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The Big Thing People Forget When They Visit a New Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Moms have a really bad habit of doling out advice to other moms. Just look at any parenting site in the history of the internet.

Seriously, other moms get so concerned about what’s best for someone else’s baby, and it all starts the moment a pregnancy is confirmed. There is advice on what foods you should eat, the dangers of pasta with vodka sauce and how often you should talk to your baby in utero (Answer: All the time). They are concerned if you are going to breastfeed (Answer: You have to. It’s best for the baby), where the newborn will sleep and if the cat knows not to smother the baby in her crib.

It only gets worse after you give birth. You should hold the baby, but not too much because you’ll spoil him. You should start rice cereal at 4 months because clearly they’re hungry. You should wait to start baby-led weaning at 6 months to let them explore food on their own. You should definitely vaccinate. You most certainly should not vaccinate. You need to do enough tummy time and you have to provide a variety of bright toys.

You must do all these things because it is what's best for your baby. Not that surprising, right? But here's the real dirty little secret: We hardly ever talk about what is best for the mom.

(People) sing the praises of breastfeeding and its benefits without taking into account the sheer amount of work it takes for the one with the breasts.

I’ll never forget one of my college professors telling us a story a few years ago about her postpartum checkup experience. She sat down, holding her newborn with her OB-GYN across from her, and answered all the usual questions about sleeping, feeding and wet diapers. The doctor then looked up at her and asked, “And how are you doing, Mom?”

My professor told us she broke down in tears because not one visitor in those six weeks had asked her how she was doing, so focused they were on her new baby.

Somehow, when a baby is born, the woman who became a mother gets pushed to the side and the beautiful sleeping child gets all the attention and fuss. When the advice comes in, it’s always what’s best for the baby. They sing the praises of breastfeeding and its benefits without taking into account the sheer amount of work it takes for the one with the breasts. They have five varieties of burp clothes they’d recommend but are missing the dark circles around her eyes.

The thing is, moms need so much encouragement, especially in those first few months. They need to be told they are doing a good job. They need to be asked—really asked, without immediately focusing again on the baby—how they are doing. Moms need so much encouragement, but it’s rarely talked about. We are supposed to be automatically good at this motherhood thing because it’s in our blood. It’s what we were designed for, right?

So, the next time you meet another mom, tell her she’s doing a good job. It could mean a world of difference for her—and you never know if you might be the only person who has actually told her that.

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