When you’re pregnant, you get a ton of advice. Some of it is good, some of it is terrible (and outdated) and most of it you will forget the minute the baby comes. But keep listening because there is no greater resource for a new mom than other moms. If you talk to enough moms, at least one of them has gone through the same situation as you. Your baby wants to nurse for an hour before bed? Been there. Your baby’s poop is mucus-y and weird? Been there. Your baby went through 10 sippy cups before she finally found one she liked? Been there and I’ve got the empty wallet to prove it.
I’ve only been a mother for 13 months so I’m obviously no expert, but I definitely learned some valuable lessons this year. Some were taught to me by other great moms and some I learned on my own. So take them or leave them, but they’re here when you’re up for a middle of the night feeding.
1. Remember that every baby is different. // You will hear this 1,000 times, but it bears repeating. Do not assume that because you’re best friend’s baby slept through the night at 5 weeks old that yours will too. Don’t assume that your baby will love the most popular baby products or the “best” formula on the market. Your baby is unique and so are you. Advice is great and reading books and mom blogs is super important, but always be flexible. I’m a big reader and researcher so I read a ton of books and blogs in the first few months of Harper’s life (when I was constantly breastfeeding and had time to read). In the end, I took bits and pieces of everything I had read, and everything I had heard from other moms, and came up with my own system.
2. No one knows your baby better than you do. // It’s hard to believe this when your baby is tiny and you haven’t quite figured them out yet. When they’re new, you’re tempted (for good reason) to listen to everything that your doctor or mom or best friend says because you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. But give your confidence time to grow. You spend every day with your baby. You feed her, change her, and (probably) sleep with her. Pretty soon, you’ll learn to differentiate her cries. You’ll figure out the position she sleeps best in. And you’ll start to trust your own instincts. You are her mother. No one knows her better than you!
3. Don’t be afraid to call the pediatrician. // I know I just told you to trust your instincts (and you should!), but you should also feel free to call your pediatrician (or more likely, a nurse at your pediatrician’s office) whenever your instincts are telling you something is wrong. And don’t let them rush you off of the phone (or out of the office) before your questions are answered. I could go on for days about feeling rushed at doctor’s appointments, but I’ll save that rant for another day.
4. Wake up before your baby does. // This one is tough, especially in the beginning before you have a schedule established. But as soon as you do, try to set your alarm to wake up 30 minutes to an hour before your baby. This one was life-changing for me! I used to just let Harper be my alarm. Every morning I woke up to the sound of her crying and stumbled to her room to change her, feed her and hopefully coax her into going back to sleep. If she didn’t, I either had to entertain her while trying to get us both ready for the day or I ended up spending the day in my pajamas. Now, I wake up before her (95% of the time – the other 5% she pulls a fast one on me and wakes up at the crack of dawn), get dressed, get her stuff ready for school, make her bottle and I’m ready to greet her with a smile on my face when she wakes up. If I time it right, I usually have time to read my Bible as well. As moms, we spend most of our day doing things for other people, so giving ourselves just a few minutes of quiet time in the morning is crucial.
5. Prepare for the day the night before. // This can mean different things at different stages. If you have a newborn, this might just mean cleaning your pump parts and doing a load of baby laundry before you go to bed so you have everything ready the next day. For me, this means pulling out Harper’s school clothes for the following day during our bedtime routine, packing her lunchbox and washing all of her sippy cups, bottles, etc. before I go to bed. This makes mornings much easier and just generally makes me feel more organized.
6. Ask for help before the meltdown. // Being a mother, especially a breastfeeding mother, can quickly zap your energy. I breastfed until Harper was 8 months old and I loved and hated it at the same time. I felt like I was chained to my baby all day long. I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to ask for help (crazy hormones). Even worse, I expected my husband to automatically know what I needed. Inevitably, he wouldn’t pick up on my clues and then I would blow up on him for not helping me. No matter how loving and caring your husband is, he can never understand what motherhood is like from your perspective so give him a little help. Ask him if he can handle dinner or the dishes on tough days. Or create a bedtime routine where he gives the baby a bottle while you take an extra long shower. If you work together on the front end, you can avoid the meltdown on the back end.
7. Try to get out of the house every single day. // If you’re a work-outside-of-the-home mom, you can ignore this one, but if you stay at home with your little one, you’re going to need to follow this advice. I don’t care if it’s a quick walk around the block or a daily Target or Starbucks run, get. out. of. the. house. And get dressed in real clothes while you’re at it. You’ll feel better about yourself if you put on some real clothes (and maybe even some mascara) and get the baby out of the house. I found that taking Harper out on my own really helped to boost my confidence as a mother too.
8. Try to take a small break from the baby every single day. // I know that probably sounds harsh, but most mothers need a little bit of separation for their own sanity (and the safety of their husbands – see #6). Again, this mostly applies to stay at home and work at home moms. This break doesn’t have to be long. If your baby is a good napper, that may be all the break that you need. If they aren’t, this could mean handing the baby to your husband when he gets home from work so that you can walk through Target alone or take a long shower and apply a face mask. Truth time: I used to lie to Sam and tell him I had to go to the bathroom as soon as he got home. I would come back over an hour later showered, refreshed and ready to tackle the bedtime routine haha! Once he caught on to my scheme, he would take the baby and send me to the store so I could get some fresh air by myself. These small breaks refreshed me and allowed me to miss her so that I was excited to get back and spend the rest of the day or night with her. You are not a bad mother if you need a break! Even if you don’t feel that you need this break, I encourage you to take it anyway. This will give the baby some time to bond with daddy or get used to a caregiver you plan to use in the future.
9. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. // This is one that I have to constantly remind myself of, even now. Take care of your body and appearance. In the beginning, a daily shower is a victory, but after you get into a routine and your baby isn’t quite so needy, take some time to get a blowout or a manicure. Get a facial or take a yoga class. Just make sure that you’re taking care of your body in some way every day. This will do wonders for your confidence and mood. I got a mani/pedi last week and felt like a new woman!
10. Remember that it’s just a phase. // This is for when it’s 3am and you’re rocking your baby to sleep for the 3rd time that night. Those moments are so hard and they make you question whether you’ll ever have another baby. But those moments will be gone before you know it. Whenever I felt myself getting frustrated with Harper (usually when she wasn’t sleeping well – mama needs her sleep!), I would tell myself that pretty soon she wouldn’t need me to rock her to sleep anymore. So even though I was exhausted, I would squeeze her tight and try to cherish that moment. And it was true! She hardly ever wants to cuddle with me anymore and she practically jumps into her crib at night. And now I’m crazy enough to want another newborn!
So those are my biggest tips for new moms. I don’t always follow each one, but I try really hard to because I’m a happier, healthier mom when I do. I have many more practical tips that I’ll share in future blogposts, but these are the big things I’ve learned. I hope they are helpful to my new mama readers. And if you know any new mamas who don’t read my blog (yet!), feel free to pass this along to them!
What advice would you give to a new mom?
photo by Reggie Green