This sounds like sage advice, but many moms know it's almost impossible to follow. When else are you supposed to get anything done if not when the baby's napping? It's also hard to squeeze in a nap if you have other kids that need your time and attention. "I wish people wouldn't tell you to 'sleep when the baby's sleeping' without offering help!" says Eileen Zyco Wolter, a mother of two from Summit, New Jersey. The next time you're at a new mom's house, offer to watch the kids or straighten up around the house so she can lie down for a bit.
Sleepless nights go hand-in-hand with parenthood, and unless a new mom lives in a house without any mirrors, she's probably noticed those bags under her eyes. Pointing it out to her -- even in a sympathetic manner -- might make her feel self-conscious about her appearance.
"People would ask me, 'Are you sleeping?' The answer is always a depressing, 'No,'" says Carrie Carroll, a mom of twins from Arlington, Virginia. "Another one is: 'Have you had a chance to relax or have a little you time?' Again, the answer is a sad, 'No!'"
All babies cry, but mentioning that her baby is especially fussy might confirm a first-time mom's worst fear: that she isn't a good mom. It's okay to offer up a tip if it's helpful ("My son cried a lot and we discovered he had acid reflux."), but don't diminish the stress she might be going through. "I don't care if you're a 'seasoned veteran' in the mommy world and you know that just because my newborn refuses to sleep doesn't mean a lifetime of therapy. As a new mom, it is the end of the world to me and it is a big deal, so let me freak out if I want to!" says Leslie Haywood, inventor of Grill Charms and mom of two from Charleston, South Carolina.
When parents are in that newborn phase -- no sleep, constant feedings, and no time for themselves -- sometimes all they have to keep their sanity is the knowledge that it will get better.
"My husband had a ridiculous travel schedule and I was alone with our colicky baby a lot," says Sally Murdoch-King, a mom from Portland, Oregon. "To anyone who says parenthood gets tougher or just wait until they are three, four, or 15...they are dead wrong! Your love grows and grows the more you know your child, and while things may be frustrating, you have more and more good times to reflect on as a parent to get you through the bad."
When Amy Williams had her second boy, she was shocked when people looked at her sympathetically and asked, "Awww...didn't you really want a girl?" "It is awful to hear that and [it's] so negative," Williams says. "Babies don't come with an exchange policy. Having two boys has been the most exciting adventure of my life -- it's been a blast!"
Instead of ignoring rude remarks, Williams took action and designed a fashion brand for moms with boys called Boymom; it celebrates the joyous adventure of raising boys. After much demand she created a second apparel line for moms of girls, Girlmom.
Let the new mom enjoy work-free time with her baby. She'll have plenty of time to worry about returning to work and to deal with the emotions of leaving her baby with child care.
If she's going back to work sooner than later, don't judge her. "'Is your career more important than your family? How can you let someone else raise your children? Who cooks for your kids? Do you have to work?' Each one of these diminishes the new mom's confidence in raising her child and working, and really should never be said," says Sara Sutton Fell, a mother of two and the CEO/Founder of FlexJobs from Boulder, Colorado.
Also, there might be a chance that the new mom has decided not to return to the workforce and to stay at home with her child. "So now the question implies that being at home with the kids isn't work, and strikes at the heart of mommy wars," says Williams says.
New parents hear this question most often when a parent has two or more children of the same sex ("So, are you going to try for a boy/a girl?"). "Please, can I just get my head around the ones I have and figure out how to get two of them in the car at the same time before I go planning the future of our entire family?" says Jennifer Newman Galluzzo, a mom of two from Brewster, New York.
Of course, you can also run the risk of asking this question of a mother who is trying to get pregnant and is having difficulty doing so. Unless she confides in you, it's best not to broach the subject.
"Someone told me that my kids don't look anything like me -- they look like their dad -- and then asked, 'Are you sure they're yours?' and then laughed," Galluzzo recalls. "[It was] just not funny. I felt like saying 'Yes, I'm sure they are mine -- I was there during both painful labors. And thanks for pointing out that I get no credit for having them because they look like their dad.'"
The same goes when a baby looks like her mom. Telling a dad that he'd "better ask for a paternity test" might seem funny to you, but not everyone will appreciate the joke. Instead, tell all new parents what they want to hear: Their little one is the cutest baby ever born!
The same goes for asking a nursing mom how long she plans to breastfeed. Although experts recommend breastfeeding for at least six months, some women choose to nurse for less time and others do so for longer. Whether you agree or disagree with the amount of time she plans to nurse her child, it's best for you to keep your opinion to yourself.
Galluzzo's most shocking moment came when someone asked her when she was due -- while she was holding her two month-old daughter. "I didn't actually say anything, but held up Gabriella and gave her a look. She suddenly understood and was quite embarrassed."
Refrain from commenting on the new mom's weight before and after birth. This will keep everyone happy.