July 22, 2013 at 8:03 AM ET
I know, I know, Duchess Kate doesn’t need any new-mom advice from the likes of me.
She left the hospital after being treated for hyperemesis gravidarum looking prettier than I looked on my wedding day, for crying out loud. Her wedding was iconic, her maternity style impeccable; surely motherhood will be a royal breeze.
My style, on the other hand, is “Hot Mess.” With a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old, any time I leave the house without visible stains on my clothes and spitup in my hair is a solid win.
And yet, motherhood is a great equalizer. Money, privilege and incredibly great hair can’t shield you from the vicissitudes of colic and diaper blowouts. Even the most poised new mom is going to have her 3 a.m. Jessie-Spano-on-caffeine-pills moment (“I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so… scared!”)
Besides, when has demand ever driven the market for parenting advice? “Hey look, there’s a new mom, I think I’ll keep my opinions and advice to myself,” said no one ever. I’ve been on the receiving end of enough unsolicited advice; now I’m dishing it out – er, paying it forward.
My three pieces of advice for Duchess Kate and anyone else with a new baby:
There’s no one book. My first son wouldn’t sleep unless he was in motion, either rocked in my arms or pushed in a stroller. I was like Sandra Bullock in a newborn version of the movie “Speed” (if you slow down, this baby’s gonna explode!) – good for post-partum weight loss, bad for sanity. Staring at the hundreds of sleep-advice books on the parenting shelf at my local bookstore one day, while pushing the stroller back and forth so the baby would nap, I had an epiphany: If any of these methods really worked for every baby, there wouldn’t be so many books. There would only be one book, and it would cost $5,000, and everyone would buy it.
This goes for every parenting dilemma. There’s no one answer. The best-selling expert advice or your cousin’s swear-by-it-method may not work for you and your baby. And that’s OK, it doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. Just keep trying, and one day your baby will sleep through the night (and then you’ll wake him up checking to make sure he’s still breathing).
You know more about babies than experienced moms. Yes, veteran moms (like myself) have been around this block and we can help. Accept tips and support with open arms. But don’t be intimidated. When I was pregnant with my first, I read everything I could get my hands on about birth, newborn development and baby care. I thoroughly researched every option from co-sleeping to cribs, breast-feeding to the best bottles. I knew what to expect when I was expecting.
This time around? With a 3-year-old to entertain, those leisurely research sessions were a distant memory. When baby brother arrived, instead of drawing on my well of mama wisdom, I found myself even more clueless this time around. Was that crusty stuff on the baby’s scalp normal? How do I get him to latch on, again? When do they get neck control?
So don’t fret, parenting newbies: You probably know a whole lot more than us veterans. Of course, you’ll learn to discard a bunch of that knowledge and trust your instincts. But until then, take heart in your book-learning.
Dance like nobody’s watching. You may think I mean this in a metaphorical sense: Be the parent you want to be, no matter what others may think. And yes, that is good advice. But I actually mean this literally.
When your baby is crying, you’ve eliminated all the usual causes and you can’t figure out what to do, crank up your favorite song and dance. Try dancing while holding the baby, which may actually lull her to sleep. (Through sheer genius/desperation, I’ve discovered that Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” is like a sedative for my newborn. I never thought I’d feel so grateful for French synthpop.) If that doesn’t work, and you’re on your last nerve with the screaming, just put the baby down in a safe place and dance your heart out. Yes, I’m down with Attachment Parenting and responding to your baby’s needs, but sometimes you just have to take a mental health break. Plus, your supa-smooth dance moves might actually surprise your baby into silence.
Really let loose. Crank up your song, the one that reminds you of carefree days, whether it’s “Dancing Queen” or “Party Rock Anthem” or “Sabotage.” Then try to block out all your worries about whether the baby is eating/sleeping/pooping/smiling enough and dance like you are the coolest girl in the world and everyone knows it. Dance like nobody’s watching, and when you’re completely exhausted, pick up your baby and give her a snuggle. Kate may be a royal, but you’re queen of your baby’s world. And we’re all going to rock this motherhood thing.
Rebecca Dube is the TODAY Moms senior editor. She’s currently on maternity leave and learning to say things like “Do NOT lick your baby brother’s feet!” with a semi-straight face.