Show of hands? Who wasn’t just a little sensitive to advice as a new mom? The general rule is, you can give me advice if I ask for it, but otherwise, please let me parent the child the way I see best. Unsolicited advice? That’s a no-no.
Next show of hands? How many seasoned moms have sat there with their lips sealed watching a less-seasoned mom grind it out? You have learned the answers in your experience, and you’re dying to share your wisdom. However, you remember how sensitive you were to advice as a newbie (see first paragraph), so you wisely keep your mouth shut and let the new mom feel it out, just like you did.
We all want to give advice. We all want to say the things we think would help, but instead we decide to live and let live. And people figure it out, and the world moves on. But what if you could say all the things? What if you didn’t have to zip your lips? What would you say to people whose kids are a stage or two behind yours?
Alas. Things I wish I could say to a new mom:
It gets harder before it gets easier. I wonder how many moms have sat in the hospital bed less than 24 hours postpartum, full of adrenaline and love hormones with a child that sleeps 20 hours a day and thought, “What’s the big deal? Piece of cake!” While we are so thankful that you or your child didn’t have a major health crisis right out of the womb, we want you to know, they don’t sleep 20 hours a day forever. (We know you’ll figure that out, so for now, we just rejoice with you.)
Your baby doesn’t “dislike” the swaddle. Swaddling is like a magic trick. And if I had a dime for every time I heard a first-timer say that their infant didn’t “like” the swaddle… I digress. I said it with my first kid, too. You see your kid wiggling out of the swaddle, and you add meaning to it, i.e. they must not like it. As a very new newborn, they probably can sleep just fine unencumbered by the swaddle. But give them two months, and their own flailing arms will be waking them up every five minutes, and I’ll be shaking my head because, I hate to say it, but I knew this was going to happen. If you still insist that your baby doesn’t like the swaddle, but need a sleep solution, can I suggest the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit?
You need to learn to recognize your baby’s sleep cues. One of my best friends tells a story about how her three month oldish child once got so inconsolable that they took her to the ER. They had been just going about their business – life as usual – pretty much from day one because, newsflash, you can kind of do that with a very new newborn. They sleep on the go. Noises don’t bother them, etc. But then around month two or three, they start to wake-up. And just like you, they literally cannot fall asleep with a whole bunch of stimulation. My friend realized later that her kiddo was just EXHAUSTED, and the inconsolable crying was sleep-deprivation. Put your infant to sleep. I promise, they won’t feel like they are being left out of your party. Not yet.
You think you’re going to be teaching your kid everything, but in reality, your kid will be teaching you. We all knew a lot about parenting before we became parents. Now, all we know is that as soon as we think we know something, it proves that we know nothing. Basically, the message is: stay humble. It’s better than having to be humbled down the road. Especially with our oldest kiddos, we will all always be first-timers.
Trust your instincts. There are a million books and opinions (like this one here), but they are just that- books and opinions. Real knowledge is not gained by reading a book but by experience- being present, paying attention, and getting to know your child. Try not to question yourself, looking at what everyone else is doing or saying you should do. Comparing yourself to the other moms around you (whether you think you are doing better or worse) is pretty much just an unnecessary waste of energy! Resist!
Once you’ve think you got it down, it will change. The whole first year of your child’s life is like six different stages and learning phases. You’ll think to yourself, “Look how well adjusted we all are!” And then the next day, that precious babe will throw you for a new loop. Then they will be toddlers, and just when you think they’re the funnest they’ve ever been, they’ll turn two and a half and start sassing you.
Stay in the moment because it really does go fast. Am I turning into the old lady at Target? I blinked and my first baby is now seven years old. That’s 1/3rd of the way to 21. It will happen to you too. So please, don’t wish your time away- it’s your kids’ childhood. If possible, by savoring it, make it last as long as you possibly can. I don’t think you’ll ever regret it.