The time you have with your newborn is precious — and fleeting, says Cheli English-Figaro, a mother of three as well as the founder of Mocha Moms Inc., a national support and service organization for mothers of color. “I have pictures of my children when they were little and I look at them and think, ‘When did that happen?’ “
As a new parent, “it may seem like the days drag on, but the years fly by,” says Figaro. “Try to breathe in every moment.”
Here’s what other parents wish someone had told them before their baby arrived.
Parenting Takes Practice
Heidi Gollub of Austin, TX, has five children, ranging from 8 to 20 years old, but she still remembers how challenging the first year with a baby was. “The hardest part was that I thought being a mother would come naturally, instinctually, that I would just know what to do when the baby cried. I didn’t,” she says. “I wish someone had let me in on the secret that nobody knows what they’re doing at first.”
If you feel overwhelmed by your new role, talk over how you feel with someone you trust. There’s a good chance they’ve been there, too.
Get Lots of Pics
Sara Feldstein has endless photos and videos of her two girls, but rarely any that include her as well. “I wish I had more pictures of me with my kids,” says the Toronto mom. “And I don’t just mean posed, smiling at the camera, I mean pictures of me playing with them, laughing together, and everyday moments that go by.”
Don’t wait to get in a shot until you think you look your best. Ask your partner, older kids, or visitors to take pictures of your babyand you so you have memories of this time together.
Make a Travel Checklist
Write out a list of things to bring with you when you travel, suggests Candace Helton of Fairfield, CT. “That way, you don’t have to constantly remind yourself of everything you need to do before a trip,” she says. “It gives you peace of mind and can also reduce the prep time you need beforehand since all you have to do is follow the list.”
Help Baby Learn About Bedtime
Newborns don’t know the difference between day and night at first. You’ll have to teach them. “We found it helpful to have our son nap in the living room, where there was light and noise during the day, and sleep in a dark, quiet room at night,” says Kellie Soltis of Gaithersburg, MD.
Breastfeeding May Not Come Naturally
Nursing was a challenge for Pranali Patel of Ontario, Canada. Her son didn’t learn to latch on for several days and wouldn’t take a bottle. “I wish I knew how difficult breastfeeding was and the mom guilt that comes with it when it doesn’t go as you hoped,” she says.
Let your pediatrician or a lactation specialist know right away if you have issues when you breastfeed so they can help. La Leche, a nonprofit that helps parents breastfeed their babies, can also connect you with a trained parent volunteer. And keep in mind, “Feeding your baby with a spoon or bottle won’t make you less of a mom,” Patel says.
Dress Your Baby, and Yourself, Comfortably
Skip the fancy newborn outfits, says Marissa Labuz, a mom of two in Howell, NJ. For the first few months, “footed one-pieces are really all you need, especially in cooler weather.”
As for yourself, consider a robe your go-to garment, rather than tight pants or shorts, after your baby arrives. “It works best to give you easy access to breastfeed and doesn’t restrict any of your movements or cause any added pain,” Labuz says.
Instead of changing your life to revolve around your baby’s schedule, think about trying to include them in the activities you love. That’s what Jacob Merkley and his wife learned to do with their three kids, whether backpacking or pushing bedtime back when friends were over.
Learning to be more flexible “has not only helped my wife and I maintain our interests, but has helped our kids become really flexible,” says the Mesa, AZ, dad.
Build a Strong Support System
Sabrina Greene’s husband is in the military, and until recently, she was too. They, and their four kids, ranging from 1 to 8 years old, have had to move around a lot. That experience taught the Norfolk, VA, mom that “establishing a support network of friends and family is extremely important. All moms and dads want the best for their kids and want to be there for them, and unfortunately, that’s not always possible,” Greene says.
Try to always have someone on standby that you can call for last-minute child care, even if it’s just to give you and your partner a chance to have a quiet dinner alone. If you don’t have loved ones nearby, look for a parent group to join. You may also be able to turn to neighbors for help.