If you surveyed moms of newborns worldwide, a good percentage would probably say they are grateful and blessed. Motherhood is a gift, and the experience of bringing a child into the world is hard to describe. But those first few days and weeks are beautiful and emotional and some of the hardest as you manage the pressure as a mom of a newborn.
In those first few days and weeks, you learn you can function without sleep. You feel like your body isn’t even yours anymore after being torn open and stitched back up, only to have your breasts fill up and leak with milk. And on top of all that, you feel all these unnecessary societal pressures on moms and standards you must uphold to gain membership into the “good moms” club. But none of those pressures on moms matters in the end.
20 Pressures on Moms of Newborns
Here is a list of 20 pressures on moms of newborns, some by society and some we put on ourselves.
1. Lose the Baby Weight
The weight-loss vultures like to swoop in and prey on new moms pretty much as their baby leaves the womb. Drink this tea! Try this supplement! Wear this girdle! Look like you didn’t just spend close to a year of your life growing another human and then literally have it just exit your body!
And it doesn’t help when unrealistic, often filtered, and photoshopped images float across our phone screens of women who prance out of the hospital back in their skinny jeans at three days postpartum. The truth is, most of us still look pregnant for a while (like a while) after giving birth, and many of us never see our bodies return to what they looked like before pregnancy, which is okay. We did the unimaginable and should 100% love our bodies afterward, regardless of the number on a scale or the tag of our jeans.
2. You Must Breastfeed
The expectation and pressure often put on new moms to breastfeed can truly damage their mental health. First, many women cannot breastfeed due to health reasons or low supply, and many babies can’t get the hang of it due to a tongue tie, poor latch, or an extended stay in the NICU. Also, some moms don’t breastfeed due to going back to work or simply choosing formula instead, and it’s nobody’s business but their own.
I’ve known women who have sobbed to sleep because they couldn’t breastfeed, and society had convinced them they were bad mothers. This is disgraceful and untrue, as a baby needs a thriving, healthy mom. Full stop.
3. Get Your Baby on a Schedule
As a mom of three, this one is comical. As if my kids cared about my attempt at scheduling their lives. What about when you have a colicky baby? Or older kids you must take to and from school and activities? Trying to force a “schedule” on a newborn is ridiculous, especially for mothers trying to survive those first few months of blow-out diapers and 3 a.m. screaming fits.
But you know someone will say they “read it in a baby book,” or your Aunt Gladys will tell you how “all her kids were on a schedule within the first week.” That’s when the pressure on moms of newborns hits, and they start to worry they’re doing something wrong because their two-month-old is still cluster feeding, and they can’t remember the last time they even looked at a clock. The truth is, they’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just moms in the trenches.
4. Look ‘Put Together’
If you’re a “get up, get showered, do hair and makeup every day” kind of person, have at it. I understand that’s how many women very much need and want to start their day. Me? Not so much. I will happily live in pajamas all day. So right after I’ve popped out a baby and I’m covered in a horrid combo of spit-up and leaked breast milk, and I’m elbow-deep in stinky diapers all day long? Hard pass on feeling the pressure to “put myself together.”
If you feel the same — that the idea of having to shower, do your hair, do your makeup, and put on real pants with buttons and zippers sounds overwhelming and frankly miserable — don’t. And if anyone has something to say about it, hand them your baby right after they’ve pooped and say, “Here, while you’re talking, change this.”
5. Be Out and About
Not only does society pressure moms of newborns to be “put together” and “bounce back,” but they also expect us to happily be out in the town, pushing our strollers with a smile. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we don’t want to. Sometimes we’re functioning on 90 minutes of sleep, the baby is cluster feeding, and we have a hangry toddler who will only be appeased with PB&J sandwiches on the blue plate while watching Bluey, so yeah — we’re not going anywhere.
And if you see us at the grocery store, the park, or anywhere else and we’re not smiling and enjoying every moment of newborn life, please be kind. Tell us our baby is adorable, and we’re doing a great job. We need to hear it.
6. Have a Baby Who Sleeps
The fact that this is a pressure put on exhausted moms is absurd. Do you think we want anything more than for our baby to sleep? I remember when my first child, a fussy baby, was still getting up a lot during the night at eight weeks. A friend, who was probably trying to help, told me that “he really should be sleeping through the night by now” because her baby had mastered it at six weeks.
As if I wasn’t trying EVERYTHING to get my child to sleep in more than three-hour chunks. Guess what, world? Some babies hate sleeping, and the last thing their mothers need to hear is the insinuation that we might be doing something wrong that causes it.
7. Have a Clean House
What do you do all day anyway? How can you possibly have a messy house when you sit around all day and stare at your calm, sleepy baby? No. You do not need a neat and tidy house to be a good mom. Good moms have clean houses, and good moms have messy houses. All that matters is your baby is loved and cared for and that YOU take care of YOU. My house looked like a tornado tore through it almost daily for years as I popped out babies and chased toddlers around. And there was no other way for me to do it, and I’m proud of the mom I was and am today.
8. Do Everything Yourself
I’m not sure if society puts this pressure on moms, we take it on ourselves, or it’s a combination of both, but somewhere along the way, we start believing we can’t or shouldn’t ask for help. Or accept help when offered. My husband often traveled when I was in the early baby days, and I can remember countless times people would offer to bring me food or help me clean up, or watch my kids for a bit so I could get a break. And I always said no. Not because I didn’t need or want the help, but because I felt guilty accepting it and that somehow, I’d fall off my “good mom” pedestal if I did.
If I could go back and tell myself one thing during those years when I brought home each newborn, it would be this: You’re doing great. You’re a good mom. Now lie down and let someone help.
9. Get Everything Right
My first newborn is now 14 and going into high school next year, and let me tell you this parenting truth: We’re all going to make mistakes. The pressure to know how to do everything perfectly and get all the parenting things right on the first try is absurd. Kids mess up as they learn how to function in the world, and parents mess up as they learn how to be moms and dads to those kids. I’m bracing for my first stint as a mom of a high schooler, and I know I’ll make plenty of wrong turns and missteps, just like I did when he was a tiny baby.
Give yourself some grace, and remember that even when we do our best, we don’t always get everything right — but our kids are just fine.
10. ‘Bounce Back’ After Giving Birth
Another toxic message and pressure on moms of newborns who are doing their very best. The pressure to get their body “back” (even though it never left), the pressure to hop back into pre-baby routines, get back to the gym, have coffee dates with friends, have date nights (and sex!) with partners, invite friends over, return to work, etc. We’re expected to continue with our lives as if we didn’t just create another human being completely and wholly dependent on us for survival.
Listen, we get it if the only “bouncing” you’re doing is over to your couch to snuggle your baby. Because we’ve been there, the rest can wait until you’re ready.
11. Instantly Bond with Your Baby
This doesn’t automatically happen with every mom, and no, nothing is wrong with you if that’s your story. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery are intense, whole-body experiences. Our insides and outsides are shredded, our hormones are out of whack, and we’re overwhelmed and exhausted. We know you love your baby. Your baby knows you love them too. If you don’t feel an immediate “bond,” it’s okay. Give it time, and give yourself time to heal — mentally and physically. But if you feel like something is off, talk to your care provider about how you’re feeling. It’s okay.
12. Return to Work
We know America is scraping the bottom of the barrel regarding maternity leave — some European countries give postpartum moms up to a year. A YEAR. Unfortunately, moms across the U.S. feel pressure to return to work within weeks (or even days), which is horrific. Whether it’s for financial reasons or fear the job won’t be there if they don’t get back quickly, far too many mothers return to work before they are fully ready (and before their babies are entirely ready), and it’s heartbreaking.
13. Always Have Your Baby IG-Ready
I definitely felt pressure to doll up my first child in all the cutest outfits. Was someone meeting him for the first time? I had a cute outfit for that. Oh no, he spit up? Must change him immediately. By my third child, I was all set with that, and he lived in onesies and footie pajamas — regardless of where we went, who came over, or what holiday it was. He was still plenty cute for pics and meeting people, but the pressure to have him look “his best” (he’s a baby!) was too much, and I’m glad I let it go.
That meant I didn’t always have the “baby’s first Halloween” outfit ready for trick-or-treating or a shamrock hat for St. Patrick’s Day, but he’s a happy, healthy 10-year-old now, and honestly, none of that had an impact on him. What does have an impact is the unnecessary pressure on moms to live up to ridiculous social media standards and feel like failures if they don’t have a pic of their newborn daughter in a Christmas dress at Grandma’s house.
14. Capture and Share Every Milestone
You missed the first time they rolled over? I know. You’re upset. But your child will have a million “firsts” and a million memorable moments that you will see. Their first sing-along in preschool. Their first hit in a baseball game. Their first ice cream cone. Their first dip in a pool. There’s a lifetime of joy coming your way.
So, it’s okay if you don’t get their first “mama” on video or forgot to post their “month five” blanket pic. I promise you’ll move on and fill your lives with endless memories anyway.
15. Have All the Trendy, High-End Baby Gear
A certain car seat was all the rage when I had babies, and we bought it, even though it was absurdly expensive and unnecessary. Today’s moms feel pressure to get the best high-tech Bluetooth baby monitors or the best organic baby food maker, or the highest quality eco-friendly diapers. And if those things matter to you and you jump on some of these bandwagons, go for it. You’re a fantastic mom.
But you’re also a fantastic mom if you don’t. If you spend most of your days with your newborn in your arms or on a blanket on the floor (because you don’t have a fancy wrap to “wear” baby), if you buy whatever store-bought baby food has a coupon that week, and if you use a hand-me-down stroller your neighbor gave you, your baby is loved, and that’s all that matters.
16. Follow All the Advice About Baby’s Sleep
“Keep the baby in your room, right next to you.” “Put the baby in their own crib, in their own room.” “Let them cry.” “Don’t let them cry.” “Breastfeed at night to soothe.” “Don’t breastfeed them at night after a few months.”
I remember hearing all this noise, and it felt like my head was spinning trying to figure out what was “right.” By the time my third child was born, I knew what we were comfortable with, what was safe, and I’d learned to drown out anything that didn’t work for us. He was in our room for the first month or two, then his own room and crib. I did breastfeed him at night to soothe him back to sleep — until he was a year old — even though pediatricians told me not to. But with my first child, I felt pressure to do whatever doctors, friends, and authors told me was “right” because I didn’t yet know how to follow my gut.
17. Hold the Baby the ‘Correct’ Amount
Here’s another one that causes moms to hear conflicting advice. “Put the baby down, or you’ll spoil them.” “Wear the baby all day so they’re comforted.” “Let them self-soothe.” “Pick them up if they’re crying.”
Again, you’ll figure out what works for you. Many friends wear their babies in slings all day, but that was never my style. I needed time throughout the day when my babies and I had space from each other, so I often had them in the swing or bouncer while I did dishes, folded laundry, played with my other kids, etc. That doesn’t mean I didn’t hold them quite a bit and soothe them when they cried, because I did, but I learned what worked best for our household. If you want to hold your baby all day, do that! You’re the mom — you make the rules — and your baby will love all the snuggles you give them.
18. Function on No Sleep
Society seems to expect mothers to martyr themselves. They handle every night-time wake up because their husbands “have to work” the next day. As if taking care of children (and the nine billion other things you’ll do the next day) isn’t “work.” Raising children — from day 1 — is a team effort, and if you have a partner, it’s okay to expect them to help sometimes when the baby needs tending to at 2 a.m. It’s hard, we know, and you’re both tired the next day, but the baby days don’t last forever. Someday you’ll all sleep again. But the pressure moms feel to do it all is unbearable and eventually causes us to break down. And do you know what everyone needs? A healthy, functioning mom! So, help her out and let her sleep.
19. Know What to Do
I had no idea what I was doing when I brought my first baby home 14 years ago. He cried all night. He was constipated. He wouldn’t latch to breastfeed. I called our pediatrician 100 times. What is this weird rash? How long is too long for a fever? Why is his poop this color? I was floundering, constantly questioning myself.
None of us jump into the parenting pool having all the answers. We learn as we go, and at each new stage, we start over. The toddler stage? New stuff. Kindergarten? Yep, then too. And don’t get me started about the middle school years. So, it’s okay if you’re surprised at how much you don’t know. You and baby will figure it out, and you’re doing great.
20. Love Every Minute
No one loves every minute of parenting — that’s impossible. No one loves it when their toddler takes their shoe off in the cart at Target and chucks it across the cereal aisle. Or when their baby poops up their back and it comes out of the neck of their onesie. Or when their teenager rolls their eyes and slams their bedroom door.
There are many moments in parenting that you won’t love, starting in the newborn stage. This time can be isolating and lonely. It can be exhausting, and, yes, I’ll say it — these days can be boring. You can still be a wonderful mother if you don’t “love every minute,” as a mom of a teen, tween, and 10-year-old, let me share this: You’re a better mom if you admit that to yourself. If you give yourself some grace when you strongly dislike some moments because you’re a human doing her best at the most demanding job in the world.
Pressures on moms all look the same. I remember desperately trying to be perfect at all of it. The clean house, the baby who didn’t cry, the cute outfits I tried to keep clean. I was running on a hamster wheel of unrealistic expectations and pressures that I allowed to creep into my psyche. Expectations and pressures that somehow measured me as a mother — except they didn’t. Because my body was forever changed, my house was never clean. My kids did cry. And misbehave. And get ketchup on their Easter outfits. They didn’t sleep. Or eat organic baby food. And today, they are kind, fun, happy, and healthy kids. So, I think I did okay. And I’m still doing okay. And so are you.