I’ll never forget those first torturous months of parenthood. Second guessing every decision I made, Googling everything from “swaddle too tight?” to “dropped iphone on babys head”. My complete lack of confidence in my parenting ability made me seek advice from any source possible. I read every book from The Happiest Baby On The Block to The New Basics, and found so many opposing ideas on every part of baby’s life that I was left paralyzed with confusion as what to do with this new, screaming, red-faced creature.
Fast-forward to almost three years later. With a toddler who managed to survive despite my lack of parenting skills, I feel vastly more confident around babies. When friends who are about to have a new baby come to me with questions, my best advice comes down to these four, simple points:
1. You can’t spoil a baby
Does this sound familiar? “Don’t hold the baby all day or it will get used to it and won’t go to sleep by itself”, “Feed the baby every four hours from birth” (ignoring all the wailing in between). Great advice given to new parents by people who don’t have to live with their newborn baby. “You’re spoiling the baby!” My feeling is that life with a newborn is hard enough without trying to persuade him/her that it doesn’t want what it wants. The one thing that made life easier for me was realizing that this tiny new creature had NO IDEA where it was or what it was supposed to be doing in this brand new life. The baby was confused, scared and needed me. So that’s what I did – I gave the baby what it needed to make both our lives as easy and pleasant as possible. I held, fed, and slept on-demand for those first few months while baby was adjusting to life on the outside. There is plenty of time for feeding and sleep schedules in the coming months. How about we all just focus on getting through each day as best we can for those first, hard months?
2. Do what you need to do
Mothers have so much pressure put on them to do what’s right for the baby, even if this is completely opposed to what’s best for the mother. If we all remember that we’re all doing the best we can and stop judging each other, it’s much easier for moms to put their own health and wellbeing as a priority, and do whatever they need to do to survive. This might mean bottle or formula feeding. It might mean taking a break and getting a sitter, or even going somewhere overnight to just get a full nights sleep. Whatever you need to survive, that’s what’s best for your baby.
3. When you’re at breaking point, get help
Those moms who look like they’ve got it all together? Secret: they’re probably putting on a really good front. Being a first-time mom is so hard, even if some women make it look easy. If you’re struggling, miserable, lonely, depressed – get help. It does not mean you’re not a good mother if you need help – it actually makes you a smart mama. If you don’t have friends or family nearby to listen, lend a hand, take the baby, or take you out for wine when you need a break, then hire help if possible. Don’t struggle alone thinking it makes you a failure if you’re not coping. We’ve all been there and felt like we couldn’t make it another hour let alone another day.
4. Enjoy the good parts
I had such a difficult baby that I absolutely HATED it when people told me to “enjoy every moment”, particularly when most of her early moments were pure misery for me. I suggest enjoying the moments that are great, and trying to survive the rest. Do not feel guilty if you don’t enjoy every single moment. Yes your baby will grow super fast, and yes these moments are precious. They can also be super hard, particularly in the beginning, when every day seems to stretch into eternity. And you know, life in general isn’t amazing and enjoyable every second of every day – even for non-parents. So take the pressure off. If you can enjoy and cherish a part of each day, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.
Disclaimer: I am not a baby expert. Not by a long shot. This is just what worked for me. Good luck new mama, I’m rooting for you!
This article first appeared on Mommynearest.com