When I was a new mom, one of the most common pieces of advice I was given was “enjoy every moment”. Although trying to enjoy the moments of new motherhood is a good idea, that advice is really not that helpful. Not every moment of being a new mom will be enjoyable, but I can promise you will get through it!
As an almost 2-year mom veteran about to have a newborn again, I have put together a helpful list of advice for new moms.
Ask For and Accept Help
This is one of the hardest ones for many parents, but very important. Being a new mom is hard and raising a child takes a village. Doing it all by yourself is nearly impossible and probably not best for you or your baby. When I asked real moms what their best advice for new moms was, asking for help was the most popular answer.
Does a friend offer to bring over dinner? Take them up on it. Does Grandma offer to babysit for an hour? Allow her. Your partner offers to take the crying baby so you can go shower? Go do it. Even though it might be hard, you will feel better once you do it. Also, once you accept the help the first time, it gets easier the next time.
Asking for help is also important, and I will admit that this is something that I really struggled with as a new mom. I had the “I can do it myself” attitude and felt like asking for help meant I was failing. You are not failing. Being a parent is hard.
Sometimes friends and family can be hesitant to offer help because they do not want to feel like they are overstepping boundaries. (PS. Friends and family…please offer! Just don’t show up unannounced!) This means that you may have to take things into your own hands and reach out yourself. Just like with accepting help, asking for help gets easier the more you do it.
If you have a partner, make sure you are communicating with your partner when you need help, and accepting help from them if offered. Society sometimes expects moms to do the majority of the work with babies but the work should be shared.
Some ways that you can ask for and accept help are:
- Allowing/asking family or friends to babysit, even for just an hour
- Asking for help with food, whether it is going shopping for you, cooking, or picking something up
- Sharing the workload with your partner and communicating when you need help
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself while also taking care of a newborn is easier said than done, but it is crucial. As they say on the airplane, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. If you cannot breathe, you cannot help others.
If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. Especially in those first few days and weeks, make sure you are eating and sleeping when you can. The crazy newborn schedules can throw you off and make you forget to eat, sleep, or shower.
When it comes to eating, make sure to have lots of quick but filling snacks on hand and a water bottle always nearby. If possible, make freezer meals before the baby arrives so that you can just through them in the oven without needing to cook or run to the store for food. This is also where you may need to ask for help and have a friend bring over food.
Sleeping is a hard one because many newborns do not sleep for long periods of time. You will probably hear “sleep when the baby sleeps” quite a lot. Even though it is not always possible, it is good advice especially if your baby is not getting long stretches of sleep at nighttime. This may also be an area where you may need to ask for help. Ask your partner to take over a night feed or allow a family member to watch the baby while you get in a nap.
Showering may not be as up there as eating and sleeping, but it is still important. Showering can be a reset to your day and also give you that time to be alone for a bit. Many new moms cherish those few minutes alone in the shower. Take a shower while the baby is sleeping in a safe space, or do it while your partner can watch the baby. If nothing else, draw yourself a bath (make sure the temperature is baby-appropriate) and bring your baby in with you to get two baths in one.
You can take care of yourself by:
- Taking a nap when you can
- Taking a nice warm shower
- Making sure you eat (set an alarm if you need to!)
- Getting food from a favorite place
- Putting baby down in a safe place for a while you take a few moments to yourself
- Make sure you are taking needed medications
Take Time For Yourself
Taking time for yourself is more than just taking care of yourself with eating, sleeping, and showering. Taking time for yourself means that you are taking time to be alone, without the baby, doing something you enjoy. In the beginning, this is very hard, especially if you are a breastfeeding mom.
At first, this might just mean going to pick up food while your partner stays home with the baby. Those first few moments alone may remind you that you are still yourself. It is important as a new mom to keep some of your prior identity.
For some moms, this means going back to work as soon as they are ready. For others, it might mean continuing with a favorite hobby such as crafting or baking. Taking time to go to the gym on your own when your ready or getting your nails done is another good way to get some time to yourself.
Just like everything else, it is easier said than done especially if you do not have a lot of help, but it is something you should try to make a priority because self-care is crucial for effective mothering.
You can take time for yourself by:
- Continuing a favorite hobby or starting a new one
- Getting a manicure, pedicure, or massage
- Going shopping by yourself
- Going out to lunch with a friend
- Working out
- Going out to get a coffee or tea
- Working on a passion project
Remember That Not Everything Goes As Planned
During pregnancy, it is hard not to plan everything that you can, especially if you are a more type A personality. Unfortunately, both birth and babies are unpredictable. You can plan all you want (and if your lucky things may follow your plan) but you have to be prepared for the plan to deviate.
This does not mean you should stress out about it, but just keep it in mind. It may never cross your mind that you may have to have a c-section instead of vaginal birth, but it is a possibility. You might have spent money on a fancy swing but your baby may hate it. Try your best to go with the flow and expect the unexpected.
Also, remember that you may not have an instant bond with your baby…and that’s ok! In books and movies, you are likely to hear about the magical moment that the mom meets the baby and falls instantly in love.
Although some moms do experience this, it is also normal for the bond to take time. Even though the baby has been inside you for 9 months, they may still feel like a stranger when you meet them, because technically…they are! I remember in the beginning feeling like I knew my dog way more than I knew her.
If you do not feel that instant bond, don’t worry. It will come with time. You and your baby are both getting to know each other and just like any new relationship, it can take time to form a strong bond.
Some things that may not go as planned are:
- When you have the baby (scheduled c-section vs. induction vs. water breaking/contractions)
- How the baby is born (unmedicated vaginal birth vs. medicated vaginal birth vs. c-section)
- Your recovery
- Where you want the baby to sleep
- How the baby is fed (breastfed vs. bottle fed vs. formula)
- What the baby likes to do
- If the baby may have any health issues
Interact With Other Moms
Is being a new mom hard? Yep. It is a huge adjustment. In those first few weeks, it feels like life will never be the same, but you adjust.
Sometimes hearing from a mom who has gone through it already and can relate, is one of the best things for a new mom. If you have family or close friends who have recently become parents, reach out to them. If you do not, try to find support groups or friends online through friend matching apps such as Peanut, or join a Facebook group.
Maybe even an acquaintance you know from work is a mom. Reach out to them and it may turn into a friendship. Parenthood can be a great bonding tool. Making new mom friends might mean that you will need to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone.
Motherhood can get very lonely. This is especially the case with stay-at-home moms. Going all day with no other adults to interact with is tough and can be a huge adjustment if you worked in a social environment prior.
Ways to find other moms to interact with:
- Facebook groups- find one or start your own
- Apps such as Peanut or Bumble BFF
- Joining a baby class offered in your area or attending a library storytime
- Joining mom groups in your area that may be offered
- Meetings moms around the neighborhood or at a park
Remember…All Babies Are Different
As great as it can be to interact and share stories with other moms, you do want to make sure you remember that all babies are different. If you constantly compare your baby with other babies, you will have a really hard time. Just because a friend’s baby hated tummy time doesn’t mean that yours will. On the other hand, just because your sister’s baby slept through the night right away, do not expect that yours will also.
If your baby is not doing something that another baby can do, it does not mean you are doing anything wrong. All babies will be different and that is what makes them special. There is a large range of what is considered “normal” in infancy and toddlerhood. If you are ever concerned, reach out to your pediatrician.
It is also important to remember that motherhood is not a competition. Most likely the age that your baby learned to crawl or walk is going to have no impact on them later in life. If you struggle with comparing your baby to others, it might be good to stay off social media. Social media tends to highlight all of the good parts of babies and parenting and rarely the bad.
Some ways that babies can be different from each other are:
- Feeding- some eat more or feed more frequently than others
- Sleeping- some babies sleep through the night, others wake frequently
- Activities- some babies love being active in tummy time or in a jumper while others prefer to be held
- Bowel Habits- some babies poop multiple times a day, others once a week and both can be normal
- Pacifier- some babies love one type over another, while other babies won’t take one at all
- Car rides- some babies love the car seat and fall asleep right away while others will cry the whole ride
Find What Works For You
All babies are different, and so are all moms. In this day and age, there is a huge wealth of information about what you should or should not do in regards to parenting. If you try to follow everything you are “supposed to do”, you will drive yourself crazy.
My advice is to educate yourself and make sure you are keeping your baby safe and healthy, but pick and choose what works for you. For example, you may read that rocking your baby to sleep will cause them to not sleep as well. Is this true? It might be true for some babies, but if you are rocking your baby to sleep, they are sleeping well and you enjoy rocking them, then do it!
What works for you may not work for your best mom friend and that is ok! Your friend may love babywearing but you might find it uncomfortable. (If you are interested in babywearing check out how to use a baby wrap.) Another friend may feed on demand while you prefer to feed on a schedule.
I personally liked to have at least somewhat of a schedule for eating and sleeping but I know moms who never had a schedule and only followed their baby’s cues. All of us did what worked for us and all of our babies were fine!
It is important as a new mom to accept that others will do things differently and that it is ok. Feel free to try out different ideas or products until you find one that fits your groove. Some aspects or ideas that parents tend to have different opinions on are:
- Formula vs. Breastfeeding
- Feeding on demand vs. on a schedule
- Having a sleep schedule vs. following baby’s lead
- Baby sleeping in your room vs. in their own room
- Allowing baby to fall asleep on their own vs. rocking/feeding baby to sleep
- Baby napping while being held or in a swing vs. in their crib
- Babywearing vs. stroller or car seat
- Sleep training vs. not sleep training
- When to feed the baby solids
- Baby-led weaning vs. baby purees and spoon-feeding
Find what works for you!
Is your baby who used to sleep through the night suddenly waking up 2-3 times? Does your baby suddenly hate tummy time after enjoying it for weeks? Don’t worry, because phases happen. Just because your baby starts waking up at night doesn’t mean your good sleeper is necessarily gone. Just because they can’t stand tummy time one week doesn’t mean they won’t tolerate it forever.
Babies are constantly developing and changing. Remembering to give things time and not freak out was something helpful to me as a new mom. A lot of times things like baby sleep or what babies don’t like are just phases. Sometimes it is best to just wait them out and see if things change on their own.
If they do not, you can always reach out for help and check out resources such as everything you need to know about sleep regressions or how to get your baby to sleep until 7am.
Some phases that a baby may go through are:
- Taking short naps
- Needing help to go down for naps/sleep
- Waking up in the night
- Resisting diaper changes
- Not enjoying bathtime
- Crying during car rides
- Not wanting to be swaddled
- Having dry skin or baby acne
- Change in bowel habits (check with your pediatrician if you are concerned about this one)
- Wanting to be held all the time
- Preferring one parent over the other
Communicate With Your Partner
Raising a baby alone is hard, and I give major props to those who do it! If you have a partner, it is important to remember that you are a team, and successful teams communicate. Many aspects of your life will change once the baby arrives, and it is important to constantly communicate.
This means that if there is anything at all that your partner is doing that you do not like or agree with, bring it up. Not saying anything will likely just make things worse. You may not agree completely on how to parent, but as long as you communicate your feelings constantly you can stay on the same page.
Couples who communicate well before the baby is born and in the first year of the baby’s life have a better quality marriage. Some aspects of parenting that are most important for partners to communicate about are:
- Whether baby care activities such as diaper changes and feedings will be split or if one parent will take on more than the other
- Who will be waking up with the baby at night and what will be the plan for getting them back to sleep
- Safety aspects such as safe sleep and car seats
- Taking time for yourselves and each other
- Discipline when the child gets older
- How much money is spent on baby items
- Who will do the cooking and cleaning
Take Time For Your Partner
All of a sudden 2 has become 3 and many things will have changed forever. Your relationship with your baby is important and your relationship with yourself is crucial but if you have a partner, you have another relationship that you need to continue to nurture as well.
You and your partner might be used to trying out the newest dining place or traveling frequently. Having a baby does not mean you cannot do these things anymore, you just need to adjust. Things such as date nights or intimacy might need to be planned in advance. With a baby, doing things on a whim is not quite as easy as it may have been previously.
One of the easiest things you can do to take time for your partner is to plan an at-home date night after the baby goes to bed. Maybe order from a favorite restaurant, get a bottle of wine, and watch a movie you’ve been dying to see. Or find a game to play together like the thought-provoking Love Language Card Game or the fun 2-player Codenames: Duet.
Ways to take time for your partner:
- Plan an at-home date night while the baby is sleeping
- Get a babysitter and plan a date night outing
- Take a night away from the baby when you are ready
- Make sure to check in on each other
- Don’t forget the small things like a kiss goodnight or hug hello
- Schedule time for date nights, intimacy, and important conversations
You and Your Baby Are Not Perfect
As a bit of a perfectionist, I struggled as a new mom when things didn’t go the way they are “supposed to” or I didn’t do things the way I was “supposed to”. I have experience in early childhood development, I read all of the advice, researched, and even took courses.
As soon as something happened that wasn’t “supposed to”, I would stress out about it. I would think “that class I took says she should be getting more sleep” or “I shouldn’t have rocked her to sleep that time, now she won’t ever sleep on her own”.
Even now as an almost 2-year veteran mom, I struggle with this. I have to remind myself all the time, I am not perfect. It is ok not to do everything that the books, the internet, or other moms say. My daughter is not perfect. Even if I do all of the things that the books, internet, or other moms say to do, she still may not do it, and it is ok.
Avoid Information Overload
Information is great, and I am so thankful there is so much out there for new moms. I wouldn’t have survived without it. But too much information can be bad sometimes.
We live in a time where information is right at our fingertips. This can be good, but also overwhelming. Thirty years ago, all moms had was maybe a book or two to reference, a couple of close friends, and their pediatrician. Now we have information being thrown at us from all directions.
This can be very overwhelming, especially when there are so many differing opinions outs there regarding babies and parenting. My advice is to find a few trusted sources that you like and connect with and stick with those. Maybe that means just being part of one Facebook group rather than multiple, or just following a few Instagram accounts rather than hundreds.
It could also mean that you only go to 1 or 2 trusted friends or family members when seeking help, instead of asking for help in a 10 person group text. Find an author you like and stick to their book, rather than reading a bunch. When it comes to medical advice, defer to your pediatrician rather than going down a google search hole.
Also, if one of the accounts you follow or books you read says something that doesn’t work for you, that is ok! You don’t need to follow everything they say. One of the beauties of having so much information is that you can pick and choose from multiple perspectives.
Step away from Instagram or Facebook groups when you need to. Sometimes you need to just follow your instincts and as I say below…trust yourself.
This is a hard one, but it is a great piece of advice. Trust yourself. Even if you feel like you know nothing about being a mom, trust yourself. You know yourself, your family, and your baby the best and are capable of making good decisions. You may make mistakes from time to time, but that is normal.
This means that sometimes you may have to take advice from others with a grain of salt. Many people may try to give you advice, but you do not have to follow it all. Also, if family and friends try to tell you that what you are doing is wrong and you feel that it is right, that is ok. Trust yourself and your decisions.
10 Tidbits of Advice from Real Moms
I asked some real moms to share a tidbit of advice for new moms. Here were some of their answers:
- “It is ok to not love every moment.”
- “Breastfeeding is hard, but it will get easier.”
- “Postpartum hormones are no joke.”
- “Whether it is emotional, mental, or physical, it is ok to ask for help.”
- “Forgive yourself. We’re not perfect and this is hard.”
- “Stop obsessing about milk. Your baby is doing great.”
- “Babywearing can be so helpful. Whether you need your hands free, or baby wants some extra snuggles.”
- “What is best for one person isn’t best for someone else. Be confident in your parenting decisions and don’t let other people make you feel bad.”
- “Do your research, ask opinions from people you trust, but ultimately only you know what is best for you and your child!”
- “You know your child best. If you have an inkling something is not right, explore it. You are their best advocate.”
Being a new mom is one of the hardest transitions you will go through in life, but it can also be one of the best. Soon you will adjust and it will be weird to think of the time in your life before your child existed. There will be hard times, but also so many great times. In those hard times, come back to the list of advice:
- Ask for and accept help
- Take care of yourself
- Take time for yourself
- Remember that not everything goes as planned
- Interact with other moms
- Remember…all babies are different
- Find what works for you
- Phases happen
- Communicate with your partner
- Take time for your partner
- You and your baby are not perfect
- Avoid information overload
- Trust yourself
You got this mama!