7 Things to NEVER Say to A Mother

A couple weeks ago my husband was out of town. After a long day with my toddler (who was getting over a cold) I decided to take him to Whole Food’s for dinner. As I stood in line I noticed a man starring at me and the checker asked him if he needed anything. He said, “no, I’m just waiting to ask this lady a question.” 

I was a little taken aback but when I finished buying our food I turned to him. And then he said it. 

“Is your son mentally disabled?” 

I must have turned completely white as the line of fellow customers looked at me for an answer. I replied, “NO…why?” 

He said, “Oh he just has a certain look.” Which I replied to him “you probably shouldn’t ask people that question.” 

Immediate tears started flowing down my face as I walked with my son to a table. How could someone be so insensitive?? While a lot of people over heard the conversation one kind woman came and found me. She told me little Coco-nib was perfect and that something must be wrong with that man. She said she could tell he had a cold because his face looked a little swollen (all true). Through my tears I told her that my son was not even two years old  and people were often confused by his large size (he’s the average height of a 3 year old boy). She nodded and again told me he was perfect.  Our conversation was like balm to my wound. 

My horrible experience got me thinking. Maybe people just don’t know what they shouldn’t say to a mother? Maybe they don’t realize how we often feel inadequate, insecure, and alone in our role as a new moms? When another person in public gives you the glare because your kids are noisy or says something insensitive it HURTS. And I promise you IT DOES NOT MAKE US BETTER MOTHERS. 

So I asked a group of my blogging friends and my fans on Facebook things people have said to them you should NEVER say. And here they are…

1. Don’t say ANYTHING unless it’s uplifting about her body DURING and AFTER pregnancy

Need some examples? “You’re huge! Are you sure you aren’t having twins”, “You’re so small for __weeks. Are you eating” and please make sure you KNOW someone is pregnant before asking them how far along they are…it can be tough to shed that belly after baby. 

2. Don’t tell an expectant mother your labor and delivery nightmare stories

 Now this is a tough one. I think a lot of woman suffer from very traumatic births and they DO NEED to talk about them. But a pregnant mama is probably not your best option. They need encouragement about birth and motherhood! So if your birth was incredible and empowering share away! 

If you did have a tramatic birth you should check out this book. 

3. Passive aggressive remarks that you aren’t taking care of your children well

This one was a biggie for other mommy bloggers. Here are a couple of their stories….

“Where is your child’s hat?! Bog off!”-Loula Natural 

 “Do not come looking for sympathy when you roll over onto your baby, and suffocate her while you sleep”. My auntie said this to me when my daughter was an infant when I mentioned that we were bed sharing. It really hurt my feelings at the time, since this was with Saylor, and I was a 1st time mother already terrified that I was doing it all wrong. Never suffocated her though (and her brother survived as well), ha.-The Moderately Crunchy Mommy

From a teacher. “I’m so glad you’re here first in line since she’s wearing a dress, I was afraid she’d freeze!” 
It was 50F. And we’re from the Midwest. Atlanta is full of weather pansies.-The Veggie Converter

Oh, that’s a boy??? Cut his hair, he looks like a girl!- The Darling Baker 

“Why on earth are you having a baby at your age?” I was 35 at the time! I told her ” because I still can, and don’t worry you won’t be delivering it!” –Beauty and The Foodie

“As we walked into the store, a woman threw a hat at me from a rack and said, “put a hat on your baby” then looked me up and down and gave a dirty look and walked away. I looked about 15, so I’m guessing that didn’t help. I felt so awful (and that I was doing a bad job) that I cried and bought the hat” -Anonymous blogger 

“I was told by a family member that I wasn’t prepared enough to look after my child and that I was doing a bad job. I had been planning to have a child for 4 years before going for it and even went over to America to become a Cultural Care Au Pair so I could both travel and also look after children to see if I could hack it. I loved it and took away a lot of help. It’s fair to say she isn’t on the Christmas card list anymore. -Anonymous blogger 2

Unless you think the child’s livelihood is in danger (listen to your gut on this one) it’s not your place to tell her where you think she’s messing up. We’ve all be there before-whether we got in the car and forgot to put socks on our infant or had a toddler who simply refused to wear a coat. So let’s give each other some space..

3. Don’t question the way another mother feeds her baby….

This one might get me a lot of backlash so let me just say that I think when possible breastfeeding is ALWAYS best. One of my favorite bloggers Ariana from And Here We Are very graciously shared her story and I think she does a better job than I could with this topic.

” Now, I would never ask a woman if she breastfeeds (how is it my business anyway?) And I will always be supportive of the choices a mother makes for her baby. If she wants advice on homemade formula and ASKS, I’ll help, but otherwise my job as a woman is to SUPPORT. Period. A lot of people make assumptions about moms who are not breastfeeding. I was and am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, but I could not produce enough milk. Took all advice, tried all remedies, nursed constantly… And my baby was not thriving. I started making formula at home for her ala WAPF, and she did well with it. However, quite a few women approached me in public, would chat with me about my beautiful baby, and then ask me point blank if I was breastfeeding– like it was their business! I had a lot of issues with feeling like my body had failed in this regard, and somehow felt like I owed them an explanation– of course this was always super painful.” Ariana from And Here We Are. 

If you are nursing or formula feeding this book book is an excellent guide to pregnancy and infant nutrition. Buy it here 

4.You are still nursing? Isn’t she over __ years old? 

It’s not a competition so if you breastfed your baby for 3 months or 3 years that is your personal decision. Women who choose to breastfeed their children longer then “normal” take a lot of flack. Here’s a little confession…my son still nurses and he’ll be two this week. Because I fear other peoples comments I don’t share this information…not even with my mom friends. Extended breastfeeding might not be up your ally but please keep the negative comments to yourself. 

5.To a stay at home mom ” So what do you do all day?” 

 Several moms on my fb page brought this one up. I’ve actually gotten this one a lot from people very close to me and it’s hard not to take it to heart. On one hand it could simply be genuine curiosity-they simply want to know what it’s like to be a stay at home mom. But quite frankly, I don’t think it’s often meant in a kind way….

 6.“Oh My! You have your hands full!”

My friends brought this one up. It’s another one of those ones where people MIGHT have the BEST intention but…we hate it. Let me tell you what we hear ” You have too many kids.” “You look like you have more than you can handle.” Bottom line-it’s just not helpful. Instead we would rather hear, “You are doing a great job!” or “Your children are lovely.” 

7. To a working mom “How do you handle someone else raising your child?” 

Now this one is a tough one for me because I was raised by a stay at mom and now I am also a stay at home mom. However, one of my best friends is a working mom. And you know what? She is one of the most amazing mothers I know. And she is not “letting someone else raise her child.” Just because she works full time does not mean she is not fully engaged in her son’s life. Working moms and stay at home moms LOVE their children. PERIOD. 

We’ve had enough!!! 

One of my favorite sayings goes likes this “have thick skin and a soft heart”. Since becoming a mother and a blogger I’ve felt more attacked than any other time in my life. I am constantly reminding myself to brush it off but somedays it feels overwhelming and exhausting. I was telling my best friend how much stranger’s words were affecting me and she encouraged me to try and figure out WHAT WOUND their words hit inside of me. It’s a powerful question. And I encourage you all to ask yourself the same question when a stranger says something hurtful to you.

Most days I don’t feel like I’m artistic enough, fun enough, talented enough or creative enough to even attempt to write a blog. So when I wake up in the morning to a mean comment it validates ALL OF THOSE negative emotions. The same goes for my parenting-when someone says something hurtful-it validates all of those worries that I’m not a good enough mother. So instead of being deeply hurt and offended by these strangers I am TRYING  to cut to the heart of the issue. I don’t feel good enough. And right now I’m just asking myself why I feel this way. I hope this resonates with you on some level. Does it? 

Have you had some experiences you’d like to share? Do you have one that’s even worse? Please share in the comments below so that others can benefit from your experience. Or maybe you just need a good vent. Either way I’d love to hear from you!!! 

7 Things You Should Never Say to A Mother-www.cocoswell.com





  1. Niki

    I absolutely love this! People can say some of the strangest things without meaning any harm, and don’t even realize the damage they have done. Thanks for this list!

  2. Laura

    2 years isn’t “extended”–it’s normal! I know women who breastfed their kids as long as they wanted. Mine self-weaned very abruptly at 18 months, and I had been planning on keeping going past 2 years–I was devastated, and depressed! So. Keep it up, and be proud you can and are! And good blog. 🙂

  3. Rachel

    I have three boys under four, and ever since I had my second (my oldest was 17 months) I hear “you have your hands full” on a regular basis. With my last two pregnancies, i heard many “jokes” like “haven’t you heard of birth control?” Or “you guys haven’t figured out where babies come from yet?” It makes me feel embarrassed like I’m the crazy baby lady, but I haven’t been upset about being pregnant and love that my kids are so close in age. I feel like people assume it was a mistake.

    • Such a shame Rachel! Watching your family grow has been so much fun! And from a somewhat outsider looking in I would say it seems like you are enjoying every minute of it. You are such a mama roll model to me. Keep it up friend!

  4. Anonymous

    Great post! A few years back I made an off-hand remark about how I would love to have more kids (I have two), but how my husband is “done”. A family member was horrified and said, “You don’t need more kids. You can’t even take care of the ones you have!” I am disabled, and every day is a struggle, but that comment was so hurtful. I’m well aware that I have to rely on others to do many things for my kids, and it kills me. I am plagued by guilt and regrets every single day. I was simply expressing my love for babies and being a mom. That unkind comment has stuck with me (and I think it always will), and makes it even more difficult to not feel like a failure of a mom. It boggles my mind sometimes what people think is okay to say to another person.

    • rachel

      I cannot imagine how that makes you feel. I hope that you find peace and not measure your worth on what someone else has said of you. hugs momma!

  5. JC

    The hardest time for me was right after we adopted our girls. They were 2 and 4. The oldest had A LOT of issues. She was diagnosed as ODD and I was basically told there was no hope for her and all I could do was behavior modification techniques. Needless to say I left the doctors office and never went back for more. I just couldn’t accept that as a final word on this childs life. I also had no help or support so it was a very hard transition. New inexperienced mom of 2 with children who had been abused and neglected the first 15+ months of their lives. I had to be very creative with discipline. One time I was talking to another mom at church about it (I really needed to vent and needed help and support) and she totally shamed me for how I dealt with a particular issue. It only made it harder for me and made me less likely to ask for support when I needed it.

    My girls will soon be 14 and 16 and my oldest is doing great! She has overcome much and is headed for a great future. All this to say that other people’s opinions mean little. We have to learn to trust ourselves and surround ourselves with moms who will support you as you support them.

  6. Love this!!! It always amazes me the things people say to mothers. I am a stay at home mom with my own in home business to supplement income I have three children under 9 the two oldest are step children and I have been heavily involved in their lives since I met their father. I am fortunate enough to have a great relationship with their mother we talk almost on a daily baisis and not just about the kids. We delveloped a friendship. Every time I tell people that I always get some kind of weird comment or “why would you be friends with her!?” Seriously why not!? She is the biological mother of two amazing beings I also consider my children! People especially other mother should not judge how they choose to parent their children we should as women support each other and every womens unique parenting style.

  7. Amanda

    I think this is a fantastic blog! I am not a mom, yet, but I have 4 sisters and numerous friends who are new mom’s and this article is very relevant and spot on. I think this can lead us to asking better questions and saying comments that will have no underlying meaning…..

    I think you are a great blogger! You have nothing to worry about!

    PS: I was wondering if you could write a follow up to this….with 7 things mom’s want to hear from us?

    • Thank you so much! You are too kind. I love the idea of writing a follow up post! I’m actually going to ask my fans on fb that question tomorrow. Thank you! 🙂

  8. Shelley

    We were visiting relatives in California whit my then 14 mnth old, and I was pregnant with my second. One of them, when he found out I was pregnant again, said something to the effect of “Don’t you people have anything else to do up there in North Idaho!?” I was to stunned to say anything, and ended up taking my toddler outside for a walk. Now I have 3 boys and I do hear that I have my hands full a lot. Now I just tell them that I wish I had more.

  9. Saray

    Love this post! It’s so true. I think all moms can relate to this to some extent. I hate it how some people will say to me ‘oh let him go’ ‘oh he is fine!’ ‘He will eat/drink when he is hungry/thirsty’… Don’t tell me how to care for my kids! I’m their mom, I know them and I know how to handle them. Some of these people don’t even have any children!
    To me is a direct offense, like telling me I’m not doing a good job as a mom, that I’m over protective or I don’t know when my boys need to have a drink because I tell you they will rather thirst to death than to stop having fun at the playground, so as a good mother I will force them to sit for a couple minutes to take a break and have some water! I’m a mom! I know my kids and don’t tell me how to raise my own kids. I’m also a stay at home mom and I get the ‘what do you do all day’ comment quite often… Very irritating!

  10. Denise

    When I told an acquaintance that I was pregnant, she asked me how old I was. I was 44. She then told me I was going to have a miscarriage, because of my age. Well, I did have a miscarriage, but it was a very insensitive thing to say.

  11. ReneeP

    Gosh, this reminds me of a coomment from a stranger about my son. Not as bad as yours but still bad. I am white and my son is half Asian and looks nothing like me, he looks fully Asian. I was grocery shopping with my son when 2 men come up to me and asked, “Is this some kind of Angelina Jolie kid or something?” while chuckling. I was stunned! I thought I was imagining this. Who cares if he is adopted anyway? I get the adoption thing quite often but the wording of his comment, I swear.

  12. T Miller

    My MIL and SIL used to be the worst at giving me advice that they themselves did not follow at all. I could give examples, but I won’t.

  13. Kristina

    I love this post!!! I have 3 boys who are 5,3 and 1 and my 4 month old niece is living with us. We recently went to buy a new truck and had to take all 4 kids with us and almost every single person we passed kept saying wow you guys have your hands full, and I’m pretty sure only one guy meant it nicely because he then went on to tell us he was expecting his first. It drive me crazy. Like I don’t know my hands are full and that 4 children are a lot. The other thing I hate to hear is you’re not having more are you? Thank you for writing this and I hope people read it.

  14. Shawna

    I think the strangers I come across make up for all the negativity I receive from my in laws. I hear consistently from my in laws, “you aren’t doing enough”, “you have your hands full”, “your kids aren’t dressed in new enough clothing” “what’s wrong with them/her/he?” I have a child with a speech disorder and gosh I hear all the time we aren’t doing enough. I’m sorry but she goes to 2 therapy appts a week, and one is a behaviorist. She is covered. Oh and we homeschool which is another can of hate for them. They never offer help, just judgement. But strangers in passing are always so pleasant to me, most come up and gush over my 3 kids and love that we’re expecting our 4th (and mine kids will be 5 and under by the time baby #4 is here!!). Maybe it’s just gods way of leveling out the negativity.

  15. Tina

    I love this post! I’m pregnant, and have already started to hear some comments…
    BUT: Sometimes, when I try to discuss ideas and options about different things regarding children (birth, parenting, feeding, you name it), some mothers take absolutely everything I say as an insult to them and their ways! That hurts, because I simply want others thoughts on the issue at hand. And how can a young, expecting mother get that, except from other mothers? I’m very sensitive about how I raise the issue too, so it should not be taken as critique in any way, just an honest exchange of opinions and experiences.
    Maybe, sometimes, we women get way to sensitive? But the comments in the text above are just plain offensive, in most cases…

  16. Jacquie

    My son was 4 and we were having him assessed for autism and a host of other ‘things’. We had been asked to remove him from his last preschool because of behaviour. In his new preschool a mother approached me and said she had enough of her son coming home upset because my son had pushed him or hit him. I had no idea it was happening, the director of the program hadn’t told me. (The director later told me the incidents weren’t serious so she didn’t feel the need to tell me). Anyway, I apologized and tried to explain to the mother what we were going through and how we were in the midst of having our son assessed. She immediately came back with ‘if your kid isn’t normal he shouldn’t be in a normal preschool!’ I had to ask her to move away from me before I lost my mind or I felt I couldn’t be responsible for my reaction to her horribly insensitive comment.
    That comment sticks with me to this day, and yes my son has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, OCD, and an anxiety disorder, he is also gifted.

  17. Teresa

    You’re doing a great job! 🙂
    I think we’ve all felt this way and I’m also positive that we’ve ALL been that judgmental of someone else at some point or another. Especially in our society where you can’t help but make comparisons between yourself and people you know, or strangers you see on t.v. or bloggers you read online or what have you. This kind of judgment even comes from within families more often than not. I don’t know how we’re supposed to deal with it but I know you’re right when you say it bother’s us, or hits a nerve because it touches the wound inside of us. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Heather

    Oh my goodness, I love your blog!
    I am a mom of a 2 year old and I have to say, I have had all but a couple of these things said to me. when I got pregnant i had someone ask me are you sure there isn’t two in there? when I responded no way, with a smile on my face! what else can you say.

    I think we just have to take the good comments we get from other people and ignore the rest.

  19. Maura

    When I told my MIL that I was pregnant with my 4th, she said, “Oh I feel so sorry for you”. Whaaaat? That was over 7 years ago and it still hurts.

  20. Amber

    I was 21 when I had my first, but looked 16. The glares I got sporting my baby belly made me want to hide and not show off that mommy glow. I was also small. I stand 5’5″ and got up to 150 lbs at full term with BOTH kids. I had people literally buying me food in McDonald’s because I “needed to feed that baby”. My response was to smile and say “thanks but the doctor says we’re fine” one lady went as far as telling me to get a new doctor. (I asked if she wad accepting new patients. That the her off) My baby is now 5 and I still remember those “casual” conversations with strangers. I guarantee it didn’t put a blip in their day, but it ruined my week.

    Another pet peeve: ask before you touch my belly. Just because it’s huge doesn’t give you access rights. Elderly ladies are the worst about it!

  21. T.G.

    I honestly think that people say the DUMBEST THINGS TO PREGNANT PEOPLE! I wonder if maybe they just have nothing else to say? I resemble a whale pregnant but really that’s not the time to rub in the fact. One guy asked me if the watermelon in my shopping cart would bust before the one in my stomach – & I had another month or so to go 🙁 another teenage girl asked me if I was having twins…when I replied NO, just one (as politely as I could be). She seemed puzzled & asked me if I was sure?? hummm at that point I was within 6 weeks of delivery & wanted to give her a muzzle instead of a hug lol. **The worst comment I’ve ever received as a parent was on a cruise which has a LOT of family programs LATE at night. Our daughter took a LOOOONG nap so she could go to a game show program with us & someone saw her coming out dancing to the music being AMAZING for a 3 yr old kid & felt the need to eat my lunch telling me how awful of a parent I must be for having a kid out at that hour. She didn’t know how late my child slept in or that she normally takes 2 naps in the day she simply assumed without any discussion that I was the worst mother EVER & proceeded to tell me. Praise God I was SOOOO shocked by her angry rant I was stunned into silence…until I regained my senses & spoke to my husband. I kept replaying it wondering if I was the worst mother ever wishing I could explain my side of things. Years later I still remember the embarrassment of being amongst others & having her terrible words sting through my soul. It RUINED my cruise & as a stay-at-home mom I NEEDED TO HAVE SOME FUN, & as a one income family we saved a LONG time for that fun only to have some inconsiderate person who may have had some alcohol in her loosening her tongue ruin it 🙁 Yuck, she may not have even remembered that comment or that night for all I know but I never have forgotten, forgiven yes, forgotten no lol.

  22. Andrea Lynne Cory

    You’re wonderful. It is a ‘club’ and once you’ve truly joined your heart is captive ~so wearily enlarged inside your chest with no medical correction in site EVER. The sad thing is we hurt each other the most! I read your words and well~ I remember so vividily my youthful days… and now I have three daughters who have this need to remind me of this sensitivity… as if I never experienced life at all! Ah.. the path meanders on… but you have articulated it so well. Thank you for the read.

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