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I felt completely overwhelmed, and terrified that I would fail miserably at parenting. I mean… what did I know about taking care of a baby!?
Parenting is the most incredible, yet challenging journey you will ever embark on. Motherhood, especially for the first-time, comes with a lot of questions. But where do you turn to for advice? It doesn’t take long to realize that there aren’t any definitive answers. In fact, you’ll probably think you have a plan, but once your baby comes along, I guarantee that plan will go right out the window!
I’ve been there. I’m a total Type-A, must-have-a-plan-for-everything kind of gal. Two kids and many lessons later, I’m still learning and I’m definitely no expert. But, I’ve learned a lot that I can share, and so this post was designed with you in mind, mama! Full of tips and helpful advice, this post will help guide you as you prepare for your new baby.
Your Ultimate New Mom Survival Guide
When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2016, I spent most of my time scouring the internet, trying to compile every bit of info that would tell me how to raise this little human growing inside me. I was determined to have a little manual all ready to go so I could be completely prepared for her birth and first year at home (haha, yeah I got a lot of laughs when I told people that, too).
It was SO overwhelming, and I had to search far and wide for the answers to my questions. Although I did find a lot of helpful info, little did I know that my own baby would be the greatest teacher I could ever have. What I also learned, is that there is one common, simple truth to describe all mothers everywhere: none of us really know what we’re doing.
Why do I say this? Because I’ve talked to many new moms who tell me they’re feeling discouraged and alone because they have no clue how to do it “right”. I mean, I felt that way too. You have to realize that every mother is in the same boat at one time or another. But, we survive, we adapt, and we learn from our experiences.
I love to organize, plan and research everything. So, finding the best time + money + energy saving hacks comes with the territory. Along with the things I’ve learned as a parent, I’m also here to share my favourite resources that helped me survive along the way. I’m hoping they will help you too!
Whether you’re a new mom looking for tips, or a mom doing this newborn thing all over again – this post is to help you with the basics of preparing for your baby when you feel like you don’t know where to start. I created this guide to help save as much time and stress for you as possible. I’m so glad you’re here!
Knowing What Advice to Listen To
All the information you come across will do one of two things. Either it will help solve your problem, or make you cringe. Go just with your gut. Yes, even if all the people and all the books are telling you to let your baby scream in the car seat because they “have to get used to it”, but your gut says it’s not right, listen to your instincts!!
My son did this a couple times, and I later figured out that it was because he was way too hot in his car seat. He would get absolutely drenched in sweat from a 10 minute drive… in the middle of the winter! He wasn’t crying “because he’s just being a baby.”
I’ve actually been told that more times than I can count.
He was crying because he had a problem that he needed help with. My husband and I decided that our best option in this case was to get him a new seat, and just like that, our car rides became much happier overnight. And while this may seem like an obvious solution, the same approach can be taken in any other situation as well.
There were so many days when my daughter was a newborn, where I’d hear her scream as soon as she was on the change table. My husband of course (through no fault of his own) was there to get a job done and knew it would only take a minute – baby could wait. But from all the way down the hall, my internal alarm bells were ringing!
That’s a PAIN cry, help her!
As moms we have this incredible innate voice telling us when something is not right with our babies. You will quickly learn to understand that little person more than anyone else in the world. Ladies, this includes the men in your lives. I’m not saying they can’t do an incredible job raising our babies, it’s just that they are physically hardwired differently. And if you gave birth to that sweet little baby, or are their primary caregiver, you have this special bond with your baby that no one else has… and YOU are their advocate! So don’t doubt yourself. Even if no one else agrees.
Every mom is different. Every baby is different. What works for one family may not work for yours, and vice versa. Stick with the advice that works, and toss the rest. Listening to your baby’s cues and your gut is a pretty amazing tool that you should definitely trust.
I just couldn’t ignore her cries. I picked her up and put her over my shoulder. Instantly, a huge burp came out, and she was completely happy again. We figured out pretty quickly that my daughter needed to be burped before laying down (as most babies do), and that taught us to avoid the issue on the change table. It was a learning experience that boosted my confidence as a mother, and in my ability to understand my baby. It also really helped me get to know the different types of cries she had. And yes, that’s definitely a thing!
The 11 Most Important Things To Do To Prepare for Baby
1. Don't Get Trapped by Mom Guilt
Mom guilt can be relentless. All we want is the best for our children, but we are going to make mistakes, misread cues, forget to do things, etc (we’re only human, after all!). Don’t let yourself get trapped in the mindset that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or strong enough.
That’s a LIE. You ARE strong. You ARE capable. Most of all, YOU are the person your baby loves more than anyone else in this world! And you got this.
Make mistakes, but learn from them! Your baby will forgive you. If you fall, get right back up and keep your head high. Not only is this so important for your mental health, but also, remember that you have little eyes looking up at you that will one day follow your example. Show them they’re capable by modelling that behaviour.
And besides, that’s what firstborns are for, right? (I say that because I am one) 😆
2. Have a Support System and Be Open to Advice
There are very likely many motherly figures in your life. Your mom, grandmother, aunt, sister, friend – whoever it may be. They’ve been down this road before! A few times, even. If you trust them, ask them for their opinion! Tell them your concerns and see what they say. You might find their advice to be extremely helpful! Or, you might decide their advice isn’t for you… which is perfectly fine. Just remember that if your plan doesn’t work and you need a Plan B, it’s nice to have other options in your back pocket.
Thankfully, I have wonderful mothers in my life to help offer advice or lend an ear when I needed it. That helped SO much! If you are fortunate enough to have this, make sure you take advantage of that. If not, build relationships and make connections with people who can be your support system. You will also need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, someone to make you a meal, or even just someone to cuddle baby so you can have a little break.
Having a support system in place so others can help build you up when you’re feeling down is something that should not be overlooked. Your health is so important!
3. Don't Overdo It
Before my daughter was born, I knew I already wanted the best for her. In my mind, that meant having all the things, with all the bells and whistles. I didn’t want her to go without, and my husband and I were thankfully in a position where we both had a reliable, full-time income. I’m not exaggerating when I say I went a bit overboard and bought way more than we needed. I’m talking, two different nursing pillows, multiple baby carriers, outfits for DAYS, etc.
Did we really need all that stuff? No, and since then we’ve actually sold or donated a TON of it. It caused unnecessary stress, drained our bank account, and cluttered up our house. You don’t need it all. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
4. Stock Up on the Essentials
Okay this might sound like a contradiction, but there are some things you WILL need, and in large quantities. It’s pretty much impossible to know exactly what your baby will need or use before they’re born. Even something that seems simple – like clothing – shouldn’t be purchased in large quantities before you get to know baby. I remember thinking my babies would be small because its genetic on both sides of the family. Even my midwife told me she would be surprised if baby was over 8lbs. But, low and behold, both my babies were over 8.5 lbs at birth and didn’t fit into newborn clothes for long!
I had stocked up on a TON of newborn sized clothes for my daughter, in every piece imaginable, and she probably only fit into them for 3 weeks tops. There were outfits she wore once and some she didn’t wear at all. That was a tough pill to swallow, but a lesson learned for sure.
The same goes for other baby products, like bottles. Some babies will end up bottle feeding from day one, and probably not have a bottle preference. Some babies however, will not. take. a. bottle. ever. (eg: my daughter). I bought 4 or 5 different kinds of bottles in hopes that she would drink from the new one, and it never happened!
So when you’re stocking up on the “essentials”, make sure they’re really necessary. Like, something baby absolutely needs in order to grow and thrive.
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Here are some things to keep in mind when you start your list:
- First Aid
- Nursery + Bedding
A few helpful tips:
- Many people who gift clothing at the baby shower will often give NB to 6 month sized clothes. Try to wait until after your baby shower to buy clothes, if possible.
- Some of your essentials might look different depending on the season your baby is born in.
5. Don't Be Above Hand-Me-Downs
For some people, this is a no-brainer. For me, on the other hand, I hated the thought of hand-me-downs for my first baby. After all, she was the first! My princess! She deserved the best! Hand-me-downs are smelly, dirty, worn out, and gross… or so I thought. Once I realized how expensive baby stuff is, I started to reconsider. You can find almost everything you need second hand which will not only save your bank account, but save the planet, too! Reusing all those clothes is a great way to help reduce waste.
If you’re like I was – a little hesitant to buying secondhand items for whatever reason, here are some items that you can get that won’t actually feel like they’re used. Check with friends and family, on local buy-and-sell pages, garage sales, consignment and thrift stores, etc.
My sister-in-law bought a ton of gently used toys for her son from a local buy-and-sell page. She threw them in the wash and then passed the toys she didn’t want over to me. Some of them ended up becoming a few of my daughter’s favourites!
Big ticket items
- Baby swings and bouncers
- Play pen
- High chair
- Jolly Jumper
- Baby carriers
Most of these things are super easy to wash or sanitize before use, and it’ll save you a ton of money. I managed to get a Fisher-Price Snugapuppy swing and bouncer for an unreal price on my local buy and sell page! It was so easy to throw the fabric in the wash, and I ended up laying a blanket down under my babies anyway in case they spit up or had a blowout. When I’m ready to pass it on to the next mama, it’ll still be in great shape.
Many cloth diaper mamas take pride in keeping their stash clean and in great condition. These are an awesome item to purchase second hand if it’s something you have been considering.
6. Don't Compare Yourself to Others
If I’m not careful, I find myself falling in this trap from time to time. This way of thinking is dangerous. You don’t know what other people have going on in their lives, like the state of their finances, their health, their relationship with their spouse/family… the list goes on. It’s so easy to see a glimpse of someone’s life and think they have it all – and find yourself wishing you could have it too. But guys… comparison is the thief of joy.
The truth is, we’re all walking different paths. You just never know what that person is dealing with, and you also don’t know how hard they worked to earn what they have. Don’t let the view of someone else’s life blind you from the blessings you have in your own life!
On those days where I get caught up wishing I could do better, or have better, I have to very quickly remind myself to snap out of it. And then ask the Lord to forgive me, because I truly have everything I could ever want. A roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, food in my fridge, a family who loves me, and my freedom.
My brother-in-law, Alex, really put it into perspective for me one day. He said, “a lot of people make it work with a lot less.”
He’s right on the money. If you’re reading this right now on your phone or computer, you’ve got it better than 42% of the world’s population. In most cases, there are people looking at what you have, wishing they were fortunate enough to have it. That’s some food for thought, huh!
7. Clean and Organize Your Home
This is the perfect time to declutter those bathroom cabinets and scrub down those floors. But make sure your cleaning products are free of harmful chemicals and hormone disruptors. More and more people are turning to natural cleaning products, and for good reason. We’re being overloaded with toxins everywhere we turn, and it has a serious effect on our health. Did you know it only takes 30 seconds for the skin to absorb substances and 2 minutes for it to get into the blood stream? Check back for my upcoming post about Thieves cleaner and why it’s the only thing I use to clean and sanitize everything in my home.
The stuff is seriously bomb guys (but not the bomb, because that would be uncool… 😆)
My two all-time favourite cleaning experts are Becky from Clean Mama, and Melissa Maker from Clean My Space. They have great info and cleaning routines that can really help you get started without getting overwhelmed! I binge watched Melissa’s videos during my first pregnancy and learned a lot from her. I’ve also been using Becky’s cleaning routine for years! They are awesome resources.
Another thing to keep in mind is where baby will sleep, eat, bathe and play. Will you be co-sleeping or giving baby their own room? Either way, they will need a space of their own. Set up a nice little area for each of these, get some organizing baskets or cubes, and you’ll be set.
8. Take Time for Yourself: Mentally and Physically
- Get regular exercise – it doesn’t have to be intense to be beneficial!
- Eat lots of leafy greens! Boost your body’s Vitamin K stores – very important for birth
- Take good quality vitamins (these are my favourites) and make sure you aren’t deficient in iron, calcium and magnesium.
- Get plenty of rest (and take advantage of the fact that you don’t have little ones interrupting your sleep yet! haha)
- Use essential oils (I use this brand because of their Seed to Seal promise) There are so many awesome, therapeutic benefits – backed by scientific research – and they can help support your body and mind in many ways.
- Spend quality time with your spouse and loved ones
- Go get a massage from a Registered Massage Therapist (someone who is trained to massage during pregnancy)
- Fill your freezer with a bunch of healthy snacks and meals so that you won’t go hungry on those long, tiring days where you don’t feel like cooking (or baby won’t stop cluster feeding)!
9. Make a Game Plan (And Be Prepared For It To Change)
Do your research about labour and delivery. Look into your hospital or birthing center’s policies and decide what’s right for you and your baby. It’s so important to remember that this is your pregnancy, your labour, your baby and your body. You are the boss. Make a birth plan and show it to your Doctor, Midwife, Doula, etc. and have someone there to advocate for you in case you can’t. The hospital staff will typically try to accommodate your requests as long as there are no life threatening circumstances.
Having said that, you need to know that your plan WILL change. There is always something unexpected that will happen. Have realistic goals for your labour and delivery, but it’s also very smart to be flexible and have a backup plan.
During my first pregnancy, my husband and I decided we wanted to have a home birth. All the research I had done made them look so beautiful and peaceful. I had even attended my best friend’s home birth 9 months earlier, with the same midwife, and it was the most incredible and emotional experience I’d ever been a part of! So when it came time for my home birth, I was pumped. Everything looked great. I laboured at home for 14 hours, and we had a birthing pool set up. Unfortunately, after 3 hours of pushing and no progression (which is a long story), I had to pack up and go to the hospital for a c-section.
To say I was devastated would be a severe understatement.
It took me a long time to get over the fact that my daughter’s birth didn’t go the way I had hoped (like, at least a year). I am so very thankful that my daughter was born completely healthy, with no complications, other than some bruising and a very swollen head from the prolonged pushing. However, it didn’t change the fact that I went into labour thinking it would go as I planned, and I hadn’t prepared myself for anything different. That was my mistake. So when it was all over, I felt ripped off.
I was used to seeing my friends’ beautiful birth announcements on social media. I watched countless YouTube videos of women having perfect, beautiful births; with immediate skin-to-skin, and the immediate, love-at-first-sight relationships with their babies. And while I’m sure that was the case for them, it definitely wasn’t my experience. Don’t get me wrong: I have loved my children unconditionally right from day one, but I remember thinking, “Where are the butterflies? The sparks? The fireworks?”
I was overtired, upset, and full of unrealistic expectations (story of my life though – haha). My biggest lesson through all of this is to keep a positive mindset; I am a firm believer in the power of your thoughts and spoken words. If you think negatively, your life will reflect that! I spent some time in the months afterward, researching my experience to see if others felt the same way I did. I was surprised to find that the majority of women actually share in my imperfect experience. But for whatever reason, we just don’t talk about it. We should share not only the beautiful stories with each other, but the hard ones as well! Build that community of support.
Know that however your birth story goes, you sure aren’t alone in it. The most important thing is that mom and baby are happy and healthy, and that your expectations are realistic. Of course, my hope is that you have the perfect, beautiful experience you are planning for, because yes it can happen! Just remember, backup plans are necessary.
Here is a Visual Birth Plan from Mama Natural if you aren’t sure where to start. I followed her all throughout both my pregnancies; her information and resources were invaluable to me!
10. Take a Prenatal Course
Prenatal classes are typically offered in every city. But, if you’re like me, and there aren’t any courses of interest readily available to you, take a look online. I highly recommend Genevieve from Mama Natural. She was my go-to resource during pregnancy. You can find her course here.
In the end, I opted out of taking a prenatal course because I felt like I had done enough research to go into labour with confidence. Looking back, I really wish I would’ve taken her course anyway. I think it would’ve prepared me to handle my labour way differently. Whether or not the outcome were different, I think I would’ve been much better mentally prepared… which is just as important as physical preparation.
11. The Challenging Stages Will Pass
It doesn’t feel like it at the time, when everything is new and you’re trying to get to know your baby, or even just survive the day. In the midst of a challenge, it can be really hard to focus on anything but the difficulties. When you feel like you’re at an all-time low and there’s no end in sight, remember this: it will pass. Nothing lasts forever. And it will probably pass when you aren’t expecting it to, either. Like, just as you’re finally getting used to it, one phase will end and another will begin!
The long, sleepless nights will get easier. The cluster feeding will fade. The laundry will do itself (haha, I wish!). Point is, try not to focus on the hard stuff. Take it one day at a time – sometimes one HOUR at a time. Just keep pushin’ through – you’ll make it!
The Last Thing You Need to Know
Preparing for your new little one’s arrival doesn’t have to be stressful, and it definitely doesn’t have to be expensive! In the midst of it all, make sure you don’t neglect yourself either, mama. Work within your means, stay positive, and you will be just fine.
I still remember all of my new mom anxiety, and fear-of-the-unknown feelings, wondering how I was going to be a good mom. Let’s be real, that anxiety won’t ever completely go away. But it’s there for a reason: to keep you in protective, mama bear mode!
The basic takeaway here is to:
- Love and respect your child
- Take care of their needs
- Be present in their life
Do that, and they will love you with such unconditional love that it’ll blow you away. It’s the best.
To help get you planning without feeling super overwhelmed, I created this printable checklist for you. Keep it on your fridge, in your planner, or anywhere else you’ll find it helpful!
Click here to get your free printable!
So dear moms and soon-to-be moms; learn from (and laugh with me at) my mistakes. You’ll also make plenty of your own mistakes, but you’ll become a stronger person from it. Babies are resilient! Don’t feel silly asking other moms for advice. It’s how we survive! Listen to your mama instincts, but most of all, go easy on yourself. You’re gonna do great!
As my husband likes to say about my son…
I’m a baby. I’m in charge!
And he’s not wrong. lol.