I absolutely adored my sweet newborn daughter. She was everything I ever hoped my baby would be—healthy, perfectly formed, and born with a full head of gorgeous dark hair.
But, she was hard. Like, really hard. Feeding her was hard, getting her to sleep was hard, keeping myself sane through all of this was super hard. I tried and tried every strategy and program I could find on the internet. I read multiple books and asked fellow moms I trusted. But with all of this, very few pieces of advice helped solve any of my problems.
I felt desperate and like a complete failure. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I figure this mom thing out? I thought.
As friends and family members heard about my struggles, things didn’t get better. In some ways, they got worse. Because suddenly, I became the sounding board for every piece of baby-raising advice anyone has ever had . . . ever.
“You should try the Ferber method to get her to sleep. Worked in two nights for my boy.”
“Take her for a walk. That always helped my fussy girl.”
“The baby swing is a godsend. Do you have one?”
“Oh, you really should use the football hold for breastfeeding. It’s so much easier.”
These well-intended suggestions didn’t help. In fact, I don’t think I ever received a piece of advice that was new knowledge to me. I had done my homework. A lot of homework. I wasn’t clueless.
Nope, I was tired. Really, really, tired.
Physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I needed someone to listen, to empathize. Because, here’s the thing: what worked for your baby might not work for mine. And what worked for most babies, definitely wasn’t working for mine.
So, here’s a better way to approach a mama who’s having a rough moment:
Lead with empathy, not advice.
A full-on vent session is probably what she needs first. So, let her talk. And listen with a sincere, empathetic ear. Let her tell the whole ugly mess of a story that the past few weeks have been for her.
And when she’s finished, please control yourself, mama! You may have 10 great tips you’re dying to give about baby sleep. But if she doesn’t want to hear it—or she’s not in a great place emotionally to hear it—then keep it to yourself. All you may need to say to her is, “I’m sorry he’s not sleeping well. We went through that too.”
Assume she’s done some research.
Most likely, she’s been talking with her doctor, reading some books, or at least Googling her problem. Don’t hit her up with basic questions, Oh, did you try a swaddle? Was he hungry before bed? Did you check her diaper? These are not helpful, and probably just offensive.
None of us have this mom thing completely figured out. So let’s just say, your friend is totally clueless and needs some sage advice for the health and safety of her and baby. Gracefully and tactfully approach that conversation, without judgment or condemnation. I can guarantee you she already feels like a bit of a loser, so try your best not to accidentally rub it in.
Above all, just listen. And if you really want to give her some advice? Tell her she’s a good mom.
In fact, she’s the best mom there is for her baby. No one could do a better job raising that child than her. Tell her everyone struggles at some point, and things will get better. Remind her she’s in good company with the billions of mamas who have walked before her. Moms who have struggled, felt desperate and exhausted, but have made it to the other side.
Tell her she’s enough. And most importantly, tell her you’re here for her during this moment and anytime after.
Because motherhood was never meant to be an island. Let her know she can always count on you to listen, during the good times and bad.
And I bet—when you encounter your own motherhood struggle—she’ll make sure she’s there to listen to you, too.