Motherhood

Advice For New Parents (P.S. You’re Doing a Great Job)

Advice for New Parents

When I first became a mom, I was so hungry for information about every part of the experience that I was never more than an arm’s length away from one of my many encyclopedic parenting guidebooks. But it turned out, the best advice almost always came from other moms. So, we asked a few mothers to weigh in with the one thing they’d tell a new parent, besides, of course, congratulations! (and please share your insights, too)…

“Resist the temptation to research the hell out of every single decision. Having a baby is time consuming enough without going down a rabbit hole of baby carriers. Choose one or two moms to have on speed dial as needs arise, and just buy what they tell you to, and do what they do.” — Gina Hamaday

“Even though I wasn’t a ‘teen mom’ — I was 21 — the show Teen Mom kept me company the winter my first baby was born. Seeing women three years younger than me go through extreme and dramatic phases of life and motherhood was comforting. If I had to tell a new mother anything (especially if they give birth in the winter), it would be to find a show you enjoy to keep you company through the long stretch of gray days and newborn haze.” — LaTonya Yvette

“Take videos. Videos of everyday happenings, not just the soccer goals and school plays… the boring stuff, eating dinner, playing together, taking baths. It won’t be boring when they grow up.” — Robin Helman

“It can be great to breastfeed, but you don’t have to. I didn’t, and it was the best thing for my sleep, mood and resentment levels — my husband and I worked shifts when feeding her.” — Rory Evans

“Get those little nightgowns that gather at the bottom for girls and boys so changing diapers in the night is easier. Why would you voluntarily opt for the sleeper that requires you to snap 17 buttons in the middle of the night?” — Jennifer Tung

“When your partner/parent/mother-in-law takes over, relish the time off and resist the urge to micromanage.” — Luisa Weiss

“Try to make the baby’s room a place that you like to be in. Even more than what you think the baby wants, is it pleasant to you? Does it have a comfortable chair? Do you have a nursing stool (essential!)? You will spend so much time there, so make it a sanctuary.” — Anna Nordberg

“Smell is such a powerful memory receptor — I can still smell the folds of my daughter’s neck where the milk had curdled and gone sour, and I know it’s positively disgusting to anyone else (and maybe should be to me, too), but it’s one of my favorite smells. That and sweaty baby skin. Take it all in!” — Liz Libré

“Never start cutting off the tops of strawberries for your children because you will be doing that for the next 18 years.” — Jennifer T.

“My daughter was born prematurely, at 32 weeks, and her early months were hard for me in many ways. One piece of advice that helped me survive came from another preemie mom. The advice: White lie your way through the grocery store. When well-meaning strangers asked me how old she was, it was a revelation to me that I could lie and say, ‘Three weeks,’ even though she was actually three months old. She looked three weeks old — it was the answer people were expecting. You can do this for all manner of new-mom questions from strangers. For instance, I also lied about nursing her. I loved this strategy because it allowed me to decide when I wanted to wallow in my complicated feelings, and it was definitely not while in the bread aisle.” — Mindy Walker

“Maybe you’ve had a relationship that has zero tolerance for taking things out on each other. That’s great! But now you’re navigating a whole new normal, and a little snapping can be part of the territory. Give each other some slack. We had a rule that for six months, we would let those little snaps slide.” — Gina H.

“I think my best piece of advice, and the one I still rely on during tricky periods with my now three- and five-year-olds, is that absolutely everything is temporary. A baby waking up every two hours is temporary. A kid who will only eat yogurt — temporary. Throwing things — temporary. And when those phases pass, the kid will get into some new horrible thing. But that horrible thing will be temporary, too.” — Emma Straub

“During those early weeks with our first, I felt very isolated at times, so I made sure to always get dressed and walk to our local bakery — even if it was not until noon or later! It’s not even a full block away, but the challenge to get myself and the baby there was real! I knew I’d be greeted with friendly faces, light chitchat and a delicious muffin — and it was lifesaving. (Nine years later, I still look forward to seeing those friendly faces.)” — Liz L.

“Get comfortable asking for help. If someone is coming over to visit, ask them if they could grab you some toilet paper on the way, or hold the baby while you shower.” — Gina H.

“Also, and this is a truly hard one in the age of social media, remember that every kid is different and every family is different, and that everyone is facing challenges. Forget about that kid whose parent you follow on Instagram and how they can already ride a bike and speak Chinese and eat oysters. That kid is working on something, too. Instead, focus on your kid, and your life, and keep doing everything you can to help your kid live their best life, whatever that looks like.” — Emma S.

Advice for New Moms

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give a new parent? And, of course, take or leave any of this! After all, “good for her, not for me.”

P.S. 15 things I’d want to tell a new mother, and how to talk to little girls.

(Top photo by Nikaela M. Peters, bottom photo by LaTonya Yvette.)

  1. Britney Brasuell says...

    I LOVE the milk in the neck smell!!!!! Thanks Liz, glad to know I’m not alone :)

  2. Amanda says...

    Can I offer some advice to veteran moms? Not everyone wants to hear your advice! :) I’m 28 weeks pregnant and I swear to God half of my conversations lately are other women didactically prattling on about how I’ll feel, what I need to buy, etc. A couple of weeks ago a gal in my book club (who is a real “one-upper” and often dominates the convo, so she’s already not my fave) spent legit 15 minutes lecturing me about how to set boundaries with my in-laws… and would not stop no matter how many times I told her that I sincerely didn’t expect my 80 year old father-in-law (who lives a mile away from me) to set up camp in my living room LOL It’s not that I don’t appreciate the intention behind these bits of advice, but I would much rather seek out answers to what I’m wondering about in posts like these, books by experts, or by asking questions of women I trust. I really appreciated my cousin, a mom of 2 under 4, who left the ball in my court – “If you’d like tips on what gear to buy, I did tons of research and have some strong opinions, so just let me know!” Anyway sorry to sound ungrateful but just had to get that off my chest. We’re all doing great! :)

  3. Nicole H says...

    Treat yourself to a few clothes that fit your body right now and that make you feel good. It can feel like such a splurge because in theory, you will eventually lose the baby weight, but it made such a difference to feel comfortable in my new, squishy body at a time when so much was different. Also, even once I got back to my “pre-baby” weight, I found that my clothes fit me differently, and the styles I gravitated toward had changed.

  4. Kara says...

    One of my parenting mantras is “some days are crap days.” It’s a reminder to myself that not every day has to be a great day. When I’m in the middle of a day that is just not going well, I’ll think to myself, “Oh I see, we’re having a crap day. Let’s just get through this as best we can and start over tomorrow.” Maybe that means abandoning the schedule and staying in jammies all day, extra screen time, pouring bowls of cereal for dinner, and crawling in to bed as soon as the kids are asleep even though the house is a mess. When you’re having a tough day, just give yourself a pass and know that you can start fresh tomorrow.

    • Liz says...

      Not a parent and this is still great advice!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, kara!

  5. Lisa says...

    One thing that also helped me with my first and that I plan to use with my second is a postpartum doula. She came by twice a week and helped me with every thing imaginable from running a sitz bath and taking care of the little one while I took a few moments to myself to breathe to ensuring that I ate. I could ask all my silly questions and it was just nice to have another woman in the room since I live far from my family.

    • Stephanie says...

      Agree! I have someone that comes 4 times a week for 3 hours at a time to help me wash bottles, get some rest, shower, etc. It’s so key to have a second set of hands. At night when I feel overwhelmed, I look forward to her time with us.

  6. Toni says...

    When I came home after my second baby I had a mantra: practice radical kindness. Did your partner say something that would normally annoy you because they’re tired? Practice radical kindness. First children feeling overwhelmed and acting out? Practice radical kindness.?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this, toni. going to try to do this myself :)

  7. Breanne says...

    i’m only 6 months in, but one thing i keep reminding myself is that i get to do whatever i want to. sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” that are out there about raising a child (so many opinions!). one thing my sister told me shortly after he was born was that i needed to practice putting him down places and that i couldn’t just hold him all the time. all i could think was, “i’ve been waiting almost three years to hold this baby in my arms, and i will hold him until the day i cannot hold him anymore.” and so i do. i hold him while he sleeps and i hold him when he cries, and when he’s tired of every place except for my arms. mostly because i can! but also because the one thing i want to do is enjoy every possible second of all of it.

    • Kate says...

      I’m 4 months in and this made me tear up. I’m doing the same thing. :)

    • AM says...

      I was told the same thing and I didn’t listen to anyone. You hold that baby as much as you want. Mine is now 5 months old and everyone always comments on how happy she is and how she smiles. I truly contribute it to her being held and her knowing she is very loved! Great job on sticking to your instincts!!!

      Also, she has developed her independent streak and likes to be down playing now so I’m so glad I held her all the time when I wanted too!!

  8. Elaine says...

    re: Mindy Walker
    I did that with everything, nursing, sleeping through the night, toilet – training. I just nodded and appeased the curiosity – even though I nursed the babies forever, they never slept through the night and when they did it was us, and all of them were in diapers til they were 3!

    • elaine says...

      sorry, when they did it was “with us”

    • Lex says...

      Love this!

  9. Ellen says...

    Our first is about to turn 6 months, and is an utter delight. We’ve had our challenges, but you find a way to do what you need to do. And just remember, everyone and their circumstances are different (so try not to compare), but at the same time, you’re not alone in whatever you’re going through.

    A couple practical tips:

    Don’t change the diaper right after hearing the pooping noise, as they might not be done… #learnedthehardway

    YES to the sleep nightgowns with no snaps.

  10. Robin says...

    Ha, the strawberries! So true. My six year old demanded I cut the tops off just the other day. Though I think the answer is just to keep not doing it. Sooner or later they will figure out how to get at the good part on their own.

    • Chiara says...

      My 4yo just started eating them whole (tops and all) recently and I love my life. #smallvictories

  11. Callie Kurtz says...

    Such wonderful advice from a wonderful, practical midwife… ‘Crying sounds quieter outside.’

  12. Tess says...

    Never forget these wise words from Cup of Jo: “your partner is not the enemy, the baby is the enemy.” Keep your friends close and your enemies entertained with an iPad.

    • Caroline says...

      Yep, that’s the one I always tell new parents. :)

  13. Hosanna says...

    Wow, there are so many awesome mom tips going on here! A baby is the biggest blessing ever but they’re also life-changers in the craziest possible way. Asking for specific help whenever someone said “let me know if you need anything” was key in gathering a tribe of generous parents who had done it before and in reaching out to making new mom friends. It might sound a little strange but what helped me the most in the early days of sleep deprivation was the right music: lullabies to help me keep frustration levels down when she simply would not sleep, then upbeat tunes to help me get up and do at least one proactive thing that day, then singing baby-and-me songs while we played together. Just taking one day at a time and little ones get big before you know it!

  14. Jane says...

    At the beach with my almost 7 month old – my it goes so fast! Don’t let the journey keep you from doing things with your baby, whether it’s a car ride or a plane, it’s only a few hours of your life and the memories are worth it. Seeing my baby see the waves and the fireworks for the first time was unforgettable. And as someone who wanted a baby so badly but was utterly terrified of how my life was about to change while pregnant, it’s hard and life is different but oh the joy she brings!!! Now I’m crying.

  15. Olivia says...

    My approach to feeling as human as possible when exhausted, especially in the early days: if you have a window when you can nap, do it. If you can’t sleep, take a shower. And if that’s not in reach, try to take a few minutes to consume something at it’s ideal temperature.

  16. Ashley says...

    Haha yes I was the every episode of Castle with my first baby. I needed something to do during all those naps on my chest and nursing that was hands free.
    Walks and find a community of wome, or even just one good friend in the same boat, to support you. You’ll need them. I had a friend who had her son 6 weeks after me and I tell her all the time that I wouldn’t have survived with out her.

  17. Amanda says...

    My cousin made an off hand comment to me right around the time that my daughter turned one about how the first year is tricky because you’re all just getting to know each other, and it made SO MUCH SENSE. It wasn’t just us learning how to be parents to this tiny human, she was her own person who needed to learn to live with us too!

    Also, just to add to the chorus of people saying not to compare your child or yourself to anyone else (especially on social media): do yourself a favor and mute/unfriend/unfollow ANYONE who posts things that make you feel bad or insecure. It was easy to unfollow the people I don’t know in real life, but the game changer for me was muting the accounts of some real life friends who post a lot of videos of their kids being adorable and doing things that maybe aren’t as easy for my daughter (like talking). And we can still be friends outside of social media where the full picture is a lot easier to hold in focus!

  18. Stephanie says...

    My therapist suggested that I don’t *resent* my husband, I’m *jealous* of him. Applicable for leaving the house to go to work, sleep, breastfeeding, etc. This shift in language makes it more relatable and positive in a way. It’s helped us a lot.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s really interesting and made me think. Thank you for sharing xoxo

  19. I’m only 20 month in, but trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right it isn’t right. If your baby doesn’t like to be rocked to sleep, he doesn’t like to be rocked to sleep. If your baby loves the grocery store, but tries to climb out of shopping carts – be the weirdo with the overloaded stroller!!

    If your primary motivation for not doing something is fear, do it any way. Let your new crawler explore and your new walker climb, let strangers fawn over your baby, LET OTHER PEOPLE HELP TAKE CARE OF YOUR BABY!!! Obviously there are basic safety precautions, but babies and toddlers need to explore!

    Finally, look for the good in the world. The high school aged kids who ask a dozen questions about your baby while trick-or treating, the people that hold open doors for you while you are struggling with your stroller, the other mom’s who tell you you’re doing a great job when you really need to hear it, the cashiers that play peek-a-boo with your baby, the grandma’s that tell you stories of when their kids were little. Soak up all the goodness and all the love. Sometimes you don’t want to stop and chat, sometimes you feel defeated and like nothing is going right, like you can’t do this, like this phase will never end – absorb the goodness and love of other people! (And that is coming from a pessimistic introvert).

    • Lucie says...

      Such wise words.

  20. Elise says...

    I gave birth to my son 10 days ago, and this post is coming at the perfect time! Thank you!

  21. Sarah says...

    I learned this on your page- just add water! Baths, pools, glasses of water, a bowl to splash tiny fingers in, a spray with the hose…all of it makes them happy and will buy you five minutes of time with no screaming to clear your head!

    Also…those newborn nights seem endless. What seems impossible in the dark of night will suddenly seem easier when the sun starts to rise. I used to pray for 6am when I was up all night with my triplet babies. Suddenly I felt like I could breathe and be in control once the sun was up!

    • MJ says...

      Just add water works with older kids, too. When my tween daughter is cranky, we add water – usually a shower or if it’s summer, a swim. Water always improves her mood!

    • nona says...

      Just add water works with adults too! It’s my go-to “I need to calm down” strategy. For the kiddos, we just play Taylor Swift’s “You need to calm down” song and dance!

  22. Jackie Callahan says...

    I’m 7.5 months pregnant and loving all this advice!! Will probably be revisiting several times very soon:)

  23. Kaysie says...

    I remember when I was a strung out and sleep-deprived new mom, and NOTHING seemed to get my baby to sleep for more than 2-hour increments, I crafted a Facebook post asking for advice from other parents. I received many responses and they were chock full of tips and tricks. It’s four years later and I don’t remember any of it except for the one that stuck out the most… it was from a mutual friend’s wife and she said:

    “Unfortunately I don’t have any advice for you because my baby also sucks at sleeping. But I’m sending you all my sympathy. I’m sorry you’re not sleeping. I hope it gets better for both of us.”

    Her comment cracked me wide open; I realized that all I needed in that moment was to feel seen. And I pretty much stopped giving advice to other moms who were struggling after that unless I had something really valuable to share. Instead, I started saying, “That truly sucks. And I hope it gets better.” It’s amazing how I can almost always see the relief on their faces after I say that.

    • Alex says...

      I love this so much!

  24. Caitlin says...

    You’re allowed to disregard the opinions of anyone who isn’t there in the middle of the night helping with your baby. Smile and nod, and keep doing your thing. You are the best parent for your baby.

    • Jessie says...

      I give myself a Grown Up Sticker Chart. (just emojis in a memo on my phone.) I get a “sticker” any time I do something hard. Anything from actually washing my hair to not cussing in traffic. When I get a certain amount I get a small treat. Ex. A coffee from my favorite coffee shop, a giant piece of cake, a new nail polish. Something small that rewards my adulting!

  25. Lily says...

    In college, I used to take my friend’s poorly-behaved dog to the dog park. A wise woman there, who saw how much I was struggling to keep the dog in line, told me this in passing: dogs are like kids and respond better when you talk less and act more. I remembered it all these years and applied it with wonderful results when I had my daughter.
    Here it is from the blog, positivediscipline.com:
    “If you say it, mean it, and if you mean it, follow through. Children know when you mean what you say and when you don’t. It is really that simple. Say it; mean it; and follow-through. Parents who say what they mean and mean what they say do not have to use a lot of words. In fact, the fewer words used, the better. ” I made my motto: “Say it once gently and firmly and follow through”.

    A game changer for me has also been “the pause” from Bringing Up Bebé. I didn’t understand at first that babies are noisy sleepers. I went to my daughter with the first cry those first few weeks. It wasn’t until I had an unwashed nipple shield to deal with one night before I could get to her, that I realized I was basically waking her up when I responded right away. She put herself back to sleep before I was done dealing with the shield.
    Since then, I’ve always taken a moment to pause before responding to see what she’ll do with that space (unless she’s truly hurt). It keeps me from stepping in when it’s not necessary (something I naturally tend toward) and has taught her patience, how to entertain herself, and how to figure things out on her own as she’s gotten older.

    As a new parent, a few month’s worth of freezer meals was AMAZING (freezer meals are also helpful during the first trimester of pregnancy- and beyond- if morning sickness is an issue.)

    For those who stay home and feel like they are constantly tidying up endless messes…. I learned that my key to a house that is always tidy is to pile everything on the bed and all dishes in the sink first thing in the morning (and throughout the day as needed). I then set a kitchen timer and tackle it when my SO gets home and is on kid duty.

    • Alex says...

      Yes! I have never forgotten “le pause” and it has done well by me through two kids so far.

  26. Caitlin says...

    Another piece of advice is to look for opportunities to empower your partner to make decisions and not default to being the point person (which is hard, gender norms be damned!). Often the daycare, pediatrician, relatives, friends, strangers, and my partner himself will default to me to ask if something is OK, give info to, etc. It’s totally in my personality to want to be the point person but as I have learned in many domains of my life (cough, work) it’s also exhausting and not sustainable for me over time. Plus I know just as much about our kid and being a parent as my partner does, and we both have access to the same google ;) It takes the pressure off of me to make the right decision when we can discuss, troubleshoot, and sometimes make the wrong call *together*.

  27. Caitlin says...

    My advice would be for the parents-to-be out there… most of the time being a parent is LOT better than the internet makes it seem!!! I was so scared and prepared for it to be awful and hard all the time and I have been totally blown away by how much the good dwarfs the bad. I say this as someone who did not experience PPD, has a supportive partner, and was able to take 12 weeks of paid leave; but also as someone who had an emergency c-section and didn’t end up breastfeeding even though my heart was set on it. I don’t mean to minimize the difficult parts or make anyone who is struggling feel bad, but I just remember reading parenting things on the internet before I had kids and thinking “whyyyy would anyone do this?” Now I get it! If the internet were taken as gospel we’d probably have a pretty big population decline!

    • Caitlin says...

      I should say an *even bigger* population decline!

    • lindsay says...

      I completely agree!! It seems so much of the internet is filled with the hard parts of being a parent (and there are hard parts) while only a small sliver focuses on the joy–which I find so disproportional to reality. The vast majority of being a parent has been wonderful for me. This has been the best chapter of my life without a doubt.

    • NICOLE says...

      Thank you! I am 21 weeks pregnant with a baby boy and after reading ALL the comments on this post yesterday afternoon all of my excitement drained right out of me. It’s good to know that someone disagrees!

    • Anna says...

      Yes! So true! I was expecting it the first to be so very hard, and even though lots of things didn’t go to plan (difficult birth and my baby getting really sick in his first year), I was pleasantly surprised by all the wonderful joyful (and sometimes even unexpected easy things) about new parenthood that totally balanced it all out!

    • Jenna says...

      Yes! The joy! Your baby will marvel and amaze you at every turn. Each month/week/day something is new and you will be convinced no baby has ever done it better or cuter (and that’s probably true). I remember being so sad about my daughter not being a baby anymore, but 7 year olds are great! So funny, and independent, and ask all the big questions. I also have a 14 month old who just learned to walk…cheering him on and seeing his delight in those steps is just amazing, amazing, amazing!!

    • Neen says...

      AGREED!! Nothing could have prepared me for the joy ❤️

    • Jane says...

      I fully agree. I think its because for too long motherhood was viewed as only wonderful and invalidated the really hard parts and the huge learning curve as it is not all natural. So perhaps the balance of parenthood needs to be demonstrated more.- the joy and hardships together
      That being said from a very privileged position of having support and similar experience to you emergency c-section, baby in NICU for 10 days; but with paid leave and help, as a first time mom having a baby has been just magical.
      I have read so much about loosing yourself, but I have strangely felt so very much myself. Like in my own body and head in a way I can’t remember feeling and although feeling tired, extremely anxious and unsure also feeling beautiful (even at my heaviest) and alive. When I rock my dear son to sleep I walk past our bedroom mirror and often feel like this is me, I recognise myself so deeply.

  28. We have our first due in August, so bookmarking this page for the hard days! xx

  29. Virginia says...

    This advice stuck with me and changed everything. Babies are just like plants they need love and sunshine, if you’ve tried everything and it’s just not cutting it, go outside. If all you do is walk a lap around the house, go. out. side.

    • rach says...

      AMEN!!! and a much needed hot shower those first few days while baby sleeps, are life giving…

    • Chiara says...

      This. And remember that sometimes the getting outside is harder than the stir crazy inside (hello three kids in snow gear), but once you get there it will all be better.

  30. Amanda says...

    I had an ahhh hah moment this moment trying to get my 8 month old sons toast into finger food sized slice: kitchen shears! Cutting with a knife was taking too long and shredding the bread, ripping was getting the peanut butter EVERYWHERE, so out came the scissors! On a separate but similar note, my mom use to cut out cheeses and lunch meats with cookie cutters!

    • Amanda says...

      my cousin uses a pizza cutter…LIFE.CHANGING.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      bookmarking these!!

    • Kara says...

      Bring scissors when you go out for pizza! We saw another family do this and it was a serious game changer for pizza night out.

  31. Jessica says...

    these are fantastic!
    ok, here are mine:
    1. it is OKAY to not be with the baby 24/7 while you are in the hospital. It is OKAY to want to sleep through the night immediately after giving birth whether vaginal or via C-section (which was my case). Your kid will keep you awake thru the night for many months. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of the hospital nursery an staff and get some sleep those few days that you’re in the hospital. Note – this works only if you supplement with formula, which is not poison as mentioned in another comment. (Alternatively, if you do want to keep your baby with you 24/7, that’s great- good for you!)
    2. Do not treat kid’s fears like they are silly. No matter how silly they are. I have an almost 6 year old that is terrified of flushing the toilet. I want to yell at her “Flush the toilet for goodness sakes!” but I hold myself back because for her, its really truly scary.

    • Caitlin says...

      Yes, especially to the first. I had an emergency c-section and NEEDED to send my baby to the nursery which was not what I had hoped or envisioned, and it was made more difficult than need be by how bad the hospital staff made me feel for requesting that. It was a good early opportunity to learn to ask for what I need – even if I had to ask several times (and, sigh, page them several times to remind them).

    • Lydia says...

      I’m an L&D nurse who works nights at the hospital. I always am happy to take babies up to the nurses station so parents can get some sleep and recover. We snuggle your babe and they sleep. We don’t give them formula, we have the parents feed the baby (however they choose) and then try to give the parents a 3 hour stretch of sleep. If the baby gets hungry we bring them back to the room so that parents can feed.

    • Lindsey says...

      I second this about taking advantage of the nursery if you need to get some extra sleep in during those first few days at the hospital! However, I’m exclusively breastfeeding (my now 3-week old) and they took her in 2-3 hour intervals so I could still feed her, so supplementing with formula is absolutely not necessary! Of course it’s your choice if that’s what you’d like to do though, that’s the beauty of being a parent. :)

    • Lauren says...

      I just had my second and discovered that the hospital got rid of the nursery! It is now 24/7 rooming in. I get the importance of it, but I was bawling at 3 am when I just wanted an hour or two of uninterrupted sleep :/ If your hospital has a nursery, take advantage!!

  32. Danielle says...

    From a pediatrician (not a parent… sorry)

    Diaper cream goes on like frosting, not lotion (don’t rub it in).

    If your baby/toddler/preschooler falls off a thing and bonks her head despite your best efforts to keep her safe, you are NOT failing at parenting. Kids are fast and creative and secretly learning new ways to do things at all times.

    We don’t develop the part of the brain that helps you risk assess and decide not to do that impulsive thing until our twenties. That’s the neuroscience reason your teenager did the dumb thing.

    If you’re trying, you’re doing it right. (But ask for help or advice when you need it.)

    • Neen says...

      Danielle, your last point is spot on. I’m an anxious person, but I heard a phrase like that at some point in my pregnancy and it’s what has kept me very sane.

    • Sandra says...

      I love this- thank you, Danielle!

    • Kelly says...

      As a mom of a rambunctious 2yr old boy (WHY so much climbing?!), I so needed to hear this. Thank you.

  33. HSJ says...

    This is more “mothering philosophy”— but I’m an ideas person ;) and pregnant with my fourth. One of the wise words that I always return to is that “children are born persons.” Whole persons— not for *my* amusement, or comfort, or enjoyment, although they do bring all of that. But that I am here to raise them with an eye to their whole selves and not just they’re momentary, child-selves. It’s awe-some, for sure.

    • RACHEL says...

      yes! I always remind myself & husband (every so often), that i am raising an adult, not a child…. keep in mind that i don’t want her to grow up fast, Id like her to slow down in fact, and not want to be 3 going on 13 or 23…. but more that its a good reminder that i am raising a child who will someday be an adult who contributes to society and cares for herself and those around her…. encouraging choices vs being a telling parent… enabling her to be confident in who she is. <3

  34. Martha L. says...

    I wish that I had worked harder at meeting and befriending other new moms sooner.

    We tried to have children for so many years before we were lucky enough to have them. For so long, “mommy groups” felt like a club that I was not invited to join and one that I actively avoided because being around women with children was so hard when I thought I might never have any of my own.

    It took a long time to let go of that resentment and I look back on how lonely those first couple of years were until I was able to move past my anger and envy and finally meet other moms. As my boys get older, those other mom friends have been my lifeline and my support system and I wish I had established that network much sooner.

    • Kelly says...

      yes to this! I adopted after a long infertility struggle…and because of my own personal anger and envy, as well as the fact that my daughter was adopted at 1 and thus the groups of moms with kids her age were already formed, and because I had *no idea* how much I’d want mom friends, and because I was so overwhelmed with new parenthood, I didn’t make many mom friends until much later…then realized how much I had missed out on!

      also – if you find yourself with a mom friend or group of friends that makes you feel bad or second guesses your decisions or minimizes your struggles…keep on truckin’ until you find a better fit!

    • emily says...

      I’ll add to this that if you chat with another mom and they seem cool, they probably think you are cool too and you should ask for their number. I was SO nervous to ask my now-best mom friend for her number, but it turned out she felt the same about me! We are all just chugging along doing the best we can and if we can’t use the little monsters as friend-bait, then what are we even doing?

    • Elle says...

      Any advice on making mom friends? I’m a working mom, and yes, women I work with have kids, but I work an hour from home. How do I make mom friends in my town? I’m a natural introvert, and I’ve tried chatting up moms at the playground, but I can’t move our convo beyond “Oh how old is she? She’s so cute! Wow, hot day, huh. *crickets* Okay nice talking with you!”

    • Julie says...

      There is a new app called Peanut, it’s like Tinder but for moms! Reading this makes me realize I need to just do it.

  35. Jessica says...

    Steal a few pairs of those stretchy hospital undies before you leave. Sexy they are not, but they really are all you’ll want to wear for a few weeks post partum. Pro tip from an experienced nurse: Don’t throw them out, they can be washed and reworn.

    • rach says...

      100%

  36. Dana says...

    I have a nine month old at home, and because I’m one of the last of my friends to have a baby, I’m [over]eager to give advice to newer moms. However, I try to be conscious about not saying what they “should” or “have to do”, or what “WILL DEFINITELY HAPPEN”, and instead try to employ this crucial, gentle phrase: “It worked for us.” I found the advice I recevied couched in those terms to be so much more palatable, as opposed to others reading their autobiographies into my life.

    • Amanda says...

      I have an 8 month old and I agree, giving and getting advice feels better when wrapped in that kind of phrasing. For grandparents, daycare and babysitters we use “this works/worked for us” instead of “he needs this or likes this or do it this way”. I appreciate all the different varieties of caregiving styles my son encounters. His daycare is wonderful, a little more tough love, perfect for him to learn that he is still taken care but needs to get use to different personalities! I also love “good for her/them, not for us” mentality. Everybody is just doing their best!

  37. H says...

    Follow up: ask for help. Everyone kept offering to hold the baby, but that’s not what I needed. Instead, I asked people to do some dishes, water our plants, throw in a load of laundry, pick up groceries, etc. Ultimately, friends and family do want to help. They just don’t always know what you need help with! My family loved having a task and being useful (and getting plenty of baby cuddles after).

  38. H says...

    Yesss to the comment about not having to breastfeed. I hoped too but due to circumstances it was extremely difficult and draining. We gave it the college try for a week and then did formula. It was 100% the right decision for my mood and health. Bonus: my husband took on night feedings as well. In short, you may have plans for how you want to do things but be open to changing them! I try to stay away from “I’ll never do…” because you just never know.

  39. BB says...

    I just had my 4th baby in January and there is just no chance this child can have a schedule. Seeing how she is absolutely fine, I wish I could go back to my self w my first and tell her not to sweat the schedule. Also – get your baby used to napping in the stroller. Then you have max flexibility to do what you want during nap time and not have a fussy baby on your hands you need to get home to.

    • BB says...

      *not get home to, get home for so they can nap

  40. Christina says...

    The birth instructor for our parenting class gave us 2 rules for after the baby was born, and they were so wise:

    1. You HAVE to shower everyday.
    2. 3 months after the baby is born, you have to find a sitter and go on a date with your partner.

    We followed and I was thinking to myself, “how did she know?”. The shower every day was so needed. The only alone time I had. The date – 3 months flew by. And sure thing, we realized we hadn’t been out without the baby. My sister came over and we went out to dinner. It was so needed!

  41. Sanna Nilsson says...

    Get a good pair of wireless headphones. I wore my son in a carriage and head headphones on all the time first 8 months of his life. I listened to audiobooks, podcasts, called family and friends and still had arms free to do my chores while. It kept my sanity.

    • Sanna Nilsson says...

      I meant to write “I wore by son in a baby carrier”

  42. liz says...

    real talk: after reading through the comments, you guys are making me terrified about (potentially) ever having kids!! lol but I love seeing how supportive and smart this community is <3 I'll be sure to refer back to this post if I ever get around to baby-making

    • rach says...

      BABIES ARE NO JOKE.

    • Kerryn says...

      In my case, babies are easy. Toddlers are so so so hard

    • Neen says...

      But it’s soooooo worth it, Liz! Kids get bad press, it the experience of being a parent is absolutely the best. I would not trade it for all the sleep in the world. ❤️

    • Tess says...

      Ha! “babies are no joke.” So so true.

    • Hilary says...

      “Babies are easy. Toddlers are so, so, so hard.” <– I second this! But I'm reading a few parenting books right now and one of them is about redefining my "defiant, strong willed child" as "powerful" and just that word is making all the difference.

      It's the strong willed, powerful child – the child who keeps trying, who is determined beyond all reason, who is yes, defiant, about the things that matter to her – who will one day change the world.

      As long as I don't kill her first ;)

  43. Kelly says...

    A lot of people commenting are saying to follow your gut. It filled me with fear and guilt that I did not usually know why my baby was crying so hard as a newborn. Everything I consulted told me to follow my gut, but that wasn’t helpful when I had no gut feelings as to what was going on. It just made me feel like I was failing as a mom.

    So, I would say that it’s okay if you don’t instinctively know what your baby needs or what you should do. It’s all brand new. Do your best and look at the facts of what you do know (ie my baby has enough diapers so she is getting enough food, my baby has a clean diaper, I do not see anything that could be causing my baby pain.) When in doubt, consult your pediatrician.

    • Lauren says...

      this is really important, thanks for saying it. Keeping track of things (diapers changes, ounces drank, baths had) was a way to make things tangible for me as I figured things out.

    • Amanda says...

      This is great! In the hazy blurry days, feeling a little lost we would always check off the “boxes”: is baby fed, clean, tired, stimulated or over stimulated? Sometimes its concrete and sometimes you just cant figure it out.
      On the instinctual side of things, my son had a severely large bruise on his head after delivery. I didn’t feel it was right. I asked the pediatrician the day after delivery to look into it, and sure enough my son was born with an autoimmune blood disorder that causes bruising and abnormal bleeding! He needed platelet transfusions and other treatments asap. Glad my intuition was “on target” then!

  44. Haley J. says...

    When my son was 5 months old, my husband left for a 9 month deployment to Europe. What I learned between single parenting for most of his infancy and traveling to go see Dad was to always accept help in airports – even if I knew I could collapse the stroller/wear the baby/carry the diaper bag/pull the roll on myself. Saying yes to helpful passengers made the airplane feel more like a ‘village’. Also know that breastfeeding and pumping are totally protected in flight! Now that I have a 10 week old daughter, I apply my travel advice to every day. If someone offers help, I make it a rule to accept and it makes raising babies feel more communal and less like I have to power through myself. And oftentimes that help comes in the form of a meal so you can protect your freezer stash!

  45. P says...

    While everyone wants to help-ultimately, you will instinctively know what to do because it is your baby. Social media sucks for that. Particularly posts from new moms, and god have mercy if they are #influencers, baby perfectly swaddled #ad, all the baby weight gone #lol, wearing lulumon #sponsored, sipping a latte #tooblessedtostress-it’s all nonsense and everyone is struggling with something.

    I guess be gentle on yourself. And yes, your husband isn’t the enemy but I found my husband to be less helpful in the newborn stage and it sucked and I definitely harbored resentment (I had the boobs, I had the maternity leave, etc.) Therapy helped, finding “your people” is important. I have a group of mom friends and we can call our children little shits with no judgement because we know we love our kids and husbands but they can all be little shits sometimes.

    Be gentle. It all passes.

    • k says...

      I LOVE you, you took the words right out of my mouth.

  46. Katie N says...

    Write down what you need help with and practice asking, both prompted and unprompted. “Oh thanks! Yes, I have a little list here, could you assist with any of these? (rattle off a few choices)”. Make a “mom date” budget or ask for gift cards to places in the area for your baby shower. Coffee adds up but it is SO worth your sanity to get out. And…find your local Buy Nothing Group!!!! It’s a movement to create hyper-local giving/build community. They activate via Facebook and it’s based on Zip code. It’s FABULOUS. Want to try out every swaddle? Make a request! Did you try out every swaddle and non worked? Offer ’em up as gifts! Baby gates, baby tubs, the toy of the minute that they are over by 4 months old…it’s all there! The first few posts may feel off – “I could get $10 for this…giving it away hurts” but trust me, it yields dividends. It’s not meant to be only transactional – the goal is write posts with little tidbits/fun questions to build community. When you’re on maternity leave and tempted to buy something every.other.minute, post a request! And, you’ll likely quickly figure out who the other new moms in the group are and you can meet in person for coffee/a swap.

    • Sasha L says...

      This is such good advice!

  47. Caitlin says...

    I’m pretty sure I read this piece of advice on Cup of Jo years ago: always aim to park next to the cart return bin in the store parking lot, not in a spot closest to the door. It is so simple, but I would never have thought of it myself. It eliminates that awkward, “wait…do I put the baby in the car first, or return the cart first?” conversation you will inevitably have with yourself as a new parent. Trips to the store during maternity leave are both life-giving and anxiety-inducing, so anything you can do to make it easier is critical! Also, it is totally fine if your baby cries in a store. Babies cry. Stores are public places. People need to get over it.

    • Kerryn says...

      Totally agree. And when you have toddlers, park next to the pedestrian crossing/path (even if it means a spot further from the door)

  48. Molly says...

    Just had my second boy two weeks ago. My biggest piece of advice is to listen to your gut. You know that baby better than anyone so listen to yourself and if you truly don’t know then reach out to another mom. Questions like,
    is (insert literally anything in here) normal? does he look hungry to you? should I take him to the dr or just monitor him myself? Should I put him down now for a nap or later?
    I have learned If I just follow my own instincts life is so much easier without all the noise. And if I really am torn or don’t know, I just ask another mom (which depending on the scenario can be scary) but she has probably been there done that and has a T-shirt!
    Oh motherhood is such a magically complicated thing!

    • Emily says...

      I loved reading this- could you do a post for puppies? I know, kids are not animals, but I’m in puppy- melt down and need wisdom.

  49. LJ says...

    These have been my two rules since I started parenting my now 7 month old daughter:
    Eat when they eat. Keep a stash of heathy granola bars, dried fruit, applesauce etc beside your nursing chair.

    Listen to all the advice you receive. Follow it selectively.

  50. Kara says...

    A dimmer switch on the light source you will use to change diapers will save you (and your newborn) the physical and emotional horror of turning on a light full blast at 4am.

    • Kara says...

      Oh, and some other very specific things:
      -keep a squeeze bottle of liquid detergent near the changing area to spot treat blowout stains right away
      -babies spend all of their time lying down, wiggling. This means that any clothing that doesn’t snap below the crotch will ride up into their armpits. Do not buy t-shirts for a baby who cannot sit up.
      -if you breastfeed, you will have large swaths of sedentary time with only one hand available to you. Turning a page in a paper book requires two hands, tapping a page on a kindle requires one.
      -get the car seat that snaps into the stroller frame, then use the bottom of the stroller as your grocery cart.