Wondering what you really need to know about becoming a parent? Read on. Here are five essential pieces of parenting advice from three moms in the know.
1. Be prepared to feel unprepared.
It’s okay to feel like a novice when you’re a new parent. In fact, it’s completely natural to feel that way. We’re all novices when we first become parents. “Parenting is a job that one learns through experience—and when you’re a new parent, you don’t yet have any experience,” explains Asha Dornfest, mother of two and author of Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids. The good news is that it won’t take long for you to start to figure out what your baby needs and how to meet those needs—the basic job description for the position of parent.
2. Don’t be afraid to turn to your village for support and hands-on help.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to support that child's parent. “We tend to have this idea that we should be able to parent alone, but that has never been true, throughout most of human history,” notes Tracy Cutchlow, mother of a four-year-old daughter and author of Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science (And What I’ve Learned So Far).
So keep a running list of things you need to get done and start looking for opportunities to delegate those tasks to other people. At the same time, get rid of any misplaced feelings of guilt that might otherwise prevent you from reaching out for much-needed support. Remind yourself that: “The good feelings we experience when we help other people are the same feelings our friends and family experience when they’re able to help us," suggests Robin Elise Weiss, a childbirth and postpartum educator, and mother of eight. In other words, you’re doing other people a favor by letting them help you.
3. Have a game plan in place for coping with sleep deprivation.
You’re going to be sleep deprived—at least for a while—so you need some strategies for dealing with it. Your best bet? Lowering your expectations of yourself. Don’t change out of your pajamas or otherwise acknowledge that the day has begun until you’ve accumulated at least eight hours of sleep, Cutchlow suggests.
4. Invest in baby gear that makes parenting easier.
Zero in on items that will make a real difference to your life as a new parent—like a baby carrier. Not only does using a baby carrier result in a happier baby (babies who are close to their parents cry less), it can also result in a happier you (you’ll be able to benefit from the added freedom of an extra spare hand), according to Weiss.
5. Pay attention to the parenting advice that makes the most sense for you and your baby—and give yourself permission to toss the rest.
Most people who offer parenting advice do so with the best of intentions. But their advice reflects their experiences, not yours. You know your baby best, so don’t be afraid to discard any advice that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you or your baby.There’s no need to get into a big debate with the person offering the advice—unless, of course, they insist! Instead, says Weiss, “Just smile, nod, and say thank you”—and then get on with the business of being your baby’s mom.