Do you ever feel like your entrance into motherhood went something like this:
“Welcome to motherhood!
Here’s a tiny little person who is totally reliant on you for everything.
Oh, and this little person comes with no instructions.
Did we mention that it is also in your best interest to figure everything out quickly so that you can take care of yourself too?
Oh, and even though you’re not going to be given any explicit instructions about your particular baby, you are going to have a TON of generalized advice thrown at you that sometimes contradicts itself?“
Because that is definitely how I felt when I had my first son.
Motherhood is a huge change, and everyone has a bunch of tips for the new mom. But how are we, as total newbies, supposed to know what pieces of advice to take?
Well, I did some asking around.
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Here are the best tips for new moms:
Let’s start with the first, and most ironic piece of advice for a new mom: You don’t need to accept all, or any of other people’s advice
This is a big one, because as soon as people find out a woman is pregnant they love to offer advice. Most people are well-meaning enough, but just because they mean well doesn’t mean you have to take their advice.
Taking some of the advice that people have to offer you and leaving other pieces of it is totally reasonable.
Accept and ask for help
You may be reading this recommendation and rolling your eyes.
Perhaps you know you want things done a certain way and only trust yourself to do them. Or maybe you want to soak up every second of maternity leave with your baby undisturbed. All of those (and more) are valid.
I’m not telling you to hand off laundry to your brother-in-law who thinks folding sheets into a ball is sufficient. And I’m not saying to hand off your baby to a guest so that you can do something around the house.
What this does mean, however, is to accept help in a way that takes something off of your plate that would offer you a sense of relief.
Maybe your mom offers to come over and hold the baby while you shower but that’s not what you want or need. Instead, don’t be afraid to tell her you’d love for her to visit, but it would by much more helpful for her to help out with some laundry.
Or perhaps your friend asks if they can come over to meet your new little one. Ask her to bring a meal or swing by the store for a gallon of milk on the way.
Keep in mind that accepting and asking for help is not an opportunity to take advantage of the fact that everyone wants to see your baby (not that you would do that). But the fact that this little baby is bringing into your life a major life change means you should be able to lean on those you love for help and support during this time of transition.
Be honest with them regarding your needs and how they can best care for you.
And if they are insistent on doing things their way and it causes you inconvenience, maybe point them to this article about how they can actually support you in a helpful and meaningful way.
Establish and enforce healthy boundaries
This is always one of my personal top tips when a new mom asks me for advice.
Honestly, that is mostly because I wish I had been better about this when we had our first child.
We had people visiting us, not helping, and staying late into the evening.
Basically everything that made exhausted parents even more exhausted.
So make sure you and and your partner talk about boundaries that work for you and your family. And enforce them.
So if you say your dad can stay for an hour, but after that time has passed you’re ready for him to go and he hasn’t made the move to leave on his own, tell him its time to go.
And remember that it is perfectly ok for these to change. If an hour has passed and you’re enjoying the company, you can tell your guest you’re happy to have them stay longer.
You and your husband will already be dealing with the new roles you’ve been given, which oftentimes results in marital frustrations. It’s important for you both to eliminate any additional frustrations as you figure out your new roles as parents.
So make any boundaries you want clear to your guests.
Get rest when you can
This may seem obvious and also totally unrealistic, but do try to get rest when you can.
There is a reason this is one of those new mom pieces of advice that everyone gives.
Maybe you need to ask someone to watch the baby for a bit while you sleep.
Maybe you just sleep when the baby sleeps or go to bed extra early.
So many times we can be tempted to make sure we’re not “wasting” our time, so we clean, make meals, or answer emails.
All of those things can wait.
If you birthed your baby, your body will be in major recovery-mode for the first several weeks after giving birth.
You’re going to be battling exhausting sleep schedules, diapers, and a constantly changing little person who needs your attention.
That is exhausting!
So as a new mom you’ll want to take the time to rest, whether that means sleeping or just simply relaxing, when you have the opportunity.
Have breast-care items on hand
If you’re breastfeeding, chances are you’ll face some difficulties.
It sucks, but it is totally normal.
Your breasts will take a little bit of time to get used to the fact that they’re now providing milk to your little human and you’ll all have to get used to when you need to be ready to feed him or her and how much will be drained from your breast each time.
During this “figuring things out” period your breasts will likely leak and you’ll want breast pads. You could end up engorged and needing to pump to release some of the milk in order to avoid clogged milk ducts. If you’re struggling to get a good latch with your baby, then your nipples may end up chapped and in need of some nipple cream and cooling pads (pricey, but stock up because they seriously heal roughed up nipples so quickly). A nipple shield can also be helpful.
The primary reason you want these items on hand before you even run into issues is that breast issues can become problematic very quickly if they aren’t resolved.
Try baby wearing
Baby wearing isn’t for everyone. But if you think it might be worth trying, it can be extremely beneficial.
Even if you’re relaxing and not trying to get things done around the house it can help you deal with a clingy newborn and still grab a bit of lunch.
Get out of the house when possible
Even if this just means sitting on your front step for a couple of minutes.
Getting out of the house will help.
Being cooped up in your home with a newborn can really mess with your sense of time and can make you feel incredibly isolated.
So get out of the house when you can.
If you’re up for a short drive, a walk, or a visit to a friend’s home — all of these are great options as well. But they can, understandably, be a bit overwhelming for some moms (like myself) when you’re first getting to know your newborn and how they’ll react to the car seat or when they’ll need to feed.
So do what you’re comfortable with, but do try to get out of the house a bit.
Make nutritious choices
Sometimes this is easier said than done.
Maybe you’re living off of carryout and what’s left of the groceries you purchased before the baby came.
But when possible, make nutritious choices for yourself.
It will help with your energy levels and, if you’re breastfeeding, incorporating the sufficient calories and including healthy fats will help you to maintain your milk supply.
Keep mealtime simple
This means accepting meals from friends and family members, ordering dinner if it’s easier, or even pre-prepare frozen meals before baby (if you’re reading this before giving birth).’
Don’t underestimate how important it can be just to let some things go.
So it may mean you’re eating peanut butter sandwiches at dinner instead of an elaborate meal.
Let housework go
This goes back to the need for you, as a new mom, not to stretch yourself too thin.
Sometimes this means living in clutter for a while, sometimes it means accepting friends who offer to help with “anything” and asking them to do laundry, and sometimes it means hiring help.
Whatever you need in order to function, remember that this is only a season.
You won’t be covered in milk stains, sleep deprived, and wearing mesh underwear forever.
Communicate and work through frustrations with your husband
This one can be incredibly difficult if you find yourself frustrated and feeling like you’re the only one doing anything.
But try to remember that he is going through a major change as well.
The shift to parenthood will absolutely look different for you both, but trying to push through those frustrations (which are totally normal, by the way) will make parenting a lot easier.
As someone who personally struggled a lot with this when I gave birth to our first son, take this piece of recommendation to heart. Because not communicating with your husband will just make the transition to parenthood harder on both of you.
Make time to spend quality time with your husband
While we’re on the subject of the difficulties that come with the territory of having a new baby, another tip for new moms is to make some time for your husband.
This doesn’t mean you need to go on lavish date, or even leave the house. But you should take some time to reconnect with your spouse.
It will be good for you both.
And what is good for mom and dad is also good for our children.
Get in a routine with your baby
Work on getting in some kind of routine.
It doesn’t even have to be a super strict or structured routine.
But having a vaguely reliable expectation for how each day or night will go. It’s a recommendation that will benefit your new baby as well as mom and dad.
Helping your baby to learn the difference between day and night and getting them into a bedtime routine is not only beneficial for your baby, but for mom and dad too.
And you can get into a routine with your baby without it being an incredibly strict routine.
For example, with my 2 ½ month old son our routine looks something like this:
Most days he wakes between 7am and 8am and he immediately gets a diaper change and is fed.
We play and he goes down for his first nap approximately an hour after he wakes up.
Throughout the day he naps, then eats and plays and goes back down for a nap approximately 1 hour after each wake.
Around 6:30pm he gets a bath and is dressed for bed, has a long feed.
He then goes to bed between 7 and 7:30pm.
He wakes periodically during the night to feed and then goes back to sleep.
Establishing a somewhat reliable sleep schedule and routine will help you to make sure your time with your baby is well rested and happy and will give you a chance to relax because you’ll have a general idea of what the day will look like.
Take lots of pictures (and include yourself)
A pretty common piece of new mom advice is to get in the pictures.
Moms so frequently are behind the camera.
Always taking pictures of our babies. And our spouses.
But having pictures with our kids is so important.
Even if you hate the way you look, having pictures is a great way of appreciating the time with our children.
Because as cliche as it sounds (and yes, I recognize that it is completely cliche to say this), our babies only stay little for so long.
And I can tell you, from one mom to another, our babies grow up and love to see the pictures.
One of my toddler’s favorite things to do is to look at pictures of himself, his brother, and his parents.
Treat yourself often
Sometimes this is just a nice cup of coffee or a special treat. Other times it may be an hour to watch your favorite show or to read a good book. Maybe (once you’ve been cleared to do so), its a workout class.
So often moms are told what classifies as self-care, as if certain things qualify and others do not.
Ignore those people.
Find something, even if its as little as the creamer in your coffee, and treat yourself every day.
You deserve to have something that brings you joy, no matter how chaotic the rest of your day gets.
I used to think this was the silliest piece of advice.
“But I want to be able to sit around in my comfy pjs all day!” I would think.
Sure, there is certainly a time for that (I still love spending the day in my comfiest pjs).
But getting dressed each day really does help with your frame of mind.
Even if I get out of bed and throw on a different pair of leggings and a new t-shirt I still feel like I accomplished something for the day.
Talk to trusted people about your frustrations and difficulties
Whether you’re struggling with breastfeeding, with your husband, being annoyed and disconnected from your baby, or any other emotion — one of the best tips for handling this as a new mom is just to speak with someone who can help.
Depending on what you’re struggling with, the appropriate person may be a doctor, a therapist, or a friend.
But becoming a new mom is a big deal.
Postpartum is hard for a lot of new moms, so whatever you may be struggling with, know that you’re not alone.
Whomever you decide to speak with, try to speak with someone who you trust and that won’t feed into your frustrations.
The last thing a new, exhausted mom needs is someone verbally bashing your husband when you’re venting about him, because he’s still the person who you have to go home and co-parent with.
Seek out people who will hear you out, help you navigate your concerns with empathy, and help you to tackle your difficulties in effective and positive ways.