Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton just gave birth to her first child with husband Justin Verlander, who pitches for the Houston Astros. The adorable couple wed about a year ago, following the Astros World Series win. They announced the birth of their baby girl, Genevieve, with a few super-cute photos on Instagram over the weekend.
In honor of her new little one, and the miracle and joy of babies and parenthood, I decided to ask a few fellow moms if they’d offer Upton any advice. Lots of mamas chimed in, particularly veteran moms who wish they had done a few things differently. Here are five pieces of advice.
1. Make sure to heal well and long-term.
Whether you’ve given birth for the first time or the fourth time, giving birth strains a woman’s body, mind, and emotions. If you’ve adopted or are fostering a new baby, there are similar difficulties. Yes, women have been doing it for millennia, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk. There’s a reason moms joke the first month is the “fourth trimester.”
In the first eight weeks of a baby’s new life, things can feel harder than one would expect, even if birth, delivery, and recovery went generally well. If there are problems with baby or mama, obviously, this can mean things feel especially hard.
Most women’s bodies and minds will naturally heal following the lochia (somewhat lengthy bleeding after birth, similar to menstruation), stomach cramping, and nipple soreness (just keepin’ it real). They will, over time, work through or recover from sleepless nights, rollercoaster emotions, and how not to let their newborn’s cries give them anxiety. However, for a sliver of moms, healing will impose real difficulties. In fact, the American Psychological Association says up to one in seven women suffer from postpartum depression after the birth of a child.
In the last few years, several famous moms have opened up about their anxiety or depression following the birth of a first child. Tennis champ and new mom Serena Williams wrote on Instagram about how she felt like she just “wasn’t being a good mom.” In an essay, model Chrissy Teigen said she had been “unhappy” due to what she just started calling “postpartum” in hopes it would decrease the stigma around the concept.
Moms who are struggling physically or emotionally should actively pursue healing. Don’t let it fester or linger. They should not feel guilt about this, or like they are somehow a “failure,” but seek medical help and lean on friends and family. Few things can be better for your baby than a healthy mom.
2. Refrain from unfair comparisons.
It can be easy to look around and wonder how your newborn compares. In fact, one friend of mine, a mother of five, said her number one piece of advice would be for new moms to “stop comparing their babies to other babies.” She added: “Stop comparing yourself to other moms too. In other words, ‘They do this … should I be doing that?’ Just relax.”
It’s easy to compare, especially if you’re a new mom, because you’ve never done this before. Questions start to consume your mind, such as, When should my baby walk, crawl, eat, and talk? Or, Should I have shed my baby weight by now?
In many ways social media has made following this piece of advice much harder. Before cameras with phones, we thought all moms wore yoga pants and sweatshirts after giving birth, like us. Come to find out, some wear gorgeous dresses and heels after four babies, like Heidi Klum, who lost most of her baby weight within weeks.
I think Upton is gorgeous — I love women who are confident in their curves — and I have no idea how she felt throughout her pregnancy or how much weight she gained (nor is it any of my business). That said, for most women, and perhaps particularly for women whose career hinges on looking incredible, getting back to her “old self” may be a priority.
A BabyCenter poll of 7,000 new moms found that 61 percent “said they expected to be back down to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby’s first birthday,” and “nearly 60 percent were still carrying at least a few extra pounds.” This isn’t to say that Upton or other new moms can’t eventually make losing those last pesky pounds a priority, but it is reassuring for many to see how normal that struggle can be.
3. Soak in the moment.
After I gave birth to my first two children, I was consumed with accomplishing tasks, particularly weight loss. I also felt pressure to get out of the house, so we were busy taking walks, shopping, working, and meeting up with friends. I strictly followed a “parenting manual” of sorts and didn’t want to “spoil my baby,” so I didn’t snuggle either as much as my other two children, who came later.
Thankfully, by the time my third child came around, I saw how fast the newborn period came and went and spent a lot more time just holding my younger two, playing with them, and marveling at the miracle of babies. When you’re a tired new mom, the days can feel long, and the nights even longer, but in reality, 0-12 months flies by. As I figured this out, I let a lot of things go following the birth of my third and fourth children, so I could enjoy the snuggly goodness of a tiny baby.
Another friend who just gave birth to her fifth baby in August said she would tell any new mom the same thing. “Enjoy that baby,” she said. “Cuddle and hold that baby. The dishes and laundry will still be there, but [eventually] your babies won’t be.”
This gets harder and harder with more kids because there’s just more to do, but still don’t miss this first year, as best you can.
4. Establish a new routine.
While most veteran moms suggest enjoying your newborn baby over getting right back to work or tackling laundry, it’s also wise to establish some kind of new routine as you slowly get back onto your postpartum feet. There are many schools of parenting — helicopter versus free-range, orderly versus free-spirited — but that’s not what I mean.
I mean that as baby grows, onesies turn into shoes, which turn into boys or girls wholearn hard, work hard, and play hard. They will eventually create messes, wreak havoc, cost money, and hours and hours more time than you ever imagined. It’s important to set a new routine that allows you to adjust to the demands of motherhood without feeling like everything is caving in.
In an article on this topic in Parents magazine, Jeannie Bertoli, Ph.D., a relationship expert in Los Angeles, told the magazine:
Revisit your expectations of motherhood often. Consciously thinking about your vision will help you to understand that, like all moms, you’re learning as you go. Maybe you’ll say to yourself, ‘Huh, I didn’t realize that picking up messes is such a large part of parenthood. So then you set up a schedule, maybe ten minutes of cleaning twice a day, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
For me, the most important routines were actually first, how I ended my days. The old adage, “In order to have a good day, you need to have a good night” applies here. I found that a messy kitchen at night was a messy kitchen in the morning (surprise!). Clothes folded, but not put away, did not make an easy outfit to find the next day — and so on.
Some moms I know are morning people and they do the most important things in the mornings, such as a family prayer time. Last year, I began the routine of allowing one child to stay up late with me (an extra hour after bedtime) in order to have one-on-one time with a parent, since this can be hard to come by in “larger” families. Eventually, this became a sweet routine.
Your routine can look like anything you want it to, whether it’s a run with the baby in a stroller, or an “everybody naps in the afternoon” kind of thing. Maybe you have special time with your baby just after getting off work. Whatever the case, it’s okay to let your old routines go and pave a new one just for you and your new family member.
5. Ignore everybody else’s unnecessary advice.
Now that I’ve said all that, it’s important to note, in case you already haven’t, that you and your baby are unique. You have a different set of standards and ideas about what makes for a quality life. Whether you ask for it or not, you’re going to get a lot of good advice. Some of it will seem stupid, unnecessary, selfish, or far too selfless. You don’t have to take all of it, or really any of it.
For example, when I had kids, co-sleeping was becoming very popular again. A few mom friends tried to get me to jump on that bandwagon and I simply didn’t feel comfortable with it. On the other hand, I had a lot of friends encourage me to nurse my baby “on demand” and I preferred a far much structured routine. You can do either — just choose what seems best for you.
Sleep training is likely the biggest issue about which you’ll get advice. Should you do it? Or should you just let sleep take its natural course? Just Google the words and you’ll get millions of hits, for and against. A pediatrician at the Duke Department of Pediatrics described the topic like this:
Sleep training is a hotly debated topic. Advocates and opponents have set up camps on two opposing sides of the sleep training divide with seemingly no middle ground. Proponents of sleep training argue that it does not harm the child and has benefits for the child and family. Opponents say that ‘cry-it-out’ techniques are cruel to children and cause long-term problems.
Yet in the end, pediatricians or your friends don’t have to deal with any sleep issues, only you do. So approach sleep in the best way possible for long-term results.
I’m not saying don’t ignore advice or don’t ask for it, but there are bound to be things you won’t care for, ask for, or want. That’s okay too. On the other hand, sometimes, advice can be good when it comes from a trusted family member, friend, or medical source. There will always be things you wish you had done differently, but hopefully you’ll still find baby’s first year just as magical as your baby does.