The most challenging adventures can also be the most rewarding — and that's exactly how I'd describe the experience of motherhood.
We're officially one month into this journey today (happy one month, sweet Mila girl!), and although we're still new parents, it's safe to say we've learned a TON about baby and ourselves over the last few weeks. Below, I'm sharing twelve things no one tells you about the first month of motherhood: what I wish I knew and have come to love about this season.
01. Your baby will make some of the cutest sounds you've ever heard.
Other than the middle of the night screaming, I promise you will hear some of the SWEETEST (and silliest) sounds ever from your newborn. My absolute favorite is when our sweet girl would sneeze and immediately follow it up with the cutest little sigh in the world! My heart melted every time.
02. There is an incredible village of fellow mamas excited to help any way possible.
No one told me there'd be an entire community of "been there, done that" mamas to help support you, cheer you on, and offer their experiences and advice when needed. I called on a few mama friends over and over again — or sometimes just posted a question for the people of Instagram to chime in on — and always, always appreciated the flood of encouraging words that came in just when I felt like I was at a breaking point. Some may reach out on their own to check in, but please don't hesitate to initiate that conversation when you feel stuck or defeated, mama. We're ALL here for you, and we get it.
03. You will become very good at (quietly) getting a LOT done in little time.
I've always heard that mamas are incredibly productive during nap time (in the world of entrepreneurship, called the "nap time empire"). And it's so true; the minute our girl is down for a nap during the day, I find myself checking off #allthethings as quietly as possible while she snoozes. Or, you know, sometimes I just take a little snooze, too...
04. Letting go of expectations will help you enjoy the experience so much more.
I didn't know what to expect in her first month of life, so I read all the books and blog posts, watched the YouTube videos, asked everyone I knew; as it turns out, there is no one experience that is the same from newborn to newborn. While I found it helpful to expose myself to what it could be like, you simply don't really know until you're in the middle of it, figuring out what works best for you and YOUR baby. Letting go of how I expected things to pan out eased some of my anxiety and allowed me to adapt to baby's preference of doing things — especially in this first month, when sleep training and routines kind of go out the window.
05. Breastfeeding can be hard. Like really hard.
This is the one thing I couldn't find much info on during pregnancy — and then I was bombarded with all the info and "tips" once she was born. The truth is, breastfeeding can be really hard. It doesn't work out for everyone, and it's honestly an intimate learning experience just between mama and baby. There's a TON of info and support out there once you start looking, but until you go through the learning process with your babe, it's hard to know what to expect, research, or prepare for. A friend of mine sent me some of her favorite breastfeeding supplies, and I didn't know what ANY of them were... until I needed them and realized what a saving grace some of those items were.
My best advice? Keep an open mind, lean on the support you do have from your hospital resources and fellow mama friends, and understand that you AND baby are learning about this process. Once you find your stride together, it'll be a lot more comfortable and routine for you both. And it can be such an incredible bonding experience!
06. If you are breastfeeding, you NEED a Haakaa, mama.
I will say, the one thing I've been loving lately has been my Haakaa — a simple manual pump that suctions on and catches milk from the side baby's not currently nursing on. It's honestly amazing and so easy to use, and it's been more fruitful for saving extra milk than my pump lately.
07. A white noise machine isn't just for baby...
We registered for two white noise machines, and if you count our phones, computers, and Alexa, we actually use like six. We keep one in her nursery and one in our bedroom, and then we also downloaded apps and Spotify tracks for other white noise solutions on the go or in different rooms of the house.
But the thing I didn't realize before: the white noise is just as helpful for us as it is for her. Babies can be super squeaky and grunt-y at night during what's called "active sleep," and normally, I'd feel inclined to jump out of bed at any sound she makes. However, having a white noise machine in our bedroom (no matter where she sleeps) means it drowns out some of the smaller noises that would normally wake us. Trust me, when baby's actually crying and needs you, you'll hear it, white noise machine or no!
08. Your baby might not like all of the fancy equipment you registered for... at least not right away.
We were SO excited about everything we registered for and purchase for this sweet girl... multiple Pack n Plays, a Mamaroo, a bouncer, a play gym — and the truth is, so far, baby is only using one of the Pack N Plays and occasionally the play gym for tummy time. What we ended up buying after the fact that she DOES love during this stage is an exercise ball to bounce her on and a simple, compact swing.
Don't get discouraged if baby doesn't take to all of the fancy toys and equipment right away! She has simple needs in the beginning (the general rule we've found is that anything that simulates the womb environment is a keeper) and will likely grow into loving everything else you purchased eventually.
09. Practice using that car seat before you need to for the first time at the hospital.
Ok, so we knew how to snap it in and out of the car... but we didn't actually get a chance to practice putting a human (or even a stuffed animal) in the car seat prior to discharge day. When it came time to load her up and take her home from the hospital, it took a couple of videos and several people to securely and confidently fasten her in for the trip home. Car seats can be tricky if you've never used them before! Take a few minutes one afternoon to practice using a stuffed animal so you aren't stressed about her safety when it comes time to do the real thing.
10. Use your "me" time to do what makes you feel like you again.
When baby finally does go down peacefully for a nap... now what? My recommendation: whatever makes you feel like you that day. Sometimes all I want to do is take a nap — but other times, I honestly feel better doing a little housework, binging a show, reading a book, or cranking out a blog post (ahem). Don't let others tell you how you should be using that time. Do whatever you need to in order to feel a little restored in that moment.
11. Have something to look forward to during those middle of the night feedings.
I am NOT a night person. I always joke that I'm most productive when there's light outside (which makes me hyper productive in the summer and not always so much in the winter). So when it came time to adjust my schedule for our baby girl and wake up multiple times in the night to change, nurse, burp, and soothe her, my mental state took a hit.
Thankfully, I reached out to my Instagram community for ideas on how to use this time and found a new love in e-books! I've been renting e-books through our local library's website and diving in every evening while she nurses or snoozes on me. If I'm really tired and reading won't cut it, I have a few go-to shows on Netflix and Hulu.
12. When baby is crying and screaming, you're not doing anything wrong — it's just her only way of communicating at this stage.
I still have to remind myself of this one often: baby cannot be manipulative at this stage, AND you can't spoil a newborn, either. She's simply communicating with you the only way she knows how: through crying! Your job is to keep her safe and fed (and that goes for yourself, too). When a baby cries, it's generally for one of four or five reasons, so work your way down the list, tend to her needs, and cut yourself some slack. She's simply learning how to live in this new world, one day at a time.