There's no shortage of advice available to new moms. Between best-selling parenting books, well-meaning family and friends, and even strangers on the street, there's plenty of advice to consider. Just sifting through the sheer amount of information that comes your way can be a daunting task—how do you know whose advice to take and whose to (respectfully) disregard?
Because we're of the mindset that honest parenting advice from real moms is one of the best resources out there, we asked the smart, insightful mothers and experts in the area of parenting to share their words of wisdom. Their comments had us nodding in agreement, laughing out loud, and looking for a pen and paper to jot down notes.
So, without further ado, here are six real moms on navigating the early stages of motherhood, listening to your instincts, and figuring it out as you go.
"Most mamas in today's culture think they are supposed to be busy doing so much for their children... What babies need more than anything is a present and self-aware mama who is gentle with herself and grounded," says Dr. Colleen Crowley, a mother, child psychologist, and co-founder of Brushies. "This grounded presence is what helps wire a baby's brain for the rest of their life," she adds.
What babies need more than anything is a present and self-aware mama who is gentle with herself and grounded
Sometimes it really is just a phase.
"This is for real, so say it to yourself over and over and over. They won’t go to college with a soother. They will stop waking up three times a night. They will eat with a fork. So take it for what it is and don’t try and rush your littles ones through and age or stage; you’ll look back and wish you hadn’t," Jen Kelly and Becca Perren, mothers and founders of Pehr advise.
See your body is your new superpower.
"There is so much pressure to 'bounce back' post-baby," new first-time mom and co-founder of Tone It Up, Katrina Scott tells MyDomaine. "Our bodies are not the same as they were pre-baby—and they shouldn't be. They are stronger," she explains. "I want every mom to know that you are a superwoman. You created a miracle and your body is remarkable. Let's all treat ourselves with more love, patience, and compassion."
Our bodies are not the same as they were pre-baby—and they shouldn't be.
Don't sweat the small stuff.
"If your child falls over for the first time it’s probably likely you do not need to visit the emergency room," says Jen Auerbach, mother and co-founder of Clary Collection.
Try disconnecting nursing from sleeping.
"This will help immensely in getting a baby to sleep without milk," explains Dr. Hilary Fritsch, a mom, family dentist, and co-founder of Brushies. "My favorite routine is bath, cuddle, milk, book, brush, jammies, sleep sack, song, bed," she notes.
"Most of the concerns I see parents have with their kiddos (whether in infancy or adolescence) is sadly a projection of their own insecurities," Crowley explains. "When we can be aware of our fears and how often we impose them on our children it allows us to separate ourselves and really see and appreciate who they are and enjoy the process much more," she continues. "We need to trust that this little person is unfolding just as they should, as opposed to on a timeline we have scripted for them."
Don't be afraid to ignore advice.
"Everyone will give you advice, solicited or not when you are about to have a baby or have a newborn," according to Kelly and Perren. "It’s extremely valuable to listen to the experience and perspectives of others, as it can help you form your own opinions, but make sure that you know that what is right for some families may not be right for yours. Let your motherly instinct kick-in and listen to it instead," they say.
Get back into exercise at your own pace.
"When you're cleared to exercise, that doesn't mean you should jump right back in at the same pace you were before," according to Scott. "To start, keep your fitness goals small, manageable, and realistic for you. And remember that every bit counts—whether that's going for a walk with your family or squeezing in a quick naptime workout."
"Sleep like you’re not going to sleep for the next three years," Auerbach urges. "Allow people to help you. If someone offers to bring food or watch your baby so you can nap it’s most likely they’ve been in your shoes. Don’t attempt to be superwoman. You already are. You created and birthed a baby," she continues.
"Everyone you know will have advice and opinions about how you are raising your baby... However, you are the only real expert on your baby and what he or she may need," says Crowley. "So when you are feeling like you want to ask an expert about something, first get quiet and in touch with your own sense of what might be going on with your little one and how you could best meet that need," she advises.
Take a lot of pictures.
"You will never regret having too many pictures of your kids," according to Kelly and Perren. "As your baby grows, you'll stumble upon pictures of them (and you) and they will make your day. We’ve found that looking back on them as babies also helps to put your child’s age and stage into perspective when you are going through some rough patches. These pictures will become your most valued possessions," they note.
Don't try to be the perfect mother.
"There is no such thing [as being the perfect mother]," Auerbach says. "Being a mom is one of the hardest titles to hold but one of the most rewarding. Trust your instincts and don’t judge yourself through social media. Do not be hard on yourself or get discouraged if you fail. If you fall down, get back up, and try something else," she adds.
"Now isn’t the time to cut calories or go on a restrictive eating plan," Scott says. "This is so important for a healthy mama and baby. Make sure you're nourishing your body so you can be fueled to care for your little one. Concentrate on nutrient-packed foods that are rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate," she advises.
Know that it's okay to do things differently.
"Breastfeeding may not happen for you, [whether it's] hard to latch, a medical condition, or it just might not be what you want to do," Auerbach explains. "This is extremely common; do not think you are a failure," she continues.
Remember that nothing goes as planned.
"This is basically just a good lesson for life, period. But the birth, labor, and delivery rarely go exactly how you envision or plan for it to unfold. So the best advice we ever received is to remember that whatever is going to happen, is going to happen," Kelly and Perren say. "There is no amount of planning, wishing, or hoping that will change it. So try your best to relax and be accepting of this. It will make a huge difference in how you experience this life-changing moment."
Find a community of mamas.
"Surrounding yourself with other new moms is so important! You can turn to each other for support, encouragement, and advice," Scott points out.
Remind yourself that you know what you're doing.
"I trust parents to make good decisions for their families," says Fritsch. "You know what you're doing. Trust yourself."
Don't forget to take time for your partner.
"It is so easy to lose sight of your relationship and even yourself. I barely remember those first few weeks of motherhood," Auerbach admits. "Between exhaustion, blood clots, and a failing feeding schedule, it can be hard to find quality time to reconnect with your partner. However, it is crucial that you make time. Remember it takes two to make a baby," she notes.
Understand that the parent-child bond is a relationship like all others.
"It takes work. Lots of it, so expect that there will be times when it feels hard to connect [with your child] or that you need to work through some issues," says Kelly and Perren. "Meditation and reflection are really helpful tools for this, as is leaning on your mom friends as all mothers go through this with their kids," they advise. "Sometimes, although you have it in you, you just need a little guidance to get back on track," the founders add.
Expect that there will be times when it feels hard to connect [with your child] or that you need to work through some issues.
Know you're doing amazing.
"No matter what's going on—even through the tough days and the sleepless nights—just know that you are the best mama in the world to your baby. When things get tough, you'll know what to do. You were made for this and you are doing incredible," Scott says.
Up next: A first-time mom shares the truth about life after baby.