We’ve all heard the platitudes about parenting being the most important job you’ll ever have —and of course that is true.
But most jobs come with a handbook, an employee manual or a job description. It’s a cruel fact of parenthood that this, the most important job ever, comes with no road map.
Perhaps moms suffer the most from this transition into parenthood because along with the physical changes and hormonal surges, there is an intense societal pressure to achieve perfection as a mother.
Having been through those same pressures I want to cut through the clichés and BS to give some real tips for moms and moms-to-be.
From adult diapers to pee-proofing the crib, here are seven real-life tips to help you cope with the chaos:
1. Invest in a white noise machine.
Think your baby is sitting in silence in your womb? Think again. In addition to the noises you’re hearing, your baby is also surrounded by the sound of blood flow and other bodily functions. So they are used to ambient noise, then they are born, and you want to put them in a totally silent room? No wonder they’re crying!
A noise machine, a bathroom fan or some other white noise maker is a great investment to help baby acclimate to life outside the womb — and to help mom and dad get as much sleep as possible. Trust me on this one.
2. Car seat safety is no joke.
There is so much to consider when purchasing and installing a car seat. Does it fit correctly in your car? Will it work for a newborn? Will it allow your baby to stay rear-facing — the safest position — for as long as possible?
It’s important for first-time moms to know that about 25% of car seats are installed incorrectly. Small details like the positioning of the chest clip, tightness of the straps and use of car seat accessories can change or even void the safety guarantees. Given how much time American families spend in the car, taking time to have your car seat installation checked is well worth it.
3. Buy waterproof mattress pads.
Moms-to-be are pressured into putting together a Pinterest-worthy nursery — but what happens in everyday life is much less glamorous. Babies have blowouts. They pee through diapers, and they spit up like a geyser.
Waterproof crib sheets will save you from clean up. And if you baby nurses in your bed, co-sleeps or just spends a lot of time snuggling with you, buy a waterproof mattress pad for your bed as well. Again, not super glamorous, but worth it.
4. Try not to over-stimulate your little one.
You know how you feel those first few minutes, or maybe hours, after waking up? You’ve been in a cool, dark room, blissfully and peacefully sleeping, and all of the sudden it’s bright, noisy and agitating.
Now imagine how a baby feels after nine months in a warm, secure environment. Some parents think “tiring out” the baby with a bunch of activities is a great way to get them to sleep. But over-stimulation is real, and it can result in the baby becoming overly tired and unable to sleep.
Instead of packing a walk around the neighborhood, a visit with grandma and grandpa and five attempts at tummy time all into one morning, spread out your activities and allow for down time and relaxation as well. It will help them become better adjusted at a slower pace and make the transition easier for you in the long run.
5. There are a lot of physical challenges post-pregnancy too.
In other words, baby isn’t the only one who needs diapers at first.
We aren’t doing first-time moms any favors by pretending like a natural birth is wildflowers and puppy dogs. It’s hard, painful work.
The truth is, you’ll be using mesh underwear and going home in adult diapers. With the residual bleeding that occurs during recovery, it’s just easier to throw away an adult diaper than try to change pads and guess at the size of underwear you’ll need.
Celebrity Chrissy Teigen got to the heart of the postpartum matter when she tweeted, “No one told me I would be coming home in diapers too,” after the birth of her daughter. She also tweeted a picture of her “push present,” a perineal irrigation bottle — keeping it really real.
There are a lot of other bodily changes with pregnancy and post-pregnancy as well, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Do what you gotta do girl and find the right product for you.
6. You’ll need to find the perfect place for your baby that isn’t on your person.
Part of being a new mom is adjusting to this tiny person who needs you, all of you, all of the time. It’s wonderful, and also completely overwhelming. So even if you plan to co-sleep and baby wear, having somewhere safe and secure to put the baby when you need a break is crucial.
Whether it is a baby swing, a vibrating baby seat or baby’s crib, make sure it is set up and ready to go. Use it when you need to shower or take something out of the oven.
But also use it when you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or at your wit’s end. Put baby in the safe space and walk away. Step out onto your porch for a moment of fresh air or make yourself a cup of tea. Whatever you do, know that it is ok to leave baby in a safe space for a few moments of peace.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help from others.
A lot of women pride themselves on being independent, but now is not the time to prove you can do it on your own. If a friend says, “Is there anything I can do to help?” say, “Yes!” and ask for what you need: a meal, a babysitter or someone to cut your grass.
Also, do not be ashamed to ask for help of a professional kind. In fact, somewhere between 15% and 25% of new moms suffer from postpartum depression, and even more suffer from postpartum anxiety. Know the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety and talk to your doctor if you are feeling overwhelmed, guilty or angry.
If your doctor is dismissive, and some are, talk to your primary care physician or another health professional. There is help available, and women should feel supported, not alone, during this important time.
The cliché is true. Being a mom is the best and most important job you’ll ever have. But let’s be real: It will also leave you emotionally raw and physically exhausted. I like to be honest about motherhood, and provide straight-talk advice that not only helps new mothers, but let’s them know they are not alone. We all go through the same struggle and have a lot of questions, and that’s OK. It’s all part of the journey.
Do you have a few straight-talk tips for new mothers that you’ve uncovered? Let us know below!
More About the Author
- Jennifer Landis is a twenty-something mama, wife and writer. She enjoys drinking tea and practicing yoga on the reg, saying things like “on the reg” facetiously but so often she’s not sure it’s facetious anymore. And eating peanut butter straight from the jar. When she’s not writing or running you’ll likely find her trying to get pants on her toddler or, if it’s after 8:00pm, on her couch with some tea and a coloring book watching Dr. Who.