I have successfully survived a year of parenthood, and I have several friends who are just starting or are in the middle of their first year journey!
To help these awesome parents (and others) along, I am going to share things that either people assume you know, that you’ll figure out, or that you will hear from someone else. Things you wish you’d known BEFORE you got to the point of learning it for yourself.
(To be fair, I may have been told some of these things, but I’ve seen that many others were not, so I’m just putting it all down.)
Without further ado, somebody should have told me…
1. That dry shampoo is your saving grace.
Moms just don’t get to shower as much as normal people. Especially when their babies are tiny.
Or maybe you get a shower, but you don’t have time to wash your hair and blow dry it.
Never fear, dry shampoo was made for days such as these. I absolutely love to use it because it is training my scalp to create less oil, it saves me on “no-wash” days, and the skipping of hair washing means my hair color stays vibrant for longer. (I know purple streaks are not the concern of many of you.)
I have used Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Dry Shampoo and Got2B Rockin’ It Encore Fresh Dry Shampoo. My friend and hairstylist, Jennie, also tells me there is a dry shampoo that is specifically for brunettes out there (no white powder to worry is showing up), but I haven’t used it.
These are the two at Wal-Mart I’ve seen, and that’s the store closest to my house. When I want dry shampoo, I want convenience!
2. That newborns can shoot poop several feet and will try to use this odd superpower when their diapers are off.
You will inevitably decide one day that it’s harmless to change your baby on top of your master bedroom comforter and BAM! Poop everywhere.
On the comforter, your pillow, you, and the wall or lamp if they’re really talented.
Then, just to ensure that they were thorough, they will pee the biggest pee of their existence. It will soak right through that soft, downy comforter, and you will pray that you have some kind of mattress protection on your bed.
Not that I have any experience with that. I mean, I was just being specific because ….someone I know had that happen to them.
3. That there is a reason you never liked broccoli growing up.
Turns out that that stupid vegetable can wreak havoc on your kid’s intestinal system if you ingest it while nursing.
I mean, screaming for four straight hours in absolute misery in the middle of the night with gas pain until you are crying with them and hate yourself and want to take out broccoli for the sake of all mankind type of misery.
I am betting most kids hate broccoli growing up because there is some sort of deep-seated memory of the pain that came from that one stupid vegetable. (And to be fair, there are a ton of things that can cause this, so check out this list.)
And if your baby has awful gas, try laying them on their back and gently pressing their knees into their tummies (while wearing a diaper, see #2 above). This will help them release gas, which many babies fight at that age. Don’t worry- they will be happy to fart later on.
And simethicone. Those gas drops were a game changer for us.
4. That some things DON’T come naturally and a support system is one of the best things you can have.
Seriously. People act like you will magically know everything to do with your baby as soon as they arrive.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be a natural.” “It will come to you.” “You’ll just know.”
Lies and more lies said to new parents so they’ll quit worrying.
Yes, you might have some instinctual things you do, but for the most part, you are going to either figure it out by: looking it up in a book or online, through trial and error, or by being told by someone else. And that doesn’t mean you’re not naturally good at parenting.
Which brings me to part B of this one- surround yourself with other parents who have gone before you and whom you feel comfortable reaching out to for support or with questions.
They don’t have to be far ahead of you. They just need to have been there and done that with the stage you are in.
Not all of the answers they give you will work for your child, and you will figure things out that work for you that they never tried. But it makes a world of difference being able to see someone else walk the road before you.
It’s less lonely knowing you’re not the only one up at 4 in the morning or that when your child is going through the most horrific separation anxiety, someone else knows exactly how you feel. They don’t judge you. They don’t mind being asked.
They support you. You need that. We ALL need that. (And really, this is good advice – if I do say so myself- whether you are a parent or not. It is good to have someone who knows what you’re going through and rallies around you in life.)
5. That you do NOT need a whole bunch of people waiting at the hospital to meet your baby.
If you are like me, you are the type to invite any and all (close) family members and best friends who might be interested in being a part of that special delivery day to come hang out and wait at the hospital.
I did this because I’d seen my rockstar sister-in-law do it like it was no big deal, then everyone would leave the room, she would push, and we’d have a new nephew or niece. After an hour or so, we’d be all back in the room, meeting this new family member and eating dinner like no big deal.
Let me tell you that that is not typical. She made it look easy, but it’s not (hence, I call her a rockstar).
I am very grateful for the family members and friends who gave up their whole day to wait on my daughter’s birth and support me and Tom. But I don’t plan to do that again, and I don’t recommend it to others.
Having a lot of people there creates an atmosphere that is NOT ideal for spreading your legs and pushing out a human.
You want to feel like you can focus on what you’re doing when you go into labor. It’s painful and awkward enough without worrying if they noticed you just farted during that last contraction.
Then there’s the pressure you might feel to hurry up and get that kid out! People are waiting! And none of them are saying that to you, but you will put that pressure on yourself simply because they are there.
Listen up ladies. It can take babies well over a day to work their way out of you once they start, and making yourself feel bad because “everyone’s waiting” is stupid.
So politely tell them that you’d feel more comfortable calling them to come to the hospital when you’re about to push. Because at least then, they only have to wait a little while or not at all and still get to see your baby all fresh and new. And you can worry about more important things, like pushing out a human.
6. That nursing is a friggin’ commitment.
Breastfeeding is a lifestyle. It’s a sacrifice. It’s HARD. And it’s awesome. You can read more on that here (and in that post’s comments).
You will need support from other women who have been there. You will want to give up before your baby is 6 weeks old, most likely. That is when you call someone who also hated it at first and stuck it out, and ask them to help you stick with it a little while longer.
And you should take advantage of lactation consultants whenever possible. They are your breast friends!! har har har.
Seriously do this- get an app just for breastfeeding on your phone. In the first few months, you are feeding so often that it’s hard to remember what side you last started on, and forget trying to keep track of how long so you can tell the pediatrician when they ask. Get a free app to track it all. You will thank me later.
If you’re a dude, and your wife is breastfeeding, don’t EVER act like it’s not a big deal. (Major props to Tom here.)
Pull over the car on a roadtrip, park in the shade, and wait with her while she tries to wrangle with the baby in the confined space of the passenger side. Adjust the air and music for her. Ask her if there’s anything she needs.
Unless she tells you to, don’t go pee before she gets to. She has a person sitting on her bladder, and she’s holding it. And if she does let you get a bathroom break on that roadtrip before her while she nurses, bring her back something she would want from that darn gas station or restaurant. Nursing makes you HUNGRY.
And don’t forget, moms, breastfeeding doesn’t make you better than anyone else if you choose it; it just’s the right choice for you, and your body cooperated. Not all women who want to breastfeed can. Don’t forget: You’re making milk with your boobs, not ending world hunger.
7. That if you have a c-section, you will not feel like you’d never had major surgery within 6 months.
That’s what one of the doctors told me. He was wrong.
Then again, he’s never had a c-section, so I should have guessed he couldn’t have known.
Over a year out, I still get pain in my scar area. The areas to the left and right of the scar are the worst because that’s where they tie off all the sutures inside of you. Those areas made me want to die for the first 8 weeks Jo was alive, and now they still hurt at times.
Quit judging yourself. You will take longer to get back to normal (I still haven’t) after having a c-section than most moms who don’t have one.
That doesn’t make you lazy and fat; that makes you someone who had major abdominal surgery and couldn’t cough or laugh or sneeze without dissolving into tears from pain for 2 months after giving birth. Most of us aren’t going to be doing marathons 6 months later.
I really didn’t know any of this stuff because I was NOT going to have a c-section. ha.
8. That teething is torture for the whole family.
I mean, yeah, teething stinks. Everyone knows babies are fussier and chew stuff and drool.
They also wake up constantly, get loose stool in their diapers, pull their ears in pain, scream if anyone but their mom holds them (or is that just us?), have unpredictable appetites, and are generally miserable.
Which means you get the side effects of that. You also lose sleep. People judge you because your kid is fussy and cries easily and insists on being held by you at all times.
Whatever people. Just love on your kid and pray for patience and energy. And drink lots of coffee.
9. That it’s harder than you think to “nap when your baby naps.”
Yes, you want to sleep all the time because you’re exhausted, but then the baby goes down for a nap, and you can:
A. Shower long enough to shave your legs.
B. Clean part of your house.
C. Return phone calls and do other things that require more attention.
F. A million other things you need to do when you have both hands free and no distractions.
Well, it’s hard to give in and sleep, though you need it. My mom would remind me that at 3 in the morning, my daughter would need a parent who could handle the fussiness that comes with teething or a nightmare, and my now clean floors would not.
Sleep makes you a better parent, so get it when you can, especially when your child is going through a rough patch with their own sleep habits at night.
10. That you should wait to take the diaper off before bathtime until RIGHT before they go in.
I used to stick Josey’s feet in the warm water for a minute before taking off her diaper in the hopes that she would go on and empty her bladder BEFORE getting into the water so I wouldn’t have to dump the water and start fresh midbath.
Now that she’s old enough to forgo the baby bath and bathes in a regular tub, I leave her diaper on while the water runs, and then I pull her onto my lap and just undo it a little without taking it off completely before putting her in. Once that cold air hits, babies will often tinkle again, and you want that to happen into the diaper.
Once that’s done, toss the diaper, plop the baby in the tub and bathe them!
11. That you should go pee before going to feed your baby in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.
They’ll be okay crying for two more minutes, and you won’t be in agony having to pee and not being able to while holding a baby who is pressing into your bladder for 45 minutes or however long they decide to eat.
Just trust me on this one. If they aren’t in any danger or pain (this is why video monitors rock), then you can take a quick trip to the potty first.
12. That you will learn to have ninja stealth when sneaking out of the nursery.
When your baby is little, do not keep your house quiet during the day, even at nap times. Let the dogs bark, the other kids play, the tv run, and the vacuum roar. They need to learn to sleep with the noise of life going on.
And at night, it can be quieter.
But when they get older and are lighter sleepers, and they wake up in the middle of the night, they won’t want you to go. A silent exit is key.
And you will want to murder anything that makes loud noises outside the nursery right after you got them back to sleep.
Here are some tips:
- Take the jangling dog collars off your dogs if they are within earshot of the nursery.
- Walk around barefoot. It’s quieter.
- Take advantage of baby gates to fence other kids and animals away from where your baby is sleeping.
- Use a white noise machine in the nursery.
- Get a flashlight app on your phone. That way you can see what you’re looking for (paci, teething tablets, extra wipes, etc.) without turning on the lamp.
- Set that darn phone to silent and/or do not disturb mode when in the nursery. You will kick yourself if that is why your baby wakes back up after you get them down.
- If the door squeaks, fix it.
13. That you can get a newborn back to sleep in a few different ways.
If you know they are dry, they are full, and they have no gas, but they just won’t sleep, there are a few things you can do:
- Try shushing them LOUDLY. They have a lot of noise in the womb, so a loud “SHHHHH” is good. (Also, getting a white noise app – I like White Noise by TM Soft, and it’s free- on your phone, is nice to have.)
- Try gently trailing your finger from the top of their nose to the tip of their nose over and over while shushing them. (This is also great when they start to fuss.)
- Try swaddling them snugly.
- If they start to resist the swaddle, gently but firmly hold their arms down with your hand. They will probably settle after a few seconds. You might need to reswaddle if they have loosened it.
- Try rocking them in a way where their little tush goes side to side instead of forward and backward.
- Try letting someone else do these things. Babies can smell the milk on their mamas and will get worked up over it sometimes. Let someone else take a turn settling them down.
And remember, sometimes they will just have a wakeful time during the day. You will learn their patterns and be able to plan a schedule. Then, just to be fun, they will change it all up on you.
And I’m not a doctor, so this is just a non-medical opinion, but let a sleeping baby sleep. Unless they have jaundice, are sick, or are underweight, don’t worry about waking them to feed them unless you are feeling anxious. Use common sense (supposed to feed them every 2 hours but they’ve slept 6? I’d wake them up then.), but enjoy having a good sleeper.
This “let them sleep” advice was from two different mothers of four kids (my mom and my sister-in-law), who are both married to doctors. I took it, and I’m glad I did.
14. That it’s okay to say “no” to almost everything when it means doing the right thing for your kid.
Your baby is tired and teething and hungry, but someone is insisting that they get a chance to hold them because it’s been so long?
You haven’t seen a friend in a while and they want you to meet up with them 45 minutes away for a lunch that will probably get you home way after naptime?
You feel like a jerk because you are missing all the performances and games for kids in your family. You love them. You want to be there. You can’t find a sitter?
I know that sounds harsh. But the reality is that you will learn what your child can handle. I’m not inflexible. Sometimes Josey has a later nap or I leave her with Tom or someone else so that I can attend something for a family member or friend.
More often than people realize, you will give up your one chance to sleep in during a week (once you reach a point you can actually do that, taking turns with your spouse caring for kids in the morning) so that you can be at something that mattered to them.
It is hard being a parent and feeling the pull from everyone else to also do everything you used to be able to do.
For your child’s sake and your own, learn to say no. But say it politely, and explain why if you need to. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s just that it’s a difficult stage of life.
15. That it’s awesome to just enjoy where they are right now, then to let that stage go without sadness when it’s over.
I know a lot of people who act like they wish they could go back to a previous stage or can’t wait to reach a future stage of their child’s life.
When Josey was a tiny baby, I remember feeling a little sad the first time she outgrew a set of clothes that I had to pack away. But it was just because I couldn’t believe how quickly time was passing.
I have enjoyed her at every stage, and when that stage was done, I was ready for the next one. It’s nice not to look back and wish for her to be how she was. I don’t want Tom to ever look at me and wish for me to be like I was in high school or college, so why would I do that to Josey?
I love seeing her become more of who she is. And I look forward to the future, but I’m in no hurry to get there. I like where I am now. And I will like where I’ll be in a month too.
So when you are going through a rough patch (teething, for example, or a growth spurt that makes them want to feed forever), and someone tells you they couldn’t wait until their kids were past that stage, and that you will be happy once they are older, just smile politely. But go ahead and love where they’re at. Even in the hard times, there are things in the stage of life they are at to cherish.
The days pass fast enough without wishing them away.
So those are a few things that Tom and I could think of off the top of our heads. I am sure more will come to me later, but feel free to jump in on the comments and leave your own things you wish others had told you before you learned it for yourself!