When I was pregnant for the first time, I spent 38 weeks scouring the inter webs for every bit of information that I needed to know. I found out a lot, but not enough to fully prepare me for life with a newborn.
Having a baby doesn’t just change your lifestyle, it also changes your relationships, your needs, your body (can’t emphasize this enough!), and your mind. I thought I had prepared enough, but I didn’t get a few very much needed tips about life postpartum.
Here are the first time mom tips I wish people had told me while I was a pregnant first-time mom:
1. Make a plan for visitors (or lack thereof)
Bringing a new family member into the world will obviously get families very excited. Sometimes they forget that you are recovering from a huge physical trauma, and this can be extremely difficult to deal with in the moment. It helps to prepare a plan for who will be visiting and when BEFORE you give birth.
Personally, I was very against having any visitors for at least a few days after giving birth. I knew my husband and I would need time to bond and to get used to our new roles on our own. I also had a HUGE amount of anxiety around other people holding baby in the beginning, which was something I did not anticipate. Birth brings about so many emotions, it really is hard to know how you will react until you are in the moment.
I could be in the minority with this thought, but I found the first few days with my newborn to be fairly easy in terms of his needs. I think there is a huge misconception that many new parents think they will need assistance from their parents in the first few days after bringing a newborn home. I felt like I only needed my husband during that time. Sometimes having more people there when you are physically and mentally recovering can make things more difficult, not easier.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure to let people know your plans for visitors in the hospital (I highly recommend NOT having anyone in the hospital!) and when you get home with your little one.
Last thing–follow your gut feelings when it comes to visitors!! And feel confident in your decisions as your precious baby’s parent!
2. Get on the same page as your partner
This is important on MANY levels. My husband was pro-postpartum visitors while I was pregnant. We had several discussions and ultimately after I explained my perspective, he came over to my side and agreed that we should not have visitors for a bit (although we did make an exception for his mom, who was there when we got home from the hospital–I love her but I do regret this decision!). So getting on the same page about the visitor situation is important.
You should also get on the same page about baby responsibilities for your newborn–Who will wake up with the baby? Will you take shifts so you both get a chance to sleep? What will those shifts look like? Some of this you may not be able to anticipate or discuss until after baby is born, but don’t avoid it!! It will just lead to resentment on someone’s end.
I had to explain A LOT about postpartum healing to my husband to help him understand what I would be going through. We had these convos while I was still pregnant, and I’m glad we did.
I also did not shy away from talking to him about some of my expectations of him–I planned to breastfeed the baby exclusively and I asked if he would do most of the diaper changes since he wouldn’t have to feed. He happily agreed to this (my husband is the actual best). I also talked to him about the fact that I would be in recovery, so he may need to take care of me somewhat as well.
Whether you have a husband, boyfriend, partner, mother, father, sister, or friend helping you out after giving birth, I highly recommend having these types of discussions when it comes to baby responsibilities for each person. Otherwise things can turn sour very quickly!
3. Try for minimalism when it comes to your baby registry
Okay, I admit I am not really a minimalist type of person when it comes to supplies. I’m a complete over-planner. I want to have anything and everything that I could possibly need. Obviously, my baby registry was no exception to this.
However, I did not even touch some of the items that I got from my baby registry (Check out 7 Completely Unnecessary Baby Items To Avoid Putting On Your Registry). I put a ton of things on there that (little did I know) I did not need or use!! Now these items just take up space in my house because motherhood makes it very difficult to make trips to the store to return things.
As a first time mom, I know this might be hard advice to take…I don’t know if I would have listened to it while I was pregnant and creating my registry. But I wish I had, so learn from my mistakes fellow over-planning first-time mamas! You don’t need all that stuff! It will just create more clutter!
4. Get postpartum supplies ready and organized
Now, despite my last piece of advice about not over-planning, I do recommend slightly over-planning for your postpartum care. This is advice I actually DID take and I do not regret it at all. I prepared for both a vaginal birth and a C-section just in case. I ended up having a vaginal birth, but I knew that either way I would be prepared at home, and this made me feel so much more confident about coming home!
I also recommend organizing your postpartum supplies in your bathroom in a way that makes it easily accessible. My house only has 1.5 bathrooms so I got everything set up in our main bathroom.
Knowing that I would be bleeding and have stitches and be in need of somewhat embarrassing things like sitz baths contributed to my decision to not have visitors for a few days as well! I did not want too many people around while I was wearing adult diapers and waddling around the house like a freaking penguin.
5. Make a plan for if breastfeeding doesn’t work out
If you are planning on exclusively breastfeeding, I suggest having a back-up plan. There are so many things that could go wrong when it comes to breastfeeding, and you don’t want to be stuck with nothing to feed your crying baby just in case!
Having some infant formula and bottles on-hand is a must. If nothing else, it can help you feel more at ease knowing there is a back-up plan.
My heart was set on exclusively breastfeeding, which I did for 4 months (then pumped exclusively for 2 more months…but that’s another story). However, breastfeeding is the single hardest thing I have done in my life to date. My son was born 2 weeks early, so he had some difficulty latching. Had to use a nipple shield for about a month. When he finally could latch, it was CRAZY PAINFUL. I almost quit then, but I stuck it out. Turns out he had a lip and tongue tie.
Before giving birth I was so dead set on breastfeeding. I knew it would be hard in the beginning, but from what I read it got easier. Breastfeeding never got easier for me. I’m glad I did it as long as I did–it was a HUGEEEEE accomplishment for me. But I am extremely stubborn with my goals, so that’s part of how I got through.
Moral of the story: no matter how much you read up on breastfeeding and techniques and everything, you just don’t know how it will work out for you and your baby. It is definitely a team effort and if one member of the team is struggling, it may not work the way you had planned for. So have a back-up plan ready and find peace with the idea of using that back-up plan (this was a tough one for me).
Some formula companies have free samples that they may send you. This is what happened with us and it was helpful to have those cans of formula on hand, even though we didn’t use them.
6. Get your house cleaned before baby comes
Alright, here’s an easy one that helped me a lot. If possible, get your house professionally cleaned right around the time you are due so that it’s all clean for baby’s homecoming!
You will not have the time, energy, or general mental capacity to do much cleaning when you have a newborn, and if we’re being honest you’re not going to be cleaning much after the 36-week mark of your pregnancy (or maybe that’s just me? Sigh). Go ahead and invest in a cleaner around the 38- or 39-week mark.
This will be easier for people like me who have to be induced because you already have a general timeframe for when baby will be here. Either way though, you won’t regret doing this!!
7. Remember: routine, not schedule
If you’re like me (slightly Type A but doesn’t want to admit it), you might feel inclined to put baby on a schedule after they’re born. This won’t work. Babies don’t do exact times.
BUT babies can be on a general routine, which I implemented pretty quickly to better balance my own life and sanity. We had a flexible routine going for our son after a week or so, and we continue with a flexible routine to this day (he’s 8 months now).
I like schedules so I can plan out things better, but my little baby was not down with any rigid timeframes. But when I relaxed a bit with timing, we fell into a flexible routine that helped me plan out my days at least a little better.
Definitely listen to your baby and watch for his or her cues, and you’ll find that they fall into a routine on their own.
Side note on the routines: When I was pregnant I planned to write down all sleeping patterns and diaper changes, so I bought all the whiteboards and schedule notebooks to help me with this. I used NONE OF IT. It was much easier to use an app for this stuff. We used the free Huckleberry app to track breastfeeding (which side, how long), pumping, and diapers for the first month or so. We have the Nanit, so we used that to keep track of sleeping patterns. Using this technology to help us with his routines was SUPER helpful, especially at doctor’s visits!
8. It will take time to bond with baby
This one is SUPERRRR important to know. From everything moms talk about, I expected some earth-shattering love to wash over me when my child was born. Maybe that is the case for some people, but it was not the case for me. Of course I loved my baby when he was born. I wanted to keep him safe and protected immediately. But when people asked me, “Do you understand now? Do you feel that life-changing, crazy love?” I straight up said “No.” And I think we need to NORMALIZE this.
At first I thought there was something wrong with me…why didn’t I have that feeling? Now I realize that it’s super normal to need time to bond with your baby before forming that deep connection. It was not an immediate feeling for me, but even now, just months later, I feel that feeling in my bones.
So, don’t expect that immediate end-all-be-all love…just allow yourself to have whatever feelings you have–all of those feelings are normal. Your love for your child will grow over time as you get to know them. It’s kind of hard to love a newborn who doesn’t respond, let’s keep it real. Newborns are a little like robots. And that’s okay!!!!
9. Trust yourself
When you’re doing something for the first time, especially something so important, it can be hard to trust yourself and be confident. I know this is true for me. But you need to know that YOU are this baby’s parent and YOU know exactly what is best for them!!
You are the best mother this baby could have–you two were truly made for each other. If you feel that something is right, do it. If not, don’t do it. You are the authority on your child and the advocate for your child. Don’t let other people (even doctors sometimes!) steamroll you or gaslight you into thinking your parenting is wrong (or that something isn’t wrong when you know it is!).
Honestly, the fact that you’re even here reading this is proof alone that you are an amazing mother who wants to do what is best for her baby. Trust those mom instincts every. single. time.
10. The newborn stage is just a stage
It’s not an easy stage for many parents, but it will pass. The rough nights will pass. The fussiness will (sort of) pass. Get the cuddles in while you still can and try to breathe through this.
If you’re as sentimental as I am, you’ll probably miss this stage a lot after you have gotten through it. I tried to take a photo each day of my son as a newborn, but one thing I wish I did was TAKE MORE VIDEOS. I took a few, but not a lot.
I also wish I took more photos (or had my husband take more) of me breastfeeding my son. I took a few but I wish I had more. It was such an accomplishment for me and when I see those photos I feel super proud of myself and of my son.
Some people may love the newborn stage while they’re in it, and kudos to you if that’s you! This was probably the mentally toughest stage for me so far, and if you feel the same, then that’s okay too!! Whether you love it or hate it, the newborn stage is just a stage and it will be over before you know it.
You are doing an amazing job! Whether you’re pregnant and getting ready to welcome your little baby or you’ve already brought your child home, you are the perfect mom for your baby!
Being a first-time mom has a lot of challenges and everything feels so unknown. It’s hard to have any confidence at all when your life changes so much. But you should know that everything you are doing for your baby is MORE than enough. You are EVERYTHING to that little soul and you should be so proud of the job you’re doing!
The first-time mom tips in this post are just some of the most important things to keep in mind. In the words of Kelly Kapoor: You are a woman warrior. Don’t forget that!
What other tips do first-time mamas need to know?? Hit up the comments to share!