The transition to parenthood is one that can't fully be appreciated until experienced. Besides the physical changes, mom's hormones will be all over the place, and she will be experiencing the unique sensation of falling in love with her baby in a way she's never loved anyone else before.
Those early days are beautiful and difficult, and it's hard to know what life should look like when mom is finally settled at home with the little one a week or so after birth. What habits should be in place? What behavior isn't helpful?
While the experience is different for every woman, there are some activities mom needs to stop after the first week, and this is generally true for all moms. Striving to overachieve, refusing to ask for help, or putting up with unnecessary pain are not good ideas. If mom doesn't figure that out right after birth, she will likely realize it after her first solid week of very little sleep.
Put a few good practices into play early on, and drop those that don't serve you well. This will start the parenting journey off right and give mom a better chance to heal while she learns to be a parent.
20 Being The Only One To Change The Baby's Diaper
We live during a time when mom should not be expected to be the only one changing dirty diapers. In fact, dad shouldn't even get a high five for it. The assumption should be that both parents change diapers, and if any friends or family members want to help out when they visit, they can change some dirty diapers as well.
Mom doesn't need to feel like just because she is the woman she is stuck with everything related to taking care of the baby, especially all the gross parts. When responsibilities are shared, it's easier for mom and her partner because everyone is fulfilling a role in the child's life that keeps the baby happy and clean.
19 Thinking You Will Bounce Back Right Away
It's true that mom's first look at the post-baby body can be a shock. The baby is out of mom's body, but her stomach is still swollen and sagging, and everything on her looks and feels foreign. It's a shock and a bit much to take in right after birth.
However, by the end of the first week mom needs to let go of her negative feelings about her body. Her body carried and gave birth to a person, and that's amazing. It's okay if the body looks different now. It's not supposed to be exactly the same after something as monumental as giving birth. Let the body shame go and enjoy the body's abilities.
18 Tolerating Breastfeeding Pain
Breastfeeding is not always easy or pain-free, especially in the beginning. Milk coming in is a special kind of aching, and it takes most babies a bit of time to get the latch just right. A lactation specialist can help mom out and make sure things go as well as they can.
Though some pain in the very beginning is normal, by the end of the first week the pain should have been replaced by either no pain at all or just slight discomfort every now and then due to the unfamiliarity of the experience. If mom is still hurting so much that breastfeeding feels like torture, she needs to call her doctor or lactation specialist.
17 Taking Pictures Of The Baby
Who doesn't want to take a million pictures of their newborn? That phase truly does go by quickly, and babies change so much in the early days. However, mom needs to be in some of those pictures. No matter how she feels about her post baby body or the bags under her eyes, she needs to prioritize being in pictures with her baby.
Moms are usually the ones who don't end up in the pictures because they are the ones taking the pictures. To avoid this, have dad or a friend take a picture of mom and the baby so everyone can look back on this time together and see familiar faces.
16 Buying Useless Baby Items
Mom will likely already have a pile of useless baby gear collecting dust in a corner because people bought her items that are impractical. By the end of the first week, she needs to understand that a baby needs affection, food, diapers, and wipes, and she does not need to be up all night ordering useless baby items to be delivered to her doorstep.
Sure, a baby carrier and car seat are necessary but wipe warmers, screens, and knee pads that keep a child's knees from touching the floor when he crawls are ridiculous. Stick to the necessities instead of the traps consumers set for moms.
15 Thinking 'Mommy Brain' Will End Soon
Mom brain is what happens after the baby is born and mom feels like her mind no longer works the same. Science has proven that it doesn't, and mom should not expect that to change quickly. The situation will improve as mom gets more sleep and time passes, but her mind will feel extremely altered in those very early days.
This is not a totally bad change since it enables mom to stay hyper focused on the tiny person she has to keep alive. However, she may feel less capable of remembering other details for long periods of time, and that's normal in the beginning. Welcome to being a mom!
14 Judging Other Moms
We all think we know what's best for everyone else's kids until we have our own. Upon holding a baby in our own arms and feeling the rushes of love, fear, and uncertainty comingled, most of us realize that we are going to have our work cut out for us even figuring out what is best for our own kids.
Hopefully mom will not have any negative judgments left for her fellow moms after surviving her first week. Sure, people who abuse their children deserve some judgment, but a mom who simply makes a different choice than us should feel free to do so without worrying about judgmental people. We should all receive that courtesy.
13 Googling All The Bad Things
Having a baby can bring fear right to the surface for many women, and those who suffer with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety may struggle with this even harder. Many moms feel the temptation to sit at a computer screen and research every single bad thing that could possibly happen to their children, from RSV to SIDS. This is a bad idea.
Mom needs to know she can only control what she can control, and by the end of the first week she needs to stop Googling all the bad things that have ever happened to a child. It's crazy making to continue, and hopefully mom can avoid this practice in the first place.
12 Ignoring The Baby Blues
It's normal for emotions to be all over the place after birth. The hormone changes that take place are extreme, and it's okay to not feel just right soon after the baby arrives. However, by the end of the first week mom needs to make sure she is assessing her emotions to see how far from her baseline she is. There are the baby blues' feelings that most women experience, but there are also other problems that are more serious and need attention.
Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can happen at any time, but they can show up very soon after the baby is born. Mom does not have to wait for the six week post birth appointment with her OB to seek help. If she notices she feels way off emotionally, she needs to call her doctor ASAP.
11 Forgetting to Eat Or Drink
When does mom feed herself when trying to feed her hungry baby? When does she refill her water bottle when she has trouble putting the baby down without him going completely insane?
In the early days, it may seem impossible, but mom will need to devise a plan by the end of that first week so she doesn't dehydrate or experience unnecessary hunger. It's true that mom will have a hard time taking care of her baby if she can't take care of herself, and even just doing the minimum to stay on her feet, like eating and drinking, will make a huge difference.
10 Being Grossed Out
Most women have a pretty high tolerance for gross by the end of the first week. If the tar-like meconium diapers don't get mom, the never-ending spit up or the poo explosions that escape the onesie will likely serve as initiation.
By the end of the first seven days, mom won't be phased by much. She'll be dealing with an umbilical stump and feel sticky from breast milk all the time. The first time her child vomits or sneezes snot all over the room, she'll likely be unfazed because of all she's already seen. Moms are some of the toughest people on earth.
9 Skipping Out On Self-Care
It's normal for mom to spend that first week adjusting to what it means to be a mom. She may skip showers, meals, and forget to hydrate simply because she's swamped and sleep deprived. This behavior needs to have an end, though, because spotty self-care habits will cause major problems for mom at some point.
After the first week passes, mom needs to make sure she is doing at least one thing a day for herself in the self-care department. It may be taking a shower, eating a meal without holding a baby, or taking a walk. Whatever helps mom feel ready for the new day and cared for is a must.
8 Saying Yes To Everything
Priorities start to come into pretty clear focus when the baby arrives, and mom will find out within days that she may have some things in her life she doesn't want to be a part of anymore. If something on the list is not a resounding yes, it probably needs to become a no once mom is a parent.
Between taking care of a baby, getting enough rest, working, and having time to decompress with a partner, there is no time or space to say yes to things just because other people want mom to. She needs to learn that no is a complete sentence and be prepared to say it when she starts to feel crazy.
7 Comparing Real Life To Social Media
It's easy to spend those early days home with the baby browsing social media on the phone while the little one naps. This is not always a great idea. Hopefully mom will see very early on that real life as a mom and the curated social media representation are totally different. Mom does not need to compare her life to an Instagram mommy who has twelve assistants and posts pictures for a living.
Even friends sometimes post pictures or updates that make parenting look only #blessed and #soeasy. This is not true, and if mom can't separate reality from social media fiction, she needs to stay away from the social media for a bit.
6 Not Asking For Help
Once mom has a baby, any fear or embarrassment she has about asking for help will need to be dealt with swiftly. In fact, mom should be adapt at making her needs known by the end of the first week, knowing she will need help to get through motherhood.
No woman should have to parent alone, and it's okay to ask a spouse, a friend, or a family member for assistance. It doesn't mean mom doesn't know what she's doing. It means she's smart enough to know that having help with the baby will keep her from burning out in the early days.
5 Assuming You Know It All
Those parenting books seem really great before mom actually has the baby. They may still offer some helpful tips, but most moms figure out fairly quickly that knowing all the facts from the baby books doesn't mean actually knowing everything. Every baby is different, and having a child is a very humbling experience.
Luckily, mom doesn't have to know everything, and by the end of the first week she should be comfortable admitting that she doesn't. She should be comfortable seeking assistance or information when she needs it. No mom knows it all, and no mom ever will. Even as mom masters having an infant, she will have to learn how to have a toddler, a tween, a teenager. There's constant change.
4 Or Assuming You Know Nothing At All
Some women go too far and assume because they don't know it all they know nothing. This isn't true. Mom will have instincts and knowledge, even on the days she feels like nothing is going the way she planned. Women need to trust their instincts and not sell themselves short.
It's easy to feel stressed, but mom needs to tell herself that this is her child and she can take care of him or her. She's not stupid or incapable, even when sleep deprivation makes her feel like it. By the end of the first week, she can hopefully realize she is doing her best and using what she knows to help her baby grow.
3 Staying Isolated
It's completely normal for mom to want to stay at home early on while recovering. In fact, some cultures think it's best for mom to be at home resting for over a month so her body can heal and she can bond with the baby.
However, she doesn't need to do this alone. Even if mom wants to stay in to bond and heal, by the end of the first week she needs to make sure she is getting plenty of contact with adults. Invite friends to visit or bring food. Ask family to check in.
While being at home with a baby all day is rewarding, it's also isolating and demanding. If mom doesn't make an intentional effort to seek out adult interactions, she may end up lonely.
2 The Mommy Guilt
Being a mom is great, and being a mom is hard. Everyone will stay "Enjoy every second!" Mom needs to figure out early on that she doesn't have to. It's not a crime to feel the struggle and be honest about it.
Mom can be grateful for her child while still wishing for more sleep. She can take care of a baby while still dealing with confusion over the way her life has changed. It's fair to have an array of emotions about parenting, and they don't all have to revolve around joy or happiness. Let the feelings come as they may, and deal with each one, respecting the experience and the challenges it presents.
1 Constantly Doing Something
It's normal to desire a clean house and a well run household because it can make things so much easier when things are organized and completed properly. However, mom does not need to spend every spare second doing laundry, dishes, and other chores when the baby sleeps. She will end up exhausted, and the house will still end up messy the very next day.
Take a break from doing and just be. It's fine to do what is possible while still getting rest and quality time that isn't about accomplishing. Mom needs to learn this early so she can drink in moments of parenting instead of just pushing through them to get to the next item on the to-do list.
Resources: Today.com, Fitpregnancy.com, NYTimes.com