Creating a life is something truly worth celebrating. But after the newness of having a newborn baby wears off, it can seem all-consuming and that is perfectly normal. Many new moms may feel isolated and alone in the days and months following the birth of a child, even if this isn’t the first time they’ve done it. Some of this is related to hormones and is essentially natural, whereas other aspects are related to the more practical, yet monumental changes that have just occurred.
While parenting books can provide plenty of sound advice on how to make this whole motherhood thing work, there are many things that aren’t in the books. Sure, books provide information on sleep training methods, how to swaddle a baby, or how to hire that perfect nanny, but they can’t offer the experience that fellow moms going through the same thing can. Here we have tips, tricks, and life philosophies that 20 real moms took away from their first year having a baby. While not all of them will work for everyone, they’ll certainly provide some perspective on how to keep it together, survive, and thrive in the first year after baby arrives.
Babies learn to expect what we teach them. This means that if you make sure that everything is perfectly silent when they sleep, they will need everything to be silent in order to do so. I don’t know about you, but this was never a trend I wanted to encourage, and I felt proud when I was able to have a large group of friends over for a card game while my infant twins slept heavily upstairs.
Mom Jennifer says, “The womb is loud, and newborns are used to the noise. When ours first came home, we watched television and I would vacuum, wash dishes and talk on the phone around her while she slept. She got used to sleeping with noise, and I could get stuff done. I am still able to vacuum in her room while she sleeps (she is 14 months), and she is peaceful and well rested when she wakes up.”
Motherhood is one of the most wonderful, but lonely things I have ever experienced, particularly in the early days. If you are someone who has family around you or other moms you know that you can talk to, don’t forget to pick up the phone or text them, and if you aren’t connected to the right people to help you, go find them. You owe it to yourself.
Lacey Dunkin, single mom of six says, “Identify the people you can call when you need to vent—friends who’ll give their opinion when you ask for it and keep their mouth shut when you don’t, and who would drop anything to be there for you and your family (and vice versa). Love them hard and thank them often.”
In becoming a parent we sometimes end up grieving the person we once were, because we change and so do our priorities. Sometimes it takes a while for a new parent to realize and come to terms with this reality. The thing is you can’t give 100 percent at your job, motherhood, your friendships, how clean your home is, and your romantic relationships, and that’s okay.
Ariel Brewster told Today’s Parent, “Forget giving anything 100 percent. I will never be able to stay at work as late as I’d like, and I will never get dinner on the table as early as I’d like. I will never exercise as much as the magazines tell me I should, and I am newly at peace with the fact that my kid is going to be the one with marker streaks on his pudgy toddler hands and a little bit of leftover breakfast oatmeal in his hair.”
When people without children look at baby clothes they admire the general cuteness of the apparel, when parents look at baby clothes they look at how easy these clothes are going to be to use at 3 a.m on less than four hours of sleep.
One mom told Today’s Parent, “Repeat after me: zippers, not snaps. Zippers, not snaps. I don’t care how cute or on-sale those snap-up footie PJs at Baby GAP are, resist all buttons and snaps and fussy outfits with multiple components. You may adore washing, folding and organizing these teeny-tiny ensembles when you’re pregnant, but you will not have the patience for them after the third diaper mishap in an hour, or when you’re trying to finally (for-the-love-of-God-please) leave the house with a fed, burped, changed and clothed baby during your short window of time for errands.”
Within two years of having children, our washer broke. This is because we were constantly using it. While infants will poop and spit-up on their clothes frequently, requiring an outfit change regularly, you won’t (most of the time). When you’re folding up your 19th load of laundry for the week take a minute about whether or not you’re over washing the grown-up clothes.
Mom Panda Elder told the readers of Scary Mommy, “Reuse clothes that aren’t dirty. You know those items that don’t deserve to be washed yet, but shouldn’t be mixed back in with the clean clothes either? Put a special hook for them in your closet and wear it again.”
For all of the talk that we give to self-care, we aren’t very good at it. Being a new mom is exhausting, and must be the reason behind the invention of dry shampoo and amazing concealer to cover up those dark circles from under our eyes. When a new mom complains that she doesn’t have time for a shower, part of that is her own doing.
You know how in a plane you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others, the same applies when you’re a new parent. Mom Alexandra says, “Including in a routine the things that are important to me (like showers) are important for surviving and thriving in the first year of parenthood."
Whether baby isn’t gaining weight as fast as you or your healthcare provider would like, or they’re up 24-7 during a particularly grueling cluster-feeding frenzy, moms want to make sure that babies are getting what they need during the feeding and not falling asleep only to wake up half an hour later demanding mom.
Virginia Beach mom Elizabeth says, “When our baby was eating slowly and sleepily, my husband and I would massage her cheek to stimulate her to eat faster. A gentle stroke with a fingertip on her cheek was all it took, and on those long sleepless nights, this simple trick was a godsend! Our friends have found it works great with their infants too. When babies eat efficiently until they're full before going to sleep, they sleep for longer between feedings. And that means you’re both likely to be calmer!”
Since baby is constantly changing and growing, their demands are also evolving. This means that a baby who would routinely sleep in their crib every day for a nap at the same time may refuse to do that one week, and sometimes moms need to improvise and switch up their routine to get baby what they need and enjoy a little peace and quiet in the process.
Blogger The Military Wife and Mom says, “Be willing to go hands-free. Sometimes babies just won’t sleep unless they are held during the initial newborn phase. My favorite carrier for a small baby is a Moby Wrap Original. A wrap or sling allows the baby to get snuggled up a bit more comfortably, enhancing the likelihood he will stay asleep.”
Reading is good for all of us. As someone who has always been a fan of reading (and being read to) tips like this truly are preaching to the choir, but there is something to be said for taking some time to read to yourself and your child, even if you can only carve five or ten minutes a day.
Mom and author Christine Hohlbaum says, “Read to your child every single day. It helps build imagination and is time well spent.” As an adult I still remember the time my parents spent reading to me, odds are your child will remember the same, so why not get into the habit now while they’re still little.
In the first few weeks of motherhood people are going to offer to help, and a lot of the time you won’t need it. It’s often a few months into motherhood that we realize that we can’t do it alone and we need some backup, unfortunately, a lot of the time this is also when the offers from others for help seem to vanish.
Don’t be afraid to put up your hand and ask someone to watch the kids while you get groceries, pick up a bag of milk for you, or even let you take a much-needed Nap. Mom Blogger I Be Better says, “Whenever I forget to ask for help, my little brood and I all suffer.”
It is truly amazing to watch your little babe fall asleep in your arms, that is until it’s the only place that they will fall asleep. With parents doing everything from having their arms fall asleep when they’re being held ‘captive’ by their infant to trying to slowly sneak away only to have baby wake up, we can all use a little help to transition baby to easier, hands-free slumber.
Mom Pam says, “When my daughter was 3 weeks, she liked to sleep only on me. Every time I put her in her bassinet after she fell asleep on me, she would wake up. I realized she probably liked the warmth. So I started wrapping a blanket around a heating pad and letting it warm up her bed while I fed her. After she was done and had fallen asleep, I removed the heating pad and slipped the baby between the folds of the warm blanket. She would snuggle right in. Pre-warming a blanket in the dryer also works.”
In the first year after my twins were born, we’d go for a walk each morning. After we returned from our walk, I’d put them into their baby swings in the kitchen, put on some music, and dance a while and sing at the top of my lungs while I tidied up.
These remain some of the best memories from my first year. Mom Lacey Dunkin agrees, she says, “When you’re talked out and tired out from endless demands, turn on some music and just shake off the day. It’s hard not to smile when you’re letting loose (and watching your kids dance).”
Personally, I found motherhood softened my heart, albeit in the most wonderful way. I was crying at commercials I wouldn’t have taken a second glance at pre-parenthood. I also was better in touch with my emotions and expressing them to the people I cared about, okay some of that might have been the postnatal hormones, but that’s allowed as well.
Embracing a way that you’re feeling, even when it’s a feeling of anxiety can be really helpful. Mom Jenn reminds new moms, “It’s OK to cry, actually it’s good, it’s scientifically proven to make you feel better.”
There is enough pressure on new moms without them adding in bouncing back to their pre-pregnancy bodies in a matter of weeks (or ever). Your body has gone through so much in bringing a baby into the world, show it and yourself a little kindness and don’t hold up your pre-pregnancy skinny jeans to celebrity status.
Mom Erica Benstock found it took a reality check from a celebrity to remind her to take it easy on herself and says, “After I had my second, I read that Chrissy said it’s unrealistic for real women to compare themselves to celebrities who are back to a size zero right after pregnancy; they have chefs, nutritionists, and personal trainers, and can make their own schedule. I wasn’t as hard on myself about trying to achieve that Hollywood ideal.”
Babies cry. It’s how they communicate with us. In a time that they cannot truly tell us or show us exactly what they need it’s tempting to offer up everything imaginable to calm them down. Just ask anyone who has had a colicky child.
Kim says, “People always say that babies cry because they want food, their diaper needs to be changed, they're bored, etc., but they always leave out that the baby might be cranky because he's tired. Our son used to go nuts during his first month, and we tried everything to calm him. It turned out that what he really needed was less stimulation and more sleep. Sometimes babies really need less - not more - from you.”
We tend to focus on the day to day instead of the big picture. Little things that bother us today about motherhood probably won’t be even on our radar in a year, or even in a month in many cases.
When she celebrated the first year as a new mom Jill Cedar wrote down some of the things she was proud of accomplishing in her first year. Jill wrote, “My son didn’t ingest any foreign objects severe enough to require an ER visit. I Figured out how to make baby food and not poison him.” and noted, “I Didn’t always buy organic food, and didn’t poison him.” While these things may not seem like a big deal, they are. They are accomplishments - take a moment to be grateful for them.
In the digital age, we don’t tend to print our photos the way previous generations once did. While we have these memories at our fingertips, a phone or computer crashing is a lot more likely to result in the loss of memories than a fire. There is nothing more frustrating than losing access to important memories and milestones from your child.
While I highly encourage putting together a baby book of your favorite prints from the first year, so many of us don’t have time for this. Darkash Sanghavi, author of A Map of the Child cautions new and veteran parents, “Backup your photos and videos. You don’t want to lose irreplaceable digital memories. Invest in a backup hard drive or a cloud service.”
Whether it’s a parenting book you read, the way you see your neighbor, or that mom you don’t even know in real life on Instagram parent, many of us project rules about what is right and wrong in our approach to parenting. Not every stage of being a mom is going to be awesome.
Some moms don’t like babies and prefer it when their kids are a little older, that’s allowed. Natalie says, “Having fun is more important than following the imaginary rules.” It’s up to you when you finish breastfeeding (or if you breastfeed at all). The same goes for cloth vs. disposable diapers. You get to decide your approach to parenting, don’t let a preconceived imaginary idea you have to take that away. Natalie adds, “There is no Fairy Godmother handing out gold stars to the Super-Mom-Of-The-Week. Stop trying to earn them.”
In order to save your bank account and for health benefits as well, you’ll want to minimize ordering takeout as much as you can while balancing time with your new baby. You’ll need to make sure you have plenty of easy, healthy food at your fingertips, so you won’t be tempted to order pizza every night of the week.
Parenting blogger Military Wife & Mom says, “The idea of freezer meals is kind of beaten to death if you ask me, but they serve a purpose, and they are helpful. Even if the whole newborn thing is going really, really well, it would be so much more fun to curl up on the couch and watch TV than to cook a meal from scratch. Put a freezer meal in the crockpot or bake it in the oven, and just relax.”
Time feels like it drags when you aren’t sleeping well. It can be easy to get sucked into a cycle of feeling sorry for yourself, or pushing towards the next milestone, moving beyond teething, sleeping through the night, or even first steps, but once your baby does these things the time has passed, and you won’t get it back. Try to take some time to savor the chaos of infancy.
Alyssa says, “I tell myself, “Someday, I’m going to miss this.” And I mean it. No matter how hard it is. Someday, I AM going to miss this.”