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When I had my first baby at age 23, I was the first of my group of friends to become a mother. Guys, I had no freaking clue what I was doing -- and I couldn't exactly turn to my besties for guidance.
Now that one of my close friends from high school is expecting her first child, I have an overwhelming urge to spew been-there-done-that parenting wisdom in her direction. Instead of bombarding her with unsolicited advice on the specifics of child-rearing, I'll simply share what I wish I would have known before becoming a mother.
Your worth as a mother has nothing to do with how you feed your baby. Whether you're feeding your baby with breast milk or with formula, you are an awesome mama. Don't allow anyone to make you feel differently. Others will judge you no matter which route you end up taking. But you know what? It isn't about them — so they can STFU.
Know the signs of postpartum depression/anxiety. And don't be ashamed to seek treatment. Even though there has been more awareness in recent years, there's still a certain stigma attached to postpartum depression/anxiety. If something doesn't feel right after welcoming your little one, getting help doesn't mean you're weak. Not at all. In fact, you're strong AF for recognizing the problem and doing what needs to be done. (As for me, I'll always wonder if I could have enjoyed motherhood after my second two children, had my postpartum depression/anxiety been caught earlier.)
It's okay to ask for and accept help. If you're feeling overwhelmed, or just need a break, there's no shame in calling in the reinforcements. Accept offers from friends and family to bring you a meal, to come over and hold the baby while you take a hot shower, or to lend a hand in any way possible. From experience, I've learned the adage, "It takes a village," is so true. And that trying to do everything by yourself all of the time = parental burnout.
There is so much conflicting advice about parenting out there. But, at the end of the day, you do you. Some people swear by sleep training; others prefer no-cry methods of getting their baby to sleep. And of course, everyone has an opinion about baby-wearing, pacifiers, how to introduce solids, circumcision, bed-sharing, disposable versus cloth diapering, and literally everything under the sun. Here's the thing, though: There's no right answer to the majority of parenting debates. It largely depends on parents' preferences and the individual child.
Last but not least — although this isn't necessarily something I would have told my pre-kid self — here's what I want you to know:
I'll always be here for you to vent/lean on/talk to. If you need someone to listen while you unload your parenting frustrations, or someone to reassure you that, yes, you will eventually get sleep again someday, I'm your person. I promise I won't judge or criticize you, nor will I tell you what you should be doing. Because I know exactly how hard caring for a tiny human can be.
You're going to be an amazing mama.
Photos by Michelle Stein
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.