Becoming a new mom can be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.
While there are some new moms who have loads of baby experience—maybe they’ve done a lot of babysitting or have changed the diapers of many nieces and nephews—there are others who come into this whole mothering thing pretty blind.
I’d qualify as the latter. No real babysitting experience. No little nieces or nephews. Nada.
“As soon as the baby arrives, it will just click,” many well-intentioned people assured me. While that was true to a certain extent, there were other things that I felt I was supposed to “just know” that I most certainly didn’t…at least not right away.
3 Things New Moms Are Supposed to Just Know…That I Didn’t Tweet this!
1. How to breastfeed.
Lots of women think that because nursing is such a natural way to feed your child, it’s also going to come naturally. Unfortunately for many (or even most) new moms that’s not the case. There’s usually a significant learning curve for both mother and baby.
When I was pregnant I took a three-hour breastfeeding class offered through my hospital, which was incredibly helpful. I also never hesitated to call a lactation consultant when I needed to.
Now whenever I’m chatting with a mom-to-be and the subject turns to breastfeeding, I emphasize that it might not come as naturally as they expect, but that there are many resources available to help.
2. What the baby’s cries mean.
Before having kids did you know that babies have particular cries depending on what they need? I did not.
Turns out that the “I’m hungry!” cry sounds a bit different from the “I’m tired” cry, which sounds slightly different from the “I’m overstimulated!” cry. And it’s not always immediately apparent which is which.
My advice to new moms is not to worry if you don’t know exactly what your baby’s cries mean right away. That will come as you get to know your baby better and better. Eventually I became an expert at distinguishing my son’s cries from one another, but it took some time.
3. Safety precautions.
You would think that something as basic as keeping your baby safe would be purely instinctual. But the reality is that safety recommendations change quite frequently; what was considered safe when I was a baby is definitely not considered safe now.
Exhibit A: Sleep recommendations. It wasn’t until the 1990s that everyone learned the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs, not their tummies. And the debate about the safety of crib bumpers rages on.
The point is, when it comes to a baby’s safety, it’s worth doing your research instead of assuming you will “just know.”
In the end, I believe that maternal instincts are very, very real, but that doesn’t mean everything will come naturally. There’s no shame in reaching out for information and support in those areas where we aren’t already experienced or knowledgeable.
36 responses to “Things New Moms Are Supposed to Just Know…That I Didn’t!”
oh gee! The first night was comical!! By the time morning came, my son had been diapered, rediapered, changed and probably overfed. Stuff was thrown all over our room and we were all exhausted! You learn pretty quick though.
Thank you for this post! As a new mom-to-be with nieces and nephews, I feel fairly confident about this baby thing. But, at the same time, I’m nervous since it’s never been my kid, nor have my husband and I been solely-responsible for caring for a baby. As I’m working on the baby registry, the safety issue keeps coming up, and everything I read contradicts what I read before… wish me luck! 😉
You will do great! You’re so right that the safety precautions often contradict each other and are tough to decipher, but just by reading up on everything you’re giving yourself the knowledge you’ll need.
I honestly think that no matter how well prepared you are, there is just SO MUCH to learn. You nailed the big 3 right here for sure!-Ashley
OH do I remember the terror of that first month. And the second month. Our circle of friends didn’t include many parents so we were NOT prepared. And yes, I agree, I thought breastfeeding would be natural, and I remember coming out of my first (and only) breastfeeding class and thinking, “Oh. My. Goodness. I am not ready to do this!!”
I was JUST like you- had no experience WHATSOEVER!! And good LORD, I had no clue what to do with my baby… NO. CLUE. The functioning part of motherhood- is confusing and relentlessly difficult. We surely must reach out for help, guidance and support in the journey. I don’t know how anyone could do it alone. There is SO much information out there, and yet- as new moms, we can be so overwhelmed! This is where a close network of mom-friends is critical to any mom’s peace of mind.
SO grateful I had/have that!!
You’re so right, having a close tribe of other mothers makes such a positive difference.
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. Ba ha ha ha ha ha!! The first thing they should tell pregnant mamas-to-be is that line is the biggest load of BS out there! If more women knew that breastfeeding was going to be tough at the get-go, they might stick with it longer!
Absolutely. My daughter is now 7 weeks old and we might as well be living at the pediatricians office with how often we have been seeing the lactation consultant. Breastfeeding is a full time job! The constant feedings to keep your little one satisfied alone is enough to keep you busy all day but if you have trouble with your supply (as I do), the time spent is easily doubled or sometimes even trippled. I remember clearly expressing my frustration over how you read about how “natural” breastfeeding is. And that may be the case, but “natural” does not translate to “easy” by any means!
YES! So true! I hope everything works out for you, your supply, and your baby girl.
I grew up around babies and kids, and always wanted to be a Mom. The transition of understanding was fairly smooth.
What did surprise me was my need to have Susanna sleep on me, or rather hers. The only time she slept was when she was on me, and so we adjusted with love.
I had no experience whatsoever before I became a mom, and I really had no idea what newborns were like. I had no idea that my son was going to be an eating, pooping, cuddling lump for the first 3 months of his life. And those toys marketed to babies 0+ didn’t help. Was it normal that my 1-month-old didn’t want to play with or even notice the rattle ball? Um, yes (I know now).
Well…I wasn’t too great with instincts either. We brought our first child home and he slept and slept and slept in the vibrating crib, and would not wake up to feed. Nervous new parents that we were, we called the doctor with our concerns. His reply? “Did you try turning the vibrating crib off?” Uh, no. He woke up within minutes, ready to eat. That doctor must have had a good chuckle after getting off the phone with me.
Love that story! 🙂
I did have a breastfeeding class instructor who said, “Ah the heck with these dolls. You really won’t know..until you know.” We were trying to practice with dolls. That was a bit mortifying, actually. And she was right. It didn’t at all factor in the realities.
I was always so surprised that nursing was so hard since it’s so natural. I also feel that way about pregnancy!
Oh yea, I fell into the latter category as well. I didn’t have ANY experience with babies. I didn’t know what the cries meant and it drove me nuts. With my second, I was much more calm and confident…the calmness dissipated once he turned two. LOL. Great post!
Amen, Katie!!! I will never forget that moment when they handed Molly to me to breastfeed. I have never felt so clueless in my life. Great post!
I’m glad you could relate, Aimee! I love seeing pictures of your precious little girl. 🙂
Thankfully, both kids caught on to nursing pretty fast. Lola was a champ for the very first latch.
I didn’t realize until just recently that car seats expired. Really? I’m sure there is some really important safety reason, but part of me is convinced it is so you have to purchase them again instead of passing them down to the next kid.
The safety rules have changed since my 5yo was born! How are we supposed to keep up with this stuff?
I definitely had a learning curve- my daughter was a very challenging infant and it took more work than I expected to figure her out. I’m hoping it’s a little easier this time around!
Oh my gosh, these are all so true. Breastfeeding is hard and so different for each mother. No one ever prepared me for what my body would go through after the baby arrived. That was eye-opening too!
Oh my goodness I had so many pre-judgements about how i was going to do things….Well just throw all that out the window and “hold on!”
Until you experience it, you haven’t really learned it.
My son’s 10 and I’m still not sure I’ve figured out what his different cries mean. 🙂
I’m laughing at myself looking back pouring over the What to Expect book as if it really would answer all my questions. Nope. I think I ceremonially burned it one night after I’d chucked it out the window.
Oh my gosh, I was soooo clueless with my first baby! Thank goodness my research-everything-to-death sister had a baby about 9 months before me, I just called and asked her anytime I had a question. (And luckily we have similar philosophies when it comes to breastfeeding, CIO, etc.)
You are so right on all these points, Katie! I really struggled with breastfeeding at first, and this 7th one of those things that doesn’t come naturally, especially in a hospital environment. I was totally clueless about a lot of things. Silly me thought newborns only slept and fed! Nobody warned me about the hundreds of things I had to worry about.
And all this really speaks to the isolation in our society where we’ve lost the built-in reference person (not to mention the built in babysitters) that comes with extended families living in very close proximity to each other. All these stories, though, are totally precious.
Being the first amongst family and friends to have a baby there were so many things that I didn’t know. In some ways this was helpful as my expectations weren’t too high about what I or the baby should be doing!
baby cry could mean a lot of things, we just have to understand the situation and hopefully as he stop crying that will be our hint..
I remember being in the hospital and my aunt and uncle were visiting. My son started crying, so my aunt handed him back to me saying, “Oh, he wants his mommy,” and I thought, “What?! How am I supposed to get him to stop??? I’m supposed to be able to hand him to someone else to take care of that.” That was my eye-opening, ‘I’m really a mom’ moment.
I can totally empathize with that, Lauren!
The one thing that made me nervous was bathing my baby. I was nervous about the water temperature and holding her. My husband felt so comfortable doing it I let him bath her as their bonding time. Then he would help me. Everything else even nursing came pretty naturally to me. Great post.
No experience necessary to be clueless! I babysat since the age of 13 and was a nanny for 5 years…all of which has come in handy with my toddler and preschooler, but being a mother of a newborn had me feeling completely blindsided! It’s totally different when it’s your own!
My friend didn’t know that you’re meant to turn the baby’s head if they favour sleeping with it to one particular side. Thankfully he and his wife did find this out before their baby’s flat head became permanent. Thank heavens they also told us before our baby gets here because I would never have thought of that in a million years!