When I brought my first newborn home, I assumed there must have been a wild and wounded look in my eyes. It was the only explanation I could come up with as to why friends, family and even random strangers on the street were providing me with an enormously large amount of advice on everything from my nipples to sleep patterns.
What I soon realized was, just as they do in pregnancy, many well-intentioned people love to offer advice to new moms. In fact, if you google “advice for new moms” you’ll find over 5 million hits in seconds.
That’s a lot of nipple talk.
And although some of the advice I received wasn’t helpful, some was. So I’m actually glad that everyone had some wisdom to impart. Because without it, I wouldn’t have been given a few really great gems to hold onto.
Here are 5 pieces of advice that stuck with me and helped me through some of the rough days and long nights.
1. Don’t feel like you have to sleep when the baby sleeps.
I’m one of those types of people who just cannot relax if the floor is covered in chip crumbs and the sink is full of dishes. I wish I was. I love to nod along when people tell me that the laundry will be there tomorrow. But inside, I’m stewing about the stains that may be setting in on my whites. So when someone told me that it was okay to do other things instead of napping when the baby naps, I was so relieved. It was like I was getting a free pass to be slightly crazy about cleanliness and still be a good mom. And if you aren’t into cleaning, that’s okay too! Take a shower. Read. Sit on the couch and watch trashy TV. Whatever makes you feel just a little more human again.
2. Use a nipple shield.
When I couldn’t get breastfeeding to work at first, I was devastated. I had tried everything from tube feeding to cup feeding (which is extremely easy and relaxing when your newborn is in a blind rage from hunger!). After everyone I had met in the past few weeks had not only seen but had also handled my breasts, a kind nurse told me to give myself a break and try a nipple shield. When my baby finally latched onto that thing and I was able to breastfeed, I burst into tears. It was probably the first time I gave myself a break as a mom. And I learned enough from the experience to make sure it wouldn’t be the last.
(Editor’s note: some people worry that shields can cause nipple confusion in babies so just a heads up. I actually used one with my second son and it was a godsend so you won’t hear me complaining about them.)
3. Avoid visitors around day 3 after bringing your baby home.
My midwife told me this one – and I’ll admit I scoffed a bit at first. I wanted visitors! I wanted to share the joy that was my magic baby with well-wishers! Why would I need everyone to stay away 3 or 4 days after I had already come home? Hormones. That’s why. Around day 3 or 4, just as she predicted, I cried a lot. I was exhausted. I felt more than a little unsure. I just needed my pjs, my husband, my baby and a couch. The last thing I needed was to be ‘on’ for visitors.
4. Eat whatever the heck you want right now.
After the hormonal crying, the exhaustion due to cleaning and the breastfeeding trauma, the last thing I needed to hear was someone warning me “Your baby gets whatever you’re eating, you know” in a condescending manner. When that happened, my Mom looked me right in the eye and said “You eat whatever you want right now. You deserve it.” So I wolfed down a chocolate bar and followed it up with a Pepsi because Mom said I could. It tasted delicious and I felt a million times better.
5. Don’t worry if you feel like you suck at this. You don’t.
This was probably my saving grace. Every time I felt like I failed a little. Like I didn’t know what I was doing. Like I was going to royally mess up my perfect little blank slate, I remembered these kind words. And I felt a little less alone.
Sometimes a little well-timed, thoughtful advice is all we need as new parents.
How about you? What advice did you find helpful?