During my pregnancy, I got tons of advice. Get your sleep while you can. Say good-bye to eating in restaurants. Get outside for a few minutes every day. Get foods you can eat with one hand! As I waded through the facts, the fiction, and the exaggerated tribulations of new motherhood, I had no idea what to actually expect.
I’m sure (I know!) you’re in the same boat. Keep our advice for new moms bookmarked, and I promise: you’ll more than survive your first few weeks with baby.
1. Ask for Help
When I visited my friends with newborns (before I had kids), I wish they had told me to get off my butt and do the dishes or let them take a shower! I had no idea that this was the best use of my visit. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help—they want to help, but they don’t always know what you need.
Also, reach out to professionals if you want to vent, need breastfeeding advice, or need some sleep! Therapists, baby nurses, nannies, lactation consultants, and postpartum doulas can make life easier, and hiring any of these people says zero about your ability to mother.
2. Build a Routine
Babies develop routines early—so pay attention to baby’s cues and cries, and start building that routine. It can help you know what to expect; though baby won’t always follow the schedule! Some moms like the Eat, Sleep, Play or Eat, Play, Sleep routines.
Or maybe you’ll create your own. (Veteran tip for new moms: use an app! I kept track of my son’s feedings, sleep, and tummy/reading time on my phone, and when I began to see patterns, it was a lightbulb moment.) Even if you have just a teensy bit of control over what can be a chaotic time, it’s a huge win.
Unlike celebrities, you usually won’t look like your pre-baby self hours after giving birth.
3. Go for a Walk, Take a Shower, Drink Coffee, Check Your Email
Finding 40 minutes a day (10 for a walk, 10 for a shower, 10 for coffee, 10 for email) will help you feel like yourself and not just “Mom.” Of course, you can spend your minutes however you like—I took 10 minutes to do my makeup, even if I wasn’t going anywhere! If you’re by yourself, plop baby in a Boppy lounger or a rocker (within view) and you can still take that shower.
4. Make Healthful Choices
You might feel a little down after baby comes home. Your moods will be erratic, and unlike celebrities, you usually won’t look like your pre-baby self hours after giving birth. It’s tempting to eat whatever you want. I know, trust me. And it’s because you’re tired. Because it’s quicker to eat junk. Because you’re unhappy with your body, so who cares what you eat at this point, right? But you will feel so much better if you eat healthful, nutritious foods.
Try to get items you can eat with one hand, since you will be holding, feeding, burping, and rocking a baby much of the day. So almonds, carrots, low-sugar granola, or a Clif bar and string cheese—that last bizarre combo was my go-to—and lots of water. Stock up a few weeks before your due date, so the snacks are waiting for you when you come home.
I could go to the store, sit and eat lunch (with two hands!), and my partner and I could go to dinner.
5. Wear Baby
This advice for new moms isn’t for everyone, moms and babies alike, but wearing your newborn can be a great hack for you and baby. I wore my son from the time he was just a few days old, and the skin-to-skin contact helped solidify our bond and our nursing relationship.
It was also a guaranteed way to get him to sleep! Once he was snuggled in, I would walk and bounce around for a bit and he’d be out. I could go to the store, sit and eat lunch (with two hands!), and my partner and I could go to dinner.
6. Take Care of Your Breasts
Chances are, you’re going to try breastfeeding, even if it’s just the first few days or weeks at home. Baby’s sucking motion is no joke (if your partner doesn’t believe you, tell them to put a—clean!—finger in baby’s mouth). If you’re having trouble getting a good latch, the result can mean cracked, bleeding, or even blistered nipples.
Make sure to gently wash your nipples after each feed and place a cool washcloth on them. Then use a salve to help them heal. Also, massage your breasts and use warm compresses to unclog ducts.
7. Focus on You and Your Family
My close friend and I were pregnant at the same time, and we constantly compared notes. So, naturally, we did the same when our babies arrived. But sometimes comparing notes can feel like you’re “losing.” Like if your baby doesn’t gain weight as quickly, or if your friend is breastfeeding successfully and you’re not, or even that your friend’s husband changes more diapers than yours!
I promise, whatever you’re doing, you’re being amazing at it. Every family’s journey is different, so concentrate on doing what’s best for yours.
8. Remember, Every Stage Is a Stage (Temporary!)
Your newborn will not be a nearly blind, bobble-headed eating machine who needs to feed every two hours forever. And you won’t be a moody lady who’s banned from exercising for the rest of your life. To me, that’s how it felt!
But a friend gave me some great advice for new moms everywhere: if I just kept reminding myself that every stage would pass eventually, that there was a light at the end of tunnel, it would help me get through each one of them. It did.
I am a 35-year-old freelance copy editor for children’s books, mom to toddler Austin, and long-term life partner of Todd. In the year before I got pregnant, I lived out of a 70L backpack and traveled to 12 countries solo, with Todd, and with friends. To date, Austin has seen the Mona Lisa though he much prefers fire trucks. I hope one day he will adopt my adventurous spirit and come backpacking with me.
I live just outside New York City, in my native land of New Jersey.