Tuesday, November 2, 2010

*Real* Advice for the New Mom

I'm sure all of the mothers reading this can attest to the fact that when you become a new mom, you quickly become bombarded with stories, advice, old wives' tales, and other pearls of wisdom from everyone under the sun. You don't even have to ask most of the time; other mothers, fathers, and people who don't even have kids seem to fill your head with ideas of what you must start doing immediately if you want to have a chance at successfully raising a baby. After all, it worked for them, right? Questionable, considering the offspring of some of the people whom you encounter. ;) I, unfortunately, was not exempt from this new mother phenomenon.

Perhaps new moms would be able to better handle all of the unsoliticted advice (whoops, did I just write that?) if we were sleeping properly, eating well, and able to get a break every now and then. Somehow, despite my state of perpetual delirium after giving birth to my oldest son, I managed to write down some pieces of advice that were actually meaningful and/or useful. Most of them were from my own mother. I will always be grateful to my mom for not only sharing such helpful information with me but also for convincing me to write it down. Otherwise I most certainly would not have remembered a darn thing. As it is, looking back on the year 2008, the months of April, May, and June remain a complete blur in my mind.

So, here are some true pearls of wisdom that I have used after having both of my children. Feel free to pass them along to other new moms struggling to come up for air after having their first baby. We all know that the word "difficult" doesn't even begin to do it justice...

1. There is nothing more important than sleep. Get it whenever you can and as much as you can. It doesn't matter that the dishes are piling up, the trash smells, or your husband has to wear the same pants to work two days in a row. You just had a baby for crying out loud! Life has just taken a 180 degree turn and there's no going back. Routines will become established and a new pattern for you and your family will emerge- in time. For now, you need sleep (whenever, however, and wherever) so that you can be the best mother you can be to that precious angel.

2. Although there is no roadmap when it comes to parenting, if you gut tells you it's wrong, listen. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. There is a lot to be said for the "mother's instinct."

3. When the baby is old enough, try to get him/her on a schedule that works for you and try your hardest to stick with it. Not only will it provide stability for the baby, but it will allow you to make plans (around naps and meals of course) and not feel like you're losing touch with the rest of the world. After all, constant chaos and never knowing what comes next isn't healthy for anyone.

4. Be on the same page as your spouse when it comes to practices like co-sleeping, breastfeeding, using a pacifier, wearing your baby, etc. These hot topics can create a lot of sparks in relationships and it's better to smooth everything out before the baby comes.

5. If you decide to co-sleep and breastfeed (both of which I highly recommend), learn to breastfeed lying down. It may take a few weeks to perfect this skill but once you've nailed it, you will be able to successfully nurse without fully waking up! When your baby cries for food, you literally roll over, feed, and go back to sleep. My youngest son is three months old and I can honestly tell you that most nights I don't know how many times he's up to eat because I never fully wake up. He just helps himself and we are both back to sleep before anyone can bat an eye.

6. Borrow (or buy) a video camera and take LOTS of videos! It doesn't matter if your baby is reaching a milestone for the first time or simply sitting there smiling and looking adorable. You will want to watch these videos later- trust me. Your baby is making memories that you will cherish forever and what better way to do so than video.

7. Try to get your baby used to riding in the car as early as possible. Take him/her with you when you run errands even though it would be easier and faster to go alone. These days it's impossible to avoid being in the car and the earlier your baby learns to tolerate or even like riding, the better off the whole family is...especially when it comes to long trips.

8. Try to carve out a few minutes each week to update your baby book. Adding pictures, holiday cards, or other sentimental items will personalize the book even more. I have baby books for both of my sons and I intend on giving the books to them when they're old enough to appreciate them. A lot of time, energy, and love goes into keeping up with a baby book so you want to make sure the time is right when you give it away.

9. Force yourself to get up, showered, dressed, and out of the house as often as you can manage. Look online for local "Mommy and Me" groups and attend. Libraries and hospitals often have meetings for new parents and it makes all the difference to be able to talk to others who are going through the same trials and tribulations as you. I remember joining a La Leche League group that met every Wednesday at 9 AM and even though it was hard getting us both up and out that early, I felt like a new person when I returned from the meeting. Every mom knows that these kinds of meetings and playgroups are often more beneficial for the parents than the children!

10. Don't second-guess yourself when it comes to your baby. You know your baby best. Others may have the best intentions but no one, not your doctor, your mother, your mother-in-law, your best friend, your sister, you neighbor, or your hairdresser (if you even see her anymore) knows exactly what your baby needs better than you. Only YOU have the power to fullfill his/her every need and that, my friends, is pretty damn incredible. :)

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