New Mom

I was petrified when the time came to take my first child home from the hospital. I timidly asked the nurse, “Will you show me how to change her before we go?” I had changed a few of my niece’s diapers, but this tiny little helpless being was mine. I looked at her precious little face and thought about all the ways I could screw up. Over time, I figured out how to really listen to my intuition and take other people’s advice with a grain of salt and you will too. New mamas, here are 6 tips to get you there faster.

1. Listen and Observe Your Baby – The best thing you can do to hone your natural maternal instincts is to listen to your baby’s cries and observe his or her behavior. You will be the one who knows your child better than anyone so when it comes time to answer questions about your child’s health or development you’ll be ready with the answers.

Before you rush to pick up your crying baby (if you know they are safe) take a second to stop and listen. Pay attention to what the cry sounds like. Is it long or start and stop, is it muffled or a full on wail? Then once you figure out why your baby is crying, you’ll be able to associate the sound with the cause. The more you observe, the quicker and easier it’ll be to tell whether they are hungry, sleepy, need a diaper, are in pain or just need a cuddle. You’ll also be able to answer your doctor’s questions about behavior that is unusual for them.

2. Save The Panic For Later– Babies are actually surprisingly resilient. When my first child was about eight months old she was sitting on the couch next to me and when I turned my head for a split second she went bounding over the back of it just out of my grasp. She fell onto the laminate floor with a sickening smack and for a second I couldn’t breathe. It took the longest second of silence ever, but then I heard her cry and my heart flooded with relief. I called the doctor and she told me to watch for signs of a concussion, but since she didn’t lose consciousness she was most likely fine.

While you have to be especially careful with newborns, as they get older the probability that they’ll get minor injuries goes up. The trick is to save the panic so that you can get them help first. You can freak out afterwards.

Oh and P.S. injuries to the mouth bleed like crazy. I spent $100 in the ER for that little piece of advice when my daughter cut her gum in a minor fall. No stitches were even done. Perhaps if I took a little longer to freak out, I would have thought to call the on-call pediatrician instead of racing off to the ER.

Again, you’ll need to answer questions about an injury or illness so it’s important to assess the situation and get the details before panic empties your mind.

3. Stay Off The Internet – Two days after I brought my first child home, my husband insisted we bring her to urgent care because she made a grunting sound in her sleep. He’s the one to jump on the internet to consult with Dr. Google and come to the worst case scenarios when it comes to our children’s health. If you really want to know what that rash is, make a doctor’s appointment and for the love of all that is holy stay off WebMD or Google. You’ll save yourself loads of unnecessary worry. Her grunting in her sleep was perfectly normal by the way.

4. Trial and Error Are Your Friends – You don’t have to have it all figured out to be a great parent. Don’t be scared to try something new or abandon a long standing technique that is no longer working. I always tell first-time parents, “Do what works, until it doesn’t anymore.” I co-slept with all of my babies until they got to an age where it became counterproductive and we both got less sleep instead of more. Then I moved them to the crib. Be wary of anyone who tells you definitively “this is what works.” Every baby and family is different and they can only tell you what worked for them, not what will work for you or your child.

5. Ease Up on Your Expectations – I see so many good moms totally beating themselves up when they don’t live up to their own expectations. When I was pregnant with my first child I told myself, “I will try to breastfeed.” That’s the extent of the promise I made to myself and as such I wasn’t going to be devastated if it didn’t work for me or the baby. It ended up being a great experience for me, but I know many women who really struggle with breastfeeding. So temper your expectations by saying, “I want to try to do this” instead of “I’m going to do this” when trying something new. You’ll be less hard on yourself if things don’t go according to plan and you’ll be a happier mom, which is always the best gift you can give your child.

6. Accept Help of Any Kind – Sure, maybe your mom’s fussing over the baby is getting on your last nerve, but if she offers to give you a break of an hour or even overnight, TAKE IT. When I was a new mom, my mother offered to come up once every month or so and watch my daughter downstairs overnight. Those days gave me the sleep I so desperately needed so that I didn’t feel like I was falling apart. We may want to do it all or feel we need to, but if someone offers to help, take it without shame or worry. The truth is that none of us do it alone. It’s too hard. When they say it takes a village, it’s because it’s true. Bottom line, if you can’t get a hot meal, shower or some sleep once in a while you’ll feel like you’re losing your mind. You can’t fine tune your maternal instincts if you’re not taking care of yourself.

I have a special place in my heart for new moms. I see them in the store with their tiny babies. Sometimes they ask me with weary eyes how long it took for my kids to sleep through the night. I often don’t have the answer that brings them comfort, but I want to tell you new moms, you WILL survive the baby years. You’ll wake up one day to a chubby faced toddler racing through your house, then a tall and independent child, and then a moody teenager. Motherhood is a roller coaster. It’s frightening, exciting and goes just as fast.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on Money Saving Mom and Mamapedia.