Parenthood can feel overwhelming and frustrating for first-time parents. Get the practical advice for new moms you need to hear.
First-time moms have it hard, don’t you think?
We enter a life-changing stage without knowing what we’re getting ourselves into. As much as we try to prepare for a newborn, only in meeting our babies do we understand the challenges and joys of parenting. We’re exhausted beyond belief while expected to nurture and provide for our little ones.
If there was ever a “learn on the job” kind of job, parenthood would be it.
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Practical advice for new moms
Still, that doesn’t mean we enter motherhood blindly. This is the benefit of learning from others, whether their mistakes or successes. By leaning on the experiences of other mamas, we can feel less overwhelmed during the newborn stage.
Sure, no two experiences are ever alike, but even knowing that we all go through hiccups can feel reassuring. And despite my kids being older, I can still remember the challenges of being a new mom, sleep-deprived and all.
Take a look at the best advice I would tell other new parents—and even my former self—to help cope during that stage:
1. Follow the “EASY” rhythm
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I thought I nailed it when it came to putting my baby to sleep. I’d nurse him right before naps, and he’d conk out soon after.
Except I soon ran into a major problem: he’d only fall asleep after being held and fed. Forget about putting him down drowsy and awake—he’d need me to either nurse or rock him for several minutes before every nap.
I then learned the E-A-S-Y routine, or “eat, awake, sleep, you.” Rather than feeding your baby to sleep, feed him after he wakes up. He’ll hopefully no longer rely on feedings to fall asleep, but can learn to doze off on his own. He can also have more energy to play and be awake if you feed him after waking up.
So, a simple cycle can go like this: Feed your baby (“eat”) after he wakes up. Spend time playing and engaging with him (“awake”). After he’s done being awake, put him down for a nap (“sleep”) and use that time for yourself (“you”).
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2. Sleep when the baby sleeps (really)
Most of us hear—and even roll our eyes—at the common advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I get that. After all, when else are you able to get anything done when you’re always holding a baby? Sleep feels like a selfish luxury when you have to wash pump parts or load yet another pile of laundry.
But this is the stage of sleepless nights when you’re not exactly clocking in a full eight hours. Napping when the baby naps is one of the few opportunities to patch your sleep together while you can. Sure, you won’t feel as fully rested as you would a full night of sleep, but it’s better than hardly getting any.
If you still feel inclined to get things done while the baby naps, cut yourself a compromise. Spend half the time doing a task, and the other half catching up on sleep. Or, allow yourself one task you want to do, and sleep once you’re done.
3. Don’t worry about missed milestones
After having three kids, I can attest that each child develops differently. For instance, one walked at 10 months, the other at a year, and still another at about 14 months. The same goes for other milestones, like talking, rolling over, or jumping.
This was a stark contrast to how I felt as a first-time mom. Every missed milestone was yet another reason for me to worry.
No doubt, we all want our kids to hit those milestones like clockwork, but it doesn’t work that way. When that inevitable milestone is missed, don’t worry. Instead, ask your pediatrician what steps you can take—if any—to help your baby along. Otherwise, it’s often a matter of time before he catches up.
Don’t worry too much because he falls short, especially when you hear other babies meeting milestones left and right. Take it from me: everything I worried about eventually sorted itself out.
4. Carve out time for your other relationships
Nearly every new mom has thrown herself headfirst into caring for her baby. But remember that you have other relationships as well—with yourself and your partner, family, and friends. Don’t be too consumed with childcare that you don’t take care of yourself or schedule time with others.
Your social life won’t be the same, of course—you won’t catch up as often as you did before you had a baby. And “date nights” with your partner can be few and far between. But even those brief and infrequent moments can help with mental health and remind you of life beyond new parenthood.
5. Be where you need to be
One difference between my eldest and my twins is how much I wanted to move on to the next milestone. With my first, I kept rushing to the next stage, hoping it’d be easier than the current one. With the twins, I wasn’t in so much of a rush.
Why? I knew that whatever difficulties and challenges I had would eventually end.
Feeling sleep deprived with twins wasn’t easy, but I also knew, from having my first, that it was temporary. So were breastfeeding problems, the anxiety of getting your baby to nap, and feeling tied to your baby 24/7. I knew they would pass at some point.
So, while I never cherished sleep deprivation, I also gave myself permission to be in the moment. I released the burden of trying to make parenthood easier and instead accepted it for what it is, challenges and everything.
6. Remember that life will be different
Everyone told me how different life would be with a baby, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t know how much or wasn’t prepared to make those sacrifices so suddenly.
For instance, I thought I could still keep up with my weekly chores and take my time getting ready—little remnants of my former life. But I had to put those old habits aside and trust others when they said I’d eventually get to do those things again—just not right now.
A big hurdle to overcome is accepting that life will be different with a baby. Household maintenance and self-care standards might have to wait, and hobbies get put on hold. But don’t worry—life will go back to normal.
They don’t joke when they say every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. So, my biggest advice?
Do what works for you.
We’re always learning as we go along and make many mistakes as we do. Things won’t always be perfect. While weeks and months seem eons away, your days will get better. You can adjust to motherhood and your newborn won’t be so “new” anymore.
For now, accept and even find the humor in your circumstances, knowing that you’ll eventually adjust and have a new normal once more. And you can finally get the hang of this parenting business, sleep-deprived and everything.
Get more practical tips:
- 8 Misconceptions about Parenting First Time Moms Make
- Top 7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity as a Mom
- Breastfeeding Secrets Every Mom Should Know
- The Best Baby Sleep Books for Exhausted Moms
- Newborn Tips and Tricks New Moms Need to Know
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