A while back, I attended a friend’s baby shower, and as she was about to be a first-time mom, the party planners put up a well-meaning board for all the guests to write “Parenting Advice” on. As a mom of two young kids, I had to chuckle at the notes that were scrawled on the board. Advice like “cherish every moment with your new baby”, “have your husband help with diapers”, “write everything down in a baby journal”. I decided not to write anything on the board that day at the shower. I felt that my friend deserved better, real advice. She deserved the hard truths about what happens when your life is flipped upside down and you become a new mom. Below is the advice I gave her.
- Trust yourself (and your husband) first and foremost. You’ll be bombarded with advice from family and friends (like this list!) but only you and your husband know what’s best for your baby. You may even disagree with a doctor, nurse, midwife, or lactation consultant. If so, get a second opinion. A mother’s instinct is wicked strong, so don’t ignore it.
- Your baby’s birth may or may not go as you planned. And honestly, having any pre-conceived birth plan is ridiculous. It just sets you up for disappointment when things happen differently. I wanted a natural birth with my son, but had an emergency cesarean instead. I wasted weeks feeling guilty about it. But guess what? At my son’s birth, he was healthy and so was I. Enough said.
- Chances are you’ve just spent 9 months being doted on. Doors were opened for you, old ladies rubbed your belly at the grocery store, you got to put your feet up in meetings, and your hubby spoiled you rotten. So it can be a huge let down when the baby arrives and the attention instantly shifts. On a rational level you totally understand that it’s all supposed to be about the baby now. But if you find yourself thinking “Will everyone please stop looking at the baby! What about me?”, rest assured that you’re normal.
- Breastfeeding is hard to get started and it can hurt! If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. I have a theory why it’s so difficult for us modern women…one word: isolation. Back in caveman days, new moms sat around the campfire watching each other, learning from each other, helping each other and yes, even feeding each other’s babies. The modern mom goes home with a new baby perhaps having never seen another woman breastfeed a baby before. Because today’s American society demands we cover up breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is natural, covering it up is not. Bottom line: however you choose to feed your baby will work. Your baby will be absolutely FINE on either breast milk or formula or both. I’m no doctor, but food is food.
- Do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep at night. Co-sleep, put her in a bassinette, in her crib, in her swing, in her car seat, swaddle, don’t swaddle, on her side, on her back, on your chest, literally do whatever works for your family. There is so much advice on this topic it will drive you mad if you try to listen to it all. I say, ignore all the “experts” on sleep and do what works. One of my biggest mommy secrets is that I let both my kids sleep on their tummies during naps (huge no-no according to experts!) But it’s the only way they would happily sleep. So I’d set them down on their tummies in the pac-n-play and just keep an eye on them. Worked like a charm for us.
- If you find yourself inexplicably sad, crying, anxious, or depressed, please talk to your doctor. Or call a friend. I had horrible postpartum with both my kids and it’s unbearable. A little weepiness is normal, but if it doesn’t pass, get help. I couldn’t do it alone.
- You may not instantly fall in love with your baby. No one says this out loud, but it’s true. On the other hand, maybe you will. But if you don’t feel that instantaneous bond (as shown in all the diaper commercials) don’t freak out. It will come with time. You and your baby will get to know each other and figure out how to “work” together. Once you find that rhythm it will click.
Having a baby changes your entire relationship with your husband. It’s really weird at first, as nothing feels normal. I used to sit on the couch next to my husband and cry that I missed him. He would say “but I’m right here” and I would say “yes, but not like before”. This too will pass. You’ll soon find your “new normal” with your family of three.
- Take photos. Not just of the baby, but of you with the baby. You may feel fat, tired, hate the bags under your eyes, but you will want to look at those pics in the years to come.
- Take a shower every day. Get dressed. Brush your teeth. You’ll feel like you don’t have time to do this, but you have to make time. It will keep you feeling like a human being, not just a milk-producing-machine.
- Take lots of walks. Alone, or with your husband, or with the baby. I think I was up to 5 walks a day at one point. It’s awesome exercise, you get happy endorphins flowing, you feel the sun on your face, and you see other people out and about. Walk, walk, walk.
If it seems hard to be a new mom, that’s because it is. The best advice my sister gave me was “every day gets a little easier”. That was my mantra. I chanted it in my head every day. And she was right. After a while, things were easier. I knew my baby, knew our routines, felt confident as a mom, and enjoyed motherhood. That’s my hope for you too.