Last year, when several of my friends and clients were getting ready to have babies, I polled some of my already-mom friends to get their suggestions on what friends and family could do to help new moms in those first few whirlwind weeks of life with a newborn. Now it is my turn to have a baby (plus I have a whole other batch of friends who are due in the next couple of months), and so I’ve reached out again to my expanding network of mamas to get some advice on what new moms should do for themselves to make the transition to parenthood feel a little more manageable.
Here’s what they had to say about the stuff you’ll need, things you should do, and what’s most important to remember about this life changing experience.
Make Time For Yourself
Find some time every day to step away from the baby, and take a moment for yourself. It may feel very hard or scary at first to break away for even short periods of time, but it was the primary piece of advice offered by my friends who have more than one child. If a well-seasoned mom is telling you that it’s important to make time for your own self-care, you know it’s advice that’s worth prioritizing.
As my friend Nina explains:
…once the baby arrives, a lot of attention gets shifted from mom to baby. But mom is recovering and her world has been rocked–so self care is important, as is asking for help…do your best to do something for yourself each day. Take a walk, take an extra long shower, etc.
Naomi, another mom of two, reiterated the value of a good shower.
No matter what, make time for a shower.
This was the one thing I stressed out about each day when I was home alone for those first few weeks after my husband went back to work – when would I get a chance to shower, if my baby wasn’t a good napper. Well, turns out, kids cry… frequently. And, if you miss the window of showering while they nap, nothing bad will happen if you place them in their crib and they’re safely contained, while you jump in the shower and have 10-15 minutes of hot, steamy YOU time. It does a body good.
She also added that in addition to making a little time for yourself every day, it’s also worthwhile to find time at least once a week to get out of the house on your own, and enjoy a bit of extended alone time.
Once a week, step away from the baby for an extended period of time.
Daddy (plus any other family) bonding time is important for both daddy and baby, so why not use that as an excuse to get out of the house, put on something other than clothes that have spit up on them, and go do something that requires either physical or mental energy for your own benefit and psyche. As much as you may want to sit at home on the couch snuggling with your tiny little human, fresh air and adult conversation (or just listening to music without baby cries interrupting you!) is SO worth it. Go for a walk. Spend some quality time with the dog at a local park. Go to a coffee shop and sit with a warm mug and people watch. Relish in the peace and quiet with a good book that hasn’t been touched since before you became a mom.
Spend Some Time With Other Adults
While alone time will help you feel nourished and sane, it’s also important to spend some time with other adults.
My friend Erin recommends:
…[finding] some friends or neighbors that have young children and might be stay at home moms and try to do play dates/walks/etc. The first few weeks are hard being in the house all the time so getting out and having some adult conversation is so nice!
She also encourages taking advantage of the fact that little babies tend to sleep a lot, which can make leaving the house with your little one in tow feel a lot less daunting.
Don’t be afraid to go out to dinner or go to get-togethers with friends/neighbors and take the baby with you. Take advantage of the first few months when they sleep all the time and this is actually pretty easy. This goes for flying too. We have only done short flights so far (under 2 hours), but every one she slept the entire time and the flight attendants are super helpful and nice when they see you walk on with a really small baby!
Build A Strong Support System
This was another commonly shared bit of advice. Accept help from others when it is offered. Ask for help when it is needed. One thing I have learned over time is that people do not offer their help unless they actually want to give it. Don’t worry, if someone feels annoyed or put out by the thought of having to help you, they won’t offer in the first place. So trust that anyone who asks how they can help genuinely wants to be available and helpful to you. Take people up on their offers to come over and hold the baby while you shower or nap. Let people bring you food. Let them tidy up while they’re visiting. If you’re having a hard day, don’t be embarrassed to call up a friend and tell them that you need some company or a helping hand. It may feel selfish and overly indulgent in the moment to have people making you dinner and trying to anticipate and accommodate your needs, but trust that life will present many opportunities for you to make it up to them in the future by offering your help when it is needed.
Make Time For Each Other
Don’t forget that your partner is going through this major change too. You’re in this together, and it’s important to use that relationship to bolster and lift each other up when you are feeling tired and frustrated. Remember, the baby is the enemy, not your partner.
My friend Alyssa‘s recommendation:
set aside time every single day to check in with your partner. It is so weird and hard, and tiring in the first few months, but if feels much less so if you are communicating well and having your feelings (fears, excitement, etc.) heard. It will also help you feel less alienated from your life before baby.
Soak It All In, But Don’t Feel Pressured To Love Every Minute Of It
The thing I hear most often from new parents is that the time really flies by. Soak it in and try not to worry too much about what you’re doing right and wrong. And as Erin recommends, don’t fret about all of the other little things you aren’t getting done while you’re busy just enjoying your time with your new baby. The house may get dirty, the laundry might not be folded, there are probably lots of errands you need to run, but don’t feel guilty about letting those things slide while you devote your days to spending time with your little one.
But at the same time, don’t feel pressured to love every single second of motherhood. As Nina so wisely explains:
People will say “ENJOY EVERY MINUTE! They grow up so fast!”
Don’t feel bad if you aren’t enjoying it all. It’s hard. There are so many good moments! But also some really intense ones. So enjoy when your baby smiles, but don’t feel like a bad mom for questioning this whole parenting thing if your baby keeps you up all night, and don’t feel guilty for checking Facebook while holding your baby, or leaving your baby to go get a pedicure.
Other Miscellaneous Advice
Stay hydrated and well-fueled.
Keep snacks and a water bottle nearby as much as possible.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, staying hydrated when you’re body is changing and you’re sleep deprived, is key. It’s easy to have hours fly by amongst the changing, burping, rocking, feeding routine and not have eaten a single morsel. Make sure you have granola bars, trail mix, protein (hard boiled eggs… string cheese…) and any other snacks that you enjoy, within arm’s reach. Portable, pre-packaged snacks are also good – frequent doctor’s appointments and grocery errand runs are great times to refuel!
Things you made need when recovering from a vaginal delivery:
ibuprofen, stool softener, super maxi pads with wings, tucks medicated pads, preparation h medicated wipes, and the little squeeze bottle the hospital gives you. Things down there can be rough for a little while!
Look out for signs of postpartum depression:
postpartum depression and anxiety are common, and the symptoms may be different than what you think they are. If you aren’t feeling right, talk with someone.
Stuff to have on hand:
invest in a good travel coffee mug and use it around the house instead of a mug. It’s the only way a new mom will ever drink hot coffee.
[Keeping in mind that every baby is different:]
Rock N Play- This is so easy and convenient to move around from room to room or pack up when you travel. I use this all the time when I need to shower. I can sit [the baby] in this right outside the shower door and still keep an eye on her. We have done a few road trips as well and have taken this for her to sleep in at night. Much easier than packing up a bulky Pack N Play.
Bobby Lounger- Love this for the same reason as the Rock N Play. You need a lot of “things” to sit them in when they’re really little and this is just so easy to move from room to room with you. [The baby] would nap in hers all the time.
Bibs and Burp Cloths- The amount of spit up and drool is no joke so you can never have too many of these!
Sleepers with zippers- The sleepers with the snaps I found to be super annoying when you’re doing diaper changes in the middle of the night (or anytime for that matter). Do yourself a favor and buy the ones with zippers…..so much quicker and easier!
Lastly, while advice from other moms is helpful and it’s always nice to have a little guidance before you embark down a new and unknown path, remember to trust your own instincts. No two babies are exactly alike (not even those that are genetically exactly alike), and you’ll come to learn what works best for your baby and your family. Trust yourself, and let yourself off the hook if you feel like you don’t know what to do. No one has all the answers. Just like your kiddo, you have to learn as you go. Good luck to all of the new and soon-to-be mamas out there! Wishing you all safe, happy deliveries, and lots of sweet baby kisses.