The Decision Struggle Is Real When You’re a New Parent

the new mom decision making struggle

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

As a new parent, you’re faced with an influx of decisions to make about your baby’s health and well-being. In fact, those choices begin the minute you see a positive sign on that at-home pregnancy test. As you get further into your pregnancy, more and more choices will pop up, whether it’s finding out the sex of your baby (or not), designing a nursery, creating a registry, or preparing a birth plan

Once your baby arrives, the questions keep coming and the stakes can feel even higher with baby in tow. There are so many choices to make, from sleep training to feeding to child care, and you may feel the need to always make the "right" decision, whatever that is. However, tackling one choice after another is an unavoidable part of parenthood. Learn more about how to avoid getting overwhelmed as you navigate all these choices.

Let Go of 'Perfect'

First off, don't be fooled into thinking there's always one right or perfect answer. Sometimes, the hard part is knowing that you could go either way on some decisions. Instead of letting that ambiguity roil you, embrace it. There really is no one best way to parent. Sometimes, you may just be going with your gut or doing what feels like the better of two or more good options.

Once you let go of the idea of perfect, you give yourself more freedom to make choices without excess pressure. There are also many effective ways to limit the number of choices you have to make. Additionally, there are useful strategies to help you be ready to make those choices more quickly and with greater confidence. Here's how to maintain a (relatively) stress-free decision-making process throughout your child’s life.

Identify Your Parenting Style

Are you a free-range parent? Permissive or authoritative? A helicopter, lawnmower, or tiger? No matter what type of parenting philosophy you subscribe to, there are plenty of resources out there for tackling the toughest parenting questions based on your chosen child-raising ideology.

If you’re an attachment parent, for example, baby-wearing may be a no-brainer. If you’re more of a tiger parent, enrolling your child in extracurricular activities early pretty much comes with the territory. If you can identify a parenting style that truly resonates with you, can you use that philosophy to streamline and guide your decision-making.

Figure out what kind of parenting style you gravitate towards as it could simplify many of the choices you encounter because the answers will be built into your overall approach to parenthood.

If you don’t fit strictly into any one style of parenting, on the other hand, don’t sweat it. Instead, focus on your personality and what’s most important to you as a parent. Are you health-conscious? It will be easy to say yes to homemade baby food. Are you a music lover? Go ahead and download that "Beethoven for Babies" album and play it on repeat.

Choose a Trusted Set of Sources

If you have an internet connection, you have access to literally thousands of sources of information. But that also means others do, too, and anyone with an internet connection can portray themselves as an "expert."

This means that trying to cross-check all your decisions against every single possible source of information will only lead you down a labyrinth of confusion, frustration, and contradiction. 

To limit the amount of time you spend digging for the best product recommendations or most reliable medical advice, select a small number of trusted sources (say, three or four) to fall back on every time you’re unsure how to move forward with a decision.

These may be websites of reliable agencies (like the American Academy of Pediatrics), books written by favorite parenting experts (like Dr. Harvey Karp), or a close friend who works as an educator or pediatric nurse. 

Once you’ve hit up those sources for their input, stop searching. Limiting the information you absorb will make coming to a final decision much less stressful. Plus, whatever you choose, you’ll know your intel came from a source you already vetted and trust.

Learn to Prioritize

One of the toughest lessons to learn as a new parent is that not all molehills need to be turned into mountains. Sure, some parenting decisions are pretty big, like whether to go back to work full-time or stay home with your baby. But others, like which nipple to put on your baby’s bottle, are pretty small. 

When you’re tired, stressed, and working hard to adapt to the brave new world of parenthood, it’s easy to confuse big and small decisions. In the mind of a new mom or dad, every decision feels big. Thankfully, though, they don't have to be.

Learn to triage your decisions by putting the appropriate amount of time and energy into each one. For example, think long and hard about whether you want to work outside the home, but compare a few bottle nipples in the aisle of your local Target, pick one off the shelf, and move on. 

Tune Out the Noise

So, you made a big decision, and you feel pretty good about it! You think it’s going to work out really well for you and your child. But now you’re scrolling through the posts in your favorite parents' group on Facebook, and the general consensus is that the decision you just made is terrible. Now what? 

Before you go back to the drawing board, take a deep breath and ask yourself one question: Is the choice you made the right choice for your family?

It’s not news that every family is different. There is no one-size-fits-all in parenting, but plenty of people will still try to tell you that there’s only one right way to raise a child. (Spoiler alert: It’s usually their way that’s right.) But you don’t have to listen to those people. Find your tribe, the people who know you and your family well, and consider their input from time to time. Do your own research from well-vetted sources. Ignore everyone else.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

In case no one has told you yet, being a new parent is hard, and you won’t do it 100% perfectly. You’ll lose sleep over unimportant concerns. You’ll make a choice that turns out to be less than ideal. You’ll forget that all that really matters in parenting is loving your baby (not the type of swaddle blanket you buy). 

Instead of trying to do everything right all the time, focus on what matters most to you—and spend your precious energy just being the best parent you can be: An imperfect one who loves their child to the moon and back.

A Word From Verywell

Along with a new baby, new parenthood comes with an onslaught of choices. Suddenly, you're supposed to know all the answers. Kids typically think their parents know all the answers. It's eye-opening as a new parent to discover that's just not true. Aim to let go of any stress and pressure you may feel. Give yourself grace and patience as you learn to navigate these choices and get the hang of making these often complex parenting decisions.

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