There’s something about becoming a mum (or at least there was in my case) which brings out the instinct to go all mama bear on anyone who gets too close to the cubs in the wrong way. Even if said person is not a hunter but is just intending to stroke those cute little cubs. So if you want to avoid a (verbal) mauling, try and avoid doing the following:
- Telling mum that the baby is crying. Yes, mummy knows. She’s just trying to figure out what to do. You are not helping by pointing it out and making her feel like an idiot.
- Picking up a crying baby without asking a mum who is nearby. This is likely to release her inner mama bear. Perhaps mum was leaving baby for a reason (e.g. seeing if it was just a quick squeak before baby settles). If she wasn’t she unlikely to thank you for jumping in ahead of her.
- Taking the baby monitor away from mum without asking. Another possible mama bear moment. Some mums (me included) will take the monitor with them even if they nip to the bathroom. They will have it in earshot as they prepare lunch. They will not thank you if the monitor suddenly disappears.
- Going in to ‘check’ on a sleeping baby without asking. The baby is fine. Mum has it under control. She is likely to flip if you wake baby up.
- Telling mum repeatedly that baby is hungry/thirsty. Do you know if mum is attempting to implement a schedule? Are you aware that not every cry means hunger? Are you with baby 24 hours a day working out what those cries mean? No? Then please keep your (well-meant?) suggestions to yourself unless asked. If you don’t mum is likely to feel that you are trying to take over. And she will not be happy about it.
- Hovering while mum changes a diaper / does a feed etc etc. This is likely to make mum feel that she is doing it wrong. Or on trial. If she’s trying to breastfeed and you haven’t been invited in, be prepared for sharp words / tears / angry glares.
- Taking a baby away from mum. Why would you do that?
- Taking baby out of his/her highchair without asking in the middle of a meal because he/she ‘doesn’t want to eat’. Mum will decide when baby has had enough. That is not your decision to make.
- Conversely, feeding a baby without asking or feeding baby certain foods without checking if he/she is allowed them is also likely to elicit a tirade. Most likely you will have fed baby when he/she wasn’t actually asking for food, or given him/her something that was deliberately being avoided (perhaps because of allergies or new advice that you were not aware of). Don’t do it.
- Overloading baby with unwanted blankets, hats etc because baby is ‘too cold’. Are you implying that mum is not dressing her baby properly? I wouldn’t.
Mama bear moments can often be avoided by asking mum before doing something that she might not want done. It’s part of showing respect for the mother. It’s also a question of the relationship you have with mum – if you’re very close and mum has been asking you for advice, extra suggestions may not be badly received. If you’re a stranger, back off immediately.
And if you’re dad, then you’re probably ok.