Healthy Baby
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10 Worst Things to Say to a New Parent

We’re sure you mean well—but these gems are best left unsaid.

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By Darria Long Gillespie, MD

As the mother of a baby, I’ve received lots of gifts, warm wishes (thank you!) … and advice. Much of it has been helpful. Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit frazzled or unsure, it’s the perfect nugget of wisdom I need to hear. Other times? Not so much.

So, with the help of a few wise moms, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 worst things to say to a new parent. If you ever feel the urge to bestow one of these gems, please be compassionate and staple your mouth closed. 

Next thing you know, she’ll be 18 and headed to college

2 / 12 Next thing you know, she’ll be 18 and headed to college

This is usually said while one is joyously nuzzling one’s little bundle, basking in the delight of baby smell. Trust me—dashing that moment with a reminder that this won’t last forever doesn’t make me cherish it even more than I already do. Instead, why don’t you just enjoy the moment with me?

Back when I had children…

3 / 12 Back when I had children…

I know. You did it differently. Back then they also didn’t have vaccines for polio and they used to dispense cocaine as “mommy’s little helper.” I think we know how that turned out. Isn’t scientific discovery wonderful? 

She doesn’t look anything like you

4 / 12 She doesn’t look anything like you

Unless you’re talking about someone’s puppy (and if so, you’re reading the wrong content), don’t say this to a new parent. Just don’t. You may not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you probably will. If you can’t think of anything else to say, just compliment mom and dad on their adorable baby. 

My child was already (fill in blank) at your baby’s age

5 / 12 My child was already (fill in blank) at your baby’s age

Ooooh, Mommy Competition. Ugly. For one, a mom’s memory might be a bit spotty—memory can be funny that way. I have a friend whose mother-in-law constantly guilted her by stating that my friend’s husband had been potty trained at 12 months. Of course, my friend questioned her mothering skills when her own child hadn’t reached that milestone at the same age. Until the day they found a picture of her husband wearing a diaper. At age three. Every child hits milestones at different ages, so this would be another instance in which to keep your mouth shut.

Your baby cries a lot

6 / 12 Your baby cries a lot

Really? Do you go to Seattle and tell them that it rains frequently? Or inform Londoners that they have an excess of fog? If someone’s (a) baby cries frequently and (b) the parents have ears, they will be keenly aware of this fact. By pointing out the obvious, you’re just adding to the noise. 

Have you sleep-trained him yet?

7 / 12 Have you sleep-trained him yet?

Sleep training may go smoothly for some. For others, it’s just another source of mommy-guilt if baby chooses not to follow the sleep book. Any sleep book. By the way, the parents this question will annoy most are the very ones who are not getting enough sleep. Which makes them just a little bit dangerous. Don’t ask, for your own safety. 

Sleep when the baby sleeps

8 / 12 Sleep when the baby sleeps

Unless you plan to clean my house for me (and if so, thank you, and please can you pay a few bills while you’re at it and let my dog out?), it’s not going to happen. 
Just wait – it gets much harder when they’re older

9 / 12 Just wait – it gets much harder when they’re older

This is usually said when the parent is using every last ounce of energy and patience to deal with the current situation. It makes me understand how poor Sisyphus felt when he pushed that rock up to the top of the hill just to see it roll back down again. Being told that the present calamity can only be characterized as less bad than what awaits me just makes me need a glass of wine. Which brings me to our next jewel. 
Can you eat/drink that while you’re breastfeeding?

10 / 12 Can you eat/drink that while you’re breastfeeding?

Mind you, there are some things you shouldn’t consume while breastfeeding. That’s not what I’m referring to. But please, don’t mommy-shame me for the cup of coffee I’m relishing after awkwardly pumping breast milk in the corner of a public bathroom. Yes, I can drink this. But should you really be eating that second piece of cake? Just asking.

Enjoy. Every. Single. Moment.

11 / 12 Enjoy. Every. Single. Moment.

This is usually dispensed when you are (a) covered in diaper blowout (b) just discovered you have no diapers left in the baby bag (c) are on a 5-hour plane ride (d) haven’t slept in two days because your child is teething or [usually] (e) all of the above. As you frantically search for baby wipes, it’s really okay if you don’t feel that this is The. Best. Time. And if, for a moment, you wish you could fast-forward 10 years, you’re still a fantastic parent.

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You may ask, “But Dr. Darria, what can I say?” That’s easy.

Something along the lines of: “You know, you’re really doing a fantastic job!” 

Repeat as necessary.

Thank you to all the amazing mamas who helped me create this list: Vicki Chodos, Lorye Peddie, Tiffany Askew, Carmen Padgett, Hilary McLean, Beth Wilson, Leea Bridgeman, Ellen Mowry, Tina Jain, Amanda Cox, Emily Gardner and Vidya Satchit. You are all amazing and you are all doing a great job!