1. Create a routine (and stick to it).
Moms who are natural planners might find this one to be a no-brainer, but if you’ve always lived life flying by the seat of your pants, take note. Babies—and parents—who have a loosely set schedule every day are happier and less stressed than those who just, well, go with the flow. That’s not to say you should run your household like Captain von Trapp, but you should plan activities (like waking up, eating, playing, napping) around the same time each day to help baby know what to expect and put both of you at ease.
2. Ask for help.
For independent sorts, this can be challenging, but never will you need a helping hand more than those first few weeks with a newborn. Don’t feel guilty about asking a friend who drops by for a visit to hold the little guy while you finish up some dishes (and catch up on the latest gossip). Or ask your mother-in-law to finish a load of laundry while you get some shut-eye. People are happy to assist, especially if they’ve been there themselves.
3. Keep a journal.
This isn’t just to keep track of those first year milestones—although you should do that too! Writing down every time you breast- or bottle-feed (along with how long or how much) and noting your baby’s wet and dirty diaper count will help your sleep-deprived brain keep up. If anything appears out of the ordinary, you’ll have a handy log to show your pediatrician.
4. Buy a video baby monitor.
If you have the urge to run to the crib at every peep, a video baby monitor can help calm your fears. Instead of just hearing your baby in the middle of the night, you’ll be able to see her and know when she really does need her mom—and when she’s just blowing spit bubbles in her sleep.
5. Make friends with other moms.
If you’re the first in your group of friends to have a baby, this is extra important. You don’t have to say goodbye to your kid-free pals, but definitely seek out new mom friends who can commiserate and celebrate each step in your new adventure. There’s nothing like a heartfelt I know exactly what you mean to help save your sanity.
6. Get organized.
In the last trimester, you’ll likely have the nesting bug and go on a cleaning frenzy. Build on that motivation and make sure everything has its place.That way, when your baby does arrive, you won’t be scrambling around thinking, Now where did I put that extra set of crib sheets?
7. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
This tidbit has been passed down from generation to generation for one reason: It’s good advice! Your typical nights of uninterrupted sleep are no more when a baby comes into the picture, so take each opportunity you have to catch some ZZZs. If for some miraculous reason you aren’t exhausted when your baby takes a nap, use the extra minutes to take a shower or catch up on a good book. Me-time is priceless in the first few months, so take advantage of every spare minute.
8. Listen to your elders.
Just like when you’re pregnant, everyone wants to give you their two cents when you have a newborn. Sure, it can be annoying, but it can also be really helpful! Don’t discount everything your mom and mother-in-law say. Remember, they did a pretty good job raising you and your hubby, so they must have done some things right.
9. But go with your gut.
While everyone who gives you advice means well, you are the mom and you know what’s best for your baby. Always trust your instincts and talk over any concerns with your pediatrician.
10. Fill up your DVR.
Feeding your little one is great bonding time, especially in the first few weeks—and then, honestly, it can start to feel like just another chore. If you stock up on recordings of your favorite shows, those endless feedings—especially the late-night ones—won’t feel quite so monotonous.
11. Give yourself a break.
There will be days (lots of them) when the laundry doesn’t get done and you crash into bed while there are still dirty dishes in the sink. And—write this down—that is OK. Your baby is only a baby once, and even if it doesn’t feel like it now, the time is going to go by so fast! Enjoy the little moments and don’t sweat trying to be Supermom 24-7.
12. Stock up on nutritious meals.
When you haven’t even had time to brush your teeth during the day, cooking a full meal for dinner is out of the question. In the months before your baby is born, make and freeze nutritious casseroles and dishes that you can just pop in the oven easily. And never turn down a neighbor who offers to drop off a meal.
13. Buy formula.
Even if you’re a die-hard breast-is-best advocate, it doesn’t hurt to have one can of formula for backup. If you have a tough time getting baby to latch on during that first week, or you just need to give your sore breasts a break, it’s nice to have another option on hand, so nobody has to make a special trip to the store.
14. Ask questions.
You’re a new mom—you’re not expected to know everything. Don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician as many questions as you have, even if you think they sound silly. Getting the answers will put your mind at ease and let you enjoy motherhood even more.
15. Pamper yourself.
Every new mom deserves a break. Have hubby watch the baby and take an hour for a pedicure, facial or massage. Or go for a much needed night out with a good girlfriend. You’ve just spent nine months creating the miracle of life—you deserve it.