When my daughter was extremely small, it took me several months of exhaustion to realize how product-oriented I am. I'm not one of those people who enjoys the process, or who can look at things and appreciate incremental change. I see things, baby included, as success versus failure. So in those early weeks and months, there seemed to be a heck of a lot of failure. However, most of those are very natural things new moms beat themselves up about, but really shouldn't.
When you have a tiny newborn (especially when it's your first tiny newborn) to take care of, everything to do to keep them alive can make even the slightest mistake feel like the end of the world. If they don't feed well or don't sleep enough — heck, if they don't poop enough or poop too much — it feels like it will make or break your child's health and potential future. In reality, there's a whole spectrum of "OK" situations your child could present you with, and just because those situations may not be what some baby book specifically outlines doesn't mean your child isn't progressing.
After a few months with our daughter at home, I realized that she only yawned or acted tired well after she was exhausted. She was a party animal with some serious FOMO and wasn't going to let us know she needed to sleep when she really freaking needed some sleep. We also realized that she needed a lot more sleep than the books told us she would. She was taking three naps everyday for several months longer than any book explained. However, once I stopped judging her based on the books or even friends' experiences, my version of success greatly improved.
Whether Baby Is Eating Enough
For the first few months of my daughter's life, she wasn't a great eater. She wasn't great at sucking and had a tiny appetite. Getting her through a few ounces of formula took so much cajoling and prodding and bouncing and distracting that getting to the end of the bottle without me crying was rare (at least for a little while).
Looking back on it, some of it was reality but some of it was what I now know new moms beat themselves up over no matter what. If she had been eating more or too much, I would have been fretting over that as well. And if I had been just a little more chill about her eating, she might have chilled out herself a little more.
Whether Baby Is Sleeping Enough
At 3 weeks old, my daughter was awake for eight hours straight. I remember that day vividly, calling my mom from our fifth hour walking around the neighborhood trying any way I could to get her to sleep. That was when she caught her case of FOMO and didn't let go of it for a good long time.
However, it's also when I started actively freaking out about whether she was sleeping enough. Before that, she had slept so much and so easily! But that began a phase of me keeping track of how much she was sleeping and beating myself up if she wasn't getting enough. We broke out the heavy blinds and I finally figured out her nearly non-existent sleep cues, and we were both able to get some sleep eventually, but my freaking out definitely didn't help matters. I should have reminded myself that being awake for too long isn't going to break her. She'll be just fine, we'll just both be exhausted.
Speaking of poop, that's yet another thing new moms typically (and needlessly) beat themselves up over. Enough poops, the right consistency, all those questions you never thought you'd have to think about when it comes to bowel movement, you're now obsessing over.
Not Spending Every Minute Entertaining Baby
I once asked my sister-in-law, who had a 2 year old at the time, whether she ever felt guilty for not playing with her daughter every minute when she was tiny. My daughter was only a few months old and only awake for short periods of time each day. Whenever she was awake, I felt guilty just leaving her on a blanket while I did something around the house or letting her sit in her bouncer. My sister-in-law reassured me that that was a totally normal freak out, but to leave my daughter alone for a while and to lose the guilt associated with not entertaining her every minute.
Not Teaching Them Enough Each Day
There was a moment when another mom said something about music class or swim lessons (I think our babies were about 4 months old) and I had a total freak out that I wasn't actively teaching my daughter enough. But realistically, a 4 month old might not need all the structured lessons. I gave my mom a panicked call and she reassured me that talking and reading books and singing with her was more than enough to teach her so early. Plus, the added pressure of trying to keep up with the overachieving moms wasn't going to do either of us any good.
Not Getting Baby On A Schedule
I think when you're a new mom, and everything seems to be out of your control, you latch onto something and start fixating. That was me with scheduling. I felt like I was completely out of control of keeping this little one alive, so I clung to the idea of getting her onto a schedule. Like a lunatic, in fact. I was so obsessed with finding the right schedule and making sure I could get her to stick to it, and it was completely unreasonable. I also viewed one failure of staying on schedule as a total failure of a day. No need for that, new mom me! One missed nap doesn't mean the whole day is lost.
Looking Put Together
My basic minimum standard was to get out of my pajamas before it wasn't morning anymore. I may have just been changing into yoga pants or jeans and a shirt, but I wasn't in my pajamas and that was good enough. I wasn't going to put pressure on myself to be made up and put together (at least for a few months).
Spending Time On Your Relationship With Your Partner
There's nothing a new mom needs less than extra pressure put on herself or by anyone else to do more things. Spending time with your partner is obviously good and important, even in those first few months that you're a new mom, but please don't freak out about whether you've had enough date nights in the early days. Do what you can, sneak a coffee date or a walk around the neighborhood, and take time to listen to each other as much as possible.Then, when you're ready, organize a proper date night when you're not about to fall asleep in your soup.