Throughout my first pregnancy, I did all (I mean ALL) the research. Or so I thought. I read all the advice for new parents, like how to have “natural” labor, which sleep sacks were best for each stage of babyhood, how to set my baby up for 12 hours of a completely sound sleep by 12 weeks (in hindsight, a laughable prospect), you name it.
Now – two years and two babies later – I know that while all my “research” on advice for new parents served a purpose, there’s so much more I wish I had known before having a baby. If you’re a new or expecting mom, I hope the following advice for new parents speaks to your heart and helps you navigate some of the many unseen burdens we carry in motherhood.
Advice for New Parents
Here is my top advice for new parents.
Having a baby will change you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s OK not to ‘bounce back’ to who you were before. Give yourself grace.
After carrying my firstborn past 41 weeks, the last thing I wanted to endure was an emergency C-section following grueling labor. I’d worked so hard to have my body in the best shape possible leading up to delivery, but suddenly, I had to be OK with not being able to get out of bed by myself for a bit. I might have “bounced back” briefly before my next pregnancy, but my twice-built scar reminds me that my body is forever changed. My heart is forever changed, though, too. Looking back, I’m proud of what I’ve been through and would go through it again for my babies. I only wish I had been gentler on myself in the beginning.
Everyone will have their opinions. That doesn’t mean they should all impact your parenting decisions. Take what others say with a grain of salt.
Just because someone has “been there” before you doesn’t mean they’ve got all the answers for you. Before my first baby, I wish I had known how judgmental people would be with everything. From baby names to breastfeeding vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping to staying home vs. returning to work. My advice to new parents is to remember that what others think bears no weight on your decisions for your children and family. I’m much more content this way.
Your parental instincts will almost always be right. Trust your intuition. It’s there for a reason.
My daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that caused her to become very ill within months. I spent countless days pleading with her pediatrician to believe there was more going on than something a standard over-the-counter prescription could fix. Sure enough, she needed a three-part biopsy and a total lifestyle and dietary overhaul to get on the path toward healing. The day before I went into labor with my son nearly two months early (without any known reason), I begged my husband to join me for a private ultrasound as I knew something was off. A mother’s intuition is one of your greatest assets as a parent. My advice to new parents: lean into and listen to your intuition.
It’s not selfish to prioritize yourself sometimes. It’s necessary.
It can be easy to lose yourself in motherhood. But your children need you to show up as your best self just as much as you do (and vice versa). Before having my first baby, I wish I had known how much of a difference the simple act of getting out of the house solo – for even an hour – now and then can make. Make time for yourself sooner than later to avoid burnout. Your kiddos will be alright, and you’ll be better off for it. Trust me!
There’s no universal handbook when it comes to raising babies. Do your best (and don’t be afraid to modify as needed).
My firstborn almost completely contact-napped for the first year and a half of her life. My second child enjoys nursing to sleep and then stretching out in his crib. Had I followed baby sleep advice “by the books” for either of my babies, neither of their individual sleep needs would’ve been met. I wish I had known how to tune out all the noise telling me what I “should have been” doing in those early days of being a mama. Babies aren’t robots; they’re individuals with their own needs. My advice for new parents is not to stress if what works for you and yours isn’t what you see your friends (or social media influencers) doing. You do know your baby best.
Things won’t always go how you imagine they will. You are stronger than you know. Believe it and seek out support when you need to.
I didn’t expect my son to be born prematurely. I also didn’t anticipate him spending a combined five weeks in the NICU and PICU throughout his newborn days. I couldn’t have predicted splitting so much time between my two babies, one at home and one in the hospital. I never imagined seeing one of my tiny humans intubated and on a ventilator fighting for his life with RSV. Having a baby will test you in ways you never see coming, but getting through each phase will show you how powerful you are. Leaning on your village – or creating one if you don’t have one in the traditional sense – will help, too. Regardless, the trials are most often temporary. When the going gets tough, trust in the process. You are the best mom for your babies. Go easy on yourself.
While there are endless resources with advice for new parents, having a baby doesn’t come with a personalized handbook. If I could go back in time and give myself beneficial advice before my first child, I’d start with these. And mix in a lot of self-kindness. I hope you’ll do the same!