11 Things Not to Say to a New Parent

I’ve written about the things you should never say to pregnant women , Scottish people , pale girls and.. .well, everyone else , really. It’s surely time for new parents to have their say, right?

The thing about parenthood, you see, is that everyone has an opinion on it, or a comment to make about how you’re doing it: and while not all of those comments or opinions are necessarily offensive or annoying in themselves, once you’ve heard them 7,000 times, they can get just a little bit grating. I’m talking here about comments like…

“It only gets worse!”

Hands-down the MOST annoying thing you can say to a brand new parent (or a prospective one) is that, no matter how hard things are now, they’re only going to get WORSE. No, I don’t care if it’s true, or if you’re “just being honest” / trying to prepare us: when someone’s already struggling, telling them there’s no hope of them ever feeling better is unhelpful at best and unkind at worse.

(I got to the point with this where I just started adopting a deadpan expression and saying, “Oh, right: I think we’ll just send him back, then!” when people said this to me, to demonstrate just how unhelpful it is: I mean, what else CAN you say to it, really?)


Please stop telling me how much parenthood is going to suck

“When are you going to have another one?”

I will have another baby at the exact moment that society in general realises how intrusive it is to ask someone about their reproductive plans. So, NEVER is the answer to that one, then. Never.

“Are you disappointed he’s not a girl/ a redhead / anything other than what he actually is?”

When Max was born, I was really shocked to be asked if I was “disappointed” by his hair colour, and also by the number of people who went out of their way to “reassure” me that it was OK: there was still hope of it one day changing! I have no idea what made those people assume that I was desperate for my baby to have the same hair colour as me, but, whatever it was, it was weird – and honestly quite hurtful – to have people suggest that ANYTHING AT ALL could possibly “disappoint” me about my beautiful boy. I mean, AS IF!

So, no, I wasn’t disappointed by my baby’s hair colour, but I WAS disappointed by the manners of the people asking about it… (And also SCARED by them, really. Like, people who think it’s normal to have a healthy child, but be disappointed because their hair is the ‘wrong’ colour are scary, aren’t they?)


People are super-weird about red hair

“You look so tired!”

I mean, sure, it might be true (And, in my case it most definitely IS, even two years later…): does it really need to be said, though? REALLY?
11 things you should never say to new parents

“Well, we didn’t do it like that in MY day and we turned out just fine!”

This just in, people: TIMES CHANGE. WHO KNEW?

The thing about this one is that new parents get SO much contradictory advice. On the one hand, we have midwives/health visitors/doctors etc telling us we MUST do things ONE way, and then, on the other hand, we have other parents telling us to just ignore all of that and do it THEIR way instead. It’s honestly so confusing, and also quite exhausting to have to keep on defending your decision to go with the current medical advice… which is, after all, given for a reason. Parenthood is confusing enough, people: let’s not make it even more so…

“Why are you/aren’t you breastfeeding?”

I dunno: why aren’t you minding your own business?

However you choose to (or end up) feeding your baby, you’re going to be judged for it: and how sad is THAT, seriously? While some people who ask this question are just genuinely curious, though, there’s no escaping the fact that many others are asking purely to find out whether they should be judging you, and how much: no wonder it makes new mums feel just a little bit defensive…

“He looks too cold/warm/otherwise unhappy”

I remember when Max was just a few weeks old, someone commented on my Instagram to say that he should be wearing more clothes, because he looked cold. I was still full of post-partum hormones at the time, and took this as an accusation that I wasn’t looking after him properly, and was therefore a terrible mother: cue tears. And then more tears.

Now, I’d like to think the person who left that comment wasn’t trying to say anything of the sort, but the fact is, they had absolutely no idea what the temperature was in my house at the time, or whether my baby was appropriately dressed for it. I, on the other hand, DID know those things, but, having my judgement questioned like that really shook my confidence, and, well, made me feel like crap, really: and for no good reason, either.

Unless you DO have a good reason to be worried about a child’s welfare, please keep those kind of comments to yourself, and trust the person who’s actually with the child to have more/better information than you can possibly have from the other side of your phone/computer. We’re all just doing the very best we can, after all…

“Is he not sitting / standing / walking /talking yet?”

This is a great way to make a new parent worry about something they probably weren’t actually worried about, so, if that was your goal, congratulations! If it wasn’t, on the other hand, try to bear in mind that babies all develop at different rates, and parenting isn’t a competitive sport: well, not YET, anyway.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps!”

I will only do this the baby agrees to do his bit and work when I work, clean when I clean, etc. Well, it’s the only way things are going to get done if we’re all sleeping 20 hours per day, right?

“You need to look after yourself, too!”

Trust me when I tell you that new parents KNOW this: it’s the BABIES you need to be talking to, here. Tell THE BABIES. Tell them to give us just five minutes to look after ourselves… and, if they don’t (And they WON’T…), don’t rub it in by constantly badgering us to go have a bubble bath or read a good book.

“Enjoy every moment!”

I’ve written an entire blog post about this one , so I won’t repeat myself here other than to say that, while the sentiment might be well meant, and seem innocuous enough, it can actually be quite damaging, in that it encourages the belief that any negative feelings you might be having are abnormal or invalid, and that everyone else finds parenthood a breeze. And that’s just not true, is it? No one enjoys every moment, so lending a sympathetic ear to someone who’s struggling is kinder than dismissing their worries by telling them they should be enjoying it.


Anything to add?

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  • I recall seeing a photo of Chrissy Teigen on Instagram, holding Miles. She had so many awful comments about what she was doing wrong and how she was holding him. It was dreadful. As a step mother of a little 18 month old, I had zero clue about kids when J was teeny. I used to attend his football games and listen to the parents brag about their kids, each trying to prove their son was better than the other. I was always left out the conversation because I wasn’t his ‘real’ Mum. It was an eye opener in all the wrong ways.

    February 14, 2020
  • Alice


    “is he/she good?”. Such a stupid question. I was thrown by it initially (I didn’t understand what they meant) but later on was tempted to reply “no, she’s a bit like Hitler”.

    February 14, 2020
  • Jenna


    ‘Rod for your own back’ is always the one that gets me. I’m a midwife and I’ve heard people say this to new mums when they were cuddling their babies who were only a few hours old. Other people and their weirdness are definitely one of the hardest things about having kids!

    February 14, 2020
  • Lise


    This has little to do with the post above. My children were last babies ~30 years ago. I do confess to having played parenting as a competitive sport at times when they were little, tho.

    I’m posting because I scanned a full in-box with ~100 emails; deleted about 15 without reading them, and of the remainder, opened yours first. I enjoy your writing SO MUCH that I almost always open yours first; you cheer me up enough (even when you’re negative) that you help me start the day on a pleasant note.

    Because of that, I finally went to look at your Patreon options, and am disappointed to see that the two lower tiers are no longer available. I would certainly have gone for the Blog Reader option if it were still available, and would have preferred the Book Reader option to the remaining two. I will probably buy your book when you make it available, and it would be financially more profitable for you to have us read it as Patreons; assuming it’s going to be more than 6 chapters long and under $30. I understand why the last option is limited in availability, since it offers your time. I’m debating about the Diary Reader option, but I’m much less interested in what you had to say 30 years ago than I am in what you have to say now (or so I assume, having so far only read the couple of diary chapters you posted on your blog a few years back). So now I have to decide whether it’s worth $60 a year to me to read an extra secret-filled blog post monthly, which I know I’d enjoy, (and would definitely at this point pay $24 a year for), and a 30 year old diary entry, about which I’m not so sure. Is there any possibility you will reopen the Blog Reader or Book Reader options?

    In any case, let me repeat, I LOVE YOUR WRITING!

    February 14, 2020
      • Lise


        Thanks so much for your rapid response, Amber.

        I’m now a proud member of your Blog Reader Tier.


        February 14, 2020
  • Sun


    Love this, great post

    February 25, 2020
  • Pj


    Couldn’t agree more! Lots of these have been said to me!

    February 25, 2020
  • In my case all I ever hear is ‘wow he looks like his dad’. Then second time around ‘wow he looks like his dad too!’ All day long- doesn’t he look like James? I mentioned to my mother in law re my second son- at least he has my dimple. Her response- yes but he’s 99.9% daddy. Grrr! I only carried them, pushed them out and have spent the last 4 years getting up in the night for them! I’m hesitant to give my opinion on which parent the baby looks like as a, mum might not want to be reminded of the injustice and 2, she’s probably heard it A MILLION TIMES! Phew, that’s better 😉

    February 28, 2020
  • szilaska


    When I was pregnant with my second baby, and told people it’s a boy (I already had a daughter), a shocking number of people reacted by assuring me boys love their mothers much more than girls. I’m sorry?? Am I having a child to have someone who loves me (of course you hope they would, but is it really the ultimate goal?) and in case I only have a daughter who apparently cannot love me enough, I should try for a boy for someone to love me properly? Did these people realize they basically just told me that my daughter never can love me enough (and certainly did not until that point)?

    March 4, 2020