Advice to New Moms | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

January 10, 2013

Advice to New Moms

It seems like it was so long ago that I was thrust into the strange and unusual world of parenting. In all actuality, it was only four and a half years ago. Yet, somehow I feel like I relive a "newness" each day. Sure, there are times I feel all, "Yeah. I've got this." Then my kids bring me back to reality, as I find that most days I hit a point where I'm completely clueless (and quite possibly gasping for air as I drown in parenthood). 

I've documented a bit about my transition to motherhood (it was not all sunshiney and rainbows, people). It was a struggle, and one of the things I remember distinctly about those first few months is how alone I felt. Alone in not knowing what I was doing, alone in not knowing many other moms, alone in the way I felt. It seemed like every other mother around me had this stuff down, and I was the only one tripping to find my footing.

So, as 2012 was a big year for New Babies, and 2013 seems to be following suit, I thought I'd take some time to write advice to all the new or soon-to-be new Moms out there. Now, hear me out: this is just Steph's Advice. This is the advice I'd give you if you called me crying at 2 am completely uncertain of your parenting abilities. It's also the advice I'd give you if you were the perfect portrait of a mother, complete in a white linen nightgown, sleeping child and a smile on your face.  

The advice I'm about to give is real, honest and raw, the good with the bad. 

Take it as you'd like.

It will be difficult.

Is that a bad way to start the advice? Maybe. But I think it's good to be real. And while I did have people tell me horror stories while I was pregnant (more on this later), I had more people tell me just how wonderful motherhood was. "You'll be great!" "You'll be fine, don't worry!" and "The time will fly by."

And yes, there is some truth in this. But I was hearing from the extremes: Everything will be wonderful and everything will be awful. I had no good basis for what real motherhood was like, which left me feeling very unprepared for what was to come. Being unprepared once Chica arrived made me feel like I was missing something, as though I shouldn't be struggling the way I was. I think it's good to have an honest perspective of what is to come.

It will be difficult. There will be sleepless nights, long bouts of crying. Your emotions will be all over the place. You'll get too much help. You'll get not enough. It will seem like this "phase" will be unending.

But it will end (or, at least, you will adjust). And soon there will be wonderful. You'll learn what it means to love like you've never loved before. You'll find victory over those difficulties, which will give you a new sense of confidence. You'll melt over first smiles and giggles. 

You'll get there. But be prepared for some difficulty. It's better to be prepared and be pleasantly surprised than totally caught off-guard.

Have a range of clothes in your closet.

This may seem random, but so much of our self-esteem is based on what we see in the mirror. I KNOW this is wrong. But after going through the gauntlet of labor after 9 long months of a plumping body, it's easy to think you'll shoot right back down to your former jeans and slinky tee's. Not so, at least for most. It takes a while. Accept this. Embrace your new body. And be amazed at its capabilities. Your body housed a small human for three-quarters of a year. It grew to accommodate it's host and then pushed that baby out into the world.

It'd be naive to think that, after all this, your body would be unchanged. Remember, it took 9 months for your body to grow, give it at least that long (if not longer - it took me over 12 months to get back to around my pre-preggo size) to regain some normalcy. Accept that it may never look the same (or maybe you'll find new inspiration and work toward a body you've never had before - more power to ya!). There may be stretch marks marring parts, and there may be jiggle where there once was not.

Be forgiving. Keep the maternity clothes out for a while (it's ok if you use them for a few weeks or months longer). Buy a few articles of clothing 1-3 sizes above your pre-pregnancy weight. And buy 1 article of clothing at your "goal" (or just choose a pre-pregnancy piece from your old wardrobe). There is nothing more defeating then putting on clothes, hoping they will fit, only to muffin top out of them. Just wear the clothes that fit, even if they are not the size you want them to be. You'll feel better about YOU if the clothes fit well. 

You are strong, you are beautiful. Embrace it!

However you feel is ok.

Some people felt momentous joy the moment they laid eyes on their babies for the first time. As I shared in a post not long ago, I was not one of those people. Love took time to grow. But I felt bad that every mom around me was in love with being a mom, took to breastfeeding like a champ, embraced the sleepless nights. So many people told me that I would be so in love, so happy. But I wasn't. I didn't struggle with Postpartum Depression, but I did feel the 'blue' of postpartum hormones. And this is really common - to be overwhelmed, to be a nervous, to feel confused. It doesn't mean you don't love your baby. It just means you are adjusting. 

At the same time, our society does a huge disservice by dismissing the very real disorder of Postpartum Depression. Not everyone suffers from it, but it is not something to be ashamed of. Share your feelings with a trusted friend, your OB or doctor. Get the care you need, whether that be counseling, medicine or just a regimen of getting out in the sunshine. However you are feeling don't be afraid to talk about it - and don't let anyone make you feel like it's wrong. 

(Note: A great support for PPD is Postpartum Progress)

Don't listen to others.

Everyone and their mother (literally) will be giving you advice the moment you say, "We're pregnant!"  I guess that includes me, as this whole post is my advice. I have found people are very uncensored (and often very passionate) about the advice they give. They might feel very strongly about working versus not working, breastfeeding versus formula feeding, co-sleeping versus crying it out. And believe me: they will let you know

Along with the very straightforward advice, people will bring their Motherhood Survival Tales. They were once like you, entering into motherhood. They faced the difficulties and struggles. They came out victor on many fronts. So they are proud of where they've been, what they've learned, how far they've come. But let me tell you: those tales do not need to lambaste a poor unsuspecting pregnant girl. Those stories, while honorable and true, only serve to instill fear. It's okay to say, "Thanks, but I think I'm not ready to hear this story."

In the end, many people fail to have the empathy and tact when sharing thoughts with pregnant people and new moms. Some of the advice can be very useful, though - it's all about how it is delivered. Learn to take it with a grain of salt, or feel confident in politely asking them to stop sharing. Do what is best for your emotional and mental health! 

Do what works best for YOU.

Amidst the advice you'll receive, I want to encourage you that you are a good mom. I need you to believe this. I need you to trust that you have some innate wisdom and intuition you can lean on. So as you are bombarded with unwanted advice (and as I shared above, it will come), stand confident in your opinions, beliefs and decisions.

My mantra for all moms (and I share this often on the CSHM Facebook Page) is this:

Do what works best for YOU.

Because in the end? You are the one that has to raise your child. You are the one who has to get through the day. What works for one mom may not be the best solution for another. For some moms, working is the best way to provide for their babies. For others, it is staying home. Some moms breastfeed because they believe it is the best thing they can do for their baby. Others end up formula feeding because the struggle of breastfeeding hindered them emotionally and mentally from being the kind of mom they wanted to be.

We can't judge others for the decisions they make until we walk a mile in their Mom Shoes. Don't let anyone judge you or belittle you for whatever parenting decisions you make. You know what works best for you and your family. Own that.

Let people help you.

In direct opposition to what I said above, do ask for help and advice when you need it. Go to trusted friends and loved ones. Don't believe that you need to be independent, have it all together, and have the ability to "do it all." You are new at this! You're still learning!  You are healing from a rigorous labor (which can take several weeks)! You were thrust from a life of caring for yourself and your partner to a life completely dictated by a new baby!  


This does not make you weak. This does not make you incapable. If someone offers a meal, TAKE IT. Take FIVE. It is so helpful to not have to think about cooking or meal planning during that first month (or two!).  If someone offers to run an errand or do a chore, LET THEM. Hand them the vacuum or grocery list!  And most of all, if someone offers to come over for an hour or two to watch the baby so you can take a nap or go on a date with your spouse, TAKE THEM UP ON IT. This is the best gift. 

I wish I had known to let go of my pride and let people help me more when I had my first (and second!) baby. By allowing others to take some things off YOUR plate help, you rebound faster and can focus on adjusting. In the end, it helps you be a better you. For realz.

Do some research.

I think I like being prepared because then I am less likely to be taken off guard. It is really easy to suddenly come across a completely foreign situation as a first time parent. You birth a baby, spend a day or two in the hospital, then BOOM. You are sent home and have to fend for yourself. I remember arriving home, and that evening thinking, " we just....put her down to sleep? When? How? What will happen?" I came across a gamut of issues while navigating breastfeeding. We hit our share of sleep issues

To make decisions, I hit the internet, asked for book recommendations and sent a lot of panicked messages and emails to the seasoned moms in my life.

I'd suggest, if you are up for it, spend some time doing that research before the baby comes. Get the books. Read them. Make a list of questions and ask trusted people in your life for advice/answers. As you do your research, you can make some preliminary decisions about how to feed or whether or not to schedule while the baby is still safely in the womb. I find this more relaxing then making quick not-thought-out decisions in the moment.

Take a shower.

Simple and straightforward. This goes along with the advice about clothes from above. It can be hard to find time for yourself as a new mom (I say this laughing, as I still find this hard as a seasoned mom!), as you are putting the needs of your baby first. Showering and getting dressed in something other than pajama's is one of the first sacrifices you make. Usually out of the fact that it doesn't even occur to you until at least 3pm, and you aren't going anywhere anyway, so why bother?

Well. You should bother.

Something about stale "unfreshness" does a number to our emotions. Remember being in college and sitting around in a dark dorm room all day in your sweats eating junk food and watching movies until it became night? Remember how you gross you'd feel when it was time to go to bed later that evening? 

It's like that, but for moms.

Taking a shower wakes you up. It makes you fresh and alert. It can change your mood. Putting on non-PJ's can brighten your perspective and make you feel like you accomplished something. 

So, if you can make it happen, do so. You'll feel better for it.

Stay hydrated.

This is true for all humans, but especially true for new moms. Drink a lot of water. Or, at least drink the 6-8 recommended cups a day. Again, new moms put their needs to the wayside while they attend to their children. But being hydrated can stave off headaches and help your body heal. Also? If you are breastfeeding, it can very much help your supply (something I didn't know until I was struggling with Bug!). 

Don't give up easily.

Some things in motherhood take time. Breastfeeding is something that does not come without strife, but for many it is worth pushing through. Sleep can be elusive, and many moms try different tactics, but the moment it doesn't immediately work, they give up and move on to some other method. 

If you try a certain tactic or method (whether it's feeding, sleeping, soothing, working, baby-carrying or the like), try it more than once. Commit to trying something for 2 weeks or a month. Know that whether something works or doesn't work does not automatically reflect on your ability. It may just take time or isn't the right method for you. It often takes time to see progress, make a habit or to have something stick. Set a date/time goal and if you don't see progress, reevaluate.   

Just don't give up after the first try. You owe yourself more than that!

Sleep when the baby sleeps. 

We all hear it. And most of us ignore it when it comes time to put it into practice.  We give excuses like, "But, I can get some cleaning done!" or "I want to catch up on my TV shows!" or "I'll just send a few emails!" or "I'm not tired!"

You are tired. The shows will be there another time (thank goodness for online viewing and DVR's!). Emails can wait. And cleaning is not necessary for at least the first 5 years after a child is born (I kid! But seriously). This is another way you can put yourself first. Getting some rest (even if it's just closing your eyes in the quiet for 30 minutes) helps you revamp, refocus and re-energize. It allows you to start fresh when the baby wakes up. 

And who knows? Maybe when you are both rested, you'll find you can manage to accomplish all the "excuses" during your awake time!

Things will become familiar again.

One of the things I struggled with the most was missing my Old Life. I thought longingly back to coming and going as I pleased, staying up late, sleeping in late, going out to dinner with Hubby whenever we felt like it. I was not ready for how much Chica would need me. I missed Hubby. It can be a little (or a lot) overwhelming. I felt a panic that I'd lost my Old Life and that things would never be the same.

But can I tell you something?

It gets better. Sure, you have a kid (or several) now. Their needs comes first. So no, your life won't look like your Old Life. But you have a New Life now. And after the dust settles, your New Life will become your Old Life. It will be the New Normal. It will feel right and comfortable and familiar. 

And one day, when the kids are out of the house and your life looks eerily familiar to the Old Life of long ago, you will miss this New Life. The chaos, the clamor, the excitement.

So, as difficult as it can be, live in the moment. Embrace the New Life. It will become your New Normal more quickly than you think.


I could keep going!  But these are the top thoughts that come to mind. Disregard whatever doesn't strike you, and take to heart that which encourages you. In the end, be the best mom you can be. 

(Spoiler Alert: you already are!)

Now I want to hear from YOU:

What is YOUR top advice for New Moms?

Leave a comment and share your wisdom!

Here are some other posts that new moms (and seasoned moms!) might find helpful or encouraging:

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