They say hindsight is 20/20. There are so many things I wish I knew as a first-time mother—so many things I would have done differently or wished someone had told me before I entered that hospital on a cold Thursday morning in December to give birth to my son via c-section. So, I’m here to share five things I wish I had known before having my son that I think new and expecting mothers could really benefit from.
1. Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps
Now, I’d be lying if I said people didn’t give me this piece of advice while pregnant – they did, on multiple occasions. I just didn’t listen. If I could turn back time, I may have napped while my son slept but more importantly, I would have done anything at all!
What I mean is that when my son was an infant the only thing I did while he napped during the day, was sit around waiting for him to wake up. I sat beside his swing, or bassinet, or bouncy chair and watched. I twitched every time he twitched. My mouth opened in anticipation each time he yawned or smacked his tiny lips together.
He used to sleep for five hours at a clip—five hours! What I could do with five hours?! I could have worked out, showered, made dinner and even taken a nap. But instead, I washed my hair as if I was training for the military and didn’t so much as leave the room when he was resting. So, my advice to new moms is to take full advantage of every moment your infant sleeps. Whether that means napping, meal prepping, scrapbooking, exercising or showering. Whatever you can accomplish during those hours of sleep—do it!
2. Your Baby Can Sleep Through Anything
Yes, I was that crazy mom who shushed everyone at the door, never vacuumed while my infant was present and considered visitors as nuisances instead of a welcomed pair of helping hands.
I recall one specific time that we had company over. My son was probably about 4 months old. Our house is a small raised ranch. There’s not much insulation in the walls or floors and a house full of 12 rowdy adults having fun is less than quiet. In hindsight (there’s that hindsight thing again), I should have sent him to my mother’s to sleep, but I didn’t. As night grew near and I knew it was his bedtime, I started feeling anxious. There was no way he could possibly sleep through this commotion.
But sure enough, a nice warm bottle, cozy crib and soft music playing were all my baby needed to drift off to dreamland. While the adults enjoyed themselves just two rooms away.
3. Let Professionals Handle Certain Things
Whether it’s building a crib, painting the nursery r fighting to install your child’s car seat, sometimes it’s best to leave certain things to the professionals.
I wish someone had told me that your local police department might have an officer certified in car seat installation safety. If this isn’t the case, you can call 1-866-SEATCHECK to find a location near you that offers car seat installation and inspection. There’s no need to fight, curse, and wrestle with your child’s car seat and base. Yes, we’ve all been there.
If you’ve never put furniture together yourself, ask for help when it comes to crib construction. My husband is a prime example of someone losing their patience over missing screws, mismarked pieces, and confusing directions. If you have a family member or friend who loves constructing things, ask them to lend a hand.
I would also suggest starting to decorate and construct your nursery during your second trimester. The first trimester is accompanied by extreme exhaustion and morning sickness. Not to mention, if you want to know the sex of your baby, you won’t know this early on in your pregnancy. The second trimester leaves you feeling more prepared and knowledgeable about your vision for the nursery. Try not to wait until the last trimester if at all possible. Your belly will be growing quite a bit now, which could make moving around difficult. Plus, you want to ensure everything is ready for your new addition. You don’t want to be rushing or worried about incomplete projects.
4. Foster Independence
Every mother has an internal urge to help their child. No one wants to see their offspring struggle, feel helpless, or get frustrated. I am 100 percent guilty of doing way too much for my son. In my attempts to help him, I now realize I was hurting him. I was depriving him of a sense of accomplishment, pride, and independence. I wasn’t allowing him to develop problem-solving or self-help skills.
If I could go back in time, I would continue to be supportive, encouraging and helpful. But I would stop myself from doing things for my son and instead, help him discover ways to achieve things on his own. I am too quick to tie his shoes for him, zip his coat and brush his teeth. I help him clean his messes and spin his spaghetti onto his fork at the dinner table. And I’m not saying that as a mom, we should never help our child—that’s probably an impossible task. But, I do highly recommend fostering your child’s independence by giving them the tools to solve problems and not by solving their problems for them. Without making mistakes, they’ll never learn. And without a small struggle, they’ll never feel the confidence every child needs to succeed in life.
5. Establish a Sleep Routine from the Start
My son was an incredibly good baby. He slept 4 hours at a clip by 6 weeks old and was soon sleeping eight solid hours. When he drifted off to sleep at 6:30 p.m. it was surreal. I had the entire night ahead to achieve all the things I hadn’t gotten too during the day (or while he was napping).
I used to rock my son to sleep with a bottle and place him in his crib, half awake, to stare and wonder at his illuminating mobile. He soothed himself to sleep by sucking his thumb. There were a few nights where he cried and I had to lock myself in the bathroom so I wouldn’t go in there, scoop him up, and sing him to sleep. He figured it out.
All was right with the world until the day my husband changed our 2-year-old son’s crib into a full-size bed while I was at work. I feared that my son wouldn’t fall asleep on his own in this giant bed—he looked so tiny. I allowed my fear to rule my behavior. I sat beside him on the edge of his bed until he fell asleep each night. He felt secure and safe. What I didn’t realize was that I had projected my fears onto him. Here we are, five years later, and my son still needs me to sit beside him each night until he falls asleep.
I wish I had never broken his habit of self-soothing at bedtime. I wish I had allowed him to feel safe and secure in his room without me. So, if you can help your child to create a healthy sleep routine from a young age, I encourage you to do so. Because now, for me, this is my greatest hurdle.
Listen to Your Heart
One thing I can guarantee about advice for new moms is that you’ll get a lot of it and none of it will be the same. Take from it what you want and can practically apply to your life. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t agree with every piece of advice people share with you. Every mother is different. Every baby is different. Listen to your heart—it won’t steer you wrong.