Parents Share the Advice They Wish Someone Had Told Them Before Baby

We promise, not a single “sleep when the baby sleeps” in the mix.
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By Anna Davies, Contributing Writer
Published April 17, 2023
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“Get all the sleep you can now.” “Get ready, parenting is really hard.” When you’re awaiting the arrival of your little one, it seems everyone has a parenting opinion. But which advice actually stands up once baby is here? The fact is, nothing can prepare you for the unique journey that will unfold for your family. But it’s always helpful to talk to people who’ve been there, done that and are still often getting up in the middle of the night. That’s why we asked seasoned parents for the advice they wished they’d heard before having a baby. Read on for their tips.

“My husband and I used to meet after work for dinner, just because we wanted to. We used to love snuggling on the couch and watching a movie. And once you have kids, that changes. I don’t regret our lives now at all, but I wish I’d enjoyed the before years a little more,” says Jody, a mom to a 1-year-old, 5-year-old and 8-year-old in Gilette, NJ. Jeff, a northern Californian dad of two grown children, echoes Jody’s sentiment. “Once you have kids, it’s not just you and them. You’re a parenting team for life.”

You may already be in a few pregnancy and parenting groups or chats. If you are, know you won’t always agree with everyone on the forum. But stay for the gems of wisdom and leave the rest, says Maria, 40, mom of an infant in St. Paul, MN. “Every book, website or parenting forum has something useful to offer, and it’s totally okay not to subscribe to all of it. Also important: None will give you everything you need.”

“Be prepared to do laundry every day. Sometimes two or three times a day,” says Lacey, a mom to twin 3-year-olds and pregnant with her third in Hannibal, MO. Accidents happen and with babies and small children, they happen a lot. “No one ever warns you about the laundry…and I won’t even get into putting it away.” Her advice: Plan for the extra chores, talk with your partner about how you’ll divvy up the work—and make sure your washer and dryer can handle the extra capacity.

Parents have already shared how parenting forums can be great—but not when it comes to diagnosing symptoms, weird rashes or other things that really need a medical professional to suss them out. That’s why Lindsey, mom of a 5-year-old in Eastham, MA, recommends making sure you find a pediatrician you trust (ideally, before baby is even born) and relying on them to make the call when it comes to any decisions about your child’s health. “Everyone has an opinion, and I found it was best to save myself time, energy and sanity by just having one authority to turn to,” she notes. Ask around and see whom neighbors recommend.

Remember: You’re likely going to have to go to the pediatrician a lot in the early months, so it’s good to think about the convenience factor as well. Do they have weekend appointments? How easy is it to drive to and park? How do you connect with the pediatrician in case of an emergency? Research a few during the third trimester so you have someone on deck for baby’s first checkup.

In the early days of parenting, it can be easy to want to get to the next step: When your newborn is more interactive, when your baby is walking, when your toddler is potty-trained. But Leslie, mom to a 7- and an 11-year-old in Manassas, VA, wishes she had been a little less focused on the “what’s next” and more focused on the now. “When that baby comes, they’re only really little for a few years. I wish I had paid more attention instead of always thinking, ‘what’s next.’ I see videos of them from when they were little and I get upset because I don’t remember a lot of it,” she says.

Parenting a newborn can feel like a total-body workout. Remembering that can help you put things into perspective, says Jamie, mom to a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old in Pflugerville, TX. Picking up your baby, pushing a stroller, endless getting out of bed at night—all of it can leave you exhausted. That’s why nutrition and hydration can be especially important for new parents. “And then the weird thing is, as kids get older, the physical labor changes to emotional labor,” she adds. “You’re doing less picking up, but more drying tears. Overall, it’s just a huge amount of work that I wanted, but had never really been prepared for.”

Caitlin, a mom of a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old in New York, NY, was surprised at how sleepless nights continued into the preschool years. “I haven’t really had a good night’s sleep in four and a half years,” says Caitlin. Because sleep is so important, focusing on ways to maximize your sleep—including tag-teaming with your partner—can go a long way.

Maggie, mom to a 5-year-old in Hoboken, NJ, had plans to breastfeed her infant. But when she struggled with it, Maggie wished she had heard a stronger “fed is best” message early on. “For me, ‘breast is best’ led to some serious hormonal-mom guilt. For us, breastfeeding wasn’t working. No matter how much we tried, she was wildly hungry, I was wildly unhappy. As soon as I quit and was able to let go of the guilt, I was able to enjoy her. There should be no shame on how you feed your child,” she says.

“Embrace the slow pace of the early years, and don’t measure them in terms of productivity,” says Karen, mom of two grown children in Poulsbo, WA. “You’re doing work that can’t be measured. It’s like the earliest, tiny growth rings at the core of a tree. They’re invisible, but absolutely essential to its strength, health and endurance.”

Within those early days of fragmented sleep, your brain is likely going to go on a few “what-if?” spirals. While you can’t control the future, you can get the support you need to handle whatever it might throw at you. Whether it’s on the phone or through the app, State Farm® is there to help you navigate life’s curveballs and provide protection recommendations to help you choose the right mix of coverage.

At the end of the day, parents say there’s only so much advice they would’ve taken. Every family is different, and part of the magic of parenting is figuring out what works for you and your child. But that doesn’t mean you have to figure it out on your own. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences can help you set up a roadmap so you can handle any “what if” life throws at you.

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