6 Ways to Boost Your Confidence as a New Parent
Congratulations! After months, maybe years, of dreaming about this day, your new baby has finally arrived. Whether you have read all of the parenting books, or still haven't opened one yet, you are going to have questions and concerns as a new parent. Don’t worry. You're not alone! It’s natural to be feeling a bit unsure about this whole parenting thing. Below are some ways to build your own confidence as a new parent as you settle in at home.
1. Go with your mama intuition.
Sure, it's important to follow guidelines when it comes to feeding and sleeping, but, don't underestimate your own intuition. We have seen first-time parents get caught up in rigid schedules, because that's what the coach told them to do, or what worked for their mother in-law or best friend. But, if something doesn't feel right, then perhaps it's not the best option for you, and it's time to try something different. On the other hand, if something else is working well for you and your baby and everyone is happy, then don't feel bad about it! Trust your instincts.
2. Focus on your baby's cues.
While the advice of experts is certainly helpful, don't overlook the importance of the cues coming directly from your baby. At first, you may feel as though you really don't know your little one at all. It can be overwhelming trying to guess why they're crying and what they need in that moment. But, within the first few days and weeks, you can begin to learn their hunger and sleepy cues and anticipate your baby's needs before they get upset. (If cues are missed, babies can get overtired or extra fussy and have a harder time settling down.)
You may also find that your baby uses different cries for hunger, discomfort (such as a dirty diaper), or pain (such as gas). Paying close attention to the particular sounds of these cries can help you better understand what your baby is trying to communicate.
Below are some newborn cues to look out for:
- Hunger Cues: Bringing hands to face, Rooting (looking for the nipple with their mouth), Making sucking motions and noises, Sucking on their fingers or putting their fist in their mouth.
- Sleepy Cues: Yawning. Jerky movements of hands and legs. Less vocal. Weak sucking. Redness around the eyes or drooping eyelids.
- Fed, rested, but still fussy? It could mean your baby is too hot, too cold, has a soiled diaper, is overstimulated, or maybe they just need a change of scenery!
3. Allow your partner plenty of time to bond with baby, too.
As mothers, it is natural for us to be the primary caretaker. It is also common to feel reluctant to give up control. You've been bonded with your baby for months as they've grown inside of you, and then as you've been by their side day and night, making sure all their needs are met. So, it can be hard when you hand over your baby only to have them start crying. You may want to jump in and help your partner right away. However, when possible, allow your partner to take baby and figure out what works for them (sometimes, it can be different than what works for you!). Allow them to practice different techniques without judging or interrupting them. Encourage them to spend time holding, bonding, soothing, and feeding baby when possible. By doing so, you are allowing your partner to build their own confidence, too.
4. Don't be afraid to call your pediatrician or nurse's help line.
If there is something specific concerning you, you can save yourself unnecessary stress by calling your pediatrician or nurse's line, rather than spending hours on the internet. The doctor may ask you to come in, but often times, questions can be answered over the phone or on a video call. Trust us, you're not the only one with that poo-related question, and the nurse is happy to answer it for you!
5. Expect the Unexpected.
As parents, we want to do everything perfectly. We have our plans all laid out and a vision of how we will deal with each situation. But then, reality check! Anything can change in a moment, and we need to be able to pivot. For me, this happened even before my first child was born. My birth plan was written on the wall, the do's and the don'ts. But, given the circumstances, none of my requests were possible, and I quickly learned that it didn't matter how we got there, as long as our baby was healthy and happy. Throughout each stage of parenting, this doesn't change. Parenthood (and life in general!) is full of the unexpected, both good and bad. There is simply no way to be fully prepared for what's to come. We must do our best to see our children, and ourselves, for the unique person that we each are and adjust accordingly.
6. Don't compare yourself to other parents.
Remember, there is no one right way to parent. We compare how our babies eat, how long they sleep, how we transport them, how they go to daycare or have a nanny, how quickly they learn to walk and talk, and of course, we compare ourselves.
Although it can feel impossible to avoid, comparing yourself and your child to others can cause feelings of frustration, inadequacy, disappointment, guilt or even false confidence. So, rather than judge the mother for using formula, or feeling like you are doing something wrong because your baby is the only one fussing, try surrounding yourself with mothers who love each other, learn from each other, and know at the end of the day that their own choices are enough.
Most importantly, remember that you are strong, smart, and capable (even through the fear and doubt). Your love for your child is enough. Yes, mama, you are doing a great job!