There's nothing quite like learning that you're going to become a mother. Of all the titles you've held up to this point in your life -- sister, daughter, friend, co-worker -- you're about to take on the most important one of all. It's joyous, exciting and insanely overwhelming. To curb this sense of "fear of the unknown," we often throw ourselves into the preparation process, readying the nursery, stocking up on diapers and reading every book we can get our hands on.
But no matter how many books we read, there's always going to be something that little one does that will take us completely by surprise. We've scoured the mommy blogs and forums to bring you the most insightful comments from real moms about things they wish they'd known after giving birth for the first time.
Don't Panic if Your Newborn Loses Weight
When the little bundle of joy arrives, expectations are high that she'll start getting bigger with each passing day. But according to the American Pregnancy Association, it's not uncommon for breastfed newborns to lose as much as 10 percent of their birth weight in the first week. Dr. Debbi Donovan on iVillage explains, "Breastfed infants usually regain birth weight by their second or third week of life, and then gain an average of four to eight ounces each week during the first six months."
Keep the Tags on New Clothing
After that first week, your baby will grow like a weed, so don' take off tags or wash brand new clothes just yet. Razan Farmand of Jacksonville, Florida, says, "You want to wash everything because you're so excited... but don't." Her young son grew so quickly, he never needed to wear most of his newborn clothes.
Expect More Feedings Than You Anticipated
Newborns eat a ton! We all realize that part of growing is eating, but even your little one can stun you with how much he needs and wants to eat. As Cheryl Fundakowski of Island Lake, Illinois learned, newborns only a eat a little at a time, so expect many, many feedings each day and night.
You'll Learn Their Likes and Dislikes Fast
Babies might not be able to communicate with words, but they definitely establish clear likes and dislikes early in life. "I wish someone told me how quickly babies figure out what they like and don't like," Jori Miller of New York City says of her new little girl. "For the first few weeks, Olivia only wanted to be bounced a certain way and she wasn't having any other type of bouncing." Some babies will love being stimulated with lights and play, while others won't be too fond of so much animation. Luckily, your baby will give you non-verbal queues on his or her preferences earlier than you might think possible.
Crying Won't Be the Only Noises You'll Hear Over the Baby Monitor
If your baby moves and makes noise a lot, especially after dozing or sleeping, have no fear! This is completely normal, even in the middle of night. "I kept waking up thinking there was something wrong because of all the noise he made," Farmand says of the first few weeks. "But it is completely normal newborn noise." Fairypop on Momtastic's BabyandBump adds, "Ours was the same, oohing and coohing and grunting for hours on end. We just rode it through and he stopped...now he doesn't make a peep!"
Study Up on Sleep
Your new baby's sleep patterns are established early, and the more you know, the easier it will be to develop healthy sleeping habits. Jhslove, over on CafeMom, agrees: "I would strongly, strongly recommend that you read Marc Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Even if you decide not to do cry-it-out, he does such a great job of explaining the biology of infant sleep and how it develops--that naps take longer to develop than night sleep, how many naps babies of different ages typically need, optimal wake times, etc. Knowing these things makes it so much easier to come up with a plan that really works and makes the whole thing a lot less overwhelming."
Know Sleeplessness Isn't Just for the Babies
While everyone encourages new mommies to sleep when the the baby does, that's not the easiest advice to follow. As Fundakowski says, "The first two weeks at home are also impossible to sleep--you are afraid that he will stop breathing if you close your eyes." While it may be hard to get some shut eye, mommy is at her best when well rested. Adds Signingmama2915 on CafeMom , "Ask for help when you need it...needing a break from your baby does not mean you are a bad mom."
Learn About Poop
Newborns may be small, but they sure know how to poop forcefully! "There were a few times when my husband changed [our daughter] and she let one rip that not only hit him, but hit the wall behind!" Miller remembers. Wiping the baby's bottom also stimulates the colon, which makes babies poop -- and which explains why babies always makes a mess after you've just put them in a new diaper. Since we're talking about poop anyway, rest assured that newborn poop is often all sorts of colors, especially if you breastfeed.
Figure Out the Best Way to Diaper Your Boy
This one is for all the mommies out there who have never put a baby boy in a diaper. You don't want them playing "fireman" at changing time. "If he's 'au natural', his member should be pointed down inside the diaper," says Blueangelrock on Babycenter.com. "If he's been circumcised, it should point up and you should rub a little dab of Vaseline on the inside front of the diaper to prevent him from sticking. When you put the diaper on him fold the top front flap down and inside. This will keep it away from his belly button fuss and keep him from peeing up his front. Always wrap him tight when you affix the tabs. If the diaper is too loose it will leak."
Expect Rashes, Acne and Skin Irritation
Acne doesn't wait until your child is a teenager. "My baby has little pimples all over her pretty little face and head," says MarieLv11 over on the Bump. "The doctor told me it was a 'heat rash' and she just had clogged pores...same as acne. I've just been wiping it away with water and it clears up a little every day." According to Mayo Clinic, baby acne will go away quickly and you should just leave it alone. Check with your pediatrician if you're concerned about any rashes or marks on your new baby.
Breastfeeding Isn't Always Easy
Nathalie over at The Boob Group blog admits, "We had several very difficult weeks as we got started with breastfeeding, but we stuck with it and ended up weaning very peacefully together when he was 3 years 2 months old. My experience of nursing him (and our second son, who is now 2.5) pushed me to become much more conscious of my own nutrition and the nutrition of the whole family." Lactation consultants are also an amazing resource for those mommies looking for some help.
Babies Change Your Body
Even after you start losing that baby weight, you'll lose it differently than you ever did before, so your old clothes probably won't fit right. MacKenzie on CircleOfMoms comments, "It took me two years with my first and I still wasn't completely at pre-pregnancy weight. It's hard to work on yourself when you are busy with kids and everything else." She goes on to encourage: "Don't be hard on yourself. It really stinks, but it shows that you focus more on your kids than just yourself. Keep it up!"
And that goes for your breasts, too. Not only will they grow in size since they're full of milk, but also they'll leak. "I didn't anticipate how much I would leak," says Miller. "That was certainly a big change in the routine, having to change nursing pads and shirts -- seemingly all the time." In fact, if you're going to be away from your baby for anything longer than two hours, be sure to have your breast pump with you.
Trim Those Nails
Lots of moms get nervous about trimming their newborn's nails, but if it's not done, the babies can easily scratch and hurt themselves. "The safest way to keep a newborn's nails short is to just file them and not cut them at all," says Dr. Paula Prezioso on the Bump. "Once baby is a little older (18 months), you can cut their nails while they're asleep." When they hit that age, use special baby nail clippers or round-tipped cuticle scissors. "Cutting the nails is easier after a bath because they are even softer and have loosened a bit around the edges," Caitlyn&Christians_mommy advises on Yahoo. Distractions also work wonders. "I've found the best way is to take my baby onto the patio," says Brady's mama on the Bump. "He has plenty of sights & sounds to distract him."
It's Okay if Your Baby Cries
The Mommy Playbook talks about why crying can be completely normal: "Even though your baby will be comforted just by being close to you, he may still spend a lot of time crying. Many newborns have a hard time adjusting to the world outside the womb, and sometimes, there's little you can do to comfort him. Swaddling helps some babies, since the the tight wrap of the blanket approximates the tight fit inside your womb at the end of pregnancy."
Trust Your Instincts
While you can't expect to know everything once your newborn arrives, you will get a lot of advice. Advice from parents, friends, blogs and random annoying strangers on the street. You'll also get a lot of time with your new sweetheart, and you'll know them better than anyone. Everyone has different parenting styles, and while people online might argue about what is the "best" parenting style, it comes down to trusting yourself. As Farmand says, "No matter what you do, they'll be fine. Trust yourself."
But possibly the best advice of all is to enjoy time with your newborn while it lasts. "Enjoy your baby!" says Kim on CircleOfMoms. "You will be amazed at how fast time will go by. Once she is mobile, it will be hard to get her to sit still long enough to be held." Fundakowski sums it up best: "Once you heal, you will forget all pain, or problems and want to do it all over again."
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found here.