There are a few things that come to our minds when we see new parents and their newborns. For one, we tend to ask if they’re all doing well and if the birth was an uncomplicated one. We might also ask how the mother is coping and if the baby is in the pink of health. And then we go on to ask the one common question, which really shouldn’t be that common — “how’s the breastfeeding going?”. If you’re guilty of this, continue reading because there’s a good reason why we all need to stop asking new parents about breastfeeding. Instead of asking such a direct personal question, we can enquire about the health of the mother and child in so many other ways. We’ve listed some ways you can have a conversation with the new mother without causing awkwardness or discomfort below:
Why You Shouldn’t Be Asking This!
Breastfeeding is a very natural process, a part of the mother-child journey. However, not everyone has it easy. In fact, a large number of women have trouble with breastfeeding. This could be due to various reasons. Sometimes, it can be because the woman has insufficient glandular tissue. Other times, it could be due to hyperthyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, a history of mastectomy, breast reduction surgery, medication, and hormonal issues, to name a few. In other cases, it could be because the baby has a problem with latching caused due to a tongue-tie, cleft palate, Down’s syndrome, preterm birth, or jaundice.
Because of the reasons mentioned above, sometimes, a mother will have to make the hard choice to choose the next best substitute to breast milk — baby formula. Unfortunately, despite how far society has progressed, a lot of stigma and judgment is associated with people who don’t go the conventional breastfeeding route. With everyone vouching for “breast is best”, mothers who are not in a position to use the so-called “best” food for their child are forced to feel guilty! Thanks to the mindset of millions who look down upon those who don’t breastfeed, every time you ask them how it’s going, they’re put in a spot, even if you don’t mean for them to be ashamed.
What You Can Say Instead?
A mother and her newborn are so much more than just breastfeeding. Maybe the next time we’re tempted to ask new mothers (and fathers) about the feeding habits of their children, we could instead replace them with these things:
1. Are You Enjoying Your New Roles?
Parenthood is a big deal! They’ve just had a baby and this, perhaps, is the most critical phase of their life, not to mention a pretty significant milestone! Parents are always excited and proud of their newborns, so ask them how they’re enjoying their new roles as parents. More often than not, they’ll love talking about how it’s going, what they’ve discovered, and how pleased they are about the new cute intruder in their lives!
2. Are You Taking Care Of Your Mental Health?
Although exciting and joyful, parenthood can also be overwhelming, even if you’ve become a parent for the second (third, fourth, fifth) time! Mothers literally go through trauma during childbirth. Their bodies change, and they have to deal with changes in their routine they never saw coming. Add to that the responsibility of taking care of their little one. In all that hustle, mothers often neglect their mental health. Several mothers even suffer from postpartum depression and postpartum PTSD (1). Even fathers can feel the weight of the responsibilities that they suddenly have to take off. Though they don’t go through the bodily changes of the mother, the stress and anxiety can get the better of new fathers as well.
Mental health is something people don’t openly discuss in many societies and is often neglected. Making new parents feel comfortable in having a frank discussion would go a long way in easing their anxieties.
3. Lend Out A Helping Hand
Many new parents try to handle everything on their own and exhaust themselves in the process. They might feel hesitant at asking for assistance with regards to baby care or household chores. This is where extending a helping hand can be a really nice gesture. You could offer to send a meal or maybe even drop by to help with the household chores on an occasional basis. You could also offer to play nanny for one night so the couple can enjoy some time together without worrying about their baby. This will help the new parents get some breathing space from the deluge of new responsibilities. In no time you will become a trusted confidant with whom they will confide all their problems as well as happiness.
4. Pay A Compliment!
A compliment goes a long way. Parents often want to give their kids the best and bend over backward trying to do so. Telling them that they’re doing a great job at parenting can make their day. It is something parents need to hear more often too. Drop-in a few compliments about how they’re such good parents, how they look like such a wonderful family, and their smiles will show you how much they appreciate it!
5. Have You Been Getting Enough Sleep?
With the advent of a newborn, sleep seems to make an exit. Parents often complain about the lack of sleep because their babies kept them awake at night. Newborn care is clearly linked with fatigue and loss of sleep in parents for both mother and father (2). This leads to disruption in the normal sleep patterns for years. Ask them if they’ve had proper rest. Many parents struggle quite a bit with the lack of sleep, so maybe you could tell them that it’s okay to feel this way, it’s a phase, and this too will pass. You could even offer to help look after the baby for an hour during the day so the parents can get some shut-eye.
We often come from a place of care and good intentions when we ask new parents how breastfeeding is going. Most of us aren’t aware of the fact that this question can, sometimes, do more damage than good. Now that you’re aware, you can save yourself and the new parents from all that awkwardness and in worse cases, hurt. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!
- Maternal Depression And Child Development
- Sleep Patterns and Fatigue in New Mothers and Fathers