mistakes new mamas make and how to avoid them

Are you looking for the secret to being the perfect mama in the first year?

It’s all right here, starting with the ultimate secret to totally rocking the first year with a baby, which is: You will not be perfect. 

Repeat it. Believe it. Own it. 

Honestly, it’s exhausting the pressure we put on ourselves to be this perfect mother, because we want to be that perfect mother for our babies. 

We assume there is a “right” way to do things, and a “wrong” way. The fact is, being a great mother is finding a way to be relaxed and happy while meeting your baby’s needs. That’s it. 

Sometimes your baby will cry all day, and if you can accept that then you will be a way happier mama. Not there “perfect” super mama you had pictured, but a happier one. And that truly is the key to perfection when it comes to being a mother. Accepting it’s not realistic to be putting out fires all the time. 

So to help you enjoy the first year instead of striving for the perfection that will leave you stressed instead of happy, here are the top new mama mistakes we all make, and how to avoid them!

1. MISTAKE: Assuming breastfeeding is natural 

Not enough is done to educate and support mothers before breastfeeding begins. 

Breastfeeding a newborn babyBreastfeeding a newborn baby

As a result, we assume it will just click, without realising how tricky it can be to get the hang of it!

There’s so much to think about, from getting the latch right so that you don’t feel pain and baby can access the milk, to how often and how long should your baby be nursing for. It’s a minefield. 

For this reason, so many mothers are shocked at how hard breastfeeding is, especially in the first six to eight weeks, and many throw in the towel after just a few weeks. 

What to do: 

To avoid this, read up on breastfeeding as much as you can while pregnant. If you are new to breastfeeding now, know that it does get easier!

Before you quit, remind yourself this baby is a huge change to your life! Surrender to how much time breastfeeding is taking out of your day and just shut yourself in your home and feed, feed, feed. 

For pain, try nipple cream and shields to help your nipples heal and keep looking at videos of mothers latching on their babies. You will get there in the end. 

2. MISTAKE: Beating yourself up for bottle feeding

Many mothers either switch completely to formula feeding or begin some kind of combination feeding after a few weeks. 

This prompts waves of guilt because the “gold” standard is to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. 

How you feed your baby in the first year can become this all-consuming obsession that impacts on your mood so much you forget to enjoy just being a mother. 

What to do: 

How you feed your baby right now does not define you as a mother. In a few years’ time you will not even remember this breastfeeding guilt you have. You will just be worrying about toddler tantrums and potty training. 

It really is such a minor issue in the grand scheme of being a parent. 

Of course if you wanted to breastfeed your baby but were unable to for whatever reason, it’s right that you may feel a little upset. But don’t wallow in this feeling. 

Pick yourself up, and remember breastfeeding your baby does not make you an amazing mum. Loving your baby does. 

3. MISTAKE: Believing you will never sleep again 

In the early weeks your baby may wake up every two hours at night to feed. 

When they go through growth spurts and sleep regressions they might cry and wail for hours through the night.

These changes and phases are so dramatic you may assume that this is just it now for the rest of your child’s early years. 

The idea of scraping through with just a handful of hours sleep every night fills you with dread, makes you moody and can leave you feeling really down, to say the least. 

What can you do: 

Remember that it IS just a phase. When you’re in the thick of it it feels never-ending and like this is just your life now. 

But these periods of poor sleep often come and go in a flash. For babies who are particularly difficult sleepers, try making a change. 

Once your baby is six months you can start think about sleep training, which does not have to involve loads of tears. You can use gentle sleeping training to get your baby settling by themselves and sleeping for longer stretches. 

When you start weaning your baby, you may also find they sleep for longer periods, both because they are eating heavier meals and because they are a little older. 

4. MISTAKE: Comparing your baby to others

My five-week-old rolled over. 

My four-month-old is sleeping through. 

My six-month-old said “mama”. 

When you have a baby, chances are you will end up hanging out with a lot of other mothers. 

The natural topic of conversation is your babies and how awesome they all are. The trouble is, other people’s talk of what their baby is achieving, particularly when it comes to sleep, can leave you feeling pretty rubbish. 

What can you do: 

Stop comparing right now. It’s not helpful to compare your reality to the perception you may have of other people’s lives. 

First of all, what someone tells you is happening with their baby right now, may not be true in a night’s time. Babies change so very quickly in such short spaces of time. 

So the mama with the baby who is sleeping through may hit a nightmare sleep regression tomorrow. 

Everyone is different, so stop comparing!

5. MISTAKE: Not taking enough breaks 

This one goes back to the super mama pressure we put on ourselves. 

You think you need to do it all yourself. And there may also be an element of actually wanting to do it all yourself, because this is your baby, and you want to be the one to be there for him or her. 

What can you do: 

You cannot pour from a cup that is empty. Small breaks where you just switch off, practice self-care and get a little perspective can make a huge difference. 

If you try to go at it 100mph every single day, you will eventually burn out. 

Accept help when it is offered, because chances are you have people in your life who do want to help. 

6. MISTAKE: Assuming there is always a good reason for the crying

Everything you know about babies tells you that crying is bad. And everything you know about parents tells you that your job is to stop the crying. 

So when your baby cries you go through the list of things it could possibly be: Too hot, too cold, hungry, uncomfortable, bored, tired. 

When you can’t get your baby to stop crying, you worry, panic and go slowly insane. Baby cries are a stress noise used to train the military to deal with psychological torture. There’s a reason for that. 

You feel like there must be a reason for the crying, and then you blame yourself when you can’t stop it. 

But, sometimes babies do just cry. It’s sometimes labelled colic, which is simply where babies cry for long periods of time for no reason. 

In my experience, all babies go through a very fussy period, generally from around two weeks to three months, where they cry a lot for no reason. This is particularly an issue in the late afternoon and early evening. You can find out more about this in the article with loads more information about the witching hour, as it is known. 

What can you do:

Make sure your baby is not unwell. Check their temperature and go through the list of things that may be bothering them, such as comfort, hunger and tiredness. 

When nothing seems to work, hold and comfort your baby through it. Take turns holding your baby with your partner and remind yourself that this is a phase and it will not last forever. 

7. MISTAKE: Trying to force a routine 

We’re all creatures of habit. Some of us more so than others. 

But we generally like to know what’s coming next, especially when you have a huge responsibility like a baby to deal with. 

I am a huge fan of routines when it comes to babies. BUT, in the first few weeks it’s pretty much impossible to force a newborn into a routine. 

This is because they themselves are adjusting to life on the outside of the womb, and so very much is going to change in the early weeks. 

That means as you try to force a routine, you can sometimes burn out with the effort. You’ll get frustrated which will not help matters. 

baby boy in diaper on white, blue eye

What can you do: 

Step back and observe your baby for a few days. Try just going with the flow for a while. 

If your baby is very young, less than three months, then do not even think about enforcing a routine. 

After three months, you may see patterns emerging in how long it takes your baby to become tired after waking. 

I have posts with suggested routines for babies at 3-6 months and 6months and above. If a routine is not working for your baby, stop forcing it! You may find you fall into a slightly different routine when you stop trying so hard. 

8. MISTAKE: Worrying about the baby weight 

The media has a lot to answer for when it comes to pressuring mothers to ditch the baby weight and fit back into a bikini within a matter of weeks. 

Your body will have changed a lot in the nine months it took to grow your baby. In the early weeks after giving birth, your body will still look a few months pregnant as your womb contracts back to normal size. 

What can you do: 

There is plenty of time to lose weight. The best way to get rid of any extra pounds you gained during pregnancy is to eat a balanced, healthy diet that includes carbs, protein, vegetables and fat. 

Get active whenever you can, which shouldn’t be hard with a baby to care for! 

Love the skin that you’re in and focus on the positive things in your life. 


9. MISTAKE: Listening too much to other people 

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to babies. 

There will be advice pouring out of everyone after you have a baby, from your parents, to your in-laws to the person at the checkout in the supermarket. 

The trouble with overwhelming amounts of advice is that it can confuse you and leave your questioning your own judgement. 

What can you do: 

Remind yourself that you are the one who knows your baby best. This is your baby!

So take any information volunteered to you, or that you read, and think about whether that is genuinely useful to you. 

One of the best things I ever did was to just research, take on board all of the information and then just use the bits and pieces that were of use to me. 

10. MISTAKE: Thinking you must be doing it wrong

When you have a baby there are dizzying highs and crashing lows. 

The trouble with human nature is that it tends to focus on the negatives. 

There will be a lot of tough days when it comes to the first year with a baby. You will assume that this is because you’re doing something wrong or missing something. 

What can you do: 

Remind yourself daily that being a good parent is all about doing your best. 

If your baby is fed, growing well and being loved, then you are not doing it wrong! All of the other stuff is little details that don’t matter. 

Look at the bigger picture and be proud of what you are achieving. 

11. MISTAKE: Not covering the bum

Changing a nappy and getting a wee or poo in the face is almost like a right of passage for parents. 

What can you do: 

Laugh it off and remember to have the fresh nappy ready to go the next time!

12. MISTAKE: Thinking you have to get back to “normal”

After you have a baby there’s a weird pressure to get back to “normal”. As if nothing has changed. 

You may feel like you have to get outside to take in the fresh air or socialise, and have everyone over to visit straight away. 

The trouble with this is that you can end up utterly exhausted and struggling to bond with your baby. 

What can you do: 

Take it easy. You just had a baby. Nothing is going to be “normal” again in the classic sense of the word as you used to define it. 

Embrace the change and give yourself time. 

Pull up the drawbridge and stay at home at much as you want. A little fresh air is great, but don’t put yourself under loads of pressure to get back to all of your old routines and activities right away. 

13. MISTAKE: Trying to do too much

You’re trying to please all of the visitors who want to see you and join every baby group in your area. 

On top of that you’re trying to pack cooking, housework and maybe even work into your busy day. 

The reason for this is often that just looking after the baby all day leaves you feeling like you haven’t achieved much. The house is a tip and you’re having takeaway again. 

What can you do: 

Give yourself some time off! It’s perfectly ok to have got to the end of a day and realise all you did was feed and cuddle your baby!

14. MISTAKE: Cleaning instead of napping

Your inner Monica from Friends is struggling with the state of the house. So whenever the baby gives you five minutes when you can put her down without her screaming, you frantically tidy and clean. 

But it’s not doing your healing body any good. 

What can you do: 

When someone asks if they can do anything to help, ask them to pitch in with chores around the house or cooking. 

Let the house fester for a few weeks, it’s totally OK to live in a bit of mess for a while. Cut back the amount of cleaning you do to a quick pick up of toys and laundry at the end of every day. 

If you can afford it, hire a cleaner for a short while to pick up some of the slack so that you can get some proper rest when the baby is sleeping. 

15. MISTAKE: Freaking out about milestones

Babies don’t start to roll over because they have hit a specific week. There are rough guidelines, but some babies may be a few weeks or months behind certain milestones. 

You panic about your baby not recognising their name, or reaching for a cup or pulling up to stand at the time all of the books tell you they will. 

What can you do: 

Remind yourself that every baby is different. They all do things at a different pace. 

Allow your baby time to learn every new skill. Sometimes your baby may be ahead of the curve on certain things and sometimes they might be well behind their peers. This doesn’t mean they will never get there!

16. MISTAKE: Not taking time to do nothing

Having a baby is hard, but spending time with them is a gift. 

It’s easy to think we have to keep up with our fast-paced lives even after the baby has arrived.

When there’s an hour with nothing planned, you rush around doing things around the house, talking on the phone or planning dinner. 

What can you do: 

Recognise that it’s totally OK to slow down. Read to your baby, just sit and cuddle them or spend time showing them their toys. 

Sit down and relax as much as you can, having a few slow days is good for the soul. 

17. MISTAKE: Rushing the weaning process

When it comes to weaning your baby, it can be a whole lot of fun. But it can also be stressful if you’re worrying about things like how much your baby is eating and all the work it seems to involve. 

If you’ve spent hours making homemade baby food only for your little one to take half a bite, spit it out and refuse any more, it can feel pretty demoralising. 

What can you do: 

Think of this mantra:

Food is for fun until they’re one. 

Make sure you are offering your baby food at mealtimes, and give them a huge variety from veg to meat to fruit. 

But if your baby only eats one bite every day for two weeks, do not panic. They can still get all of calories they need from milk. 

By the time your baby is one, aim to be offering them food at breakfast, lunch and dinner with two or three milk feeds a day. 

You will find that one day it will just click and your baby will love solids!

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