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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

16 Brutal Truths Every New Mom Must Know and Memorize

They don't call parenting the hardest job on the planet for nothing. Luckily, we got real moms to share their best know-how to help you along the way.

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Focus on little victories

Life can feel overwhelming after having a baby. It helps to keep your focus on the positive. Nutan, mother of two, says, “It’s not all going to fall into place right away. Focus on the small victories. Think, “Two whole hours of sleep!” instead of “I haven’t slept all night.” (Find out the baby gifts you might regret registering for.)

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Breastfeeding is hard, no matter how many times you’ve done it

Breast is best, sure, but just because it’s natural, it doesn’t mean it will be easy. Rachelle, mother of three, says, “Breastfeeding is so much harder than people will admit. Spending time with the lactation specialist while in the hospital is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, if you choose to nurse. Also, just because you have successfully nursed two kids, it does not mean your third will be easy.” For more need-to-know info, here’s what else no one tells you about giving birth.

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Let others help

To accept help from others can be hard if you’re not used to depending on anyone else. Postpartum is the time, if there ever is one, to let others in. Nicole, mother of two, says, “The first month is so hard, and it’s okay to ask for or accept help. You can be super mom down the road, because it does get easier.”

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You don’t have to be perfect

New moms have a tendency to want to do all the things, all the time, perfectly. Take the pressure off of those drool-covered shoulders, Mama. Amy, mother of one, says, “You don’t need to have it all together or even pretend to. The first weeks, even months, are tough. There’s no shame in having a good cry!” Brianna, mother of two, agrees, “The biggest thing I had to learn after having my first was to enjoy it. It’s tough and lack of sleep and anxiety about doing everything right can get in the way of you actually enjoying your little one! They grow up so fast and if you are always focused on being the “perfect mom” you are going to miss the special moments.” (Find out every mom’s hidden superhuman strengths.)

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Make other mom friends

Friends are always important in every stage of life, but during motherhood, their importance is on another level. Ashley, mother of two, agrees: “Force yourself out of your comfort zone and find other mommy friends. They will be the life line you never knew you needed.”

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Maintain your sanity, your body can wait

After nine months of housing another human, your body might feel like it’s seen better days. It’s normal, and actually perfectly fine. Kimberly, mother of one, couldn’t agree more. “There are things much more important than ‘working’ on your postpartum body…like maintaining your sanity! You just made a human!”

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Postpartum depression is real

Pregnancy and birth wreak havoc with more than just the body, your brain is affected greatly too. One in eight women experience postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, though that statistic could be higher due to the under-reporting of symptoms by women. Leanne, mother of three, says, “I didn’t know it at the time but I believe I had PPD with my first two children. Knowing that, I would have let only my close family around me and not allowed the negativity of others in, even if they were supposed to be a part of my children’s lives. I should have told myself that things were going to be okay and that I was enough for my babies. I’m all that they need and more.” If you suspect you have PPD, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor.

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Let go of your dream of the perfect birth

Most mothers imagine the births of their children long before their due date. When a birth doesn’t go as planned, it can be disappointing, and for some, depressing. Letting go of your unmet expectations can be truly healing. Kellye, mother of two, says, “All that matters at the end of the day is a healthy mom and healthy baby. Throw the “birth plan” out the window and focus on the end goal: a healthy, beautiful baby.”

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Say no to visitors

Being new parents often means family and friends will hope to rush over to meet the new addition. For some, this can feel stressful, in addition to the enormous life change that has just occurred. Don’t feel selfish taking these first moments for you and your partner to be alone with your baby. Amanda, mother of one, says, “No visitors for the first 24 hours or more. Let the nurses be bouncers and also baby holders, because you won’t get that luxury at home! Ask for help—it’s not a sign of weakness!” Want to help a friend with a newborn? Here’s what new moms really need.

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Life is about to change

Parenthood is a club that members both love to belong to and reminisce about the days when they had no idea what membership entailed. You wouldn’t trade your children for the world, but you can clearly remember what life looked like before them. Julie, mother of one, shares: “Having a baby, specifically the first, is such a life-changer. One minute you’re going to spontaneous dinners and weekend getaways, and the next you’re sobbing in your spit-up covered robe, holding a tiny screaming stranger who is inconsolable. Meanwhile, everyone asks, “Isn’t motherhood the absolute best thing that’s ever happened to you?” I wish I could go back and tell myself to find support sooner from real life moms who are honest about the struggles of new motherhood.”

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Write it all down

While it’s true that the sleep deprived days with tiny babies go quickly, the sweet memories tucked within them don’t have to be forgotten forever. Writing down your feelings and thoughts can be one way to save them indefinitely. Sarah, mother of one, says, “I would tell myself to write a letter to her the same day I looked into her eyes, and give it to her the day she turned 18. I will never forget the feelings that overcame me the moment I saw my baby for the first time. However, I wish I would have written them down that day.”

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Ignore the judgment of others

Everyone has an opinion it seems, about the best way to raise a child, feed a baby, or get an infant to sleep. Welcomed or not, sometimes those opinions should be left unsaid. Patricia, mother of one, says, “My son is allergic to dairy. So I bottle fed him because I had to give him formula without dairy protein in it. That being said, I wish I could tell myself not to let the stares and quiet whispers (that weren’t so quiet) bother me. And that it didn’t make me less of a mother because I wasn’t breastfeeding my son. All that really matters is that he and I are both healthy and happy.”

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It’s going to get messy

Life at home with a baby can get messy: Embrace it and expect it. Mary, mother of one, says, “Be patient…very patient. They’re only little for a short while. But lock up the food cabinets because your daughter will re-carpet the house with peanut butter!”

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Trust your instinct

You might not recognize it at first, but it’s there and waiting. Your instinct about your individual child is exactly right, and should not be ignored. Jenny, mother of two, shares her experience: “I was so scared to co-sleep with my first baby, because of everything I had read about the dangers. If I could go back in time I would tell myself that making the decision to bed share (safely) would ultimately be the best decision for my child and myself, and to start from day one.” (Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against co-sleeping.)

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Make your expectations known

Having a baby can lead to unmet expectations that you didn’t even know you had. Getting ahead of the game and voicing them before baby arrives will lead to a calmer environment all around. Sarah, mother of four, says, “Make sure your partner knows what your expectations and emotional needs are. My husband went to work the day after I got home with our first born. My mom and mother-in-law were with me, along with a neighbor. That was wonderful, of course, but emotionally I needed my husband. The next three times, most recently four months ago, my husband took a week off after the birth.” Find out the signs your relationship is solid as a rock.

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Allow love to grow

Give yourself time to get to know your baby, and let your love grow naturally. Your child is a new person, and it takes time to grow acquainted. Danielle, mother of two, says, “You may not have that instant ‘love-at-first-sight’ feeling when you first have your baby. Some women do, some don’t. I didn’t. I loved my daughter, but it wasn’t a magical feeling like I’d heard. Motherhood was an adjustment, and learning process. It was hard, and took awhile for me to get a rhythm and really fall into that intense love a mother has.”

Jen Babakhan
Jen Babakhan is an author and credentialed educator living in California. She writes regularly about advice and culture for Reader's Digest. She is also the author of Detoured: The Messy, Grace-Filled Journey From Working Professional to Stay-at-Home Mom (Harvest House Publishers, 2019). She earned her BA in Communication Studies from California State University, Stanislaus. You can follow her on Instagram @JenBabakhan , Twitter @JenBabakhan, and Facebook @JenBabakhanauthor.