I had the privilege today to meet a couple young moms with 7-10 month old babies at the park. They saw me walk up with my 5 month old in the carrier and the toddler yanking me along. The park we were at has a fenced in toddler area (which I LOVE) and the ground is made up of wood chips. These adorable young women had a beautiful quilt laid out over the wood chips littered with toys so that their babies could lay down and play at the park. They jumped when their baby fussed and were worried about everything from the heat to dry skin. It brought back a lot of memories. I remember being that new mom. I remember that feeling that the world rested on my shoulders because I was responsible for raising this little child up the correct way. In conversation, these young mommies asked many questions to myself and my friend who was also there (with her 2 children). We tried our best to fill them in on things like other free places to go and feeding tips. We introduced them to Macaroni Kid. They watched us in shock as we laughed at our sleep deprivation and the stupid things we had done (like misjudging how open the door was and walking right into it… while holding the baby). We were walking Luv’s commercials. You know what I’m talking about? Those commercials that are like “by their 2nd child, every mom is an expert”. I think my friend would agree with me when I say that we are still far from experts, but the things you learn between having one and then two covers a wide range!
Ever since I got home from the park, I’ve been thinking about those moms. I wondered what they went home and thought about us. I remembered the things I thought I was going to do back when my son was that age and the things that never happened. And I remembered the amount of times that I felt like a failure of a mother because of something I had or hadn’t done that day. So I decided to sit down and write this blog post to you… the new mom. This is completely unsolicited advice (don’t you love how everyone wants to give you some?) so you can take it or leave it. But these are some things that I wish I had understood when my son was still a baby.
*Use Common Sense in your mothering: You are going to hear countless “studies” and “research” on what is good for your baby. It is so easy to get confused on anything from formula feeding to putting headbands on your baby. Don’t over-analyze. If you are unable to breastfeed for whatever reason, its OK to choose a formula. If you put a headband on your baby girl that leaves an indentation after 5 minutes, its probably too tight. I’m not going to lie. My 5 month old has always been a tummy sleeper. GASP!!! I could lie her on her back and I’d be lucky if she slept for 5 minutes. Lay her on her tummy and she’d sleep for 2 hours. Common sense: as a newborn, I NEVER laid her on her tummy then left the room and closed the door. She was always closely monitored and I never left her side. Now, at 5 months, I will put her in her crib for naps and close the door, BUT we have a video monitor that I check constantly to make sure she’s still breathing!
*Diapers: For those of you other moms like me that simply cannot bring yourself to cloth diaper your baby, make sure you sign up for an automatic diaper delivery service. There are plenty of them out there but my favorites are the Honest Company, Target, Amazon Mom, and Diapers.com. You sign up and they send you diapers in bulk at a discount. The default is monthly shipments but you can usually adjust it for your needs. For example, we get the diaper bundle from the Honest Company (I love that there are no yucky chemicals in the gel and I’m a sucker for the cute prints!) and we have them delivered every 6 weeks. By doing this, we save 35% plus we get all the diapers AND wipes we need (they seriously have the BEST wipes!). Whichever one you choose, just make sure that you get a discount! We did the math and ours saves us hundreds of dollars a year!
*Speaking of diapers, I know it takes time but its ok to change your baby when you’re out! I’ve seen moms hovering over the changing table in a public bathroom trying not to let other people see their naked baby. It actually draws more attention to you and what you are doing! Then there’s the time when a changing table is not available. My advice is to practice discreetly changing your baby on your lap at home. Sometimes its a necessity. I’ll never forget the first time I flew with my son and there wasn’t a changing table on the plane. They expected me to put my 4 month old on the toilet seat to change him. Can you say “yuck?” I changed him on my lap on the plane and I think maybe one person noticed and politely looked away. That being said, if you child has a super stinky diaper, try your best to be considerate to those around you! One thing that makes this so much easier (one of my favorite things I got at my baby shower) is this portable changing station. Keep your diapers, wipes, and cream in one place along with a mat so your baby never has to touch other baby’s germs plus you have a changing station wherever you go!
*Studies have shown and proven how great it is to “wear” your baby, especially in the first few months, or “4th trimester”. Investing in a baby wrap is your best bet for this as it holds baby super close and swaddled to your body. I want to talk a little bit about older babies though. Once those first few months are over, a lot of moms start putting baby down all the time for so many reasons: they’re too heavy to hold, they need both hands, etc. Well, for at least the first year, that closeness with baby is crucial and a lot of us don’t have all day to sit around and cuddle. (oh how I wish I did!) My suggestion is to invest in a separate “big baby” carrier that is quick to get on and off (especially if you have an older child as well). My personal favorite is Beco. Make sure you look for a carrier that is ergonomically correct for baby’s hips. When you place baby in the carrier, the fabric should go all the way under their thighs to the knee, like a seat. It should NOT just be under the baby’s crotch area with their legs dangling. I wear my babies ALL THE TIME. I do housecleaning, dishes, cooking, shopping, everything while babywearing. My daughter LOVES the closeness and I can get things done! I find that, if I put her down for too long, she gets super fussy and I don’t end up getting done what I want to because I am constantly going to her and giving her a toy, a pacifier, blanket, etc. When she gets a little older I’ll be able to switch her around and wear her on my back piggy-back style! I feel like I need to add this: it IS ok to put your baby down every so often. I’m not saying you need to hold them every second! Some alone time to entertain themselves is good!
*You may have already discovered how incredibly dorky you can be when your child reaches a milestone. I literally cried when my daughter had her first “real” poop. Milestones are AWESOME!!! They show how much your precious little bundle is growing and how time is flying by. That being said, do NOT worry about those timelines you see online and at the doctors office. They are general guidelines, not set in stone. If your 3 month old hasn’t smiled yet, it doesn’t mean that they are miserable. If your 6 month old still isn’t sitting on their own, they aren’t slow. I’ve seen so many moms (and I used to be one of them) kind of freaking out because so-and-so’s kid is the same age and is already ________(fill in the blank). I’m told that I started speaking long before my cousin who is 6 weeks younger than me and she grew up to graduate from Harvard Law School! So what I’m saying is this: milestones are fun- don’t lose the joy of them by rushing your baby to do things that they aren’t ready for! Your doctor will tell you if your child should be more “advanced”. Never ever ever compare your kid to another- they are ALL different!
*This is a biggie that I feel every new mom needs to be warned about: THE MOMMY WARS. I had NO clue about them when my son was born. It pretty much sums up to this: you will never do anything “right” for your child (according to other moms). If you breastfeed, some moms will tell you you are spoiling your child. If you formula feed, some moms will tell you your aren’t giving your baby the proper nutrients. If you stay home with your children, some moms will say you’re lazy. If you are a working mom, some moms will say you’ve abandoned your kids. If you spank your child, some moms will say you are abusive. If you don’t spank, some moms will say you’re children will grow up to be brats. I could go ON and ON and ON about this. Why these moms feel like they are better than others, I have no idea. Why they feel like they can judge other families and their children, I don’t know. It is my very strong belief that we all need to stick together as parents. I do things my way. That way may be different than your way, and thats OK! I do what works for me. I do what I feel is right FOR ME! If you are making an effort to be the best parent you possibly can be, then you are doing right in my book. I hope more moms will join me in this mindset. I recently joined a group that believes the same called #mother. Join us online (for free) by signing the mother manifesto here! And here is a funny, completely over-the-top short video that I absolutely LOVE. It pretty much sums it all up!
*Social Media: This kind of goes along with the above point. Don’t look into pictures on social media! When my son was born, he had colic. It was HORRIBLE!!! I swear that poor child cried for 3 months straight and there was nothing anyone could do. I would take pictures of him sleeping and post them on facebook for my friends and family to see. Then as he got older, I started trying to capture that precious smile whenever I could. When I’d get a good smiling photo, I’d post it on facebook. As we entered the toddler years and there were more tantrums during the day than I care to admit, those smiling pictures became so much more precious, and I shared them on social media. I had so many people saying things to me like “your son is the happiest little boy I’ve ever seen” and “does he EVER stop smiling” and it made me think. When we are in the middle of a tantrum or an upset, I’m not thinking about getting the camera out to take a picture (sidenote: if you ever DO get the camera out during a tantrum, sometimes it has enough shock value that it’ll make your kid forget they were even throwing a tantrum!). So, anyone who isn’t around us all the time only sees my sweet, smiling little boy. That same mom might be home in the middle of a tantrum with their little one the same age and thinking “why can’t my little boy be like that? What am I doing wrong?” when in all reality, our kids are the same! So… never assume you know what its like in someone else’s shoes. Do you ever want to take a picture of your kids so you rush around like a maniac trying to clean up and make your house look nice in the background? Well, my suggestion is to let everyone see the reality of your life. That way, they don’t feel bad about themselves wondering how you manage to keep your house so clean and take care of kids at the same time!
*One of the best things I did when my son was a baby was join a Mommy Group. There are tons of them out there. Try to find one that is non-judgmental. A variety of people who practice different forms of parenting. I suggest this mainly because, down the road, you may find that something isn’t working for you. If you are hanging out with only moms who do things the same way as you, you won’t have any advice. Facebook has lots of groups and I love that in mine, I can post any question or vent and all I receive in return is support! I’ve gotten amazing suggestions and made some really great friends! If you can find a local mommy group of people you can physically hang out with, that’s even better! You can have some adult interaction with other people going through the same things as you and make some friends. Your children can have playdates and, if you’re lucky, you might even score babysitting swaps! Its so important to have a strong support system behind you while raising kids!
*Its OK to be overwhelmed! You’ve heard the phrase “kids don’t come with a user manual”. Well, its true. When you become a parent, your life completely changes! You suddenly have a ridiculous amount of responsibility and your to-do list triples (at least). There are times when I’ve felt like I’m literally losing my mind! Just know that its OK! Its normal! Your kids will be grown before you know it and you’ll miss those days (or so I’m told!). In the meantime, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m not kidding. Ask a friend or family member to come over and watch the kids so you can get some cooking or laundry or cleaning done. And those people who straight up ask you if they can do anything to help? ACCEPT IT!
*The Diaper Bag: Here is what you need: diapers, wipes, cream, changing mat, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, a change of clothes, a snack, and a toy. You do NOT need 20 toys and 5 outfits and 3 books and a brush and medicines, etc. Trust me. Your shoulder will thank you. (OH! And backpack diaper bags ROCK!)
*Your a Mom with a small child now. For some reason that means that you are actually wearing a shirt that says “please give me your advice on how to raise my children.” I can’t figure out why all tact goes out the window when you enter the Mom-world but I swear everyone will have an opinion, whether you ask for it or not. Seriously, not a single grocery trip goes by where we don’t get stopped by someone giving advice about the most random things! The other day in the store I was stopped by a lady with opinion diarrhea. No joke, it went something like this: “Oh what a beautiful baby! And what a handsome little boy! Is that your little sister? I bet your a great big brother! You know, as a big brother, it is your job to take care of your sister. Do you know how to do that? You have to keep her away from boys, thats how. I like how you have them both in the cart. So many moms let their kids run wild. Just be careful because these carts are very dirty. Oh but I see you have these neat covers! They didn’t have those when I had babies. You’re a lucky Mama to have kids so young. I was in my late twenties before I had kids and I was so old when they were in college. You have a boy and a girl- are you going to try for more? I think a boy and a girl is perfect. Don’t have any more so that you can give these two the things they want. They’re close in age, thats good. You make sure your husband is wearing protection now, you hear? Well, I won’t keep you up. God Bless!” I think I stood there just stunned for a minute. She said all that without a breath in between! Don’t get me wrong. I love her for thinking that I was younger than my late twenties (I’m almost 34) but come on! I’ve learned to just smile and nod. Its an artform, seriously.
*When my son was little, I would jump up everytime he fussed. I’ve learned since then that its ok to let them fuss a bit. Actually, its GOOD for them! I don’t love the whole self-soothing concept personally but you’d be surprised how many times your baby will wake up, fuss a minute, then go back to sleep! I DO recommend that, if its longer than a couple of minutes or if you baby starts crying hysterically, you go comfort and make sure nothing is wrong. They could have a poopy diaper and if you let them “cry it out” they could end up with blisters on their butt- just saying.
*Here’s some advice I WISH I had taken seriously when I heard it the first time. DON’T BE QUIET!!! When Preston was a baby, naptime was precious. Because of the colic, I was determined that when he sleep, he sleeps for as long as possible. I made everyone whisper, even in the other room. I refused to do the dishes or cook or anything else that might make noise. Well, the colic went away eventually but we were left with another problem. He is the lightest sleeper in the world! Any little noise wakes him up! When Trinity was born, we made a point to be loud- which isn’t hard with her brother around- when she fell asleep. I run the vacuum, do the dishes, Preston plays with his cars (with sirens), we make smoothies in the blender, etc. She sleeps right through it all!
*Teething necklaces: I’m not going to lie. When I had Preston, teething necklaces had just become all the rage. I thought “there is no way I’m spending $30 on an ugly necklace for my baby to chew on.” Here’s the thing I’ve learned now. There are many different styles of teething necklaces out there now, some are even cute! If you breastfeed, a teething necklace can double as something for baby to hold onto- you know, instead of your hair or scratching their little nails up your chest! (Preston STILL holds my hair if he’s upset or having trouble falling asleep and he’s 3). If you babywear, BOOM- you have a teething toy right at mouth level for little one to chomp on! Yes, there are much cheaper teething toys out there. However, how many times has your little one dropped said teething toy onto a dirty floor? You pick it up, wash it, sanitize it, all while baby is screaming because they want their toy back. A teething necklace is attached to you! Want to know something ironic? It was a new mom that changed my mind on these!
*Cooking: I cannot even tell you how much I LOVE freezer cooking! We have a routine now. At the beginning of every month, we sit down and figure out any meals we will need for potlucks, if we are having guests, if someone is due to have a baby, etc. I then go buy everything for these meals. I spend a day that hubby is home meal prepping and then I freeze them. When it is time to make the meals, I don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen preparing. I simply defrost, cook, and serve. If you wrap them right, they’ll still taste super fresh! We also weekly meal prep. We figure out what we’re eating for the entire week, grocery shop, then I make as much as possible in one day. That way, there are healthy meals and snacks ready and waiting all week! My favorites are crock pot meals. On prep day you just throw everything in a bag, and on cook day, you just empty the bag in the crock pot. DONE!
*Get yourself some sanitizing wipes. These things work wonders when you’re out. I’m not talking clorox or lysol (although I DO keep those in the car), but paci sanitizing wipes. When those toys or pacifiers (or anything else that ends up in your child’s mouth) hit the ground in the parking lot and you are nowhere near anywhere you can wash it, these things are lifesavers! On a sidenote, its OK for you kids to get SOME germs. With my first, I freaked out about EVERYTHING and he still got sick. My second hardly ever has things properly sanitized and she hasn’t gotten sick yet!
*Discover your local Macaroni Kid. This is super cool and most areas have them now. Macaroni Kid is a free email newsletter that gets sent to you that includes EVERYTHING you might want to know about your area when it comes to kids. They will fill you in on kid-friendly activities, they’ll tell you about festivals, special events, businesses, etc, and some even have fun recipes! I absolutely LOVE this! I just received my Macaroni Kid this morning and there is a complete list of all of the Halloween/Fall activities going on from now until November! Woo Hoo! Find your local Macaroni Kid here!
*Don’t worry so much about “teaching” your kid school stuff. The ABC’s will come and so will phonics and math and everything else. Its fine to teach your kids, but if they don’t get it, don’t worry about it. When they start school, the teacher will let you know what they need to work on. Thats what those pre-school or kindergarten teachers are for! What you need to be teaching your child at a young age is manners, and obedience (haha, right?), and learning right from wrong. Get involved in some playgroups or a Mommy and Me Class so they have some social interaction before starting school. Teach them how to share and be nice to others. Thats what we need to worry about. If you’re interested in learning more, I read an awesome article about this here.
The best advice I think I can give you is this: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t give you things you can’t handle. It might feel overwhelming trying to figure it all out sometimes but you will. You’re a MOM! You can do ANYTHING! YOU GOT THIS!