5 Tips For New Moms
By: Kristi Tough DeSapri, MD • Posted on January 28, 2014 • Updated April 22, 2020
Learning To Be A New Mom
It’s taken me six months to write this column about being a new mom. Why so long? Have I been out lunching with new moms, eating sushi and sipping wine, while sharing our birth stories? Or have I been spending time perfecting the art of ‘sleep training’ my son? Neither is true.
What is true is that I, like many women, took some time to learn how to be a mom. Whether a woman chooses to stay at home, return to the workforce or find herself somewhere in the middle, motherhood (and caring for a newborn) is its own full-time, demanding job.
I envisioned motherhood much like my other responsibilities: it would fit into my busy work and social schedule. Preparing your nursery is good, planning to breastfeed is great, but as I learned from week one, you must live the journey before earning your mom badge!
In the beginning, babies eat, sleep, poop and repeat.
And you watch over them with eager anticipation as they perform each task. Except for an explosive bowel movement that soiled the fresh load of laundry I did for the second time one day!
Below are a few tips that I have learned while navigating the new adventures of motherhood. I hope these tips can help fellow new moms, too.
5 Tips For First-Time Mamas
1. There’s no “right way” to parent your baby. With small exceptions such as calling the doctor with a fever greater than 100.4 F in the first weeks of life or laying your baby on its back to sleep (to prevent SIDS); you, your partner and baby set the rules and routine.
And maybe there is NO routine, which is okay, too. You may read mommy blogs or magazines and receive unsolicited advice from family members about where the baby should sleep, how to dress the baby in cold temperatures or which nursing position works best, but in reality, YOU decide what suits your family. I have a feeling this piece of advice applies from now until our children leave for college!
2. Ask (or demand) help. In the early days of sleep deprivation or healing after delivery, ask for help (or accept the offer) to assist with groceries, preparing meals or cleaning. My house was so clean when my mother and sister were here for the first weeks of my son’s life! Relatives want to revel in the new baby, but don’t need to be entertained 24/7. Partners are often home early on, so let them play with the baby while you rest or get out of the house, even if it’s just for a walk to the drugstore for more Colace (stool softeners) or for that third cup of coffee of the day!
3. Practice efficiency. Combine two or three errands while getting out of the house (it took you 20 minutes to wrestle them in the car seat anyway.) Plan nutritional meals in advance. Carry healthy snacks such as nuts and fruits in your diaper bag. Take advantage of online ordering and home delivery for diapers, wipes and other disposable items. If you are returning to work and are breastfeeding, pump and store your milk 1-2 months before maternity leave ends. Offer your baby a bottle a few weeks before returning to work (most lactation consultants recommend between 3-6 weeks of life.) Contact babysitters early to schedule time away from the baby. Join a new mom’s group, so you’ll have a built-in play group and a network to share experiences and fun milestones.
4. Enjoy the simple, quiet moments. Many of the early memories are made on the couch or changing table at home. Enjoy the funny faces (even if it’s gas) and coos (wondering if that sounded like mama). Slow down, put down the dirty laundry and thank you notes and just sit, cradle or rock with your baby. The day my son smiled is indelible in my mind. Have a favorite song that you dance to together. These are early memories you will cherish.
5. Take time for yourself. It’s a myth that motherhood is all self-sacrifice. Yes, there are some trade-offs. I seldom see my single, bar-hopping girlfriends and my bedtime is 9:30pm so I can rest up for the next day or midnight feeding. But I still practice yoga a few times per week, still read the Sunday New York Times (perhaps one week later) and still enjoy nights out with my husband. Keep doing activities or hobbies that define you, even if it’s your daily dose of reality TV or weekly manicures. Value and protect your personal time because it refreshes you, not to mention you deserve it.
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
-Kristi Tough DeSapri, MD
Internal Medicine, Northwestern Medical Group
Assistant Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine