Advice for New Parents: 5 Things I Wish I Knew

Throughout my first pregnancy, I did all (I mean ALL) the research. Or so I thought. I read all the advice for new parents, like how to have “natural” labor, which sleeping bags are best for each stage of infancy, how to set my baby up for 12 hours of a perfectly sound sleep in 12 weeks (in retrospect, a ridiculous prospect), you name it.

Now – two years and two babies later – I know that while all my “research” on advice for new parents was on point, there was still a lot I wanted to know before I had a baby. If you’re a new or expectant mother, I hope the following advice for new parents speaks to your heart and helps you navigate some of the many unseen burdens we carry with motherhood.

Advice for New Parents

Here’s my top advice for new parents.

Having a baby will change you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s OK not to ‘go back’ to who you were before. Give yourself grace.

After giving birth to my first born 41 weeks ago, the last thing I wanted to endure was an emergency C-section following a grueling labor. I worked so hard to be in good shape leading up to the birth, but suddenly I was OK with not being able to get up on my own. I may have “come back” for a while before my next pregnancy, but my twice-formed scar reminds me that my body is forever changing. My heart was completely changed, however, too. Looking back, I’m proud of what I went through and would go through it again for my babies. I wish I had been gentler with myself.

Everyone will have their opinions. That doesn’t mean they should all affect your parenting decisions. Take what others say with a grain of salt.

Just because someone has “been there” before you doesn’t mean they’ve got all the answers for you. Before my first baby, I wish I knew how judgmental people can be about everything. From baby names to breastfeeding vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping to staying at home versus going back to work. My advice to new parents is to remember that what others think has no bearing on your decisions for your children and family. I’m more content this way.

Your parenting is almost always right. Trust your intuition. It’s there for a reason.

My daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that made her very ill for several months. I spent countless days pleading with her pediatrician to believe that there was more going on than something that a standard over-the-counter prescription could fix. Ideally, she needed a three-part biopsy and a total lifestyle and dietary overhaul to get on the path to recovery. The day before I gave birth to my son almost two months early (for no apparent reason), I begged my husband to come with me for a private ultrasound because I knew something was wrong. A mother’s intuition is one of your greatest assets as a parent. My advice to new parents: trust and listen to your intuition.

It’s not selfish to put yourself first sometimes. It is necessary.

It can be easy to lose yourself in motherhood. But your children need you to show up as your best self just as much as you do (and vice versa). Before having my first child, I wish I had known how much of a difference the simple act of leaving the house alone – even for an hour – now and then makes. Take time for yourself early to avoid burnout. Your kids will be fine, and all the better for it. Trust me!

There is no universal handbook when it comes to raising babies. Do what you can (and don’t be afraid to change if necessary).

My oldest was almost completely contact-napped for the first year and a half of his life. My second son enjoys being nursed to sleep and then expanding in his crib. If I had followed baby sleep advice “by the books” for any of my babies, none of their individual sleep needs would have gone unmet. I wish I knew how to tune out all the noise telling me what I “should” be doing in the early days of being a mama. Babies are not robots; they are individuals with their own needs. My advice for new parents is don’t stress if what works for you and yours isn’t what you see your friends (or social media influencers) doing. You know your baby.

Things don’t always go how you think they will. You are stronger than you know. Believe and seek support when you need it.

I did not expect that my child was born early. I also didn’t expect her to spend a combined five weeks in the NICU and PICU throughout her newborn days. I couldn’t predict so much time between my two babies, one at home and one in the hospital. I never imagined seeing one of my little people intubated and on a ventilator fighting for his life with RSV. Having a baby will test you in ways you never saw coming, but getting through each stage will show you how strong you are. Leaning on your village – or creating one if you don’t have one in the traditional sense – will also help. Regardless, trials are often temporary. When the going gets tough, trust the process. You are the best mother for your babies. Hurry up yourself.

While there are endless resources with advice for new parents, having a baby doesn’t come with a personalized handbook. If I could go back in time and give myself helpful advice before my first child, I would start with these. And mix in lots of self-kindness. I hope you do the same!

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