Being a mom is largely a self-confidence game. I know this firsthand; my new baby tested my wits constantly, just when I needed them most. But the more confident I became, the less stressed I felt, the calmer my daughter was, the better the nursing flowed … and the smoother things went at home, the park, the store.
Remember, however, that being unsure isn’t all bad. “If uncertain feelings are creeping in, you’re taking your job as mom with a lot of responsibility,” says Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles. “By recognizing the paramount effect you have for shaping your child’s personality, self-esteem and physical well-being, you’re taking the first step to being a great mom.”
Your baby already thinks you’re top-notch. Our guide will help you believe it, too.
1. Act like a baby-care pro.
To be more self-confident, begin by acting like it. Your baby will feel safer, calmer and happier as a result, and soon assuredness won’t be a guise as you get the hang of cleaning the umbilical cord, giving your baby a bath or maneuvering a wobbly little head through a shirt opening. “Take a cue from kindergarten teachers,” says Frances Xavier, M.D., a pediatrician at Gateway Medical Group in Anaheim, Calif. “Speak lower and slower to calm you both down.”
2. Don’t cave in to bad advice.
“She needs cereal,” my parents and in-laws said every time my newborn daughter fussed. By six weeks, I was so dazed from nighttime nursing and pressured by their certainty I was starving my daughter with breast milk that I almost gave her some rice cereal. But I decided to double-check with her pediatrician and, sure enough, their advice was 30 years outdated.
Don’t relent when barraged with advice from people who act as if they know more than you do.
3. Overcome “bad mommy” syndrome.
All moms feel inadequate at some point. “As Jonny was learning to sit up, I would sit with him constantly to make sure he didn’t fall and hit his head,” says Rebecca Zysk, 31, of Apopka, Fla. “One day I moved for one second to get a burp cloth, and down he went. I felt terrible.”
When you feel the guilt coming on, follow these guidelines: First, put your offense in perspective. Did you lock him in the closet, leave him in a hot, parked car? Of course not. Second, remind your too-critical inner voice that all kids—even babies—get hurt sometimes. Third, make a change that will prevent the problem—and guilt—next time. (Propping your baby in a U-shaped nursing pillow may prevent future falls.) Finally, put the incident where it belongs: in the past.