It’s totally normal to not feel perfectly confident in your abilities as a new parent. But the good news is, there are a number of ways to steadily build your competence and trust in yourself. Here are seven steps to finding your groove.
1. Boost Your Baby Knowledge
When you don’t know how to do something, what do you usually do? Wring your hands? Shine the Bat Signal into the sky? No! You probably take steps to get educated. Just like anything else, learning the ropes of parenthood takes time—and perhaps a little study. It’s ideal to start gathering information pre-pregnancy, but even if you’ve already had your baby, it’s certainly not too late to find the right resources to broaden your knowledge.
“To gain confidence, I recommend a mixture of books, videos, live workshops, and trial and error,” says marriage and family therapist Katie Ziskind, LMFT. Reading baby books, scouring new parent websites, or listening to parenting podcasts can all go a long way toward giving you a solid handle on baby dos and don’ts. Many community centers or women’s aid centers also offer introductory parenting classes. If you can make the time for these in-person sessions, you may be surprised at how beneficial they can be.
Whatever educational route you choose, one thing is for sure: The more you know, the more you can feel confident applying tried-and-true principles to your parenting.
2. Talk to the Experts
There’s no shortage of baby experts out in the media, many of them self-proclaimed. To get the highest quality advice for your own situation, though, it’s often best to have a real-life chat with a qualified professional who can answer your unique questions.
Your paediatrician, for example, can be a wealth of individualised assistance. They’re not just there to measure baby’s height and weight; they’re trained in numerous other facets of baby’s health and care. So take advantage of your time at checkups by speaking up with your concerns. Having the all-clear from someone in authority can free you to know you’re doing the right thing for your child.
Other experts that can guide your parenting path include lactation consultants and family therapists. While their services may not always be covered by insurance, if you can swing it financially, even a session or two can help boost your confidence.
3. Use Positive Self-talk (and Positive Self-care)
How’s your inner monologue? The way we speak to ourselves has major influence on our self-assurance, for better or for worse. Instead of beating yourself up for “failing” in a new-parenting situation, remind yourself that you’re new at this, and you’re still learning.
Think of how you would speak to a friend in the same circumstances. “Parents need to remember to be their own best friend, because caring for children and a partner all day long and definitely leave a mother needing nurturing,” says Ziskind. Beating yourself up won’t make you a better parent—but being kind to yourself certainly might.
To start the day off right (and keep you from veering into unkind thought territory) you might reflect on some positive truths about yourself. “Parents can tell themselves, ‘I am beautiful! I am going to have a beautiful day!’ every single morning,” suggests Ziskind.
While you’re at it, do all you can to nurture yourself through good self-care practices like healthy eating and enlisting your partner to watch the baby so you can catch up on sleep. No one feels like supermum or superdad when operating on fragmented rest and haphazard meals.
4. Build a Community of Fellow Parents
Find a group of parents in the same life stage and you’ll find a treasure trove of collaboration, comfort, and (sometimes) commiseration. For one thing, friendship boosts mental health in general, which certainly helps in this tough time of transition. Plus, getting together with those in the same boat can provide a space to discuss your particular challenges or bounce new ideas off of those who’ve been there, too.
The more time you spend with fellow parents, the more you’ll see you’re not alone. Everyone struggles with this new stage of life—but there’s strength in numbers.
5. Be Selective About the Advice You Listen to
Though friends or family members may be well-intentioned when giving you advice, sometimes hearing tips on every little detail of baby care can leave you feeling like you’re not doing anything right. Perhaps it’s time to get proactive about protecting your mental space. “You can’t always prevent others from giving you advice. What you control is whether or not you allow it to get into your head,” says Kayce Hodos, LPC, NCC.
So how’s a new parent to set boundaries with overbearing advice-givers? “Change the subject if it’s a topic you don’t care to discuss,” Hodos suggests. “You can be assertive by letting people know you’re doing something your way or simply saying you’d prefer not to talk about it. Whatever anyone has to say, remember that it doesn’t mean anything about you. There is not just one way to be a good parent.”
6. Keep up With Something You’re Good At
Even if having a baby has thrown you for a loop, it’s likely there are many other things you still feel confident about doing. Got chops on the piano or a strong yoga practice? Don’t stop engaging in the activities where you know you shine. Doing so will not only enhance your enjoyment of life post-baby, but will also remind you you’re a competent adult with many useful skills. This confidence boost may carry over to your parenting as well.
7. Do the Hard Things Anyway
Whether it’s getting out of the house in under 20 minutes or feeding a fussy infant in public, new challenges arise every day post-baby. It can be tempting to hole up at home to avoid having to deal with it all–but facing trials is where growth takes place.
“If you can push through your self-doubt and just give these tasks a try, you will discover that you can do them,” says Hodos. This isn’t about conforming to unrealistic standard; it’s about finding your own path as a parent. “You will figure out your way of managing difficult tasks that is best for you and your baby.”
And as you tackle challenges head-on, don’t forget to give yourself some credit! “Reflect on how much you’re learning and growing right along with your child,” Hodos encourages. “Give yourself a pat on the back because you’re doing the hardest job there is.”