Moms have read all the books. She's spoken with other mamas. She's surfed the internet and Googled everything she can possibly think of. She has her birth plan ready, the room decorated, and all the paperwork completed. She's got this…right?
Regardless what a mom has to do to prepare for her baby to arrive, there are sure to be things that surprise her once she arrives home from the hospital and starts going through the days with a newborn. Many elements of parenthood are a mystery, even after years of doing it. There’s no true guidebook – we all simply figure it out as we go. That said, the tribe of moms can be a fantastic resource. They’re able to tell us things that aren’t in the parenting books, and tricks that are learned as they go along.
Here is a collection of those tips and tricks, collected from our tribe. Preparation is nine-tenths of the battle. If she can expect the exhaustion, she'll be much more prepared for it than if she expects life to be a breeze with a baby who sleeps eighteen hours a day. Some of these tips may surprise any new or experienced mom. Then again, one may read through them all and still be surprised at all the weirdness that becoming a new mom entails.
Reading through the list below will hopefully prepare an expecting mom for some of the curveballs life is about to throw her way. Motherhood is a weird, hard, and awesome journey. As they say: prepare, prepare, prepare, then go with the flow.
15 Babies Don’t Need Much Stuff
Look into any newborn baby registry, and ‘overwhelmed’ is likely to be one of the first emotions to come up. I remember going to a baby store to scan for a registry, seeing the floor to ceiling aisles of equipment, and having no idea where to start, or what to scan for.
You start thinking you need everything, and simultaneously: how can such a tiny creature require so many things?
Luckily, the latter is the more accurate of the two. Babies truly don’t need that much stuff during their first few months, or even first year of life. Some things are necessary, such as a crib, car seat, and clothing. But much of the so-called "necessities," that are added to the registry, often end up taking up space, that many don’t have, to crowd a room of unused baby equipment. So what is one to do?
First off, create your shopping list with an extra column where you can rank things as absolutely necessary, nice to have, or recommended against getting. Talk with other moms, search for what is needed vs. what is nice to have, and try to differentiate between the two. Is a swing needed? Some moms say no, others say absolutely yes. Consider waiting until the baby is born, and decide for yourself. Do you need to get swaddle sacks in five different colors? Maybe buy one, to see if baby adjusts to it.
14 Getting Out Of The House Is Impossible
Ahh, the great confusion. If a baby doesn’t need much stuff – then how is it suddenly impossible to get out of the house during the day? It seems like once you pack up what seems like a million different pieces, from bottles to nursing covers, to diaper equipment, toys, snacks, etc., the baby is ready for nap time and is crying out to be fed.
Yes, early into parenthood you’ll discover just how difficult it can be to get out into fresh air. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. For both your sanity and your kid’s sanity, you’ll need to get out and about into the real world. So, how can you actually do it, when it becomes so daunting? Planning ahead can help. Consider loading up the diaper bag with necessities even before the baby arrives (here’s to advance planning!). Ensure the car seat is installed, and the stroller is ready to go. Then, when it comes time for the outing, try to divide and conquer. Mom prepares baby, while dad gets everything packed and ready to go (or vice versa). And one tip to the wise – plan in extra time in those first few months. Tack on an extra 30 minutes on top of what you think it will take to get out the door. You’ll thank us later.
13 There’s Another Level Past Exhaustion
Sure, you’ve been tired before. You’ve crammed through finals, stayed out way too late with friends, pulled an all-nighter at the office. What you didn’t know, is that exhaustion is just the first step on the tired journey. In all situations before, it’s usually been short-term, with a chance to recover. And now? Babies don’t take a day off from being babies. They won’t just suddenly start sleeping through the night because you decided it was time to do so.
The never-ending tiredness just drags on, and on, until you don’t know how you’ll get through the next day, let alone week, or month.
While there’s not much we can say to make this better, there are a few things you can remember during this trying time. First, this too shall pass. Each month usually becomes a little easier than the last one, even if only by a little bit. Before you know it, you’ll be missing these beautiful baby days, with the exhaustion and cuddles in your rear-view window.
Second, remember to give yourself as much self-love as you can during this time. That includes sleeping anyway and every way you can. If baby naps, do everything in your power to nap as well. As tempting as it is to stay up late for alone time, do it by reading in bed and falling asleep early. Giving this to yourself is one of the best things you can do.
12 She Might Miss The Office
As impossible as this one is to believe, especially as you’re watching your belly grow and dreaming about being off on maternity leave, there’s likely to come a time when you miss the interaction with adults. And coffee breaks – oh how you’ll come to miss coffee breaks! Wishing you could split home and work time with your partner is a totally normal part of adjusting to staying home with a baby. Being a parent to a newborn is likely to be one of the most difficult jobs you’ll ever have in your entire life. Wishing for a small respite from it is completely normal, no matter how in love with your bundle of joy you are.
Keep communication with your partner and loved ones strong during this time. Let them know how you’re feeling, and lean on all the resources you can. The great thing about maternity leave is that it is somewhat flexible, so returning to the office early is a possibility. However, consider getting through this hard patch at the beginning before making any big decisions. Babies get much, much easier to care for as the first year goes by, and some women treasure the last few months of having an almost one-year-old before returning to work. Just know that missing the office is okay, it doesn’t make you a bad mom, and you’ll be back there before you know it.
11 She Will Be Scared All The Time
Between SIDS, shaken baby syndrome, colic, colds, proper development, excessive spit ups, proper diaper colors, and the myriad of other health concerns that you need to be aware of in the baby’s first year. It’s no wonder that worry is a built-in part of motherhood. Who knew there were so many things to worry about? For some women, the fear starts the moment they see those two pink lines on the pregnancy test. For others, it comes only when baby runs his first fever or cold.
Constant worry is, unfortunately, is just another part of parenthood.
You care so much for this little fragile life and want nothing more than for them to thrive. If you find it’s become excessive or occupying your thoughts more than it should though, feel free to talk to your doctor. Postpartum depression is, unfortunately, a very common symptom of new motherhood. It can also manifest in many different ways – from sadness to anxiety, to OCDC, to listlessness. The best thing you can do during this time is to talk. Don’t feel like you’re feeling something wrong and keep it bottled up inside. Docs have heard it all before, and have many, many resources to give you the strength you need.
10 She May Cry More Than A Baby
Oh, hormones. Did you think you would be past them now that you’ve delivered? Think again, mama! For many women, the first 3-5 days after having a baby can be filled with a constant flow of waterworks, as your body adjusts hormone levels in order to bring in your milk. The next few weeks is a definite adjustment. Your body took nine months to build hormones up to the point it needed to sustain a baby. Now, after bringing them into the world, it takes just a few weeks for your body to adjust (for the most part) back to a pre-pregnancy world. That’s a fast adjustment, and normal that you feel a little unlike yourself.
Many women find this an emotional roller coaster, as they’re getting used to a world of not being pregnant, having a baby to care for, breastfeeding, and to this brand new world. And, you know what? That’s okay. Being a new mom is hard, and shedding some tears is a normal part of that adjustment. As we mentioned earlier, if you find it getting out of control, definitely reach out to someone to talk to. However, don’t worry that constant crying means something is necessarily wrong.
9 Her Inner Control Freak Comes Alive
You may have always been a bit of a type-A personality, or you may be a relaxed, go-with-the-flow kind of girl. Either way, don’t be surprised if you start getting a little strict about things around the house. In your eyes, there may be a “right” way to hold the baby. Feeding may have to happen in a certain way, laundry has to use a certain detergent, naps need to have certain conditions to them. After all, you’re tasked with keeping another tiny, fragile human alive. That’s a daunting task, even for the strongest of us.
Try to remember, though, that most people around you are just trying to help.
The exhaustion that comes with new parenting may be blurring your vision. Taking a step away and trying to figure out if the position of the diaper pail is really important enough to snap will help you over the long run. Maintaining a strong partnership with your partner is essential during this time, so consider what things have to be your way, and what things wouldn’t be the end of the world if they didn’t happen exactly the way you want them.
8 She Will Become “One Of Those Moms”
“Becoming a mom won’t change me”. “I’ll never be one of those moms who only talks about her kids”. Many moms-to-be have said these exact words, only to have to eat them a few short months later. You may believe you’ll be this wonderfully balanced mom, who focuses on the interests of her own and lives a full life. And that may very well be the case…someday. Chances are, the first few months of mamahood leaves little time for anything to think about other than the baby. If you get out of the house on your own, for even a few short hours, that can be considered a win!
The reality is, you’re likely to talk about the baby so much because they are the entire focus of your world right now. However, did you become one of these women? The good news is, as the baby gets a little older you’ll start to regain some of your sense of self. You may start talking to colleagues or start blogging or getting into a passion of yours again. Slowly, you’ll start to become the balanced female you aspired to be. But don’t be shocked if, in the first six months of being a mom, you get called out for only talking about your child. Apologize, switch the topic, and realize that balance will come in time.
7 She Will Talk About The "P-Word"
Speaking of becoming one of those moms…
Motherhood brings a myriad of joys. It also brings things you never thought you’d talk about, like tracking the details of each feeding, each nap, and yes, of each diaper explosion. When you spend time, every single day, thinking about something and talking about it with your partner, it’s inevitable it may come up in conversations with people you never thought it would…like friends without kids, or even your colleagues.
Listen, I get it! This is your new world now, and the "P-word" can actually (sadly) be a big part of that world.
Just remind yourself that you do have a filter, and while your mom group may be eager and interested in talking about all the intricate details about your little one (while you listen eagerly back about theirs), other people may not be as interested in the more finite details of parenting. This is one area where it’s better to talk about the cute things and the sweet stories, of which you’re sure to have a ton. Consider keeping the more intricate stories for your more trusted confidants, like your mom, or your best friend. You’ll be happy you did when it’s time to return to the office!
6 20 Minutes Of Alone Time Feels Like A Vacation
If you’re the type of person who thrives on alone time to recharge, this might be a hard one for you to conceptualize. Gone are the days of movie marathons, hours on social media, and curling up with a good book…unless you do it with a baby strapped to you. When a partner takes over for a quick shift, it feels like a luxury to go to another room by yourself, don’t be surprised. Even if it’s a little getaway to pump milk in silence, those little respites can be little moments of zen.
The good news is that it doesn’t take hours of solo time for you to feel like yourself again. Your expectations have likely changed, and these quick solo escapes can seem like a treat in themselves. Sometimes even just a hot shower to yourself, a quick 30-minutes comedy show, or curling up with a hot beverage can feel like bliss.
For more ideas on how to unwind and recharge in 30 minutes or less, check out the link below!
5 Her Life Will Change In Every Possible Way
Everyone knows that bringing a baby into the world means your life will be forever changed. What people don’t tell you is that it will change in every possible way. Who knew that giving birth would change almost every aspect of your life? From friendships to careers, to your home, style, interests, reading materials, etc., parenthood affects almost everything in your world.
Many women find that their sense of self can slip away upon becoming a parent.
That’s normal, to an extent, in the first few months when your life revolves around this tiny little human. However, as time goes by, remember to start investing in yourself again. Whether it’s taking a class, meeting up with friends, or planning a trip, it can go a long way in reminding you of your interests outside of baby (hint, hint, they’re okay to have).
4 She Will Gain New Skills
By taking time off on maternity leave, many women believe that their career is bound to take a nose dive, or at least stall for a year. But what many women and employers alike forget to consider, is all the new skills they’ll be bringing back to the office with them. For one, you’ll become far more efficient at getting things done. Having to balance so many different things at once, you’re bound to become an efficiency ninja. You can bring your best to the office, do the grocery shopping, whip up a gourmet meal, practice reading development, support your clients and be a wife all by 11 am!
Not only that, but you’ve likely become a more compassionate human being. At the very least, being a parent gives you an understanding of what some people can go through, and an appreciation that we’re all giving our best and aiming to do well. That fact can often get lost at the office. Going through parenthood makes us remember that we’re all in this together, trying to accomplish great things. This perspective that can propel you forward in your career.
3 Babies Will Cry... A LOT
Babies cry. Some babies cry a lot. It can be tempting to think it’s your fault when they do, or you’re doing something wrong, but 99% of the time that’s not the case. Babies use crying as a survival mechanism. They have one way to communicate that they need something – and that is by crying. Until they have the words to say “I’m a little hungry, mama. Can I have a snack?”, you’ll get a wail. Until they have the ability to articulate “I’m feeling overwhelmed. Now might be time for a cuddle and a nap, mom.”, you’ll get cries. And in thinking about that last one…it might be years before they’re able to get to that point.
Some babies who are suffering from colic even cry for several hours in one emotional session, even if all of their basic needs are met.
It’s heartbreaking, and my heart goes out to all moms of kiddos with colic. It makes a hard stage of life even harder. Continue to make sure the basic reasons a baby is crying are met – they’re not overwhelmed, not hungry, don’t have a soiled diaper, etc. After that point, all you can do is to give them love, attention, cuddles, and know you’re doing everything that you can. Engage with a doctor if it gets excessive, but know that you’re doing the very best that you can – and that, you should feel good about.
2 Babies Don’t Actually Sleep 18 Hours A Day
Am I the only one who was told this myth? Okay, it’s not technically a myth. Apparently, some babies do sleep that much in one day. It’s just not something that you should expect out of your little one. I remember being confused as to why my friends were so exhausted when they were new moms. Aren’t babies supposed to sleep the day away? 18 hours of sleep means you only have 6 hours of actual parenting to do. That’s not a bad job!
Oh, if only that were true. First off, 18 hours is a range. Many babies start off sleeping hours less than this per day. Secondly, you forget how long it can take the baby to fall asleep and how short the sleep cycles are. Say a baby’s sleep cycle is two hours (as in they fall asleep for a nap every two hours). Within that two hour window, you usually have to change a diaper, sometimes change an outfit, feed them, burp them, and sometimes more, such as pumping, preparing bottles, etc. By the time you do everything you need to, you lay down in bed and the minutes of lying there that it takes you to fall asleep, it can feel like mere minutes before the baby is crying for you to start it again. This goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without a break.
Eventually, sleep cycles will start to get longer, and baby gets on more of a routine. But don’t be surprised if you’re spending more than six hours a day in on-duty mom mode. Unless you get that unicorn of a baby, be prepared for more.
1 A Heart Is Capable Of This Much Love
Sure, you’ve felt love before. It’s unlikely that baby would even be here if you didn’t. But there’s nothing quite like the feeling of love you have for your own child. It’s something special, something indescribable, that you can’t quite seem to articulate until you have your own. For some women, it starts as soon as they find out they’re pregnant. For others, it comes the day you first meet your child. And for others, it’s a few weeks later, when baby gives you a certain look while they’re cuddled up in your arms.
But that feeling of love is unlike any other.
It’s the reason we deal with the uncomfortableness of pregnancy. It’s the reason why we endure the emotional roller coaster that comes with a newborn. It’s the reason we forego sleep, get stretch marks, and step back from our careers. It’s that little look that they give us, in the middle of the night, when it’s just the two of you silent in a rocking chair. Nobody said that parenthood is easy. But the love that is given in return makes every pain, every fear, every cry, absolutely worth it.