With Mother’s Day around the corner, I share the best parenting advice I can give myself as a second time future new mom before I get pregnant again and attempt to even THINK about having a second baby.
Mom Disclaimer: Before I get a million congratulatory texts and DMs, NO I am DEFINITELY not pregnant. I’m still technically infertile and I have NO CLUE when I’ll be attempting to get pregnant again. But as an early Mother’s Day gift to myself, I wanted to write out some sage parenting advice to myself as a future (hopeful) 2nd time “new mom” because let’s be real, DO WE EVER STOP NEEDING GUIDANCE AND FEELING CLUELESS?
The Best Parenting Advice I Can Give Myself as a 2nd Time New Mom
In this past year as a new mom, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I know I’m hard on myself because I probably did what I thought was best at the time, but reflecting back on my first attempt at this motherhood thing, there are a lot of things I would probably do differently with #2 (whenever, if ever, he or she arrives). So to my (2nd time) “new mom” self, here’s the absolute best parenting advice I’ve got.
Fed IS Actually F*cking Best
Breastfeeding was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done – scratch that – it was the hardest thing I attempted to do and failed at. It was particularly hard because I DON’T FAIL AT THINGS I WANT TO SUCCEED AT (but you can read all about that here). In the face of adversity, and because I’m stubborn AF, I ended up letting my breast pump LEGIT run my life. Yes, of course, I have developed a bond with Baby E, but looking back over the past year, I often worry that I developed a stronger bond with my pump. I spent hours upon hours attached to that thing, especially in the first few months postpartum when I could have – and maybe should have – spent that time with my baby. While my husband, nanny, mom, mother in law, or literally ANY OTHER HUMAN that walked in the door got the pleasure of giving Baby E his favourite thing in the world (FOOD), and getting to look him in the eye as he suckled and swallowed in pleasure, I was hooked up to my ball and chain locked in a bathroom stall for 25 minutes, milk-maiding it the F up. And I mean, in the end, everyone applauds me for what I accomplished – I made it a full year of pumping breastmilk for Baby E and stored another 100 L in the freezer to get him through a good chunk of year 2. But honestly, maybe it’s the weening hormones, but I have so many feelings about this. ALL the feelings. I’ve got guilt that I couldn’t breastfeed, I’ve got guilt that I pumped, and I also know that I would have had guilt if I couldn’t or didn’t do ether of those things. At this point, I am praying that my breastfeeding journey is a little easier next time, but if it’s not, the best parenting advice I could offer is to cut myself some slack on the breastmilk thing. Balancing the benefits of breastmilk with the benefits of bonding probably would have yielded the same healthy baby, but a happier, more sane mom. While the lactation consultant I saw definitely didn’t let me believe it, supplementing with formula while we sorted out our latch or I increased my supply would have been TOTALLY A-OK. Please, friends, remind me I’m writing this if I go into obsessive pumping-every-hour mode again with baby #2.
F*ck the Baby Schedule in the First Few Months
I’m admittedly a control freak, so before Baby E was sleep trained at 4 months, I was obsessed with trying to get him onto a strict sleeping and feeding schedule. A lot of my friends used and swore by these deliciously structured schedules (ie. The Contented Little Baby Book) and didn’t even have to sleep train and I was DETERMINED that if we stuck to it, we would have a superstar military baby, too. Well guess what… just like his mama, Baby E doesn’t like to be told what to do or when to do it. I KILLED myself trying to get this kid on a schedule and of course, he STILL had to be severely sleep trained. I knew that you can’t spoil a baby, but I was still resistant to the uncertainty of going with the flow. Ultimately, trying to manipulate Baby E’s innate body wisdom by nudging him into a schedule probably did more harm than good. At least for my sanity. Next time, I’m going to forgo all the baby books and schedules, and just try to let baby lead until he’s old enough to be formally sleep trained. Type A mamas, trust me, the schedule is coming and it’s going to be okay until then.
Swap & Share Baby Gear
Honestly if I can tell new moms one piece of parenting advice for those first few months, it is to coordinate with your mom friends on who is buying what, and then swap baby gear as you reach and leave different stages. The reality is, most of these expensive baby things are only useful for a few months (if that), and what one baby LOVES, another HATES. Take the Mamaroo, for example. I’m really glad I didn’t spend $400 on a gyrating swing and just borrowed it from a friend because my son only happily hung out in it ONCE before screaming bloody murder every time after that. Sharing means caring, mamas!
Only Buy Baby Clothes on Clearance
Seriously. Spend as little money as you can on clothing, because they will grow out of it in a HOT MINUTE and you’ll be packing things into storage while sobbing every.single.week. There is nothing that hurts my heart more than clearing out the dresser only to find a designer cardigan that Baby E NEVER WORE and is too small to squeeze into now. Le sigh. Hit up the outlets or buy used. Period, you’re welcome.
Don’t Worry About Perfect “Clean” Baby Food
Sure, it’s not great for babies to consume a lot of sugar or salt in their diets, but it’s also best if babies consume ANYTHING, and NEWS FLASH – food tastes better with salt. When I stopped being so militant on making sure Baby E had no added salt in his diet, I noticed he ate WAY more. Like, seriously, a switch went off and he became an eating MACHINE. This was specifically true with meat and fish, which otherwise could be pretty hit and miss. I get SO MANY questions from mamas now about how to get their kids to eat iron-rich foods like meat, and honestly, a teeny tiny bit of salt can make the WORLD of a difference in making these foods appetizing and encouraging them to get enough.
Offload More of the Behind the Scenes Chores
I have full time help and I am really blessed and grateful for that, but I still spend a lot of my time doing all of the thankless behind the scenes chores like meal prep, meal clean up, milk production, organizing and planning at the expense of mommy and Baby E time. I’ve started to try to let my hubby do some of these things (even though I’m arguably much better at them) so that I can have some more of those silly fun play moments with babe.
Don’t Micromanage Dad
I think a lot of moms (especially those of us who are control freaks) make the mistake of micromanaging our partner’s parenting. We also tend to criticize them when they don’t do things exactly how we would and then feel resentful when they don’t instinctively jump in when we need help. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle because no man is going to want to do things they’re constantly being criticized for and they can’t learn how to do things if they’re not given the chance. What I’ve learned is that my hubby is going to have his own unique way of doing things, and it’s no better or worse than mine. It’s just different. And baby is so unpredictable, sometimes his way works, and sometimes mine does – it’s kinda a crap shoot. In the process, though, we need to let each other fail and not make the other person feel like an idiot when we do. None of us parents actually have a f*cking clue what we’re doing, so let’s all be supportive of one another.
Delete the Baby Tracking App
Again, Type A mamas will get me about the love hate relationship we have with those baby tracking apps. I get that it’s important to give your pediatrician a little info on baby’s feeding, peeing and pooping habits in those early days, but I used that thing religiously for about 6 months and it LITERALLY GAVE ME SO MUCH ANXIETY. Because Baby E was bottle fed pumped milk, I was able to see EXACTLY how much he was drinking every day (along with how much I was pumping). By the end of the day, I felt like it was a race for Baby E to reach his consumption quota, and if he fell short, I felt immense anxiety that he was going to wake up hungry in the middle of the night. While I was careful to never force feed because I was really conscious of it, it was REALLY tempting not to ignore Baby E’s satiety cues to encourage him to reach his usual milk volume. This shit is BAD. BAD. BAD. Next baby, I will literally only track the information his or her doctor requests, take a look at his milk consumption once a week and call it a day.
Stop Comparing Your Baby to Other Babies
It’s so hard not to compare when you see other babies hitting milestones your little one isn’t quite at yet. Crawling, walking, talking, eating, wherever you’re at, there’s something to worry about and I have spent way too much time during 2 AM pump sessions reading posts on mom groups concerned that Baby E was falling behind. The reality is that all kids get where they need to get at their own pace, and honestly, some milestones are best not met TOO quickly (HA, like walking!) Chill mama, and remember this important parenting advice – we’ll all be there in due time.
Be in More Family Photos
I have a crap ton of photos and videos on my phone of Baby E. A lot of them are of him eating things, cuddling Poppy, or in some cute new outfit. And the rest are with him and my husband. The handful I have of myself with him are those I had to deliberately plan with a photographer (a lot of which don’t even have his face in them because of our sharenting rules). I don’t know if it’s just that I feel I’m too busy, or I usually look like a total shlep with my frizzy hair in a pony, no makeup, and my housecoat (aka. my “work uniform”), but if it’s not a mommy-baby glamour shot, I’m the photographer. Moving forward, and with any future pregnancies and babies, I’m going to make an effort to pass off the camera and jump into the shot – makeup-free face and all.
Put the Fam Before the ‘Gram
Okay, so I have been pretty good about not doing cute family stuff just to put it on social media since I’ve made it clear that I am trying to keep my son’s identity under wraps. But I still need to work on my ability to be fully present and get OFF Instagram when I’m off the clock and on “mom time”. I know I’m getting better, but I am in NO WAY perfect, especially when I’m exhausted and scrolling through social media has become our generation’s way to unwind. But here’s a little reminder that this time with my family is invaluable and is worth so much more than catching that random influencer’s status update.
One of my biggest regrets from my first motherhood experience is that I was so busy with work and failing at breastfeeding in those first few months postpartum that I didn’t meet other moms at the same life stage. I didn’t go to meetups. I didn’t go to classes. It was lonely, and boring and I just buried myself in my work to cope. Next time, I’m going to try my best to getting a little more “balance” with this whole work/mom thing and allow myself a bit more time to get social with other like-minded moms.
I’m sure there are a million other pieces of parenting advice that I could give myself for the next time, and there’s probably so many more lessons I have to learn. I also acknowledge that even know I am writing these things out for the world to keep me accountable to, I’m probably going to make a lot of these same mistakes again (see #1 about pumping to excess). Failure (and repeated failure) is apparently a key part of parenthood, but I hope some expecting and new mamas can get something out of my humble flawed under-qualified parenting advice and feel a little more confident about what’s ahead. At least that’s what I hope for myself as I look forward to maybe, possibly, eventually doing this crazy new mom thing again.
Now moms, I want to know – what parenting advice would you give yourself if you were to be a “new mom” all over again?
What was some of the best parenting advice you were given that actually made a different in how you parented?
Leave me a comment below with your thoughts!
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Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.