a mom and baby in a round up of the best advice for new parents

The Best Advice For New Parents

From real moms and dads who have been there.

Originally Published: 
The 2023 New Parents Issue

Along with tiny socks that won’t stay on your baby’s feet and a pastel-colored blankets, people love to give advice to new parents. And honestly, it can be a little overwhelming. There are hacks on keeping your house organized and tips on keeping your baby from screaming in the car seat and strategies for helping them poop. Too much advice, all at once, can make it feel like you’re already behind in the parenting game before it’s even started.

It’s impossible to listen to all of it, let alone implement it. But there are going to be certain situations where you wish a wise parent would appear at your shoulder and whisper something like “Try a washcloth over their penis during diaper changes so you don’t keep getting sprayed with pee.” Or “You’re going to be fine. This is really nothing to worry about.”

And for those moments, I asked a bunch of seasoned parents — some are just a few years into this lifestyle and some are now sharing this advice with their grandkids — to give their absolute best advice for new parents. I asked each of them which nugget of wisdom they wish they could share with every new parent so that they, too, can make it through a treacherous moment of self-doubt.

There’s a variety of advice here, and while some of it might not pertain to you, give it time. Parenting looks different for everyone, but each of these situations will occur, and I hope the advice within feels like a fresh cup of coffee, a bouquet of flowers, and a James Earl Jones voiceover promising you that everything is going to be OK.

Advice You Wish Someone Told You Before Your First Outing

  • Pack the stroller. I know you don’t think you’ll need it but pack it. — Josh R., dad to a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old
  • Get a good cup holder for your stroller and invest in a really nice coffee thermos or water bottle. It’s a good incentive for getting outside and taking your baby on a walk. — Gayle P., mom of four
  • Check the diaper bag before you go. I know you put a pacifier in there yesterday but just make sure. — Sarah F., mom of twin 2-year-olds
  • Pack an extra shirt for yourself. Trust me. — Jarrod H., dad of three

Advice For When Your Baby Won’t Let You Put Them Down

  • Pick some nice, easy shows with lots of episodes for nighttime binge-watching during cluster feeding, contact naps, whatever. I recommend comedies and feel-good sitcoms, like Modern Family and Parks and Rec. — Jamie R., mom of two
  • Put the baby down in a safe place (crib, bassinet, middle of an empty floor) and walk away for a few to calm down and regroup. Crying will not hurt your baby, but your actions while frustrated and overwhelmed can. — Megan A., mom to a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 9-month-old
  • You can hold your baby while the pediatrician gives them their shots. They will let you; just tell them. You’re the mom! — Jazmin F., mom of two
  • Babies are fine if they cry for 10 minutes. Put them in a safe place; go take a shower already. Seriously, they are fine. — Sarah H., mom to 7-year-old twins and a 3-year-old

Advice For The (Very, Very) Messy Moments

  • When your baby has a blowout (and they will... a lot), onesies are designed to be pulled down over the shoulders. You don’t have to pull it up over their big ol’ baby heads. — Jamie K., mom to a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old
  • Skip the dryer and hang stained baby clothes out in the sun to get rid of poop stains, spit-up, tomato sauce — whatever the heck they’ve got all over themselves. — Maddy S., mom of two

Advice For When You’re Really Not Sure If You’re Cut Out For This

  • Don’t beat yourself up over enjoying and soaking in every moment. Not every baby stage is going to be your favorite, and that’s OK. Putting pressure on yourself is just going to make the hard moments harder. You’re not a bad mom for wishing away a certain phase of motherhood! — Nicole G., mom to a 2-year-old
  • No one can be that baby’s mama like you can. Trust your gut. You’re not a bad mom if you don’t like the everyday tasks of motherhood. A lot of it is repetitive and hard, and overall, it’s just a lot. — Destinee F., mom to an 8-year-old
  • When you go in to pick your baby up out of their crib, turn your camera so it’s facing you instead of them one day. You’ll love watching your face light up when you see your baby. That’s what your baby gets to see! They love you so much! — Samantha S., mom of three
  • Never lose sight of the fact that you are the best parent for your child and you deserve to celebrate every win, no matter how big or small it may be. — Hilary Duff, mom of three (yes, that Hilary Duff)

Advice For The Darkest Parts Of The Day

  • Don’t feel ashamed accepting help or reaching out for help. The first few months are difficult, and you can find yourself ignoring your partner, your health, sleep, or other kids. By having help, you can prioritize some of those other things you’ve had to put aside while you’re in survival mode. — Zack, father of one
  • Let people help you with housework, groceries, laundry, cooking. It really does take a village sometimes. — Ashley, mom of three
  • Don’t bombard yourself with research. Trust your instincts and turn to qualified professionals and trusted friends as opposed to social media and Google. — Sheila, mother of one
  • Read the books if you want but don’t stress about doing things “by the book.” There is no one-size-fits-all for any aspect of life with a newborn. Trust your instincts. — Ivy B., mom to an 8-month-old
  • It’s OK to tune your kids out sometimes. — Destinee F., mom to an 8-year-old
  • Don’t beat yourself up over breast milk. Breastfeed, pump, combo feed, go straight to formula — all are valid choices. Your worth is not measured in ounces! — Joy L., mom to a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old

Advice For Taking Care Of You

  • Go outside. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, even if you have to take your baby with you. Just get outside at some point and breathe some fresh air. — Samantha S., mom to an 8-year-old, 4-year-old, and 11-month-old
  • Self-care is not selfish! Especially during those first years. It can be hard to ditch tiny babies for an hour to go work out, but you will return to them a happier, more zen mother. Taking care of yourself is a way to take care of your family. — Caroline H., mom to a 3.5-year-old and 2-year-old
  • Don’t forget your own hygiene. Whatever you really enjoy, whether it’s a bath, hot shower, skin care routine, nails, etc., make time for it. When you’re completely sleep deprived, at least you’re clean and you’ll feel a little better. — Hannah, mother of two
  • Having a new baby is like being in a casino: It’s very hard to tell what time of day it is. As soon as we got home from the hospital, I followed my own mom’s very sage advice to establish day and night. During the day, we were out in the living room, getting as much natural light as possible, listening to music, talking. The baby obviously napped a lot, but he did it out there with us. During the night (which lasted about 12 hours on average), we would keep things dark and quiet and drowsy, spending it mostly in the bedroom. It took a long time for our baby to get the message, but it helped my husband and I begin to put together a routine for eating, sleeping, and living. It was our first stab at establishing a family rhythm. — Liz A., mom of a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old

Advice For When You Just Love Your Baby So Much, You Think You Might Burst

  • Invest in the highest level of cloud storage, and maybe an external hard drive, too. You’re about to take a lot more pictures, and you’ll want to keep every single one. — Katie M., mom of a 2-year-old
  • Most stores will let you exchange unopened boxes of diapers for a different size in the same brand. — Henry P., father of two
  • Get down in the floor and play often so you can see the world from their point of view. It’s a whole different world. — Terry M., mom of two
  • Don’t try to make a happy baby happier. I always felt like, in the first few months especially, I was always trying to. If the baby was in his little rocker seat or whatever and content, I would be like, “How can I augment this experience? What could I dangle in front of him to make this even more amazing?” And it’s like, “Don’t do that. It’s fine. They’re fine.” Being content is great. Content’s exactly where you want to be. Jessi Klein, mom of one
  • Put your phone in selfie video mode and record yourself interacting with your baby. You’ll love watching these as they grow, and it really helps on the days when you worry that you’re not enough. — Julie D., mom of three

Now here’s my final bit of advice: Don’t forget that you get to be someone’s parent! Can you even believe it? If you just remember that — that you are this baby’s parent, you’re the one who loves them best, the person your baby looks for every single day — then you can literally do anything. Even clean puke out of a car seat. (Bonus tip: Get the chunks out before you toss it in the washing machine.)

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