1. Hold it in
So, your mummy mate’s not burping her baby the way your health visitor suggested, but if it’s working, let her get on with it! We know it’s hard to hold your tongue when you think your way is the best, but don’t jump in with a put-down about what she’s doing. It’ll make you both feel bad.
“Be less direct than ‘You’re doing that wrong’,” says Rosalie Ajzensztejn from Parentline Plus. “Try, ‘I wonder about this’ or ‘I’m not sure if it’ll work for you, but…’ when giving advice.”
2. Don’t judge
It’s all too easy to be a backseat driver, or a backseat mum in this case. “I’ve been on the receiving end of lectures about the chemicals in nappies,” says Liane Moore, 30, from Bingley, mum to James, 12, Ewan, 19 months, and Niamh, 15 weeks. “But I’ve found the best support is when someone offers advice when I’ve asked for it or they’ve seen I’ve been struggling with something. Starting a sentence with, ‘What you should do’ is never helpful, and neither is tutting or rolling your eyes.”
3. Be all ears
Whether your mummy mate’s ringing for a moan about her man being no help or in hysterics ’cos her baby is refusing to eat, if she needs a shoulder to cry on, or even just a chat, keep your ears open. “Next time you meet, try just listening, rather than simply waiting for your turn to speak,” says life coach and mother of two, Antonia Confalone.
“Keep an eye on your friend’s body language too, and if you think she might be having problems, try and get a partner to hold the fort and arrange to meet her without the distraction of kids now and then.” If meeting up is hard because of your new baby, don’t forget to make time for a phone call or email, she’ll really appreciate the contact even if it’s not actual face-to-face time.
4. Curb the crowing
Naturally, when your baby first smiles, you’ll want to bang on about it. If you catch your baby’s first crawl on film, who wouldn’t want to replay it eight times? Well… possibly not a mum who doesn’t feel like she or her baby are measuring up. “While there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your baby’s developments and achievements, you can discuss it with friends, but save the full-blown bragging for grandparents and aunties and uncles,” says Antonia. “That way, you won’t make other mums feel bad that their baby hasn’t reached that milestone yet.”
5. Invite her out
Being welcoming to other new mums is a fantastic way to keep you all sane, and shows there’s no need to be alone without any grown-up company. “Many mums who meet when their children are babies remain friends for years to come,” says Rosalie. “Keeping sociable with other mums is great for the baby too, as they learn to interact with other children at a young age.” Off to Ikea to check out cots? Invite your mate along too for a second opinion and make it a fun lunch date.
6. Donate goodies
If you’re done with something, or your expanding little one has outgrown her pretty clobber, share the love! Having a baby is an expensive business, so other mums will be grateful for you passing on bits and pieces you no longer need. Think clothes and bodysuits – which last forever as they’re outgrown before they wear out – toys that are intact, or maternity togs if a friend is expecting again.
“I was given countless bodysuits and dresses for Izzy when she was born, and I really appreciated it,” says Ashley Smith, 29, from Dorset, mum to Izzy, 8 months. “A few mums I knew had older tots and passed down blankets and goodies that I loved, and I’ve done the same to other mums too, so we’ve got a whole network of swapsies going on!”
Avoid second-hand cot mattresses, car seats and baby walkers as you need to be sure they’re safe and fitted correctly for your child.
7. Share your blushes
Whatever daft things have happened to you, whether it’s leaky boobs, baby sick or a jam-packed changing bag bursting open at the checkout, we’ve all been there. “To be able to laugh at yourself, share stories and be human with your mummy mates is all part of staying sane and knowing you’re not alone,” says Antonia. “It’s such a relief to hear mums open up and know that you, your baby and your day-to-day misadventures are normal.”
8. Tot swap
If another mum’s happy to leave her baby with you, taking her little one for a few hours can be a real saviour if she’s struggling. “Have some time together with the other mum and your babies before you have them alone,” advises Rosalie. “This will make you all feel comfortable with each other before either of you look after each other’s children separately.” And by helping out, it means you’ll have a cast-iron babysitter on hand when you need time out.
9. Pass on hot tips
“Being a young parent, I’ve found the best advice comes from other mums,” says Pamela Fernandez, 20, from New Zealand, mum to Xavier Dominic, 5 months. “There are heaps of baby products out there, and sometimes I need reassurance that I’m buying one that actually works, and not just the most expensive.”
10. Spill the beans
A problem shared is a problem halved, and swapping advice helps mums realise they’re not alone. Exchanging worries may also throw up unexpected ideas and solutions, so don’t be shy if you’re in a spot of bother. A good friend won’t judge, but help as much as they can with an issue.