Parenthood is often a time of enormous vulnerability for women as they navigate their new life as a mother. Becoming a parent can be a wonderful experience but it can also come with unexpected challenges.
New parents, particularly mothers, need to feel loved, appreciated and practically supported at a time when they are giving enormous amounts of time, energy and love to their baby.
Around 1 in 7 expecting or new mums in Australia are affected by perinatal anxiety or depression every year.
Of all the times in life, the birth of a baby is a time when mothers might need to be nurtured, by their own mothers or close family members or friends who are willing and able to support them.
While we all of have the best intentions when offering support to new parents, here are four things to steer clear of when speaking to a new mum or dad!
4 things NOT to say to new parents
Breastfeeding comes naturally
Whether a mother breastfeeds or bottle feeds her baby can by impacted by a number of different scenarios or reasons. It is not helpful to use the word ‘naturally’ when referring to feeding a baby, as it suggests that any challenges met by the parents are their fault, which implies a sense of failure.
Pointing new parents towards helpful educational resources or support networks is a safe way to approach any feeding or settling issues.
Once you get some sleep everything will be fine
You don’t really know whether a good night’s sleep will fix how the new parent is feeling. It may be a multifaceted issue.
Chasing sleep as a ‘cure all’ could mean new parents miss other issues that could be affecting their wellbeing. While sleep deprivation is definitely a common part of early parenthood, being sleep deprived over the long term is not normal, and should not be ignored. Not being able to sleep when you baby sleeps is a good indication that you should see your GP and talk about your experiences.
Give it time; it will come good; this will pass
We cannot stress enough how important it is to validate what a new parent is going through and how they are feeling. Ask how they are doing and say something like ‘I can see how you feel that way after what you have been through’. This is emotional support whereas projecting into the future by saying ‘give it time, this will pass,’ is dismissive of current challenges.
Try to meet the new parent in their current space and acknowledge that things are tough and ask what you could do to help and support them.
My baby does …
Do not compare babies. Every baby is different, from which family they were born into and their journey into the world. Someone always comes off second best when you compare and invariably that person is the individual feeling the most vulnerable. Try to keep your comments positive about the baby in question and try not to draw a comparison where someone falls short.
If you are worried about your partner, family member or friend, encourage them to phone PANDA’s free National Helpline (1300 726 306). The helpline operates Monday to Saturday from 9am to 7:30pm EST.