Whether you work or stay home, have one kid or 10, parenting is an undeniably hard job. And many moms are the ones responsible for making the bulk of the decisions for their household, which is a lot of weight to bear. In fact, a 2016 study published in American Sociological Review suggests that mothers tend to be more stressed out and less happy than their male counterparts.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In the interest of relieving some of the seemingly-insurmountable pressure moms find themselves facing, we’ve rounded up some amazing parenting tips—straight from experts and backed by science—that can help moms brave whatever kids throw at them.
Don’t go crazy trying to figure out why your baby is crying
You’ll hear it from a million parents a million times over: “Babies only cry when they’re tired, hungry, sick, or need a new diaper.” But that’s 100 percent not true.
“Sure, kids will cry when they’re hungry, have a dirty diaper, or a pain,” says Gina Posner, MD, pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. “But they’ll also cry because they’re not being held, or are too warm or not warm enough. And sometimes, they’re just crying and you don’t really figure out why. It’s not exactly what parents want to hear—they want a solution—but you might not ever exactly figure it out.”
If they’re in a safe space, put them down and walk away for 10 minutes
Even the most placid parents can get frustrated by a baby who won’t stop crying. If you’re feeling like you’re at the end of your rope, or are too exhausted to safely watch them, put your baby alone on their back in a safe sleep space—a crib, co-sleeper, or bassinet with a firm surface and no soft bedding or stuffed animals—and take a few minutes for yourself.
“If a baby’s crying and you’ve checked everything and you know they’re healthy, you can put them in a safe spot and leave them for 10 or 20 minutes,” says Posner. “If they’re in a safe area, they can cry and you can take a little breather for a few minutes. You don’t have to feel like you always have to be right there as long as you know they’re safe and healthy.”
Use your pediatrician’s emergency line
Many new parents find themselves frantically searching for answers when they encounter a rash, unprecedented fussiness, or any other new and surprising symptom in their child. The good news? Most pediatricians have an after-hours emergency line that parents can call when they’re at a loss for what to do, but want to avoid a trip to the emergency room.
If you don’t want to breastfeed, don’t stress
A 2017 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics indicates that breastfeeding for at least two months can reduce a baby’s SIDS risk by up to 50 percent. But the cognitive benefits of breastfeeding may have been overstated.
According to a 2018 study published in PLOS Medicine, by the time kids hit 16, there’s no discernible difference between the ones who were breastfed versus the ones who were formula-fed in terms of neurocognitive function. So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t (or don’t want to) breastfeed.
When in doubt, nap it out
Your kid is on hour three of an absolute meltdown and you’ve tried to ply them with snacks, books, and as many games of Candy Land as they can handle. So, what’s an exhausted parent to do? Put them in their bed or crib and try to get them to nap. “Kids who get an adequate amount of sleep behave better, have better personalities, and are generally happier,” says Posner.