Ah, the newborn period. Though many seasoned moms look back on it with rose-colored glasses (babies really are so sweet at that age), I don’t think anyone would argue that having your first baby is easy. There’s so many challenges to deal with during that time—all the newness of caring for a tiny human, breastfeeding, identity and body struggles, baby blues or postpartum depression, hormonal crashes, managing your relationship with your partner, grappling with going back to work, creating boundaries with friends and family—all while extremely sleep-deprived. Mothers are truly the real MVPs.
A special time? Yes, for sure. Easy? Hell no. In retrospect, we always see one or two things that we wish we had done differently or that we wish we had known beforehand. Had we known these things before, maybe things would have gone a lot smoother or even just helped us cope in a better way.
Of course, there’s no way to adequately prepare for welcoming a new baby into your family. This is one of those things that we all go through in different ways, and through our experiences might look similar in many ways, the road to becoming a seasoned parent is unique to all of us.
What helps is hearing from those who’ve been there. When I was a new mom, I relied so greatly on stories, details, and little bits of advice from my friends who had gone through this already. Their advice wasn’t always applicable and their stories didn’t always reflect my own, but they had done it. They made it through and hearing from them meant that I would, too. And, I did.
In the spirit of sisterhood, we asked you all what you wish you had known as a new mother. You did not disappoint. This list is full of incredible advice and experiences that can impact your new motherhood in the biggest and smallest of ways. Being a new mom is something that you will only go through once. And we are so fortunate to go through it together.
Read on for to hear what 23 moms wish they’d known before having a baby.
On birth and recovery
“Be ready for your birth plan to completely change, bonding doesn’t always happen instantly, and you don’t need to feel guilty about it. Have loose undies ready at home. Keep buying the prenatal vitamins because you are worth the cost and need all of the nutrients more than ever!” —Sarah B.
“I wish people talked more about delivering the placenta. I had a ‘sticky’ placenta that took almost an hour to push out and I had some blood loss. I had a beautiful birth and was there with my beautiful baby on my chest, and I kind of just expected it to slide out, lol. But no one ever talks about that part!” —Desiree
“Witch hazel. In a pad. In the freezer. Get a friend who will make you a whole mess of those for when you come home from the hospital!” —Sarah K.
“Stick to your ever-loving guns about how and who you want to be involved in your birth and postpartum time. We did really well with that—I didn’t tell anyone my due date except for immediate family because I didn’t want people texting me every five seconds asking if she was born yet. I didn’t tell anyone I was in labor (just husband and midwife, obviously) for the same reasons—I didn’t want to spend any energy on people trying to check in on me and I didn’t want to feel rushed. And we had a no visitors policy after we got home that we broke for two people, but I wish I had been more firm about it.” —Desiree
“There are things that happened during my birth that no one, including our birth class, told me about or prepared me for, like getting the uncontrollable shakes. So don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is happening and you don’t understand it.” —Megan R.
On why you need the support of others
“I wish I had known how lonely it can be if you don’t have ‘a village’ that can step in when needed! Surround yourself with as many friends and family as you can. You and your baby will feel loved, safe, and you won’t feel so alone through it all!” —Nannette M.
“Surrender. Ask for help. It doesn’t mean you are inferior or less of a mom. Motherhood is terrifying and difficult at first—asking for help is OK. And listen to all the advice you get but decide what works best for you and the baby.” —Mehrunnisa
“Join a new moms group. This is the most beneficial thing I have done to date (my daughter is five months). New motherhood is lonely and while you know other moms somewhere out there must be going through the same things as you, it’s nice to actually meet them. My whole group still keeps in touch and our group ended two months ago.” —Meagan
“I wish I knew about the difficulties that come with breastfeeding and the mom guilt that can happen when your milk isn’t fully in. For me, it was important to recognize and understand that supplementing didn’t make me less of a mom, but more of one because you’re looking out for your baby’s wellbeing.” —Shivani D.
“Don’t turn the breast pump up all the way, all the time.” —Lauren H.
“I wish I’d taken to heart that ‘fed is best.’ Breastfeeding is great for your baby but it might not be best for you.” —Jessie G.
On the important things
“Always cover the penis. Always.” —Casie T.
“Pictures. Take all the pictures.” —Melinda
On dealing with the bad days
“Every single day is easier than the day before.” —Holly B.
“I wish I had known not to put so much expectation on myself and my son. Once you go with the flow, everything happens naturally and you can enjoy your time together!” —Laura S.
“With my first, I wished I hadn’t looked ahead to the next phase or milestone so much. I was obsessed with what was happening now, what happens next, and how to do everything right for optimal development, etc. I took everything slower the second time around and was more aware of how fleeting each phase was, and enjoyed it more.” —Jas C.
On making time for self-care
“The best advice I was given was to try to do one thing every day just to get out of the house (once you’re comfortable leaving the house with your babe). Anytime I got frustrated, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this is not only my baby’s first time learning how to do something, but it’s mine too—and that really helped.” —Alana R.
“Make a little time for yourself. Even if it’s just a quick nap when your husband comes home or a solo trip to Target for diapers, don’t forget about your health and self-care.” —Deana F.
“I wish I knew that schedules for a newborn don’t work for everyone! They push you to feed every two hours at the hospital but none of my babies ever ate that consistently! I just had baby number three and let go of trying to keep everything on a timetable.” —Tracy
On all the emotions
“The first few weeks postpartum is a really hard time. I wish I would have known to take it easier, not to be afraid of saying “I need ____”, and to know it will take 5x longer to do anything now that baby is the first priority.” —Paige B.
“I wish someone would have prepared me for the intense emotions of motherhood. I’m not talking just the first few weeks postpartum, either. I knew about those. I’m talking the guilt, the worry, the intense love, and intense frustration. It’s overwhelming!” —Courtney H.
“Almost immediately after my baby was born, I had the thought, ‘Oh, I have to attach myself TO her because it doesn’t just happen.’ We got home and I realized that I hadn’t yet told her I loved her, and that first ‘I love you’ felt almost as strange as the first time you say it in any new relationship. I didn’t have any trouble bonding with her, but I can definitely see how it could be difficult. I felt I had to be very intentional about making sure I did bond with her and spend time with her when I wasn’t just feeding or taking care of her.” —Desiree
On all that parenting advice
“I wish I had known that not all babies are sleeping through the night by one year! My 11-month-old baby still wakes up at least once during the night.” —Kaitlyn P.
“Trust your instincts. If everyone says to do something and you disagree, even if you aren’t sure why, do what you think is right. You were designed for YOUR baby, and YOUR baby for you. Let them teach you as much as you teach them. Ultimately, you will know what is right for your little one, not everyone else.” —Kate P.
“I wish I’d known that babies cry, it’s how they communicate and there’s no reason to panic.” —Cecelia C.