Although we once religiously read What To Expect and The Baby Whisperer from cover to cover, nothing could have truly prepared us for when our little ones finally arrived in the world. In fact, if you found that textbook methods often fell short with real life application, you're not alone.
Here, real moms reveal the success secrets the parenting guides don’t tell you.
1. Stop worrying about those milestones.
“What works for one baby may not work for another, so there’s no point in comparing milestones with friends’ babies, i.e. taking first steps, weaning, potty training etc., as they will all get there in their own time and in their own way,” said Claire Westhead, a mom to Max, 6, and Maisie, 2.
“Instead, enjoy the uniqueness of your own baby and don’t put pressure on yourself or the baby to doing anything faster or slower than he or she is.”
2. Rock your baby to sleep if you want to.
“Don't worry about ‘making a rod for your own back’ — you will not be rocking your teenager to sleep!” said Emma Scobie, a speech and language therapist and mom to Mia, 3, and James, 6. “What really worked for us was making decisions that were right for me, the baby, and the family.”
U.K. blogger Erica Price agrees and advises a walk to soothe your baby to sleep: “You could even seek out some uphill walks so you can get some exercise and quickly walk back (downhill) when baby is asleep,” said Erica. “Combine the walk with a shopping trip, and you can pile up the bags underneath for even more of a workout!”
3. Save cash by turning your house into a baby drop-in.
“Don't be shy about opening up your home,” said U.K. blogger Becky Goddard-Hill. “Meeting up with other parents in coffee shops is expensive and can be boring for babies, and chances are your parenting pals will do the same, so you’ll save yourself a load of money."
"And don’t worry about the state of your house," she continued. "Everyone will be in the same boat and just grateful for a chance to chat and relax.”
4. Enjoy nighttime cuddles in your bed.
“Once both my babies were over 6 months old, they would regularly sleep in bed with me at night,” said Westhead. “While this seems to be against most moms' rules, it meant we could all get a good night’s sleep and function for work the next day."
"I would also cuddle them for their day naps, because this time was so precious when they are that young," she added. "It meant I would get an hour’s rest, too, rather than racing to do chores while they were asleep.”
MUST-SEE: Finally! There's Undeniable Proof That Having a Baby Changes Your Brain Forever
5. Warm the bassinet.
“After feeding the baby, I found she tended to nod off on my chest,” said award-winning blogger of "Guilty Mother." “But after a short while, you’d have to transfer her to the baby basket so you didn’t get stuck there for hours — only to find her eyes opening as soon as you move her!"
"My mother told me this is because the [bassinet] is cold, and as soon as you lay the baby down, she'll instantly know she have been detached. To resolve this, before you start your feed, lay a hot water bottle in the middle of the basket wrapped in a blanket. When you think it's the right temperature, check to ensure it’s not too hot and delicately complete the transfer. It worked for me, and I could then go and make myself a celebratory cup of coffee!”
6. Take care of your mental health.
“When I was preparing to become a new mom, I read all the baby books, blogs, and magazines," said Olivia Siegl, founder of The Every Mum Movement, which aims to empower moms to take care of their maternal mental health. "I exercised regularly, lathered myself up with all the anti-stretch mark creams, ate the right foods, and took all the right vitamins. But my preparation was all based around my physical wellness — not once did I consider my mental wellness,” she said.
“I was never made aware of the importance of being mentally prepared and mentally strong for becoming a mom, and yet when we have a baby, our body and mind go through a monumental change. As one of the ‘one in five’ that suffered with postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis following the birth of my two girls, I wish someone would have told me that I needed to look after my mental health; I would have been diagnosed earlier and claimed back my right to enjoy motherhood sooner."
"I encourage all moms, and their partners, to empower themselves to be ‘mentally buff’ for parenthood," she added. "Read up on maternal mental illnesses, recognize the warning signs, and be assured that if you do suffer, with the right support, you will be well again.”
7. There’s no such thing as a "natural" mom.
“Nothing came particularly naturally to me as a new mom, which is something the books definitely don't tell you!” said Emma Scobie. “We didn't always get it right [the] first time, or even the second or third time. It was a learning process."
"When you're a new mom, all the other new moms look like total pros with textbook babies, but actually, once you get to know them, you realize all of them struggle in some way," she continued. "It’s great to share your problems with other moms, and while they won't always have the answers, it's good to know you're not on your own.”
8. Try white noise for a noise-free night.
“Babies love white noise!" said one blogger. "From a baby’s perspective, he or she has spent the last nine months in your womb where everything is loud. In fact, life outside the womb is uncomfortably quiet, so, after testing a few white noise albums, we found a rainforest and nature album was the most calming for our baby."
"The best part is they’re extremely portable, so you can take the music with you wherever you travel," she added. "And you never know, it might just help you drift off, too!”
9. Prepare ahead for leaks.
“Before going to bed, I used to get everything ready for the nighttime wakes — diapers, bags, wipes, cream, a change of pajamas in case of a leak,” said customer services advisor Claire Buswell, from the U.K., and mom to Henry, 7, and Freddie, 9. “Having it all prepared and ready to go in one place saved me sleepily fumbling trying to find things.”
10. Turn tantrums into TV.
“One thing that’s always worked for me when it comes to toddler tantrums is to take a video of the child on my phone and play it straight back to him or her,” said Westhead. “This always seems to turn a difficult situation into a giggle!”
11. Sore nipples? Visit the grocery aisle.
“Breastfeeding in the very early days can be a very painful process, especially as your baby’s appetite grows bigger each day,” said the founder of the "Guilty Mother." “One friend suggested putting cabbage leaves into your bra to help ease the soreness, and I think it’s definitely worth giving that a try!”
12. And finally…throw the baby book out!
“Go with your gut,” said Alison Feetham, a U.K. teaching assistant and mom to 10-year-old Ben. “I tried so hard to do everything ‘by the book,’ but what worked best was when we just did our own thing."
"There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to babies, or indeed moms, so don't worry if the latest advice and guidelines don't work for you," Feetham said. "If something everyone is advocating doesn’t feel right for you, don't do it — use the bits that feel right and forget the bits that don't. It doesn't make you a failure and doesn't mean you are doing it wrong — the best thing for both mom and baby is to be happy.”
We couldn't agree more with these amazing tips.
This post was written by Alice Whitehead. For more, check out our sister site Now To Love.