* Tune out unsolicited advice. People somehow feel they can prey on pregnant women and first-time moms. You’ll probably receive advice from the most unlikely sources from your office delivery person to your next-door neighbor. People may insist that you raise your child a certain way, or deliver at a certain hospital with or without drugs, for instance. All moms who shared their stories agreed they were tortured by this type of advice. Ignore it and do what’s best for you and your family.
* Don’t kill yourself to live up to certain expectations. For instance, if you can’t breastfeed, don’t be hard on yourself. Katie Angioletti of San Francisco pumped eight times a day and bottle-fed to supplement. “I tried to breast feed for twelve weeks. It was unbearable. I was so stressed and kept this up because the lactation consultant insisted. But it was to the detriment of my relationship with my baby.”
* Don’t put too much energy into having the perfect birth. Yes, you can write down your birthing plan, hire a midwife, take Lamaze or Bradley classes, bring candles and your favorite music to the labor and delivery room, but in the end, anything can happen. Veteran moms who have been there say instead, try to be grateful instead for trained, skilled staff and doctors, and for the healthy baby that you get to take home.
* Don’t buy all the products and gear on the market before your baby is born. This advice is especially helpful for those on a budget. My son, for instance, never used the Graco baby swing we bought for $100. He preferred to be sitting upright, locked knees and in his Bjorn facing the world. Going to the baby store with an infant is a great way to test-drive big purchase items like strollers. See if you can open it and fold it while holding your baby. Is it lightweight, but also sturdy enough for you?
* Don’t invite the entire family to stay with you immediately after you give birth. New moms have hormones raging and bodies in need of care. If a family member will add stress, it’s not worth it. Spend the first few weeks bonding with your baby and husband. You can invite your family over a few weeks later.
* Find moms with babies close in age to spend time with. I found that in the first few months, having other moms to go on walks with and talk with was key for my sanity. I’d strap William into his Bjorn and then head to the beach to meet other moms for a power-walk on the sand. While babies slept, we could get much needed exercise and chat about various issues we were dealing with such as getting the baby to eat and sleep or our relationships with relatives or our husbands during this hectic new time.
* Exercise, eat right, and sleep during your baby’s naps. This may sound impossible if you are reading this just after giving birth—but new moms, take note! The house does not need to be perfect. Dishes and laundry can wait. Nap while the baby naps and (four weeks after giving birth vaginally and six weeks after a C-section) put him in the stroller or a baby carrier and walk off those baby pounds. Not only does exercise help you lose the weight, but the much needed endorphins boost your morale when you need it most. New moms have fluctuating hormones, combined with sleep deprivation that can lead to the blues. If it is too cold or rainy where you live to walk every day, join a gym or YMCA with a good crèche and leave the baby for an hour and enjoy a beginner yoga class—you deserve it!