Top 10 Tips for New Mamas
Motherhood is a universal and unique journey for everyone.
No matter if it’s “the fastest path to enlightenment”, the most profound love you’ve ever experienced for another human being or the depths of despair if you’re experiencing postpartum depression…
It changes you forever.
I describe the experience as a a one way bridge I crossed into a new world filled with awe, unparalleled joy and unforeseen challenges that strengthened my grit.
As a mother of an amazing 8 year old son (& hopefully an adopted beautiful daughter someday), I remember asking my older sister just after my son was born, “Why didn’t you tell me it would be THIS hard?” She responded, “You wouldn’t believe me.”
I created this “Top 10 Tips for New Moms” list almost four years ago- just before I was going to present for the first time to a new mom’s group about “Emotional Wellness in Motherhood”. This was the same group that helped me survive the first year of motherhood.
While I encourage all new moms to create their OWN top 10 list of what they’ve learned, I also strongly believe in passing down wisdom so we can continually support and empower others. I am forever grateful to all the moms and professionals who helped me at the beginning of my journey and this is one of my efforts to pay it forward.
Top 10 Tips for New Mamas
1. Build a community of Moms with whom you can laugh and cry & increase your self-care time!
I know mamas who swap babysitting during the week to allow each other to do a workout, relax, meditate, shop, or a 1,000 other ways to engage in self-care. Why not provide respite to one another?
Parenting a baby and even a toddler can be lonely. Even if you’re madly in love with your little one, the conversations are a little one-sided. Connecting with other mamas through play dates or community activities helps you feel less isolated and more able to enjoy this unique time in your life.
Seek out mamas with older children as well to impart guidance and wisdom without judgment.
2. “Only when… we learn that taking care of ourselves is as necessary as taking care of our families… do we achieve our fullest potential as mothers.”- Kleiman & Raskin
Self-care involves doing activities (including relaxing) that nurture you. While motherhood requires sacrifice, if you sacrifice all of your emotional, physical, and spiritual health needs, you won’t have as much to give to your children, you may forget who you are, and you’ll burn out!
Incorporate a minimum of one activity (to do by yourself) a week that you love or that rejuvenates you. And consider doing some self-care activities with your baby/child if childcare is not an option, ex. Form a mom & child exercise group that allows the little ones to play while the mamas work out.
3. Develop healthy ties with extended family (&/or family of choice) since they can LOVE your children in a special way.
Being able to share your favorite parenting moments increases your JOY as a mom, & I have found that outside of extended family (& mama friends), few people care about the latest thing my son did.
My long-distance in-laws have done a weekly Skype call with my family since my son was born and have demonstrated the MOST impressive level of interest in my son’s milestones!
Extended family might also provide childcare for you & bonding with relatives for your child. My son loves sleepovers at his local Grandma’s house, & my husband and I are grateful for the couples time.
Of course, FAMILY can be a mixed blessing! Thus, there may be a need and benefit for family therapy or individual therapy to work through disappointments, resentments, boundary issues, etc.
4. Accept that parenting a baby and toddler is HARD!!! And capture the happy & meaningful moments to balance out the challenging ones.
It’s developmentally appropriate for babies to be fussy for their first 3-4 months (or in my son’s colicky case for an entire year) & sleep deprivation takes a HUGE toll. It’s also developmentally normal for little ones to not be able to control their impulses and behave irrationally until ages 3.5 – 4 (See “I said I want the red bowl!” in zerotothree.org/search?q=toddler+behavior). Love and Logic, an excellent parenting program, is another helpful resource.
– Take the time to write down or film the wondrous moments between birth and age 4 (& beyond), ex. First smile, laugh, crawl, babble, “I love you”, etc. & life lessons you are learning.
– Repeat daily, “this too shall pass” and share & elicit joyful parenting moments from other mamas.
5. There is a season for different lifestyle choices.
If you are struggling to decide whether to be a full-time stay at home mom or work full-time outside your home, keep in mind that whatever you choose does not have to be your decision for the rest of your life. Consider who you are and what you need or want in this motherhood journey and realize that it could change.
– I know a mother of three daughters- ages 15, 13, and 11 who absolutely adore her and have a secure attachment with her even though she “only” stayed home for the 3 month maternity leave with each of them and travels every other month for work. The quality of interactions is what’s most important and this mother is consistently present for her 3 girls after school and on the weekends.
6. Strive for GOOD ENOUGH standards.
Did you know that attunement with your child needs to be only 30% for a secure attachment! Once you & other moms GET REAL with each other, you’ll be relieved to hear what’s realistic for moms to accomplish in a day 🙂
You also likely accomplish more than you give yourself credit for!
In a day~ How many diaper & clothing changes? Hours you’ve bonded with your baby? Number of feedings & pumpings? Different tricks you engaged in to get your baby to take a nap? And (often even harder is) the care and attention you provided for your older child? Every day, write down at least 1 thing you did well!
Let’s also give ourselves permission to make mistakes since ALL parents do as they’re learning!
Reflect on your childhood to gain perspective if feeling guilty about anything. For example, do you resent your mom not breastfeeding you? We usually remember the totality of our childhood.
7. Know your priorities and leg go of the stuff that is not at the top of your list, limit your lesser priorities, or outsource them.
For example- do you want to expend your energy… cleaning and cooking gourmet meals or playing with your children or connecting with your partner on the weekend? Driving your children from one activity to the next or including your own self-care in the mix?
Sometimes we have to spend money on childcare or housecleaning to provide us with the time and freedom to do something that is nurturing or fulfilling as individuals and as a couple.
“I don’t have to anything” is one of my favorite expressions since it reminds me to live authentically.
8. Know your strengths as a mom & utilize these to be the best mom to your young child.
What are your strengths and interests? Are you more comfortable at home or out and about? I was terrible at crafts, yet terrific at outdoor exploration. So, my son got to share in my enthusiasm for hiking beginning at 3 months old. I also have a knack for finding age appropriate, interesting, and affordable community activities so I could share my passion for new adventures & new people with my son.
9. You can LOVE your baby & NOT love the baby stage.
It’s normal for Parents to enjoy and be more adept at different stages than others. Although I was uber attentive to my baby and did everything possible for him to develop a secure attachment with me, I was hugely relieved when we made it to the one year mark!
On the other hand, I loved the 2’s & older and this is when I shined. I needed to be with other parents and out in the community more when my son was under 2 to enjoy my life experience & be in good spirits for my son. When he turned 2, I became so enthralled with his curiosity, silliness, and especially his imagination that I could enjoy a lot more time with him alone.
10. If you are parenting with a partner or spouse, it is CRITICAL that s/he joins you in this transformation to parenthood.
If not, s/he will be left behind, and you will feel overburdened and disconnected from him/her. In Gottman’s The seven principles for making marriage work, he writes:
Unfortunately,“in the year after the first baby arrives, 67% of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction.”
“The solution is that s/he has to follow her into the new realm she has entered. Only then can their marriage continue to grow. When the couple feels like they are in it together as parents, the parent-child relationship (with both parents) and the marriage thrive.”
Also, partners need to RENEGOTIATE their roles, expectations of their marital relationship and as a family with children, and time to ensure both partners get their needs and dreams met. Some couples seek supportive couples therapy to successfully move through this transition.
Would you like parenting or couple support? I’m here for you.
Contact Lana Isaacson, LCSW, CAC III, MFTC, at 720.432.5262, [email protected] or schedule your session or free consultation today.