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Mother Knows Best

A few weeks ago, my best friend welcomed her first baby into the world. Given that my oldest is rounding 12 and she is her godmother, bestie has been subject to more than a decade of me sharing, whining, complaining, crying, and venting about the struggles and joys of motherhood.

Holding her baby boy brought a flood of memories back to my first weeks as a new mother. Do I give my children an apology letter now or wait until they’re 18 to account for all of those early missteps? As a youngish mom, I was one of the first in my inner circle to dive into the overwhelming waters of parenting. To say I was inexperienced, overwhelmed, confused, and drowning would be putting it lightly. Those first weeks were excruciatingly long and I constantly questioned every decision I made. Acid reflux and sleep deprivation had me wondering if I was actually cut out for this journey.

Despite having a relatively small network of mama friends, my female support system was strong. Between friends, cousins, aunts, my mother-in-law, and my mom, I had numerous people to bounce concerns off of, to offer advice, to commiserate, or even to swing by for a half an hour so I could get a sanity-saving hot shower.

I don’t take that for granted. While my love life might have been a crapshoot, I certainly hit it big when it came to my squad. I have always been fortunate to have a group of strong, kick-ass females encircling me, prepared to catch me when I fall, and ready to help me climb back up. Not every mom has that.

After a few hours holding my new nephew, I got to thinking. What was some of the best advice I’d received as a new mom? What would I do differently? What wisdom could I offer my bestie now?

This post is my gift to her. In true Mom fashion, here’s a slew of (unsolicited) advice from a think tank of brilliant mamas, from other newbies, to those holding clingy toddlers, to moms of multiples, to the seasoned mamas with school age kiddos, to veteran grandmothers with decades worth of experience. If you’re a new mama, read on to see this group’s unfiltered reflections on those grueling early days and beyond:

On Logistics:

“Put a onesie on the baby, the warmth helps their stomach.”

“Swaddle the baby - it makes it really easy to carry them as gives the feeling that they are still inside.”

“Let them cry - they will be OK (as long it’s not a pain cry).”

“Dads/partners/mothers and MIL are good at taking care of the baby just as good as you (so go get that shower or take a nap).”

“Don’t buy all the fancy stuff, the baby will be happy on the floor with minimal toys.”

“Talk and read to your baby.”

“You’re never really prepared.”

“You’re never too old.”

“You can do it all alone.”

“Just breathe and push on.”

“Keep scissors in the changing table. Some clothes are better just being cut off post exploding diaper.”

On Routine & Sleep:

“It’s okay to not plan every second of the friggin day.”

“Sleep in NOW! As much as possible!”

“Start [a bedtime routine] as a newborn or you’re screwed! Lol”

“Get baby on a sleep schedule: sleep = sleep.”

“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

“Don’t wake a sleeping baby to eat.”

“Scheduled feedings during the day, but let baby sleep at night. Don’t wake [them].”

“Have little to no expectations for anything. With kids it is so hard to plan and I think just going into every situation with a positive attitude and no expectations makes everything better at the end.”

“Don’t be a stickler for routine. Things change and the baby will adapt.”

On Breastfeeding:

“Breastfeeding is NOT easy. It’s NOT the simplest most natural thing. It’s a learned behavior for mom and baby. If you struggle with it or it just doesn’t work for you, that’s ok and you didn’t fail as a mom at all. A fed baby is all you need - breast milk or formula are both totally fine. You are not failing if you nurse or if you don’t nurse.”

“Don’t give up breast feeding even if the baby doesn’t latch on at first. When they are hungry they will latch, give it time (might have to stuff the boob in their mouth).”

“Do NOT let someone bully you into exclusively breast feeding. I don’t care what they say. Combo feeding is valid and so is bottle feeding. Lactation consultants are great but if you aren’t able to feed your baby, you should not feel shame.”

“Breastfeeding is awful and it’s hard and it’s the worst and you’re a perfectly and wonderfully capable bad ass who created a perfect life. Feed the baby and love yourself, God be damned!”

On Help:

“It’s okay to ask for help.”

“There’s no weakness in asking for or accepting help.”

“When people ask to come visit, let them. Then hand them the baby and go to sleep. Ask them to do your laundry, mop your floor. Do you need anything? Yes - send them your grocery list. Do not go back to work until you absolutely have to. Don’t feel guilty about taking all the time you have earned (this goes for paternity leave, too). The work will keep - the baby changes quickly. “

“Stop worrying if the house is clean, laundry [done]. Ask someone to come over to do it while you take a nap.”

“Never turn away help!”

“Don’t be shy about asking for help. Maintaining your mental health during the first six months is critical. Let someone watch the baby while you nap, get a massage, get your nails done, go to dinner with a friend or your partner.”

On Postpartum Blues:

“It’s ok to breakdown. Just get back up.”

“It’s ok to not be happy all the time.”

“Speak up about everything postpartum and nothing is too small or insignificant to mention. “

“First off, everyone should know that the first two weeks might possibly be the worst in your entire life… you’re tired and have no idea what you’re doing. And you feel so bad thinking this is bad because it’s a miracle… but know that it is natural and you will get past it. If you start thinking weird shit like I can’t pick up the baby near a knife because they might get stabbed or I can’t walk on the stairs with them because I may drop them, you probably have postpartum psychosis and need medicine. And it goes away…”

“Also, it’s totally ok - maybe even normal - if you don’t fall in love with baby on day one. Took me like 4 months to feel anything outside of birth trauma. And the guilt from that bothered me for a long time. I mean I cared - I biologically wanted to care for the baby but I definitely didn’t feel that Instagram mommy love for a while.”

“One big thing to know is the dirty little secret of new moms that nobody wants to talk about and that is your brain can come up with some crazy stuff! If you have visions or weird thoughts of harming your baby, you’re not terrible and you’re not alone. I had weird crazy thoughts and when I told my mother, her response was, ‘Oh that’s the baby blues. Happens to a lot of us. I had visions of putting you in the oven the first few days home. It goes away. Don’t worry.’ Something I never knew and certainly wasn’t prepared for! Nobody wants to talk about it, but it happens. Your hormones are a freaking mess. But, if you feel like you may act on any of those things, put the baby safely in their crib and go call for help. Or walk out to the neighbor and ask them to stay in the house while you walk and clear your mind. It’s ok to have those thoughts but true Postpartum depression can be deadly to you and or your baby. Don’t ignore it. Ask for help if you need it. You’re not alone. 988 is the National Suicide Hotline. Help is available.”

On Time For Yourself:

“It’s okay to carve a half an hour or an hour a day out just for you. Be it reading, sleeping, walking, etc.”

“Carve out time for yourself! Even if it’s just 30 minutes.”

“Make sure you squeeze in something that is just for you each day. A cup of coffee before everyone wakes up, a silent drive while the baby sleeps, buy a few things on Amazon… etc.”

“Take some time for yourself - take a shower every day. You’ll feel like a brand new person. Ask for help when you need it and take help when offered.”

“Be SELFISH. Do not care about a single person’s feelings or well-being but your own and baby’s.”

“Do not lose yourself and still make yourself a priority.”

“Remember that you are enough! And you still have your own identity though it might not feel like it for a while.”

On Finding Friends:

“It’s ok to not like all new moms in the mommy groups.”

“Find a tribe. Your kids need them, and you need them!”

“Moms face the most judgment from everyone in the entire world - but the judgment from other moms is the worst. Find the good ones and stick with them.”

On Having Grace:

“Don’t try to be Super Mom, trying to measure up to all the expectations. First and foremost, the baby comes first, forget about everything else.”

“You’re not supposed to be an expert right away. Give yourself some grace and some time! Just focus on spending time with baby. You’re all they’ve ever known.”

“Give yourself grace and throw your perfect plans out the window. It’s not going to go perfectly as planned and that’s ok.”

On All the Stuff In Between:

“Stop taking photos of everything and live in the moment.”

“Don’t stress the small stuff. Be there for them, whether it’s a small triumph or a huge disaster, be there to listen, comfort, instruct.”

“Always laugh with them daily. Find something silly or joyful in the day you can share with them. Life is too stressful and anxiety-riddled, no matter the age, and they need you to show them to find the joy and humor.”

“Make time to snuggle and take in the moments because the days are long but the years are short.”

“Learn to pick your battles. The little things that drive you crazy won’t matter in the long run.”

“Everything is a phase. Hair pulling, biting, lack of sleep… it all gets better!”

“The three-hour sleep, eat, poop stage is only for the first few months. Don’t spend a ton of money on baby clothes.”

“They cry… a lot! Sometimes even when you’ve seemingly done everything you know how to do.”

“Take a deep breath. Just breathe.”

“There’s no one right way to parent, but you’ll get it right for you and your baby.”

“Enjoy it! It’s a wild ride!”

“Let the little things go, you will NEVER feel prepared enough for anything ever again, but you’re doing a great job!”

“Even if you started as a crunchy organic wanna be vegan mom, it’s totally OK to pick up a box of frozen Smuckers pb&j for sanity reasons.”

On Advice:

“Screw the advice. Do what works best for you, the baby, and your family.”

“Listen to advice with a whole and grateful heart, but in the end do what feels right to you. You know your baby best. Trust your instincts.”

“I think knowing you’ll get advice from so many and it’s often unsolicited - just say thank you and take what advice you want and disregard the rest. It’s your journey and people may want to help but it’s up to you how you’ll do it.

“No matter what you think or do as a mom, SOMEONE will question you or doubt you or give you unsolicited advice. Stay true to your own parental instinct. And this applies to doctors and 'professionals' especially.”

“Filter any and all advice you get for what seems right to you. And unsolicited advice, which you’ll receive constantly is usually just veiled judgement. Let it roll off you and don’t internalize it. It’s more about the person providing it than it is about you.”

“Not everything is ‘by the book.’ Trust your instincts.”

“Don’t always listen to others. Trust your own judgment and always never let a new baby stop you from getting out there. Make the baby’s schedule work with your schedule.”

“Listen to everyone but do what works for you.”

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