Bringing a new baby home for the first time is exhilarating. And terrifying. And emotional, and tiring, and challenging… The list goes on. I can remember researching tips for bringing a newborn home from the hospital for HOURS in the days and weeks leading up to the arrival of our first baby girl. And while I found PLENTY of information out there on how to pack my bag for the hospital and what I’d need to have handy while nursing that sweet little baby once she came home, what I DIDN’T find was any advice on how to keep my composure and sanity over the upcoming weeks and months.
For me, maybe it was just not knowing that in reality, THIS VERY information would be FAR more beneficial than any list of items I should always have in my diaper bag (and yes, I looked that up, too… #firsttimemom…). I didn’t know that preparing myself mentally and emotionally would be the greatest gift I could give myself prior to the arrival of our little one. To make a long story short, I researched ALL of the wrong information without realizing that my whole world was about to be rocked. I didn’t have a CLUE about the emotional roller coaster I’d just climbed aboard, and not knowing JUST how normal every feeling, every tear, every emotion that felt so foreign and weird to me as a new mother was made that adjustment period even more challenging.
So I did some of the leg work for you. I reached out to some of my favorite mamas across the internet and asked them what they wished they’d known prior to bringing baby home for the very first time, and I can tell you in all honesty, every bit of advice they had to offer would have been worth it’s weight in gold to know ahead of time!
Bethany Jacobs, Latched and Attached
I think I wish that I’d known that motherhood can be really lonely. No matter how familiar you are with kids and babies, there is a huge learning curve when they’re yours. I quickly realized after coming home that I was with this new little baby 24/7, that he was completely dependent on me and no matter how many visitors or cards or phone calls I got, I felt SO alone as I figured out this mothering thing. I just wish I would have known that it was okay and totally normal. I’m not sure it would have taken away the fears or feelings of inadequacy, but it probably would have made me feel a little more…normal! Because I was!
…I also wish I would have believed it when people told me that your marriage/relationship will totally change and communicating would be harder than ever but also more necessary than ever. I love my husband dearly, but man did we struggle to communicate and let the festering happen more than we should until it would turn into a blow out. Communicate, Make to do lists, do whatever it takes to make sure you are hearing each other because that’s REALLY hard right after having a baby.
Dr. Gillian Sawyer, Simplifying Pregnancy & Postpartum
My favorite piece of advice for a brand new mom is to just know that you are not alone… the transition into motherhood for the first time is such a wild ride.There are so many ups and downs… really high-highs and some pretty low-lows… You’ll find yourself at some point thinking… “Is this normal?”… “I must be the only one who is feeling… heaviness in my pelvic floor, feeling like I’m not connected to my partner and resentful that their life hasn’t changed as much, like I’m doing a terrible job”. Just know that these feelings are so common… so many of us are feeling the exact same way. Give yourself the space to feel all the feels and give yourself some credit for the life altering changes that have just taken place. There’s so much support out there and absolutely NO shame is asking for help. Know that you are doing an amazing job and your baby thinks the world of you.
Constance Hall, blogger and author of Like a Queen
In a recent Facebook post, Constance said: “I often think about when I first had a baby.
How overwhelming it is. How some days you stare at your baby all day but haven’t enjoyed them once.
The constant stress of “have I bonded with this baby? I’m so tired and resentful, is that normal?””
“Its not motherhood that’s the problem, it’s the relentlessness.
Your children aren’t the problem, your lack of a village is.
You see I read once that mothers suffer the most in the absence of a village.
The worst part is that rather then questioning their community they are constantly questioning themselves.
Don’t question yourself, this isn’t supposed to be this lonely, you are not the only one suffering, we all suffer due to our society’s set up.
Grab your girlfriends, hold them close, make dinner together, wash each other’s dishes and love their babies like they are your own.
We are our village. A village of Queens.“
Carli Desai, Chaos Styled
On breastfeeding (if you want to, if you’re able): from my experience, those first few weeks are the toughest. Seek help as early as possible – usually lactation consultants are available in the hospital where you deliver. After those first few weeks-ish, it gets much easier, and much less painful.”
And also, none of us really know what we are doing, especially the first time. We’ve all called the after hours line, gone to the Pediatrician or maybe even ended up at the ER for seemingly no reason, for our babies. That’s how you learn that it was for no reason. Make the phone call or the trip anyhow if you have any doubt.
Stacey Dimmler- Fixed on Food
To the new mom: Know that it’s PERFECTLY normal to not be overwhelmed with a love you’ve never felt before. I was hungry. That was my first reaction to it all. Hungry and tired. And then I was tired and stressed. The extra dose of love will come, I promise. You are NOT broken. You are likely tired and stressed. And probably hungry, too.
It doesn’t matter how much experience you’ve had with babies and kids, your child will be different. I babysat for years and it was NOTHING like when I brought my own baby home. I thought she was broken. I thought I was broken. No one was broken- it was just a new experience. One that we had to adapt to.
Also, this is NOT the time to stress about your body. Your one and only “job” right now is to survive- and it will definitely feel like that’s all your doing most days. Concentrate on meals and showers rather than diets and workouts. That’s just nonsense and bullshit. And don’t worry about how much chocolate you’re eating. If it’s helping you cope, roll with it.
Emma While, Courage and Chamomile
The best piece of advice I had as a brand new mum was to stay in bed! I had it all planned, my babymoon, snuggled up away from the world just me and my brand new baby. We were going to bed in and let the world look after us…except it didn’t quite turn out that way and looking back I SO wish it had. Having a baby is such a massive thing. SO massive and what we need is to be looked after, on every level. Organise friends, family and neighbours to get a food train going so meals are all sorted. Arrange for somebody to come and clean and make cups of tea…or hire a postpartum doula. Keep visitors to a minimum. Make NO plans. Just rest, recover and fall in love. Those should be a newborn mama’s only jobs. There’s so much pressure on women these days to ‘bounce back’…and it’s ridiculous. So many cultures around the world really honour the new mother in those early postpartum days with rituals, massages, special warming foods and more…we’ve lost that whole idea in the West but we need it more than ever, given we’ve also lost our ‘village’. So my newborn mama advice is to build back that village. Make it clear what help you’re going to need, get everyone rallying round in advance and then just lie back and luxuriate in the newborn snuggles with nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. I so wish I’d listened to my own advice on this and not leaped up and at ’em straight away… next time!
Connie Deal, Lessons and Learning for Littles
One of the toughest parts for me about being a new mom was all the different unsolicited advice I received. It got to be a bit overwhelming, uncomfortable, and annoying. But, now that I’m over 3 years into motherhood, I think the best piece of advice I can offer to a new mom is: P.A.T.: (Be) Prepared, Assume the best, Trust your instincts.
People mean well. They really do. But, the unsolicited advice can get old, so choose a line that works for you. For me, it’s something to the effect of, “Thank you, but right now, this is working for us,” or “That’s interesting. I’ll have to talk with her doctor about that at her next follow-up.” Then, when you’ve had enough of the unsolicited advice, whether it’s from your mother-in-law or a stranger behind you in line at the grocery store, remind yourself that they mean well. Then, smile, use your polite line, and know that ultimately, you’re the mom and you know best.
Speaking of knowing best, you’re not meant to know it all or to be able to do everything on your own. That’s where your family and friends come in, as well as trusting your instincts. Not sure about the pediatrician’s recommendation? Research it or get a second opinion (this has saved my life and helped my daughter at least twice with two different doctors). Doubting something? Trust that. Go with your gut. You have motherly instincts for a reason, use them and trust yourself (but also do your research and reach out for help when you need or want it!). And, be prepared. Being prepared always helps. 🙂
Maybe you don’t need to go to the extent that I do with the preparedness thing, but try to think of things you might need and bring them. Or, things that could happen and plan for them. Maybe it’s having a change of clothes in your car, or remembering to bring a thermometer on an overnight trip just in case, but being prepared can go a long way. Other than lugging extra stuff around, I haven’t come across a time when it was a bad thing to be overly prepared. And, if you feel prepared and like you have things under control, it’ll be easier to enjoy your little one! Win, win!
Ashley Holdt, Rowan Rae Designs
Two things immediately come to mind when I think of advice I’d give a new mama (if asked, of course!).
First, give yourself grace. You are going to make mistakes. Lots of them. You can’t dwell there, though, it’s part of the process. In all honesty, as they grow, your babe is going to learn more from how you handle and resolve those mistakes than if you were Supermom 24/7.
Secondly, make up your own mind and make no apologies. Unsolicited advice will be aplenty, but you do what works for your family. Do your own research, make your own choices, and stick to your guns. You owe no one an explanation for how/why/what/when/where when it comes to your parenting and your family. I had not made up my mind about something once (because I hadn’t read enough for myself yet) and was bullied into making a decision I regretted almost immediately. Never again. If you aren’t sure, it is entirely okay to say so and wait until you are!
And yours truly, Shelly Levine, Live Love and Flourish
It’s almost hard for me to narrow this down to just ONE thing… There’s SO much I wish I would have known, but probably the most important part was to just know that it’s okay to NOT feel like you’re okay. Having a baby is a MASSIVE life change, and you don’t have to simply put on a brave face and pretend. Allow yourself to feel and process, and sort through things however you need to, and trust in the fact that whatever arises in this for you is TOTALLY normal, and you are not alone. None of us really know what we’re doing when we sign up for this gig.
And also, postpartum depression isn’t something we typically prepare ourselves for before we bring home our babies. Researching mental health issues isn’t very glamorous, and for me it wasn’t even on the radar- I had this notion in my head that it was something that happened to OTHER people, not me. But the truth is, it is totally normal, and fairly common. My biggest mistake as I navigated the challenging waters of learning how to be a mother and coping with postpartum depression and anxiety at the same time, was that I NEVER spoke up out of fear. I didn’t REALLY know what I was dealing with at the time, just that something didn’t feel right, but I was too afraid to say anything simply because I thought that it meant I wasn’t just wasn’t handling things very well. I thought it reflected on me as a bad mother, one who SHOULDN’T have had a baby, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I lived the entire first year of my daughter’s life in a black hole, and it didn’t have to be that way. If you feel like something isn’t right, speak up- to your doctor, to your partner, to your parents, to your friends, to anyone who will listen. And know that postpartum depression doesn’t change ANYTHING about how amazing of a parent you truly are.