Newborn babies are absolute magic. Those tiny toes, those button noses, the way their little fingers grasp yours so tightly, the coos, the sweet smell and the soft breaths that escape those precious lips as Baby soundly slumbers. All of these things, and more, are the reasons we love babies.
Precious newborns are simply the best, and a new mother will likely look back on her days with a brand new baby as some of the best of her life. She may also wonder how in the heck she survived. Why? Well, The days and weeks after having a baby are a whirlwind of highs and lows. A new mother may find herself wiping away tears on a regular basis: some of joy and others of complete and total exhaustion or frustration.
Fortunately, there are some things a new mother can do to make the transition into life with a new tiny tot a bit more manageable. Many moms have shared what they did in those first few weeks and months to help them get through it. More than a few mothers have confessed that they wish someone would have done a better job of warning them exactly what they were in for. Yes, having a new baby is a joyous, momentous life experience, but it's also at-times an extremely difficult one.
The following 15 tips will not ensure you won't have hard seconds, minutes, hours and days. They may, however, help make the enchanting yet overwhelming days of new motherhood just a bit more bearable.
15 Brace Yourself
As previously mentioned, becoming a mother is wonderful. It is a wonderful time that is also really freaking hard, and isn't all sunbeams shining in through the window while Mom nibbles playfully on Baby's toes. Those moments do happen, but be prepared for some frazzled ones as well.
Andrea Champagne of Middlebury, Connecticut shares her feelings on the shock she experienced when her baby arrived. "I just assumed that everything was going to come so naturally, and it really didn't,” she says. It will take time for you to learn your babies cues. It will take time to learn how to change your baby's diapers, how to swaddle him and how to feed him.
According to Nancy M. Silvia M.D., a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatrician in Brandon, Florida,"The average newborn will eat every two to three hours." This fact in and of itself can take a major toll. You will get the hang of things soon, but be prepared to feel a bit overwhelmed in the beginning.
14 Go Easy On Yourself
Reese Witherspoon is a celebrity mother who has stated publicly that it's impossible to be perfect. All moms fall short, and that's okay. She says, "No one’s really doing it perfectly, I just think you love your kids with your whole heart, and you do the best you possibly can."
Anna Cristofaro looks back on the time her baby was an infant and realizes she didn't need to feel so much pressure to always be "on." She says, "I...felt like I needed to entertain this child constantly, so I talked to him all the time, which ended up tiring me out.” The truth is, you are most likely doing a much better job than you think you are doing. Mothers are notorious for being much too hard on themselves. Cut yourself some slack and focus instead on the things that bring you joy in your motherhood experience.
Mother of two Drew Barrymore puts things into perspective beautifully. "My favorite thing about being a mom is just what a better person it makes you on a daily basis," Barrymore says. "Every morning when I wake her up, the endgame is, 'Can I get her to smile?' And that puts me in a good mood. It’s definitely a different way to live – and a much better one."
13 Limit Visitors
New moms and new babies need time to rest and time to bond. Those who are attempting to breastfeed may be hindered by a constant barrage of well-meaning friends and family knocking on the door. In addition, Mom may just get Baby down to sleep, but end up missing out on the precious hour or two she has to rest because she's up entertaining guests.
Rebecca Neaves shares the rule she and her husband set to ensure they had the time they needed to bond with their little one, and allow Neaves to heal. "We made it clear we wanted people out by eight at the latest because that was often when our baby started getting cranky," she says.
Set expectations before baby arrives. You are completely justified in asking for the privacy you need to recover from the intense experience of delivering a baby. If friends and relatives get offended or don't understand, it's their problem. Don't allow anyone to pressure you into allowing them to visit. Unless they are there to help out while you take a rest, of course.
12 Get Trusted Advice
No one should have to go through the arduous process of adjusting to life as a new mother all on her own. Many women turn to their mothers, sisters or trusted friends for advice when things get to be too much. Others seek out play groups or support groups where new moms can connect and talk freely about their current struggles.
It always helps to realize you are not alone in the way you are feeling. It's easy to assume that you are the only one struggling with this mom gig, but that is simply not the case. According to Cristafaro, "Just talking to other mothers made me feel so much better."
Jennifer Powell adds, “I witnessed a lot of dear friends get into a real funk when they weren’t engaging with other people outside the house.” Don't isolate yourself. Postpartum depression is a very real thing that affects up to 3 million women in the United States alone every year. If you think you may be experiencing PPD, but don't feel comfortable talking with friends of family, hospitals offer support and counselling for new moms who are dealing with depression or anxiety.
11 Keep Spit-up Cloths Handy
Jacqueline Stone of Baltimore soon learned how crazy life with a newborn can be when she attempted to take her baby to a doctor's appointment when he was only four days old. “He wanted to eat, and as soon as he ate, he pooped, then he wanted to eat again,” she muses. “It took two hours to get him into the car seat. My husband and I were like, ‘Are we ever going to leave the house again?’”
Renee Baumbarger was proud of herself and feeling prepared one of the first times she left the house with her new baby. "I packed everything but socks for my firstborn son,” recalls Baumbarger. “He peed on his feet — just his feet!”
New moms quickly learn that you can never be too prepared. Keep extra burp cloths handy at all times to deal with projectile spit-up, poop or both. You've been warned.
10 Don't Stress Too Much
It's easy to feel like you are the only one who can't get it together after having a baby. Remember, those perfect Instagram photos you see of perfectly made-up moms snuggling snoozing, smiling newborns are just a snap-shot, just one second of the total experience.
Celebrity mom Claire Danes keeps it incredibly real when describing motherhood. She says, "Being a mom is incredibly challenging but we still feel a pressure to talk about it in very romantic terms. We all have that resentment at times and anxiety about being trapped by the role, that responsibility. And then chemically it can run riot…and there’s no ‘off’ button."
It is completely natural to feel your sanity slipping away on the 10th day without sleeping. You may find yourself obsessing over baby's breathing or a strange spot on his cheek. In these moments, take a deep breath and relax. If something seems off, call your pediatrician for advice. Just remember worrying doesn't do any good, and most of the time, Baby is just fine.
9 Establish Routines
Obviously, Baby won't be following any sort of schedule for awhile, but this doesn't mean you can't come up with some sort of routine for yourself to help you maintain your sanity.
Linda shares a tip that worked out great for her. "I told my husband I needed at least an hour to myself every day to reset and recharge. We worked out a set time each day that worked for both of us." She continues, "Of course he helped out much more than just for this hour, but we both knew that at the designated time every day I was 'off the clock,' so to speak. On the hardest days, I knew I had my 'break' to look forward to. No matter how crazy things got, that was constant. It really helped."
Another mom shares, "My baby's sleep schedule was all over the place at first. I decided to give him a bath every evening between 7 and 8 P.M.. Knowing this was part of our routine gave me some sort of way to make sense of the craziness, and keep things moving, when I was simply dog tired.
8 Get Enough Sleep
Yes, you've most likely heard this one and said to yourself, "Sleep would be pretty damn grand right now, but...How? Where? When? Seriously?!" The answer to your plight is simple, but you might not like it. Sleep when the baby sleeps. We know you have a trillion things you want to get done, but they can wait. Let the messes pile up, allow the DVR to fill with your favorite programs--and sleep! This may be the one thing that can save your sanity more than anything else.
Ellen Robinson, a mother of two, knows a thing or two about sleeping when the baby sleeps. "Don't go around and clean your house,” she advises. "The clock is ticking; you need to lie down.”
According to Dr. Silvia, "Between 3 and 4 months, your baby may sleep for five-hour stretches." This is the time you can start getting back on a normal routine and start getting things done again. In the mean time, enlist help from others whenever possible to do this stuff and get your rest.
Becky Holden Hueniken of London, Ontario shares, "Do what you need to do to get by. Owen wouldn’t sleep in the bassinet so he slept with us — that’s what we did to get by.”
7 Enlist Dad To Help Out
If Dad is in the picture after baby's arrival, he may want to be involved, but not quite know how to help. Sometimes, all he needs is an invitation to step in and change a stinky diaper or snuggle with baby while you take a much-needed snack break.
Many fathers want to help, but feel awkward invading on the precious bond you have already formed with your little one due to the time he spent growing and wriggling inside of you. Allow Dad to help out. Ask him to take over every once in awhile. He can really help you get through the hard days, while also forming a bond with his child that will last for life.
Holden Hueniken says, "I think a lot of men have the mentality that really little babies need mom, and hold back until the babies are more interactive,” she continues, “But now my husband wishes he’d spent more time with Owen in the beginning.”
"My husband, Chris, and I found if you keep score, it turns into a battle of wills,” notes Powell. “It doesn’t matter who got up last night — you have to respect when someone is really tired and be there to support each other. Chanting ‘don’t keep score’ helped us keep a good energy.”
6 Take Breaks
Whether a break comes in the form of doing something you love while baby is nestled in your arms or having someone take over for a bit while you do anything but take care of Baby, scheduling time to do things you love daily is crucial to surviving the newborn stage.
"There's nothing better than reading a book with Margot sleeping against my chest,” Taylor says. Sounds divine.
Clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo Ph. D. advises, "5 to 10 minutes of playtime is plenty for a young baby." After that, baby is often content on a soft blanket enjoying gazing at a mobile or working her neck muscles during tummy time. Interacting with your baby is extremely beneficial for her development, but you don't have to be performing all of the time.
Jacqueline Stone started having her mom watch the baby while she slipped out for a quick break at the gym. She says, "It was weird not being with him, but it was nice to get away."
According to Michele Perry, a postpartum doula in Orangeville, Ontario, "When you have a baby, you’re giving constantly, and that can really drain your emotional energy." Hence, breaks. Take them. You won't regret it.
5 Eat Properly
Eating well is a must if you intend to keep your energy up and get through this intense time without going bonkers. You may feel like there isn't time for eating, but making time to eat regular, healthy meals is very important.
Having a baby takes a toll on your body. Experts say it may take up to a year or longer for a new mom to replenish all of the crucial nutrients she lost while pregnant and during baby's delivery. Additionally, if breastfeeding, eating a balanced diet will increase your milk supply.
Neaves suggests, "Collect some easy recipes, and stock the groceries you need for a few simple, healthy meals."
Another new mom requested frozen meals as baby shower gifts. “That was probably the single best thing I did,” she says.
This one is another that is non-negotiable. Do not live off of expired pickles from the back of the fridge. Plan ahead to make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked before Baby arrives.
Actress Julianne Moore hits the nail on the head when describing the difficulties of getting things done as a new mother. "It’s not difficult to take care of a child; it’s difficult to do anything else while taking care of a child. Trying to clean up the kitchen after you’ve had a baby is a nightmare."
"I got a housekeeper for a baby shower gift,” says Erin Thomson, of Orangeville, Ontario. “That was the best present ever!”
Cristofaro says, “I had this feeling that you have to do it all on your own, and if people offer help, you say, ‘No, I’m OK.'" She admits, “Looking back, how silly was that?”
When friends and family ask if there is anything they can do to help, don't be afraid to respond with a robust, "Hell, yes!" You know you have a to-do list in your mind about 100 things long. You don't need to be polite. You need all of the help you can get. Give those who offer to help specific tasks like going to Starbucks on the double to get you a caramel latte or vacuuming the floors or washing burp cloths.
There is absolutely no shame in delegation. In fact, it's courageous to admit you need help. Sharing the burden of being a new mother with others will relieve your stress and give you the chance to put the energy you do have left into caring for your precious baby.
3 Consider Baby-wearing
Actress Kate Beckinsale shares of her experience with motherhood, "I have found being a mother has made me emotionally raw in many situations. Your heart is beating outside your body when you have a baby."
Many new moms will attest to this fact. Baby may be out of your body physically, but the two of you are forever connected by an invisible, unbreakable bond. The first weeks and months after Baby arrives have been dubbed the "fourth trimester" by experts.
This means Baby feels most comforted when he is close to his mom, when he can feel her breath and hear her heart like he could when he was in the womb. This is one reason skin-to-skin is so beneficial, and the reason why more and more women are choosing to wear their babies after birth.
Not only does wearing Baby sooth and comfort him, it gives you the ability to get things done. You can snuggle him while doing the dishes or enjoying a lunch out with friends. Baby wearing isn't for everyone, but if it sounds like something you would love, find wrap or carrier that works for you and enjoy the freedom it brings.
2 Trust Yourself
Gwyneth Paltrow is an Oscar-winning actress who has had her share of haters. She says, "I never understand why mothers judge other mothers, like, 'What do you mean you didn’t breastfeed? What do you mean you didn’t do this?' It’s like, 'Can’t we all just be on each other’s side?'"
It's easy to doubt yourself, especially when well-meaning comments from others who feel you aren't raising your baby the same way they would may cause you to feel disheartened. You know better than anyone else what is best for your baby. Ignore negative comments and judgements. Listen to your gut.
Trust that you are doing a fabulous job, because you are. Anyone who makes you feel otherwise doesn't know what they are talking about. You have our permission to tell them so if you feel the need.
Actress Kate Winslet is a mother of two, and reminds moms everywhere that they've got this. "There’s something really empowering about going, ‘Hell, I can do this! I can do this all!’" Winslet continues, "That’s the wonderful thing about mothers, you can because you must, and you just do."
1 Hang In There
Neaves confesses, "I said to myself over and over in the night, ‘It will get better, it will get better….’ And it did help me.” On the hardest days of new mommy-hood, know this: things will not be this difficult forever. There is an end in sight.
Before long your baby will be smiling, giggling and babbling up a storm. Soon, your baby will be sleeping for five or more hours at night and will follow a more consistent napping schedule during the day. As he becomes mobile, you'll be able to enjoy playtime even more as you squeal in delight over each new milestone he masters.
All of these things make life with a baby a lot easier to handle. Stay strong, beautiful mama. You can do this.
Beyoncé shares her feelings on motherhood eloquently. She says, "I feel more beautiful than I’ve ever felt because I’ve given birth. I have never felt so connected, never felt like I had such a purpose on this earth."