Parent shaming. It’s a real thing and in many cases it begins right from the moment a baby is born. Heather Peters, mom of one from Maple Ridge, BC, says the mom shaming started prior to actually giving birth. “I was shamed for having a c-section. Multiple times. I was shamed for breastfeeding. Multiple times. Then I was shamed for bottle feeding. Multiple times. Then I was shamed for formula feeding. Multiple times. I was also shamed for using a stroller, shamed for babywearing. I couldn’t win. I was shamed for introducing solids ‘too soon’, then shamed for waiting ‘too long’ to introduce solids. I was shamed for co-sleeping and bed sharing. Shamed for putting the baby in a crib/bassinet. Everyone had an opinion on everything.”
These negative comments and unsolicited opinions make the already difficult transition of becoming a mom or dad even more challenging for new parents. When innocent opinions turn into comparing parents to other parents or judging parenting styles, that’s when shaming begins. This creates unneeded stress on the newbies.
Jenelle Thiessen, a DONA trained Doula from Red Deer, says a mother’s hormones and body changes greatly after childbirth and when faced with judgements and comparisons it can cause a mother to begin to doubt herself, which can ultimately lead to feelings of frustration or even postpartum depression. “Every new mom struggles with opinions and wanting to fit into the cliché good mom,” says Jenelle. “Postpartum depression is on the rise and it has a lot to do with mom guilt.”
Nicole Kloss gave birth to her daughter in September, 2017. She says she has already had to face some judgements on her parenting choices. During her transition into motherhood, she found the best support is not in the form of an opinion but merely as a listening ear when she needs someone to talk to. “The best thing has been hearing stories and being able to bounce my ideas off of other moms,” says Nicole. “It is nice to hear from other moms that things are normal.” New parents need others to relate to what they are going through in order to ensure that they aren’t alone. While most of parenting comes naturally, it is important to note that a lot of it is learned through trial and error.
So let’s stop the shaming. Instead, here are some ways you can help new parents:
- Listen. Be quiet, and listen.
- Give them a break. Offer to come hold the baby for an hour while Mom has a relaxing bath or maybe a nap.
- Create a list of chores or errands that friends and family can help with. Email it around and have everyone take on a task. Cook meals, walk the dog, mow the lawn- whatever gives new parents some time to relax.
- Give them some space. Sure, your intentions may be good, but you may not be needed to help 24 hours a day. Pop by, leave your frozen lasagna on the table, cuddle the baby and then hit the road.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Winter 2017.