We asked our members: “Do you have any advice for new parents? For example, is there anything you wish you had done differently?” Here’s a sample of what folks shared.
Get comfortable with unexpected changes and cultivate a birth “wish list” rather than a “plan.”
“It's totally okay to have reality differ from what you expected, don't beat yourself up over it! I read a lot about different birth experiences and thought I was ready for whichever path, but still felt extremely disappointed when I couldn't have a vaginal birth, which I thought in turn impacted my milk onset and led to further disappointment. Four months in though, the baby and I are both very healthy, and I've come to terms with supplementing with formula (which thankfully for us wasn't too hard to find despite the nationwide shortages).”
“I spent so much time creating our birth plan and making sure our OB knew what it was, and never considered the possibility we’d end up using a backup OB and need to switch things last minute. It’s common practice to meet your back up doula (which we had) - I would recommend you proactively do something similar with the backup OB.”
“I read a lot of books on childbirth and prepared vigorously for a vaginal birth. As part of my 'positive thinking,' I skipped all the sections in the books on cesarean delivery. Big mistake for me personally! I always feel better once I've studied, and I wish I hadn't let fear close my eyes to the possibility.”
“For birth, read/listen to birth stories so you know about the different scenarios that could occur and try to be accepting of not getting exactly what you wanted/planned. I didn’t plan on a c-section but that’s what I got. It was still a positive experience though. Thankfully I read enough to know it was a possibility and I wasn’t completely surprised or traumatized by what had to happen.”
“Going into the experience without being too tied to a ‘plan’ is helpful. Many things won’t go as planned so having a primary goal of healthy baby and healthy mom (physically and mentally) was helpful.”
“You can't control the birth you'll have, but you can try to line up the support you'll need to help you process and cope.”
You need less stuff than you think, both for the hospital and for the baby.
“I went way overboard in buying clothes for the baby. You really only need like 8-10 onesies and that’s enough! Don’t bother with outfits, if you get out of the house before 3 pm that first month it’s a huge win!”
“There are great finds on PSP if you keep an eye out early! So many things don’t need to be purchased new, and have so much more life left in them after the short amount of time they’re used for.”
“I overpacked for the hospital! Keep it simple - really just need pajamas for yourself, going home outfits (you and baby) and some snacks. Hospital has everything else you need.”
Care for yourself and stay ready.
“Do everything earlier than you think you need to! My second trimester flew by and then I delivered at 35 weeks, so we thought we still had all the time in the world to prepare. This includes packing your hospital bag early… I would *not* recommend trying to do it at 4am while in labor…”
“Really try to take care of as much as you can before baby arrives. Everything from baby stuff to life admin stuff for yourself. Once baby is here, there is zero time to do anything else.”
However, don’t feel pressured to over-prepare.
“Remember - this is a natural process. If it weren't going to go well most of the time, the entire species would end. So reassure yourself that there's nothing special you need to do to prepare (whatever you do prepare is bonus).”
Research and line up support for postpartum, not just the actual birth.
“I wish I had prepared more for the postpartum period after the first 4 weeks. I felt prepared for the initial recovery, but I had less preparation for how difficult reentering the world would be as my partner went back to work I started having to look at emails and work things, laundry started to pile up, and the prepped food started to run out. I wish I had scheduled some recurring help around the 4-10 week period.”
“Don’t overspend too much time on birth/delivery because it’s relatively brief. Spend more time reading about baby care and baby sleep. Again, once baby is here you will not want or even have time to pick up a book.”
“I wish I had prepared for how difficult postpartum would be and how difficult breastfeeding was going to be. I pushed through the struggles of breastfeeding and now I have been breastfeeding for 6 months now. I am very thankful I persisted!”
Savor the moment when you can.
“I really wish I had taken to heart how fast everything goes and just appreciated each day. Babies change so quickly and each stage has something you’ll love!”
You are enough.
“It’s really hard in the newborn days. If you hate it and aren’t having any fun, don’t feel bad or broken.”
“If you're reading this, it means you care enough to seek answers, ideas, and suggestions--which means you're already an extraordinary parent.”
Notes on breastfeeding.
“I highly recommend that parents looking to breastfeed study up before they give birth, so they aren't stuck waiting on nurses or lactation consultants for signposts of what is right and wrong. I was lucky enough to have a kind nurse in the hospital who helped, but advanced preparation was my ticket to feeling confident in the endeavor (which was not easy!).”
“I personally found it helpful not to be so tied to the breastfeeding outcomes - breastfeeding can be extremely challenging and allowing myself the freedom to accept help and alternative outcomes (ie formula feeding, bottle feeding) really helped me to focus on other important areas of parenting.”
“If you are breastfeeding, I highly recommend having someone take over one feeding shift during the night so that you can get more rest to heal and recover from giving birth (unless you are having low breast milk supply). I also highly recommend using ‘my breast friend’ as a breastfeeding pillow, especially if you end up needing a c-section. I would bring it with you to the hospital so that you have it when first learning how to feed (because that's when you need it most!).”
“When it comes to breast feeding consider the source of the advice. For instance my lactation consultant was most concerned with increasing my supply so encouraged me to pump often and early on, my doula was most concerned with my wellbeing so encouraged me to take it slow with pumping, my pediatrician was most concerned with the weight chart and pushed me into introducing formula. In the end I wish I had trusted my intuition more.”
“Don’t kill yourself to breastfeed. However, if it’s really important to you, be prepared for it to be hard work. Hopefully it won’t be! But have a care plan in place - be vocal about needing others to take care of all household chores and cooking while you spend 24/7 establishing the breastfeeding relationship. The non-breastfeeding parent will do significantly less childcare so be prepared mentally for that.”
Trust your gut if you or your baby is not feeling right.
“Even if you are a first time parent, trust your instincts. If something seems off with your newborn, get it checked out. Mine ended up in the ICU at 3 weeks old with a fever and a very scary virus. We initially thought he was just colicky or an unhappy baby, but that wasn’t the case.”
“For the birthing parent, remember that your health postpartum is just as important as your baby’s health, and your baby needs you to be healthy for you to take care of them. I had postpartum preeclampsia, and for the first few days I knew I felt off, but I ignored the signs because I was so focused on my new baby, and because I thought I was supposed to feel horrible after having a C-section and figuring out how to care for a newborn. I’m afraid to think what could’ve happened had I waited any longer to call my providers.
“Make sure you know the warning signs for postpartum preeclampsia and other postpartum conditions, and don’t hesitate to call your provider if something doesn’t feel right.”
Connect with your community.
“If you're a social person looking for support / advice - make sure you join your (PSP) birth group Signal group! I've found that to be incredibly helpful and was thankful for all the adult conversations I've had during my maternity leave.”
“Don't try to rush recovery, etc., but the sooner you can meet up with other new parents, the better. As soon as I went to my first parent meet-up after birth I felt so seen and supported by people who were going through lots of similar experiences. It was also helpful to process the birth with others after.”
Welcome any help that’s available to you.
“Put takeout gift cards on your registry!”
“Having support is essential - allow someone else to help you with cooking, cleaning, rest breaks. Takes a village!”
“I was adamant about not having anyone at home our first night back from the hospital, thinking that it would be a special bonding experience for my husband, baby and myself. Boy was I wrong! As first time parents, it was absolutely TERRIFYING to be at home with such a tiny baby and no expertise. If I could do it again I would hire a night nanny or nurse for that first week, or even just the first few nights.”
Things might be hard. They’ll get better.
“I think it is important for first time parents to know it is normal to experience anxiety and sadness those first few weeks. For the birthing parent especially, the hormonal shift is sudden and awful, but it does pass!”
“Every day will get a little bit easier. Ask for help if you can and need it. You will find yourself again.”