Now that I’ve updated you all on Mason and my six month postpartum progress I wanted to share some of the most important things I’ve learned and feel all new moms should know. When you’re pregnant you get a lot of advice, even if unsolicited, and some of it is true, some of it is actually helpful, and some of it is just plain annoying. So rather than spew around advice that won’t actually help new, first time moms, I thought I would share 12 things every new mom should know before giving birth.
1. Self care is more important than you think: You may be wondering why I put this at the top of my list. Shouldn’t something about caring for your baby be number 1? Well I’m here to tell you that self care is actually the biggest way you can care for your baby. I’m not talking about workouts, that will come later, I’m talking about eating, drinking lots of water, pumping, and resting. All these play a huge roll in your ability to be the best mother you can be. My husband was the one that had to remind me of this (many times). How can you care for and nourish your baby if you aren’t caring for yourself? If you don’t eat enough how are you supposed to produce the amount of milk your baby needs? If you don’t consistently pump, how are you going to keep your supply up? Remember you shouldn’t put your work or anything else before yourself. I have trouble with this and find on the days I do work that I can go half the day and not eat or pump (face palm). This is not putting Mason first, and he is after all my BEA (before anyone else). So if you take away only one thing from this please let it be that you need to carve out the time to care for yourself. Lean on your tribe to help you because by caring for yourself, you are caring for your baby!
2. Find your tribe and love on them: Whether you have a lot of friends all having babies at the same time as you or if you find a group of women through your birth classes, post-birth classes/groups, online, or any other way once you find your tribe show them some love. Being a mom is not easy so support each other, even if you choose to parent differently then they do. There will come a time when you need their support and if you’ve been there to pump them up when they’re feeling down or overwhelmed they will be right there for you and your needs.
3. Take all your preconceived notions of how you’re going to parent and throw it out the door: Being a mom has a major learning curve and just because something worked for someone else, does NOT mean it will work for you and/or your baby so just throw it all out the door. If you try to hard to stick with a game plan, most likely your baby will have something else in mind, so you just have to go with the flow. If you swore you weren’t going to have your baby sleep on your chest every night (raising my hand over here) guess what, when your baby will ONLY sleep when he’s on you, you let him sleep on your chest (again raising my hand over here!). If you swore you would NEVER co-sleep, guess what, your best nights of sleep may be those when your baby is right beside you.
4. Don’t ignore the advice you get: It’s always good to get advice and hear what worked for other moms to keep in your arsenal of things to try as you’re figuring out motherhood. It may not work one week, but then your baby will change and that might just be what he/she needs at that time. Like I said before, people will be wanting to give you advice whether you want it or not so you might as well listen, because try as hard as you want to not parent “their way” and you may end up with your palm in your face when after weeks of being stubborn about it, if it is what works. Again, raising my hand over here!
5. Breastfeeding isn’t easy and is not guaranteed: Before Mason, and before my friends started to have kids (and sharing their experiences with me), I had no idea that breastfeeding was hard. I feel so thankful and fortunate to have had a lactation consultant I could go to, to help me and Mason with breastfeeding. For a minute I was worried my dream of breastfeeding Mason and having that bonding time was not going to happen (you can read all about why here). Luckily, I was able to get past the frustration, the learning curve and find what worked. And not producing enough can be stressful, but overproducing has its own set of problems too. Hello engorgement! So if you can’t, for one reason or another, don’t beat yourself up!
6. The unsolicited opinions and advice of strangers keep coming: And you thought that it couldn’t get any worse than when you were pregnant…think again! Being a new mom it’s like you have a sign on your forehead saying, “please tell me how you think I should parent. I really want to know!” My most horrifying comment came from an elderly gentleman when I was sitting on a park bench at the beach feeding Mason (my breastmilk) from a bottle. He walked up to me, handed me a newspaper article, well actually set it down and put my latte on top of it so it wouldn’t fly away, and let me know he just had to do his public service to at least one new mom and share how important it is to feed your baby milk. This isn’t a joke, this was real life and I had NO WORDS!
7. Breastfeeding does not = loosing your baby weight: So many friends told me that as long as I EBF (exclusively breast fed) or pumped that the baby weight would just melt off. I’m hear to tell ya that, that’s not always true. While I have lost a good amount of weight (I did put on over 45 lbs during my pregnancy) I’m still not to my pre-baby weight. I still have 11 lbs to go and they might just be sticking around because I am breastfeeding! Who knows?! And I’d attribute my weight loss to my stroller strides and body back classes not breastfeeding.
8. You will NOT sleep when your baby sleeps: This one is so important and honestly a big pet-peeve of mine now. I can’t tell you how many people told me this as their biggest advice for me…”sleep when your baby is sleeping.” I mean, do they even hear themselves?! Were they able to sleep when their baby slept? I highly doubt it and if they did, it was probably from pure exhaustion and maybe just in the first few weeks. And if they were sleeping when their baby slept most likely they fell asleep before their baby even did (I’m raising my hand cause I know I’ve done this before, whoops!). Even early on, when Mason slept, I would just stare at him because he was just so cute and angelic! I knew I should be sleeping but I just couldn’t take my eyes off him. Or better yet, it was my only time to care for myself or pick up the house.
9. It’s OK for your baby to cry: Crying is how your baby communicates. It can be hard at first to hear your baby cry, I know it was for me (painstaking actually), but that’s the only way your baby can communicate with you. A few of my friends had told me to start listening to how your baby cries and after a while you’ll know what they mean. Their cries WILL sound different when they’re hungry vs when their tired. It just takes a little bit of time to recognize the differences. So just know that it’s ok for your baby to cry and after a while it might be a little easier to handle.
10. It’s OK to ask for help: That’s what your tribe is for isn’t it?!! I had a really hard time asking for help because honestly, I wanted to be able to be everything my baby needed and more. Then after a while the sense of being overwhelmed kicks in and my patience would start to run thin and then I’d snap and immediately feel awful about myself. How could I freak out at my baby??? But it happens and that’s when it’s a great time to call up your parents, in-laws, or nearby friends and ask for some help. It could be having them stop by for a little chat with coffee, a small vent session, or having them watch your LO while you do something for yourself. As I write this, my mother-in-law is watching Mason. I miss not having him around me 24/7 but these small breaks allow me to be a better mom for Mason because I’m able to do things that make me happy (like this blog) and care for myself, so that I can better care for him.
11. The struggle is real: And I mean this in every sense. The struggle to figure out motherhood, is real. The struggle to find your new normal, is real. The struggle to keep calm when you’re going on no sleep, is real. The struggle to deal with the many blow outs, is real. The struggle to keep up your milk supply, is real. The struggle to co-parent, is real. The struggle to not loose yourself, is real. The struggle to get dressed and remember to brush your teeth, is real. The list could go on forever! Just remember when you’re struggling to keep it all together, this baby you’ve got is more than worth it!!
12. Don’t forget about each other: It is so easy to get caught up in your new baby and loose sight of your relationship with your partner. Before baby, your world revolved around yourself and your partner, and maybe a dog or two 😉 Now your whole world has changed and you are no longer numero uno. Just make sure to take time for your relationship. Schedule in a date night if you have to, or even plan a no cell time, where you can just enjoy each others company without the distraction of your phones. It may be easier said then done to have your baby blend in with your family but it is so important for your family that they do.
If you are a new mom, just remember you are doing an incredible job and while you may feel at times your hard work goes unnoticed, please know that this is not the case. Everyone around you is in awe of the job you are doing and here to help you when you need support!! It takes a village, please don’t forget that!!!