“Sleep When Baby Sleeps” and Other Nonsense Advice for New Moms

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When you have a newborn, people give you a lot of advice, most of it unsolicited. Your mom will tell you how she did things decades ago. Your friends will chime in with their insight, but what worked for their baby might not work for yours. And total strangers will come up to you on the street and tell you what they think about your baby’s eating/ sleeping/ pooping/ crying habits. You can let these well-meaning folks get under your skin and make you crazy, or you can give yourself full permission to ignore them. You must not let any unhelpful gems like these trip you up.

“Sleep When the Baby Sleeps.”

Everyone, I repeat, everyone will give you this advice and you will nod along politely but inside be silent-screaming. “Sleep when baby sleeps” is certainly not the craziest advice ever created, but it can be so frustrating to hear because once you’re a new mom you realize it’s logistically almost impossible. You may be half zombie-fied from sleep deprivation, but those precious hours when the baby is sleeping are essential for basic human decencies like taking a shower or shoveling Cheez-Its or leftovers from five days ago into your mouth. You have to weigh the pros and cons. Do you want to eat food and not smell like spit up all day, or would you rather catch a few Z’s that may be interrupted after four minutes by baby snarfle sounds and crying anyway? It’s your choice.

“Forget about doing the laundry for a while.”

I’m sorry, but what man came up with this ridiculous piece of advice? Of course the last thing a new mom wants to do is the laundry, but who on God’s green earth is going to do the laundry if not the person who’s home with the baby all day? You can outsource it if you have the means, and you can skip a week or so of your own laundry if need be. But the baby’s laundry is non-negotiable; you’ll be doing that daily for a while because fluids. And, sooner or later, your dear old S.O. is going to come around asking where his/her clean undies are. And your older kid’s going to want to know where their “special pajamas” are. Guess what, mom? This is now YOUR PROBLEM. Just do the damn laundry. No one said this was going to be easy.

“You must breastfeed the baby.”

What’s with moms judging other moms about how they feed their babies? Yes, we’ve all heard the mantra breast is best. But the way some women talk about it, it seems like they think it’s the only way. What these women are missing is that many moms can’t breastfeed due to a low supply, crappy latch or any other myriad issues. And some women don’t want to. And some of us (ahem, me) made ourselves such basket cases trying in vain to breastfeed baby #1 that we just couldn’t face the same kind of mental breakdown with baby #2. So yeah, if breastfeeding works for you, great. If not, there’s this amazing invention called formula that feeds babies just fine. Take advantage.

“It’s OK to ignore the housework.”

Another piece of sage advice from someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. Is a vacuuming fairy going to come in the night? Or should just let the dirty, crusty dishes pile up for days in the sink until my kitchen resembles an episode of Hoarders? That’s all fine and good until you wake up one morning and realize you’re living in Grey Gardens. One thousand times worse than a dirty house is the disdainful look on your mother’s face when she enters your pigsty. Keep it clean(ish).

“Don’t worry about grocery shopping or cooking.”

Maybe the better way to phrase this one is “keep it simple when it comes to grocery shopping and cooking.” You will have to cook in some way, shape or form – or at least heat up chicken nuggets, or at the very least order in from the ramen place. The best case scenario is that someone drops off food or sets up a MealTrain for you. (Hint heavily to your friends that you would like them to do this; it’s a lifesaver.) We all know it’s kind of important for new moms, especially breastfeeding ones, to eat. So, yeah, you should do that.

“Enlist help from everyone you can.”

This is not bad advice. It is, in fact, good advice. But it’s not particularly helpful advice if you’re a person who has few family or friends nearby. Or older parents who just aren’t up to helping you that much. Or dead parents. Or super unhelpful in-laws. Or uninterested siblings. Or friends who are busy with their own kids. Shall I go on? It would no doubt be awesome if we all had sister-wives, or if it was like olden times where there were always lactating friends, sisters, aunts or fellow moms at the ready to help you at any time. But in this modern dystopia we’ve created for ourselves, moms sometimes feel, well… more on their own. You may have a wonderful village, but even if you do, sometimes there will be days that feel long and lonely. It can be a slog. But this is short-lived in the scheme of things. And you’ll get through it! A good friend once told me, “Every day you survive with a newborn is a victory.” Don’t forget that.

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Caroline Hand is a freelance TV producer, writer of pithy commentary for Us Weekly's Fashion Police, and mother of two who likes to write about mom stuff in her spare time, when she's not busy obsessing over pop culture and celebrity gossip.