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

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—and those choices begin the minute you see a positive sign on that at-home pregnancy test.

Will you choose an OB-GYN or midwife? A traditional hospital birth or home birth? Epidural or natural delivery? Why did no one tell you there would be so many questions?!

It’s a harsh introduction into the world of parenting, and from there the decisions only intensify. 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, or creating a registry full of hand-selected bibs, diapers, pacifiers, and bottles. 

By the time your baby actually arrives, you’re already tired of the never-ending stream of choices you have to make. And now the stakes are even higher: You not only face new and more complex decisions every day as your baby grows (breastfeeding and child care providers and sleep training, oh my!), you feel the need to always make the right decision, whatever that is. There’s a tiny human depending on you to keep them safe and happy! You can’t mess this up. 

Tackling one decision after another is an unavoidable part of parenthood, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it wear you down. There are several ways to a) limit the number of choices you have to make and b) make those choices more quickly and confidently.

If you’re a new parent who dreads having to choose a car seat (or pediatrician, or bottle nipple, or baby carrier) or worries their head will explode if they have to look at one more consumer product review, don’t worry—we’re here to help. There are several tricks for maintaining a (relatively!) stress-free decision-making process throughout your child’s life. Here’s how.

Identify Your Parenting Style

Are you a free-range parent? Permissive or authoritative? A helicopter, lawnmower, or tiger mom? 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, deciding to breastfeed and co-sleep will be a no-brainer; if you’re more of a tiger mom, you’ll be signing your child up for violin lessons as soon as they’re old enough to pick up a bow. (Obviously, those are generalizations...every parent will do things a little differently.)

Figure out what kind of parenting style you gravitate towards—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? 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. What’s worse, anyone else with an internet connection can pretend to be an “expert” on a chosen topic and blog about their opinion like it’s a fact. 

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 (three or four) to fall back on every time you’re unsure how to move forward with a decision.

These may be web sites 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—and whatever you choose, you’ll know your intel came from a source you 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, that’s just not the truth.

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 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. Like, “you’re going to scar your child for life” kind of terrible. Now what? 

Before you go back to the drawing board—while second-guessing every other decision you’ve ever made for your child because obviously your judgment stinks—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 single family on the planet 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). You don’t have to listen to those people, though. Find your tribe, the people who know you and your family well, and consider their input from time to time. 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 the wrong one. You’ll forget that all that really matters in parenting is loving your baby (not which kind 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.

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