“Why didn’t anyone warn me?!”
“I had no idea that would happen!”
“I wish I had known….”
Show of hands if you said any or all of these after you welcomed your new baby home. Mom groups are flooded with posts of newly postpartum women desperately seeking advice at 2 in the morning. “Is this normal?” questions are posted every day, only to be answered by 183 women responding, “Yes.” Women in their fourth trimester woefully lament their utter lack of knowledge when it comes to newborn and postpartum care.
“Babies don’t come with manuals.”
No, they don’t. Every baby is wholly unique. If you have multiple children, you know that each baby presents different challenges from the others. But this idea that it is normal for women to enter motherhood completely unprepared is doing a great disservice to new moms. We have become so sensitive to accidentally giving unsolicited advice, that we just don’t give any advice at all. Childbirth and postpartum is a little gruesome. Perhaps out of our own embarrassment or fear of scaring a new mom, we don’t share the details that could have prepared them from their own wide-eyed moment.
Instead, it’s much more fun to focus on baby registries.
New moms spend a huge chunk of their pregnancy researching products, asking friends for recommendations, building/editing/revising their multiple registries. We throw baby showers full of diaper cakes, matching mom robe and swaddle blankets, and little newborn outfits too cute to pass up. These are the beautiful parts of new motherhood. These are things worth celebrating. But when it’s go-time, that new mom needs education more than she needs a monogrammed burp cloth.
New moms, have you noticed the huge range of recommendations you get on baby products? One mom says you NEED this item, while another says it’s completely useless? Have you loaded a bunch of products onto your registry with absolutely no idea what they even do? If so, it’s time to step away from the registry and spend a little more time learning. Many of these products are only useful for specific baby-rearing philosophies. Once you know how you want to *start mothering your new baby, then you’ll know exactly which products you need.
*We all start with a parenting style that sounds most comfortable to us, but I strongly encourage you to be open to change based on baby’s personality or if it’s just not working for you.
We live in THE best age of information, maybe a little too much information at times. With today’s resources at our fingertips, there is no reason new moms should feel completely and utterly unprepared for motherhood. I’ve gathered a few of the top subjects I recommend you spend time learning about before baby is born. Most of these topics have a spectrum of practices. I encourage you to read from one extreme to the other and find what feels most comfortable for your personality, saving all the information in the back of your mind in the event you need to try something different.
Take a course offered by your hospital. Read books on what to expect. @mommy.labornurse is a good Instagram account to follow for information on all things childbirth and postpartum. Learn about unmedicated childbirth vs. epidurals. Read birth stories. Understanding the process of giving birth takes away so much fear when the moment finally arrives.
I personally think this was the area I was most unprepared for. It can be gross, but please don’t skip learning about this. You need to know about postpartum bleeding, normal vs. abnormal pain, how to use the toilet. Talk to moms who have recently given birth. (I find people “forget” as they are further removed.)
Here are a few Knoxville Moms posts on the subject:
5 Things You Didn’t Know (and Nobody Will Tell You) About Postpartum Care for Mothers
Why I’m More Afraid of Postpartum Constipation than Delivery
The Only 4th Trimester Survival Guide You’ll Ever Need: What No One Tells You
I strongly encourage you to research both breastfeeding and formula feeding. Know ahead of time what you want to do AND have a backup plan. If breastfeeding, learn about what a proper latch looks like, different ways to hold the baby, and common issues with ways to troubleshoot. Ask for a lactation consultant to visit you in the hospital and know that home visits by lactation consultants are often covered by insurance. Also know that feeding your baby is your number one goal.
Breastfeeding Is Beneficial for Moms, Too!
Formula Feeding Saved My Sanity
You’re going to want to hold the baby for 24 hours a day, but this is not realistic. How will you help baby sleep? Where will baby sleep? What props will you use to help baby sleep? There are whole theories around baby sleep that are beneficial to research before baby arrives (and your own sleep deprivation is too great to make choices). Sleep training can be a hot topic. Every mom will have their own opinion on it. I encourage you to read about ALL of the philosophies of baby sleep from cry-it-out to safe co-sleeping. The Pedsdoctalk Podcast has a series on different types of sleep training. @takingcarababies on Instagram is a good source of general baby sleep advice. Knox Moms contributor Sara Hill also shares her story with co-sleeping here.
There is so much to parenting that there is no way you could possibly learn everything you need to know before baby is born. But based on the amount of time I and others spent building the perfect baby registry, you definitely have time to educate yourself on a few topics you’ll need to know right away. Ask trusted mom friends. Talk to family members. Don’t be afraid to listen to their advice and dismiss it if it’s not right for you. Build relationships with moms that will serve you every time a new issue arises.