Baby's foot with mom's hands
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Seasoned mothers explain (exactly) what they wish someone had told them.
Motherhood is a sisterhood. But if you're a new mom, you may feel like you had the hazing—morning sickness, a twelve-hour labor—but missed the initiation! Lian Dolan asked a sorority of Seasoned Moms to think back to the magic and mayhem of the first year of motherhood to answer this question: What's one piece of advice you wished you had known—and followed—as a new mom?

Here are the six essentials to making the most of the first year of motherhood:

Don't Stress About the Mess
The number one sentiment that Seasoned Moms want to pass along to New Moms is to relax. How can you relax when the baby won't latch on, there's a sink full of dirty dishes and you can't fit into your pants? We get it (we really do), but it's important to remember to trust your instincts, not stress about the dishes piling up in the kitchen and know that someday you will be able to wear non-expandable waistbands. When you're a new mom, everyday situations can cause a panic: the unexplained rash, the debate over co-sleeping, the comparisons to other babies who may be eating solids or talking earlier. My freak-out moment? In the aisles of Target after realizing that my 6-month-old son was the only one in his playgroup without a crib gym, a complicated piece of equipment designed to increase a baby's strength and coordination. The horror! My son was going to "fall behind" if I didn't buy him a piece of gear we couldn't afford. Boy, do I laugh now, looking at my son who plays two varsity sports and has above-average upper-body strength. At the moment, though, that crib gym brought me to tears.

Ditch the Do-It-All Attitude
If someone offers to watch the baby for an hour, cook a meal or change a diaper—let them do it. The only person you need to prove anything to is your baby, not your mother-in-law, not Mrs. Buttinski at the grocery store. Dana, a working mom of two from Dallas, tried to cram all the "togetherness" she could into the weekends to make up for being at work during the week. "I was ready to pass out by Sunday night," she says. "I wish that I had arranged for child care every Sunday afternoon for a few hours to allow me to rest or do something for myself, like meet a friend for lunch, get groceries in peace or just sleep in a chair at the bookstore." The smallest breaks, like paging through a magazine while getting a mani-pedi, can be just the spark you need. As Chris, an often-tired mom of tweens says, you have to take a break so "you can do what you need to do again and again and again."

Babies Don't Need That Much
Remove that $1,200 stroller from your "take out second mortgage to buy" list, because the truth is, babies don't need very much for the first year. Kristine, a mom and business unit director at a Fortune 500 company, recently reminded me, "Newborn infants need love and closeness, food, sleep, a clean diaper and regular visits to the pediatrician." Other seasoned moms agree, noting that the latest gear and expensive outfits don't necessarily improve the child's quality of life. Interaction and attention do. As my mother told me, "Save money on the baby's clothes and spend it on yours!"

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