The biggest challenges I've faced and, ultimately, lessons I've learned along the way in the first weeks and this first year of my daughter's life were about the 3 B's: brains, boobs, and butts. I wish I had known how to prevent or treat the pressures of all three.
Brains: If you're like me and you didn't have much prior experience with babies & children, having your own new Little One can feel a lot like being thrown in the deep end and learning to swim. Heck, even if you have experience with kids you might still feel like you're in too deep with only a couple floaties. I read so much about pregnancy and delivery, fancying myself a prenatal scholar, but read practically nothing about the first year of life. The "Prepared Childbirth" classes at our local hospital gave a few insights into the major components of caring for a newborn like diapering & breastfeeding positions, but I was fairly ignorant about raising an infant. After the birth, I was on information overload from pregnancy and I was busy trying to get to know my child... I couldn't bring myself to read anything more but I felt IMMENSE pressure to learn what it took to help my baby, specifically her brain, develop over this first vitally important year. And you know what's amazing??- she has developed right on track all on her own! She always wows me when she wakes up from a nap and can do things she couldn't do a mere hour and a few winks beforehand. I learned that, while assimilating information is good, the absolute best way to help my baby's brain & body development is simply by being present and offering opportunities to play and to use her senses!
Boobs: If you are in the category of the fortunate women whose breastfeeding relationship is wildly successful, a boob is the most magical mothering tool! However, I got quite anxious and confused from constantly reading that you shouldn't nurse your baby to sleep (and from the pressure I felt societally to get my child to sleep independently), even though it seems to be the most biologically perfect tool. After becoming mildly obsessed with the topic, and narrowly escaping becoming a stressed-out wreck, I spurned the common advice and saved my sanity. I happily nurse my baby for naps and bedtime (I'm a stay-at-home-mom with good milk supply, so I understand this won't work for everyone), and she is a fine sleeper!- sleeping through the night consistently since 6 months old. Maybe she'll be 14 and still asking to nurse, but I have a feeling she'll grow out of it sooner rather than later :) Also, a little extra comfort nursing has saved the day while she was cutting her first teeth. What I learned is to try whatever feeding and sleeping methods you're interested in, but do what seems natural to you & your baby (as long as you are meeting Baby's nutritional needs & practicing sleep safety).
Butts: FridaBaby's "Windi the gas passer" was a game changer when my babe was brand new and had bad gas pain causing her to be inconsolable and unable to sleep. On one particularly hard night my husband really pushed for us to try it, and I'm so glad I listened because Baby had immediate relief! Everyone was way happier and we New Parents felt like champs. I *highly* recommend the "butt tube" (as Daddy affectionately calls it) for those really tough bubbles when burping and knees-to-chest exercise aren't enough. I learned to use tools I never expected to before I became a Mom!
The pressures of parenthood are real and constant, but there is relief along the way, especially if you learn to have grace for yourself and to build & lean on a good support system of people around you. I'm grateful for a loving & involved partner, a close friend who has kids 2 & 4 years older than mine, and for Dr. Google in a pinch.