A New Mom’s Survival Guide: The Advice I Wish I’d Gotten (And The Advice I Wish I’d Listened To)

Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

We all know that having a baby is completely life altering. Those first few months are tough. They are exhausting. You don’t have good days and bad days. You have good minutes and bad minutes. You get a lot of advice. Some of it is useful and much of it is “well-intentioned.” Most importantly, you will get through it, and from what I’ve been told, you will miss these days.

In the meantime, here is the advice that you really need to hear from someone still in the trenches.

Stop Apologizing

Stop apologizing for not being the old you. I will go ahead and tell you that you cannot do everything you used to no matter how much you may want to. Set limits. It is better to say no (something I really struggle with) rather than saying yes and feeling stressed or worse yet, resentful. Stop feeling guilty for holding your baby rather than “accomplishing things.”

Babies don’t keep.

Six months in and my son’s legs are already dangling out of my lap. I am going to soak up all the snuggles I can get because one day soon he won’t want to nap in my arms. No one ever looked back and wished she’d held her kid less.

Know Your Non-Negotiables

We all have those things that make us feel more put together and more like ourselves. When I had my baby, there were a few things I knew I needed each day for my own well-being. A shower was a non-negotiable. Now I don’t mean I wash my hair every day. By Friday I am mostly coffee remnants and dry shampoo, but taking a shower rejuvenates me and helps me feel like I can conquer my day.

Exercise is another non-negotiable for me. Even if its an abbreviated run or 15 minutes of a workout DVD, I need exercise for my physical and mental health.

Making my bed is another non-negotiable. I may accomplish little else all day but that small task each morning starts my day on the right foot.

My last non-negotiables are mascara and earrings. Mascara makes me feel put together even if the only person who sees me all day is a 6-month-old. Bonus points that it makes me look more awake in the million photos I take with my baby each day. Earrings make any outfit (even yoga pants and a nursing tank) seem more polished. I may not leave the house or go very far, but I feel better about myself.

Pick your non-negotiables and stick to them.

Give Yourself The Same Grace You Give Others

I have been fortunate to have my baby at the same time as many of my best friends. We have been a great source of support and encouragement for one another. We build each other up and assure each other that whatever we are stressing over is perfectly normal. What if we were as kind to ourselves as we are to others? Give yourself the same amount of grace you give to everyone else. Being a new mom is hard. For me, it is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. So let me just remind you—you are doing a good job!

Build In Daily Breaks

I have been blessed with a son who is a great nighttime sleeper but a lousy napper. A long nap during the day is thirty or forty minutes. At first I tried to cram as much as possible into naptime. Then I realized I was running myself ragged and making myself miserable. There was no reason to shovel food down my throat when I could sit my baby at the table and enjoy lunch with him. There was no reason to try to cram a workout in when I could do planks on the ground while my baby did tummy time or take him with me on a run.

Now I treat naptime as my time to do something I really enjoy—drink a (hot) cup of coffee, read my devotional or a “for fun” book, or even just stretch. Do things that bring you joy and leave you refreshed. You will be a better mother, spouse, and friend for it. If you aren’t putting anything into yourself, you can’t be expected to give much to those you love.

Rely On The Kindness Of Others

People will be nice to you when you have a small baby. Let them help. If someone offers to bring you a meal, enjoy it. If someone offers to come hold your baby so you can take a nap, take that nap! Let others come to you but make the effort to reach out to your friends. New motherhood is isolating and often lonely. While it may seem daunting to try to schedule a phone catch up, you will never regret investing that time in those that matter.

Listen To The Advice (But Trust Your Gut)

As a new mom, you will get so much advice. Some of it will be useful, and some of it not – but remember that it usually comes from a place of nostalgia.

People give advice because they miss the days when their own babies were small and it’s a way to bring them back to that time and place. Hear it with grace and take the best of it to heart. However, at the end of the day, trust yourself.

You are hardwired to be the exact mom your baby needs. You know them better than anyone else. You will know what they need, and you will know when to ask for help. Trust yourself.

Hang in there, new mama. Six months in, and I can already tell you it goes by fast. The days may be long but they are full. You are doing important work even when it may not seem like it. When it all seems overwhelming, take a deep breath and try to enjoy the ride.