve just taken a nap, or have a dirty diaper when it has just been changed. Comments like these can often be received as criticism for newborn parents and can be very frustrating to hear.
What To Say
1) Offer words of encouragement and affirmation. Sometimes a simple “You’re doing a great job” can do wonders to boost a newborn parent’s mood.
2) Normalize any struggles they experience early on with your own as a new parent, is applicable. By doing so, newborn parents may feel less isolated and more confident in the abilities.
What to Do
1) Offer to help whenever possible! Many newborn parents are too embarrassed to ask for help. Whether you can deliver some meals, do a load of laundry or wash some dishes, ask to pitch in frequently.
2) Listen to newborn parents without judgement. While parenthood is a common experience overall, people can and do respond to it very differently. While the experience can be exciting, it is not uncommon for newborn parents to feel stressed, overwhelmed, disappointed, or even incompetent. So, instead of assuming how they feel, stop, listen and be there to provide support and encouragement.
As friends and family, do your best to uplift new parents by supporting them in the way that they would prefer. Transitioning into parenthood can be a rocky and uncertain road and there is nothing more comforting than the support of your “village.”