11 survival tips for a new mom
Being a parent is one of the hardest things anyone can do. And that is not an exaggeration. Imagine all of life’s problems, and add tiny humans who will have all those same problems and will turn to YOU to fix it for them. Or they won’t turn to you and you’ll be stuck worrying and wishing you could wave a magic wand to make all their troubles disappear.
When those tiny humans are newborns, they have no choice but to sit helplessly in your tender caring hands. And that can be the scariest thing in the world.
Now, I’m no parenting expert by any means, and I have no idea what the challenge of multiple children entails, but I do know what it’s like to be a new mom, and it can be lonely, scary, exhausting, and sometimes even impossible.
This is a list of 11 things that helped me through those first few months of motherhood. Hopefully some of them can be helpful to others. Always remember though, to trust your instinct. Only take the advice that feels right to you, and try to enjoy those precious happy moments between the chaos.
1. Let go of control
This may seem counter-intuitive, but the reality is having a kid can take away any control you may have had over your life anyway. Unless you roll with that, you could end up extremely stressed and depressed. The strange thing is when you finally learn to let go of control, that’s when you get some of it back. Being ok with not having control is something that can help you handle stress throughout your entire life, not just when you have a baby.
2. Sleep when they sleep (or, take care of YOU when they sleep)
Ok, we’ve all heard this one before. I don’t know about you, but when I was pregnant my thought was always, “are you kidding? When they sleep I’m going to be getting laundry done and doing dishes and cleaning the bathroom…” And yes, all those things are great. But guess what, those are all things you can do when your baby is awake. Even if your baby is crying because they want attention, you can still do those things (more on that in #3). Sleeping is one thing you cannot do while your baby is awake. And the more sleep you get, the more capable you’ll feel to take care of household chores and of little one. Also, chores are really not the most important things right now. It’s ok if things get a little messy.
I would also add eating as a good activity while your baby sleeps. Yes, you can do this while your baby is awake, but if you’re anything like me you’ll start choosing attending to baby over your own nourishment every time. If baby goes down for their nap and you haven’t eaten yet that day, eat something before you hit the pillow.
Showering can be another good option for nap time. If you don’t like showering with little one, this is your chance!
The golden rule: nap time is take care of YOU time. It’s not selfish. Taking care of you allows you to give your baby your best self when they’re awake.
3. Be ok with some tears
Babies cry. It’s what they do. For a while it’s the only way they can communicate. If you stopped what you were doing every time your baby cried you would never get anything done. It’s so so hard, but you have to learn to be ok with some tears. If your baby isn’t hungry, hurt, or tired, let them cry a little while you finish the task you’re working on. Talk to them and explain what you’re doing. Bring them into the room you’re in so they know you’re still there. Eventually, they’ll get better at independent play, and the crying will be less and less.
4. Don’t ever be embarrassed to call the pediatrician’s office
Sometimes google searches just don’t cut it in the world of babies. It’s ok to call your pediatrician’s office and ask a nurse about whatever is going on with your child. They don’t care if you call every other day, it’s their job! And if you feel you need to take baby in, make a sick appointment, and don’t be embarrassed if the doctor diagnosis your little one with nothing more than a cold. Now you know how your baby acts when they have a cold, and you’re more capable to handle things on your own next time.
Plus, your pediatrician will have wonderful tips for handling even the simplest of baby problems. From surviving colick, to prescriptions for ear infections, or even a swaddling demonstration, your child’s doctor can help with the stresses of everyday parenting.
5. Relaxed breastfeeding (and being ok with formula)
Breastfeeding is very difficult. It’s not as simple as latch and let go for many women. It’s a huge learning curve for moms and babies alike. Breastfeeding is very individual and you need to figure out what’s best for you.
Probably the best thing I learned about breastfeeding was relaxed feeding. It basically means you get as comfortable as you want and make baby as comfortable as you want and then figure out getting them on your breast. This could mean laying down with both you and baby propped up by pillows, it could mean reclined in a chair with baby laying over you, it could mean slinging baby over your shoulder in bed and having them nurse from above. There are a lot of different things you can try. Relaxed breastfeeding just means you can get the hang of things while you’re both at your most comfortable and relaxed, instead of sitting up and trying a bunch of weird feeling holds that make your arms ache.
If breastfeeding just isn’t working for you, for whatever reason, ask your doctor for help. But if there is more stress than benefits involved in the breastfeeding process, don’t be afraid of supplementing or switching to formula. It is not the Devil’s milk. It is a life saving resource we’re lucky to have accessible to us today. Breast milk is great and wonderful, but formula will still keep your baby healthy and strong when breast milk isn’t an option.
6. Go on a walk every day
After having a baby, there is little exercise you can participate in for quite a while. Especially if you had a c-section. However, exercise is so helpful to staying happy and healthy. Especially if you’re a breast feeding mom. This is where walks become your best friend.
Not only do daily walks give you much needed physical activity, they also give you motivation to get out of the house every day. That fresh air will do you so much good, plus most babies love going on walks. If you have a fussy baby, you may find walks are the only time they’re in a good mood.
7. Call your mom, sister, or another trusted women
When it comes to parenting, other moms can be your greatest resource. But, it’s only helpful when it’s a mom you trust, who loves you, and who won’t be judgemental. A judgmental woman is the last thing you need as a new mom. Find someone you can talk to easily. This could be your own mom, a sister, or a good friend who is a good listener. Find someone who can just listen when you need, and who can give loving advice when you ask for it.
8. Talk to the hubby
If you don’t have a husband, talk to whoever lives with you. If it’s just you, consider asking that woman from #7 to stay with you for a couple weeks while you get the hang of things.
Talk to your husband about how you feel, how’re you’re doing each day, and what your concerns are. Be open about the help you’d like to receive from them. If he has paternity leave available, let him know if you want him to take that time off. Don’t save it for a vacation later -you need that help now!
You have to communicate with your husband to let them know what you need. They can’t read your mind. And they don’t know everything you’re doing or what your body had physically gone through. Communication is key to being partners in parenting.
For a couple months my baby got up every 20-30 minutes at night to nurse. During that time, someone asked my husband how often the baby got up at night. My husband responded “oh, a couple times maybe.” He had no idea our baby was getting up way more often than that! I told him the reality and once he knew what was happening he really stepped up helping out at night. If I had communicated earlier the nighttime struggle, I could’ve had his support a lot sooner.
If you don’t have a husband and you have someone staying with you, the same rule applies. Tell them what would be most helpful for you. They can’t read your mind either. Communicate your needs.
9. Ignore the haters
Literally everyone is going to have an opinion on how you parent, and on your decision to be a parent. Some advice can be really valuable, but honestly most of it is just judgemental and not given with your best interest in mind. Ignore the haters! Don’t let mom-shaming get to you. People mom shame because they need to make themselves feel better about their own short comings. The reality is we’re all trying to figure this whole parenting thing out, and no one is going to be perfect at it. Give yourself a break.
10. Listen to the people who love you
While you’re ignoring the haters, listen well to those who do truly care for you. Listen when they say you’re doing a good job. Listen when they express concern for your mental health. Listen when they offer support and comfort. Pay attention to the comments made from a place of love.
11. Trust your own instinct above all else, even this article
So there you have it. 11 things that helped me, and that I hope can help others. But just remember, we’re all different, and what works for some won’t necessarily work for others. Take all of these ideas with a grain of salt and remember to trust your instinct above all else.