Put yourself in the shoes of a new mom, and appreciate how difficult it is.

mom with long blond hair with her back to us, holding a newborn baby that's looking over her shoulder
Photo by Hollie Santos on Unsplash

It’s the middle of the night, and you’re sitting and rocking your newborn.

Your baby has a clean diaper and a full tummy. He’s sleeping, but the moment you try to put him down, he starts fussing and crying.

You are so sleep-deprived you can’t even remember what day of the week it is. All you can think about is sleeping, even if just for 5 minutes.

You are so tempted to lie down with your baby to sleep, but all the baby guides advise against it. Those guides make you feel as if you will cause instant harm to your baby if you disobey their orders.

And the ultimatums extend beyond sleep guides.

Do any of these sound familiar to you as a new mom?

  • Baby-led weaning is the only way to get your child onto solids — but don’t combine it with other methods!
  • Strict routines are a must — even if your baby is not showing signs of hunger, make sure they eat at that specific time.
  • Breastfeeding is the best and only way.
  • Bottlefeeding is the best and only way.
  • Let your baby cry it out at night; they will learn to sleep independently, be strict!
  • No screentime ever, your baby’s brain will turn to mush.
  • And on and on…

I’m a recent new mom (as of April 2020), and all of this conflicting advice drove me up the walls. I’m very much a person that researches things, and I found I just could not implement everything — it was too different from each other.

But, it did force me to find my own way. I found a way that worked for me and my baby. It forced me to rely on myself and to find my self-confidence and own it.

It was that or go crazy.

Motherhood is Not Black and White

A 2012 study into 50 years of motherhood guides has revealed that they all have one thing in common: Their “advice” is always “issued as orders, and they set unattainably high standards for new moms.”

I’d wager that this is even more true in today’s internet age. Information is available at the click of a button, and each expert will have you believe their method is the only way.

The truth is, life is not black and white. There is no one right way. There is your unique right way that works for you and your baby.

As someone who wants to help a new mom take better care of herself, start by taking care of her first before she can take care of herself.

Here are some steps you can take to help a new mom.

#1: Allow Her to Cry

Give her the space, time, and permission to have a good cry. Maybe draw her a bath, or just be a shoulder for her to cry on.

There is so much pressure to be the perfect mom, and when you fail to achieve Instagram standards, you feel like a failure. You almost don’t want to admit to yourself you can’t reach those standards.

So tell her she’s allowed to cry. Even if she doesn’t know why she’s crying, it’s a good emotional release.

Empathize with her. Validate her feelings. Ask her how she is doing, not the baby. A new mom needs to feel like she still matters, as well.

#2: Reinforce her Belief in Herself

Point out the conflicting advice that is available everywhere. Point out that the “orders” they give are often unrealistic.

Sometimes something that seems obvious to you may not be that obvious to someone in the depth of despair.

Give her permission to acknowledge the conflict, and the stress, and the guilt. Then give her permission to do it her own damn way.

And remind her that she doesn’t have to be perfect. She is good enough, just as she is.

#3: Encourage “Selective” Social Media Exposure

While I was on maternity leave, I explicitly avoided all social media feeds. I did go onto mommy Facebook groups, however.

I found those mommy groups to be supportive, and they give actionable advice. It was not so much about how perfect everyone’s life is; they shared the actual hard facts about how difficult it is to be a mom.

A 2016 study found that moms “who posted more on Facebook tended to report more depressive symptoms after nine months than other moms.”

These moms are trying to validate that they are doing the right thing on social media — and when they don’t get enough likes or comments, they feel like a failure.

They especially felt like a failure when comparing their posts to posts from other moms or celebrities.

So remind your new mom friend that no one posts “bad things” or the “real things” on their social feeds. And trying to compare with Helen from Instagram is just going to make her unhappy.

Social media can be toxic; use it selectively.

In closing, remember that a new mom is also a person in her own right. She doesn’t exist purely to care for the newborn. There are challenges around every corner. And all the available, conflicting information is enough to drive anyone mad, never mind a new mom with her hormones raging all over the place.

Help her, validate her feelings, be a shoulder for her to cry on.

You won’t believe what a difference that can make.

1 Comment

Wondering how to cope as a new mom? Don't be overwhelmed, take these 5 steps | New Mom · 11 Dec 2021 at 6:38 am

[…] My aim for sharing the below is to help you as a new mom cope with these challenges. And to help you realise that you are not in this alone […]

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