Whether you are a first time mom, or you’ve been around the block a few times, people can’t help but offer you “helpful” advice for dealing with the newborn stage. In actuality, the advice never really stops. At every stage of your kids’ lives friends, family and strangers are going to offer you lots of tips and suggestions for how you can do things better. While most people mean well, the truth is that the same stale “rules” keep getting thrown out to new moms year after year with little logic behind them.
I’m here to tell you that most of them can be ignored.
Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Oh that old chestnut. This seems to be the number one piece of advice others insist on giving every new mom. But when it comes down to it, a newborn baby sleeps up to NINETEEN HOURS each day. While we may occasionally indulge in a little cat nap once in a while, the truth is that when baby is sleeping, we’re usually up getting things done!
This is especially true for moms who have more than one kid to look after. Try sleeping when you have a two year old demanding his third glass of milk or a first grader needing help with his homework. There’s also the cooking, cleaning and self care that needs thought about day to day. Trust me when I say that you can throw out this advice. Sleep when you can, if you can. But don’t feel like you have to lay down every time your baby does.
Housework can wait.
Of course housework CAN wait. And for many parents, it does slip more than usual, which is understandable. But trying to convince a new mom that housework can be ignored indefinitely is setting her up for failure. I think this is one of those pieces of advice meant to make a mom feel guilty – all her time should be spent taking care of her baby rather than her house.
The truth is that people are far more understanding when your home is a bit messier than usual when you have a new baby. It’s harder to keep up with everyday chores.
It is far better to tell a new mom that housework can be delegated. If you have other kiddos at home, get them to help pick up. If you’ve got a husband or partner on board, let them know that they’re on call for cleaning duty for a while. Friends, family or neighbors who stop by to see the new little one can be asked to help out for a few minutes.
Being stuck at home with a new baby in a messy house can make the entire situation far more stressful, so don’t be afraid to use those nap times to do the dishes or throw on some laundry if the mess is getting to you.
Don’t worry about looking good or showering.
Once again, it has to be said that self care is especially necessary after having a baby. So many new moms suffer from low self-esteem after giving birth. From their changing body to their lack of time to put on makeup or do their hair, many moms feel like taking time for themselves is selfish.
But a happy mom is a better mom. And sometimes feeling good about yourself allows you to feel more in control – which is especially hard when you’re thrown into the deep end of parenthood!
So take a shower every day if you can. Take a bubble bath. Do your hair and makeup if it makes you feel good. Be a happier parent.
Hold your baby all the time.
Every new parent should feel free to hold their baby as often as they want. You can NOT spoil a baby by loving him too much. Every study shows that holding babies is good for them. So don’t let anyone talk you out of doing it.
BUT – you do NOT have to hold your baby all the time. Putting him down in his own bed, letting him play in a bouncy chair, setting him in a swing for a while or even giving him some tummy time on the floor are all good things, as well. The world won’t end because your child is fussy or even crying. Babies HAVE to learn how to self-soothe. It’s an important skill and necessary for their development. There’s a HUGE difference between neglecting or ignoring your baby and allowing them to develop independence. So set him down once in a while and give your arms a much needed break!
Don’t let other kids near your baby.
Everyone knows that kids carry germs. They are tiny little germ factories who seem to pick up every bit of dirt and grime around. This is especially true for daycare and school-age kids.
But you can’t protect your baby from all of them – especially if you have other kids in your family. Allow children near your baby all you want. Make sure little hands get washed or sanitized first and remind them to be gentle. This is not only good for your baby, but it helps to teach the other kids how to interact and take care of those younger than they are.
Change every diaper immediately.
In all honesty, letting your baby sit in their own pee and poop for ages is a bit of a cruelty. It can lead to diaper rash or even infections. And it’s not much fun for the parents to have to sit and smell them or have the contents of a diaper seep out into their laps!
But sometimes it’s just not possible to change a diaper right away. Whether you’re in the car heading home with no place to stop or you’re out and about and forgot the diaper bag, there are tons of reasons a change may need to wait a few minutes. Making parents feel bad about it won’t do anyone any good. A better piece of advice would be to change every diaper as soon as you can. Anything else is asking too much.
Enjoy every minute – it’s over too soon.
To be fair, time really does go quickly with a newborn. Whether it be days or weeks, months or years, eventually we will look back and realize how much we miss the cuddles, snuggles and new baby smell. We’ll even realize we sort of enjoyed changing diapers, and we’ll laugh as we remember the public diaper blowouts and all the meltdowns.
But when you’re in the throes of it, it’s not always enjoyable. When you’re up all night with a colicky infant, it’s okay to say it sucks. When your breasts are in agony from mastitis, and you know you still have to nurse your baby, it’s okay to cry and want to quit. Don’t let anyone try and convince you that you are supposed to love every minute of parenthood. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s okay.
Instead, remember that nothing lasts forever. The good stuff will go just as quickly as the bad. But in the end, when you look back on it, the bad will have a nice rose-gold haze around it, and it’ll be hard to remember why you were even complaining. That’s when you’ll probably advise some new mom to “enjoy every minute.”
Now that you know how silly these rules are, here are a few that actually make sense.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you’ve got older kids and/or a partner at home, don’t be afraid to tell them what you need them to do. You’ve just gone through nine months of work and a ton of pain – they can help out a little more at home. And there are plenty of others you can ask for help. Friends, family, neighbors – anyone who cares about you should be willing to give you some extra attention at this time. And even if you are alone without much of a circle, there are tons of resources online and locally that can give you what you need. It’s all there if you ask for it.
Know the difference between luxury and necessity.
Now this can be a tricky one because what is a luxury for some is an absolute necessity for others. Things like a name-brand diaper disposal unit may seem like a necessity, but in truth, it’s a total luxury that you don’t really need. Then there are products like wipe warmers that seem silly and frivolous – ie a luxury – until you find your baby screaming in agony because he’s extra sensitive to cold. Then, that luxury becomes an absolute necessity – if only for mom’s peace of mind.
Your baby and your situation is unique!
The generalized “rules” and advice that new moms get aren’t going to work for everyone. Every baby is different, and every parent is doing their best to take care of their family. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for choosing to parent the way you do.
The best advice I can give is to listen to what others have to say, read what the experts think, and talk to your pediatrician to figure out what will work for you. Throw the rest away or pass it on if you think it might apply to another mom’s situation. Be confident in your abilities as a parent – after all, you know your baby best.
What is the best and worst advice you’ve ever been given as a new mom? I’d love to hear!