What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

Speaking Up For Yourself

When we have a baby we hope that everyone will be understanding and helpful.

Parents of new babies can sometimes find that other people including strangers, health professionals, government officers and even family members and friends are insensitive or critical.

Sometimes we are not given what we had hoped for and at other times we can be given things that are not necessarily helpful.

When you have a baby it is important to be able to speak up for yourself and your baby in a way that is assertive without being aggressive and in ways you might not have imagined.


Parents have sometimes been told or asked things that can be offensive, insensitive, upsetting or even plain rude. For example:

Your baby is very little

Did you have this baby so you could get the baby bonus?

You’re young to be a mother!

How lovely to have a grandchild!

I want to see the baby. I won’t wake her up I promise


new parent speaking up for yourself

It is important for babies to experience their parents as competent experts. This takes time and lots of practice but happens more quickly when parents provide most of the care rather than letting others take over.

Nevertheless you need to find someone you trust to look after your baby so you can have some time off to get some sleep or see your friends.

Professional help from home visitors, counsellors or community nurses, might be useful for a while as you establish these relationships.


Using an assertive style, rather than being passive or aggressive is best

Passive Assertive Aggressive
Speaks softly States how they feel about a
Speaks over other people
Says nothing but feels resentful,
Gives a simple, clear, message
  that might have to be repeated
Attacks the other person verbally

Says/does what the other
  person wants

Is respectful of others Speaks in an irritable tone
Avoids looking at people Speaks in a conversational tone,
  using eye contact
Stares at people in a threatening
Values self less than others Values self as equal to others Values self more than others
Does not have own needs met Usually has own needs met Doesn’t achieve a solution
For example: “Oh OK” For example: “It would really help
  if you would hang out that load
  of washing.”
For example: “You only care
  about yourself, not about me and
  the baby”


Being assertive can be difficult to do. It is harder in relationships where you don’t feel comfortable or safe. It can also be more difficult where people are more distant from you, where you are parenting on your own or you are living in your parents’ house. It is a good idea to have one or two prepared assertive responses for use in situations where you feel uncomfortable.


Think about your own responses to the following:

If someone offers to help

If someone makes insensitive comment about your circumstances

If someone doesn’t understand your changed circumstances