New moms are inundated with unsolicited advice. Recently, I surveyed my friends and colleagues to find out what they felt was the best advice for new moms. Whether you’re looking for the best advice for new moms to be or are a new mom yourself, here you will find what advice to avoid, how to reframe common forms of unsolicited parenting advice, and the best advice for you too.
I remember my first few days at home with my newborn daughter. Having been morning sick for 36 weeks of my 42-week pregnancy, postpartum felt glorious.
Because my in-laws live overseas, my mother-in-law stayed with us for about a month.
During that time I basked in my new motherhood. I focused on my daughter, healing from my cesarean and soaking up the joy that came with having my little girl fall asleep on my chest.
When my mother-in-law left, things got real. While I was still in love and still grateful for my newfound motherhood, I was also rocked by how nothing about my life was linear anymore.
Unloading the dishwasher, making a basic dinner, showering, and adult conversations were all disjointed. When my head hit the pillow at night, I was still very much on duty.
On top of it, my body didn’t feel like mine anymore. Not only did I have a huge scar along my lower abdomen, but I also had engorged and shockingly enormous breasts. I felt like every orifice of my body was leaking. My stomach was still puffy. I felt like a mutant.
Around eight weeks, my daughter went through a growth spurt and basically spent two days straight latched to me. I remember my husband coming through the door from work and me throwing a can of formula at him.
It was around this time I also got inundated with advice for new moms.
While I’m sure the unsolicited advice was well-intentioned, I found the inundation to be anxiety-inducing.
“Don’t spoil the baby” was the one that got under my skin the most. As someone who studied psychology, I knew this was counterintuitive. But it bothered me nonetheless.
“Sleep while the baby is sleeping” one made me feel like I wasn’t doing things right. For the first three months of my daughter’s life, she tended to nap in short spurts.
And then, there was the advice about sleep training. I swear I had relative strangers visibly concerned that my four-month-old wasn’t sleeping through the night every night. And, it happened a lot.
Related reading: Why Science Says You Can’t Spoil a Baby
Advice for New Moms – The Best Way To Interpret the Worst Advice
There are nuggets of good advice amidst the unsolicited advice out there. They just need some editing. Check out the not-so-great advice for new moms and their edits below.
1. Sleep when the baby is sleeping.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a light switch. I can’t just rest at the drop of a hat. And, I’m not sure if you noticed, but young babies sleep really unpredictably and for unusual durations. I have slept when my toddlers have slept, but if I did this every single time they did nap, nothing would get done around the house.
Better advice: Don’t try and do it all. If you need to rest, rest. If you’ll go crazy if you look at the laundry for one more minute then do that.
Not so great advice: Put baby cereal in the baby’s bottle so she sleeps longer.
Pretty well every source imaginable say this is a bad idea because babies shouldn’t have solids until 4-6 months of age. Plus, it’s a choking hazard. The safest way to feed a baby ready for solids is while they’re sitting upright… The list goes on and on. Also, as Bettina, mom of one, points out, babies don’t just nurse for nourishment. They also do so for closeness and comfort.
Better advice: Nurse/ bottle feed your baby on demand. Follow doctor’s advice for introducing solids. If you need a break delegate a night feed to your partner or a family member using pumped milk or formula.
Related reading: Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby – a nervous mom’s guide
Not so great advice: Don’t spoil the baby. You’re holding him too much.
If you happen to hear this ill-informed misguided piece of advice, you may want to ask the giver to do a little google search. There is no article based in scientific method that suggests it is possible to hold a baby too much. Before the advent of strollers, bouncy seats, and car seats, humans relied on holding and wearing our babies in slings or makeshift carriers.
Better advice: Put the baby down when you need a break or if he’s content and you have something else to do.
Now onto the absolute best advice for new moms
Now, I have to frame this by saying, every single piece of advice should be approached with an element of flexibility. Even if you feel it resonates with you, if your course of action changes, be forgiving of yourself. Also, only adopt an idea or approach if it really resonates with you. Don’t take advice just simply because it’s what you feel you should be doing.
Accept others help.
It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be polite. However, if someone offers to bring over dinner, wash your floors, or fold your laundry, say yes. There is no prize for doing it all.
Get some alone time.
Whether it’s going to the grocery store alone, driving to and from Starbucks or actually taking an hour or two to yourself, find a way to do it regularly. As cliche as it is to say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. And you’re not just doing this baby thing for the next few weeks. You have the next 18 years plus to be selfless most of the time. Take time for yourself.
Have a sense of humour, or at least be loving to yourself, in the face of your parenting fails.
We all have them. All of us. But they feel especially consequential when you’re a new mom. It’s easy to feel like each action defines your success in this new role. But this isn’t remotely true. For example, many of us have had a baby roll off a couch or bed. It seems unforgivable at the time. However the more parents you encounter, the more you realize that this is not a rare occurrence.
No one knows your baby better than you.
This is something I had to teach myself. Jules, mom of three and author of One Ruud Mom, discloses it was the most valuable piece of advice she heard early on. In kind, listening to your instincts is crucial to remember. If someone makes a suggestion to you that doesn’t sit well, let your gut be your guide. Vanessa, mom of three, even suggests saying, “Thanks, I’ve got this,” to shut it down.
Understand parents who parent differently than you are doing their best too.
I have friends who chose to formula feed because they could not take how draining and exhausting breastfeeding was. When my son was about five-months-old, I got so tired I stopped putting him in his crib and co-slept because I couldn’t get enough sleep any other way.
Every situation is unique and so are each person’s limitations.
Whether it’s good or bad, it isn’t forever.
The best piece of parenting wisdom I was ever given was from one of my regional managers. He said, no matter if it’s incredibly good or incredibly tiring, understand everything is fleeting. Relish in the good and hold onto it while you can. Motor through the hard times knowing there is an end in sight. No matter what, there will be a day your baby no longer nurses, does sleep through the night, doesn’t fit into your arms, stops hitting for good, and needs you way less.
Six years later, I’m a more seasoned mom. I have three kids and I successfully made my way through parenting two kids under two. With experience comes less unsolicited advice and also the courage to tell people who give unsolicited advice that what they’re saying isn’t helpful.
I hope this post has helped you in that journey too <3
Do you agree? What tips would you add to this list?