As soon as I got pregnant, I remember thinking . . . now what? I was instantly overwhelmed with all of the new mom tips I was reading about. I did my best to look at all the newborn must-haves and to take all the labor and delivery classes to make sure I was prepared.
Joke’s on me! There were so many things that I didn’t learn at all or didn’t learn enough about. If I could do it all over again, these are the five new mom tips I would make sure to learn about while pregnant.
Car Seat Safety
A lot of new mom tips can be subjective. Car seat safety, however, is arguably one of the most important things to be done a certain way. When my son was eight months old, I learned that I wasn’t tightening the straps along his hips as well as I should’ve been. EIGHT MONTHS!
There are guidelines on how far your child’s head should be from the top, where the shoulder straps should sit, how to clean and not clean the seat, the list goes on. I had no idea how many different types of car seats there were or that some car seats are a lot more difficult to install than others. Heads up, you cannot return a car seat as easy as one might think. I have an expensive and difficult to install car seat sitting in my garage as proof of that fact.
Did you know that you shouldn’t give a baby milk at night that you pumped during the day? It has higher levels of cortisol and can keep your little one up at night. I took a six hour breastfeeding course and met with two lactation consultants at the hospital and yet I didn’t learn that until my son was four months old. The best new mom tip I can give is to seek out an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Once I did, I learned that:
- Pain is common, but not normal
- Pain could be caused by a tongue tie, lip tie, or shallow latch
- You can heal pain with your own breast milk
One of my favorite resources for breastfeeding support is a podcast by an IBCLC called The Breastfeeding Talk Podcast. I found episode 101 to be particularly helpful.
Safe Sleep Options
This was the biggest lesson in trusting my motherly instincts. I remember saying, “He’ll nap here during the day and sleep here at night.” Oh sweet new mama Shereena, with your hilarious thoughts about how YOU’LL be the one to decide where your baby will sleep.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about babies–they’re just really small people. You heard it here first, folks. Every adult I know prefers a certain pillow, mattress, blanket weight, level of darkness, and sound to get a good night’s sleep. But for some reason, I thought I could just decide how my son would sleep most comfortably.
My son hated being swaddled, hated sleeping on his back, and wouldn’t sleep more than 20 minutes if he wasn’t next to me. Literally the opposite of everything I had learned about how infants sleep. I remember feeling so alone thinking that I was the only mom struggling with her child’s sleep.
I also thought that sleep training was my only option. After I bought a popular program and cried the entire time learning about the program, I knew it wasn’t for me. I started learning about safe co-sleeping and discovered an amazing community of women who’ve taught me how to get more sleep for the both of us while safely co-sleeping. It’s not for everyone, but it’s what works for us.
I’ve known women who knew they’d need a C-section ahead of time; I was not one of them. Because I wasn’t one of them, it didn’t even occur to me that a C-section might be an option, so I didn’t learn a darn thing about it. In fact, I didn’t learn anything about any medical interventions because that wasn’t part of my “plan.” What’s that saying about making God laugh?
I ended up needing to be induced, my water was manually broken, I was manually dilated, given an epidural, and then 31 hours after my induction, was told I needed a C-section. Every bathroom in my house had a basket of all the postpartum must-haves that I read about, but I had no idea what was needed to recover from a C-section.
I don’t say that to imply that there’s a lot you need, I say that so that in the event that you need medical interventions, you don’t feel unprepared. There’s enough uncertainty that comes with becoming a mother. The things I found most helpful in my recovery were:
- Adult diapers: the least sexy you’ll ever feel, but so much easier than messing with pads
- Belly bands: these aren’t recommended for long-term use, but I loved mine for those first few weeks
- Dr. Bronner’s organic unscented soap: this one is great no matter what. Your baby will be able to smell you, so it’s best not to cover up your mama smell with other scents. Bonus: it kept my scar feeling clean without synthetic preservatives or detergents.Nightgowns for sleeping/lounging: so much easier than working with pants
- Walking: get that body moving, mama!
Mom Shaming and Guilt
I am heartbroken at the number of moms who will shame another mom for her choices. And honestly, I shamed MYSELF a lot. I was so overwhelmed with love for my son that if he cried and I didn’t immediately know what he needed . . . shame. “You made him, you should always know what he needs and be able to comfort him.” I remember thinking those exact words so many times.
And the guilt. If I took time to shower? Guilt that I wasn’t spending that time with my son. If I fed him formula? Guilt/shame that I didn’t produce enough milk on my own. The list goes on. I didn’t know anything about this topic before having my son. So when these awful feelings crept up on me, I felt blindsided and alone. I can’t prevent you from feeling this way but I can tell you that if you do, you’re not alone.
There are women, including me, that would be honored to walk this journey with you, to encourage you, to help you feel seen and loved. Moms need a village just as much as a child does. The fact that you’re here, reading about motherhood, means that you are a GREAT mom. I’m proud of you.