When you have a baby, people like to give you advice. The thing is, most people don’t remember what it’s like to be a new mom. Even now, only five years after my second child, I forget most of the in-the-trenches stuff. When my daughter was a baby, people who hadn’t actually had a baby in thirty years tried to give me advice. I just ignored or yelled at them depending on how much sleep I had gotten.
Below are 5 pieces of advice that at least seem useful in hindsight, but I fully acknowledge that I am not sleep deprived, covered in baby vomit or lactating, so by my own definition I am pretty much no longer qualified to give advice.
The first six weeks with a baby are a sucking vortex.
I realize this is not actually advice so much as just a really good summary. Our midwife said this to us the day we took our first daughter home from the hospital. I reminded myself of this statement 20 times a day. It was proof that it wasn’t just me. Most people have a terrible first few weeks. For me, six weeks was the magic number. At six weeks suddenly you know what you’re doing (sort of). Your baby starts being fun and adorable. Don’t kid yourself, you’re still not getting sleep, but by six weeks you’re used to it.
I realize that last part doesn’t help at all.
All babies are different.
Our first daughter never napped longer than 45 minutes for the first year of her life. I remember one day, a friend calling whose daughter was five days younger than mine, and her saying, “Maddie’s been asleep for 3 hours. I cleaned the house, took a shower and I’ve been reading for the last hour.”
“I hate you.” I replied.
You can read all the books you want. You can gather advice from far and wide. However, you will find most of what works for you and your baby through trial and error. Don’t be afraid to try different schedules or ideas. If something is a total failure, you’ve only lost one day. Don’t worry too much about creating bad habits, because…
This too shall pass.
I didn’t realize until our second daughter that babies run in six week cycles. Remember the first six weeks? They were awful and then they were over. Just when something has become a pattern and is totally driving you nuts, it’s over and they’re on to something else. You can handle almost anything for six weeks. This thought changed to way I approached things with our second daughter.
When our first woke up every three hours through the night to nurse, I would think “I can’t do this! I’m going to be a zombie the rest of my life.” With our second daughter I reminded myself that I COULD do it, because in six weeks she’d be sleeping for five hours and it would only get better from there. I used the nighttime feedings to get in a little extra snuggling, knowing how quickly she’d be grown up.
I am not suggesting the cliche “You’re going to miss this when it’s gone.” Some of it really sucks. You’re not going to miss it at all, but you are going to forget about it. Those sleepless nights with a one-month-old? A distant memory when you are focused on baby-proofing the house. The potty-training angst? Totally forgotten as you focus on separating child from its binky.
Ask for help.
Someday I will tell you the story of trying to nurse our first baby. For now, let’s just say it didn’t start out well AT ALL. By day six she was not latching, I was engorged, my nipples were raw and bleeding and we were all exhausted and hungry. One Sunday I literally handed my husband the phone and said “Get me help.” Do you know what he did? He got me help. Because he is a grown up and he can accomplish a lot of stuff on his own.
I felt fantastic pressure as a new mom to do it all. What I know now is that new moms should NOT do it all and babies are a great reason to make other people do stuff.
“I’m so glad you’re here. Now that you’ve held the baby for 20 minutes, here is some laundry to fold.”
“Of course you can come visit today. Please pick up some dinner on your way over.”
It’s actually surprisingly easy to ask for help.
Also, I’m a big believer in letting your husband DO stuff all on his own. You figured out how to put kids to bed. He will figure it out too. You can handle two kids at the zoo by yourself and so can he. He may not do it exactly the same as you, but who cares? That just leads to flexible children.
There is very little you can do to actually mess up a child.
At our three day check-up with the pediatrician, when the nursing was going horribly, the doctor said “You know, you won’t go to hell for giving her a bottle of formula.”
Insert sigh of relief. This was amazingly comforting to me.
We are all working as hard as we can to give our babies safe, emotionally stable lives and trust me, the fact that you know that’s important means you’re already a fabulous parent. As a first-time mom I put so much pressure on myself to follow all the “rules.” I wanted my 3 months old on a strict feeding schedule, I didn’t go anywhere if it interfered with nap time, and I thought she should not have a binky since it would then be hard to give it up.
What I finally figured out is that babies are adaptable. You are not a bad parent if you let the baby cry it out. Nor are you a bad parent if your baby sleeps with you until she’s six. If you try attachment parenting and it makes you crazy, put your baby down. Your baby can eat homemade, organic baby food or the delicious store bought variety and turn out just the same. You are a great parent who is researching, curating advice and making the best choices possible for your entire family. You are exactly the parent your child needs.