As a new mom, it was incredibly daunting for me to take my little one out for the first time. He was about 3 weeks old and I remember it so well. I’d decided to take him along to a birthday party I had to attend with a friend’s little one who was the same age as my oldest, Sammy.
The juggling act
As you can imagine (new moms will understand), you are literally trying to cover all the bases with the baby and trying to remember everything. I was definitely not used to packing so much stuff – making sure I had everything: pram, bottles, bags, sunblock, hats, extra set of clothing, nappies (you get where I am going).
I decided that with trying to look after Sammy, it would be best to carry the baby in the baby carrier. This was to free my hands should I need to do anything. At some point, the baby needed to be fed and I decided I would feed him in the baby carrier, seated and facing my chest.
It was not long before a helpful mom approached me, and in a sympathetic, but mostly condescending tone said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interfere, but you really should not be feeding your baby like that. The milk will go into his ears and it will cause a hearing impairment when he is older.”
I was not sure what was worse. The fact that I did not know the lady and she felt comfortable enough to approach me in this manner. Or, the fact that she did it in front of 10 other moms all seated, staring at me, while I was the only one standing up. I felt so incredibly humiliated and embarrassed.
Between the mixed emotions resulting from 3 weeks of no sleep, figuring out my child’s cries, the excruciating pain of pumping breast milk 24/7, and constantly having to wash baby clothes between the housework (insert massive list of other things I went through, including crazy post-birth hormones), what she had just said to me literally felt a shot in the heart. I cannot actually put it in words. YES, it is a small thing, and YES I should have just ignored it. But, in that moment it did not feel like that.
I had the basics covered
I obviously have raised a child before and I do think I have the basics covered. Keep the child alive, clean and fed. Check.
So the question is: “When do you interfere with a new mom to bestow your good advice on how she is feeding, burping, changing the nappy and putting the baby to sleep?”
The answer is “NEVER”. Please do not, no matter how tempted you are, cross that line and criticise or tell a new mom how to handle her baby.
When to give advice
Only give advice if: 1) The mother is dangling the baby from a fourth story balcony, or 2) She asks for your advice.
Even if you are close to the mom, be very careful what you say and what you do. You have no idea what that mother is going through and has been going through at home with the baby. If you really feel like being helpful then choose the correct way of managing the situation.
For example, if the baby is screaming and you can see the mom needs a break/help, offer to take the baby by saying, “Why don’t you take a break, I will take him.” Unlike telling her to hush the baby, this is offering to relieve her. It is helpful, empathetic and will be received. Proceed to soothe the baby and then maybe, politely say, “You know what worked for my little guy…” and then proceed to give advice if she seems eager to hear.
More often less is more – kindness and a loving approach really goes a long way, especially if the baby is still a newbie.
Brigitte is a working mom based in Cape Town. Apart from being a working mom of two young boys, (7 and 4 months old) Brigitte also writes a Mom Blog called Fit Working Mom. The blog covers her journey through the challenges of being a working mom and also shares ideas, tips and “how to” video’s and articles on everything from fitness and weight loss, to helpful baby/mom-hacks and lifestyle topics. For Brigitte, the aim of the blog is to help and inspire other moms and to create a community of women who help and share ideas.