5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My First Baby

From expecting the unexpected to having the right birth team in place, there are a few things that most parents wish they had considered when having their first child. We've talked to our families and here are some of the things they wish they'd known the first time around.

Hindsight is 20/20, and rarely will you feel the truth in that statement more than when you have a child. There are so many things that parents might wish they had known in the beginning, or that they could go back and change after the fact.

Unfortunately, none of us can actually go back in time and change our experiences. However, learning from other parents beforehand is a great way to lessen the chance of those “shoulda, woulda, coulda” refrains.

Here’s a look at some of the most common things that parents wish they’d known the first time around, and how you can use them to transform your own birth experience.

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“Expect the Unexpected”

Many of us have heard about (if not read) the popular go-to book for pregnant parents, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. And while reading and research are great ways to ensure that you’re as prepared as possible for your new family member, there is one very important thing to remember: you should also be prepared for things to not go according to plan.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make a birth plan, or visualize how you would like the experience to go. It’s important, though, to recognize that sometimes, things happen outside of our control.

The great news is that if you prepare for the possibility of unplanned circumstances with a great team and backup plan, you can still enjoy your next-best birth. This means ensuring that your partner is supportive and knows what’s most important to you, so that they can fight for your needs even in the midst of the unexpected.

You should consider hiring a doula who will support, educate, and advocate for you. And you may even want to create a secondary birth plan.

You can’t account for every possible scenario when it comes to your baby’s birth. Therefore, your list might simply include the things that are absolute must-haves for you and your partner, such as delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and the like. That way, even if your baby’s birth isn’t exactly how you envisioned it, you can ensure that the most important requests are still met.

This idea of expecting the unexpected continues beyond your baby’s birth, too. It’s an important lesson to remember in the postpartum period and as your child continues to grow, so that you (and the support team you surround yourself with) can be ready for any scenario that comes along.

Interested in hiring a doula? Start your search on Meela here.

“Having a Baby is Hard (Yes, Even Harder Than You Thought)”

There probably isn’t a parent out there who expects that bringing a newborn home will be smooth sailing. However, most parents aren’t really prepared for just how hard it truly is to have a baby.

Lack of sleep is one thing. The type of sleep deprivation that a new baby brings can be overwhelming. While there’s not much that can be done to ease that transition into sleeplessness — aside from hiring a night nanny or postpartum doula — simply knowing that it’s harder than expected for everyone can make you feel less alone when it happens.

The postpartum period is also, for many parents, physically and emotionally harder than expected.

First, there is the physical healing to overcome. Depending on what your birth looked like, this healing period can last longer (and be more draining) than friends, family, and pregnancy books have warned.

This is where having a supportive doula, midwife, and/or OB/GYN can make all of the difference in the world. Even hiring a postpartum doula to help with housework, new baby tasks, or running errands can transform those first few chaotic months.

Lastly, the huge shift in hormones that occurs post-birth may come as a difficult surprise. These can impact you physically (think milk supply, skin, and even sleep issues) as well as emotionally. For some new parents, the hormone change can lead to “baby blues” or worse, postpartum depression.

Research suggests that placenta encapsulation helps with those sudden hormonal shifts. For many new parents, it can also improve sleep, moods, and increase your milk supply. Your doula may offer encapsulation services, or you can find a number of other providers in your area by searching here on Juno.

“…So is feeding one!”

You might be surprised to learn that one of the most difficult aspects of having a newborn is learning how to feed one. Whether you plan to chest or breastfeed, bottle feed, or a combination, there is definitely a learning curve… and having the right support system in place can make all the difference.

For instance, a recent survey conducted by UC Davis Medical Center found that 92% of new parents reported having problems with chest or breastfeeding within the first week of their baby being home. Of those, 50% had problems with the baby’s latch, 44% cited pain as their biggest concern, and 40% said that they didn’t think they were producing enough milk.

If those parents went into the newborn days believing that feeding a baby would be a natural (read: simple) process, it’s easy to see how they could feel like a failure. Without a helpful midwife, doula, La Leche League leader, or even a knowledgeable partner, they might get disheartened and give up too soon.

Feeding problems aren’t limited to chestfeeding or breastfeeding babies, though. Issues with reflux, dairy sensitivities, and digestion concerns are common no matter how your child will be fed.

Going into those early newborn days with the knowledge that feeding a baby can often be difficult might make it easier to tolerate. Knowing that you’re not a failure or the only parent encountering problems makes it easier to push through, and having a helpful guide — like a postpartum doula or LLL leader — might be exactly what you need to successfully nourish your baby.

Need chest or breastfeeding support? Find a specialist on Meela.

“Ask for Help… Seriously”

We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. However, today’s parents are notorious for fighting through those rough few days (weeks? months? years?) without ever asking for a helping hand from those around them. This is especially true of the primary caregiver parent, whether or not they work outside of the home.

While it may feel uncomfortable, or you might think that asking for help is a sign of failure, it’s important to know that there is nothing wrong with calling on your village after having a baby. Bringing home an infant is a new adventure that can completely transform your home, work, and family life — no one expects you to do it all alone.

Everything about a new baby is a foreign experience in the beginning. From feeding, diapering, bathing, and swaddling them, to sleep training and dealing with their first cold… each of these can be overwhelming to master. That’s why it’s important to recognize the value that the knowledgeable parents around you can provide, and realize that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.

By calling on family members, friends, or experts (such as your doula or a La Leche League leader), you’ll save yourself from much anxiety and worry.

“You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup”

Chances are that you’ve heard this refrain a time or two, typically referring to hardworking (and exhausted) parents. And while this may even seem like a continuation of the previous quote on asking for help, it’s important enough to warrant its own attention.

The concept of being unable to pour from an empty cup is one that’s incredibly accurate, but many parents still struggle to overcome. Today’s parents don’t have the “village” that previous generations did, plus they have the added stress of greater debt, more work, and the pressures of social media to compound it all.

As a result, new parents can quickly become overwhelmed, depressed, and too tired to function. When that happens, it’s hard to then take care of your baby the way that’s needed… which is why it’s important to make taking care of yourself a priority, too.

If you want to be able to be a good parent, you have to make sure that you are healthy inside and out. This means seeing your doctor if you begin to feel like postpartum depression is a concern. It also means hiring a night nanny or postpartum doula to help with your little one, finding childcare for older siblings in the first few weeks, or simply having a housekeeper come in once a week to take something off of your plate.

Looking for a night nanny? Find one here.

The daily pressures of newborns can weigh heavily on even the most mentally strong of us. Find an outlet for yourself, whether it’s simply a long bath when your partner gets home or going to grab coffee in silence. Even the simplest of things can work to “refill your cup,” so that you can be the best parent possible for your newest addition.

Having a baby is one of the most wonderful experiences in life. However, the reality is that it’s not always easy or according to plan. By setting realistic expectations and building a strong support system, you’ll ensure that your family (and your sanity) make it through intact!

Meela Team

We’re a close-knit team that recognizes the passionate pros who support growing families. Rather than accepting a broken birthcare system, where impersonal office visits and medical interventions take priority over education and individualized care, we’re flipping the script. We believe that one-on-one support and informed decision-making can turn the fear and anxiety associated with birth into pure joy and excitement. The way it should be. At Meela, we’re here to support our pros and empower parents as they embark on their journey into parenthood.


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