No doubt about it, being a new mama and juggling the (ever changing) demands of a baby is a tough job. And while there’s so much beauty in all of it, there’s also plenty of moments that test your sanity like no other. To help you get through the early days, months, and years relatively unscathed, we’ve put together a list of tips for new moms that are simple enough for any sleep-deprived brain to master. Because sometimes all you need is a gentle reminder of the basics, from people who’ve been there.
1. Accept help. It might seem like you can handle it or you may have a hard time relinquishing control, but put those kind gestures of help to good use. Gladly accept and actually give friends or family a time to come over and a task to do. Sure, you can watch my sleeping baby so I can: a. take a shower (extra points if you can actually blow dry your hair); b. wolf down some leftover pizza; c. go to the bathroom alone; d. all of the above…in peace! (For 20+ ways folks can help you in the early days, click here).
2. Find your tribe. Mommy-and-me groups can seem a bit intimidating to some, and downright lame to others. That’s until you’ve felt the true isolation of new motherhood. While we live in a time and culture that’s more socially “connected” than ever, truly nurturing, in-person connections are beyond crucial for first-time mamas. No matter where you live, there are ways to find fellow moms, whether it’s joining an already-existing mothers’ group, attending a baby/new moms class, or mustering up the courage to actually connect with that other baby-toting mother you always see in your neighborhood. Once you start to assemble your network, you’ll quickly realize that you’re not alone and whatever you’re going through is completely normal and, often times, better than you thought. Fellow mothers—especially those with babies the same age as your own—help put things into perspective. (Head over here for more tips on how to make “mom friends.”)
3. Breathe. Seriously. It can be hard to find a spare minute for yourself when another person is attached to you day and night, but it makes all the difference in the world if you can take even 5 minutes to sit down and meditate (a.k.a. just focus on your breath, don’t try to stop thinking, which is impossible, btw). Mindfulness apps like Headspace give you guided instruction and help you reconnect with your body and mind, ultimately making you more present and ready to tackle the next witching hour.
4. Get outside. For those times your baby has been inconsolably crying, the moment you step outside with him or her can be like hitting a reset button on your whole nervous system. There’s something about the change in scenery, cooler temperature, and natural sights and sounds of the outside world that does wonders for your mood. Even just a quick walk around the block, at least once a day, can do the trick to calm both you and your baby’s frazzled nerves.
5. Step away from Google. Is my son latching on right? How many times a day should I be feeding him? For how long? How long should he be napping for? The list goes on. To protect your sanity, try to refrain from Googling everything. There’s a wealth of “experts” out there and people telling you how you “should” be doing whatever task is at hand, but just try to trust yourself and your instincts. They’re there if you listen. While the wealth of “knowledge” at our fingertips can be helpful, as a new, often sensitive and vulnerable new mother, it can also lead to severe self judgement, comparison, and “am I doing it right?” thoughts. If you have a question, call your pediatrician, see a lactation consultant, talk to a trusted mom friend (see above) who’s recently been there herself and trust their advice, not a forum of strangers.
6. Have a (very loose) schedule. Expect the days and nights to blur together for at least the first few months, but once things settle into a bit more predictable routine, you can start a schedule, albeit a very loose one. It helps both you and the baby know what to expect during the day and week. While we all thrive on consistency, don’t get so hung up on things being an exact science. Allowing for the unpredictable, yet having a loose idea of what your days look like can help bring some predictability to a time when everything seems so up in the air.
7. Make a lunch date. Get out of the house and make plans to enjoy a meal with your partner or a friend who can meet you during the day. Take advantage of this time when your baby is relatively easy to tote around and sleeps most of the day, especially at restaurants. Midweek is also a much easier time to finally get into some of the more popular dining destinations that seem impossible on a weekend. Plus, seeing an old friend or talking to someone besides your baby does wonders for those brain cells.
8. Have a good cry. It can be a cathartic release of trapped-up energy, emotions, and hormones that just need to get out and, often, you’ll feel much better after. Of course, if you find yourself crying everyday over seemingly small things, are having major mood swings, bouts of anger, or distressing thoughts, it doesn’t hurt to talk to a close friend, family member, or therapist. Familiarize yourself about potential postpartum depression or anxiety warning signs, which are so much more common and easily treatable than you’d be led to believe.
9. Embrace the chaos. There’s something to be said for letting go of control and things suddenly coming into focus. Motherhood is a wild ride, and taking it all one day, one hour, one minute at a time is often the way to go. Being present on the task at hand and accepting that you really have no control over how things go, both in the past and in the future, is all part of the journey and beauty of it all.
10. Know that you’re doing an amazing job. No matter what that negative inner critic may be telling you, you are amazing and strong and you are doing it! You just grew and nurtured a baby for the past 9 months, gave birth (which deserves an award in itself), and are adjusting to life with a baby. This is no small feat. Be kind to yourself and know that this is all temporary, the good and the bad. This is such a huge transition and that needs to be honored and respected. Be grateful for the small things and enjoy those new baby cuddles while they last!
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