Becoming a mother can be equal parts exciting and terrifying. You want what’s best for your little one, but as a first-timer, you’re learning everything on the job (and probably without a full-night’s rest). You likely have a ton of questions about what to expect after giving birth – and they’ll keep coming.

That’s why we’ve collected a treasure trove of real-life advice for new moms from our doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who care for babies and coach new parents every day. Here are 12 things new mamas should know from the get-go.

1. Leaving the hospital after giving birth can be scary

You’re telling me I get to take this perfect, tiny baby home after only a couple days of parenting experience in the hospital? Are we sure about this?

You just brought a baby into the world, and leaving the only place you’ve known during your time together can feel sad and scary. That’s OK.

It’s completely natural to feel that way as you leave the safety net of the hospital and the supportive care team there. It will take time to adjust to life at home as a new family, but settling into your new parenting routine will help build your confidence. (Plus, the coffee is better at home.)

Our advice for new moms when leaving the hospital:

Let yourself feel those emotions. It can be helpful to talk about it with your partner or your nurse before you leave the hospital, just to acknowledge how you’re feeling. Oh, and those baby snuggles will do wonders for your spirits, too.

One way to give yourself peace of mind for the drive home is to prepare your vehicle ahead of time so you know baby will be safe and comfortable. Well before your due date, make sure baby’s car seat is installed safely according to your state’s requirements.

(Psst … here’s where you can learn about state requirements in Minnesota and Wisconsin.)

2. Sometimes babies cry for no reason

When babies cry, there’s usually a good reason. They may be hungry, gassy or in need of a dry diaper – and you’ll start to know their different crying calls. But sometimes they can cry even when it seems like all their needs are met.

We’d like to think that there’s a scientific answer for everything these days, but doctors agree that sometimes babies cry for no reason. What we do know is that crying is how infants communicate. They’re suddenly a part of this brand-new world, surrounded by unfamiliar sights and sounds.

They might just be looking for comfort, or perhaps they’re experimenting with their new communication options. Either way, it can be totally normal for babies to cry just for the heck of it sometimes.

Our advice for new moms:

It’s natural to be unsettled by your baby’s cry – in fact, our DNA is wired that way to make us attentive caregivers. But if you’ve already tried all the usual things that settle baby down (feeding, burping, a new diaper, a swaddle), then take a deep breath and weather the storm by simply offering them your comfort and calm. It’s also okay to set baby down in a safe place for brief periods of time when you need a moment to collect yourself.

Chances are the mood will pass and baby will be back to normal soon. If you notice a change in how often your baby is crying, or you just have a gut feeling something is off, it’s a good idea to check to see if baby has a fever that requires attention. But even if your little one’s temperature is perfectly normal, don’t hesitate to talk to your baby’s doctor or call your clinic’s nurse line. They can help rule out other underlying causes, even if it’s something harmless and temporary like colic.

At HealthPartners, we’re available 24/7 and just a phone call away. Our nurses are awake at 2 a.m. when your best friend isn’t – and there’s no such thing as a dumb question. So, when you need answers fast, just give us a call.

HealthPartners patients can call 800-551-0859. Park Nicollet patients can call their clinic directly during regular business hours, or 952-993-4665 if it’s after hours. For questions and advice on new baby care, you can also call our 24/7 BabyLine at 612-333-2229.

3. Giving your baby a pacifier is totally okay

Pacifiers can be a hot-button issue in the parenting world, but pediatric health experts give moms the green light. Why? Pacifiers can actually offer several benefits for babies.

First, they’re soothing – and satisfying. Babies have a natural sucking reflex that helps them self-sooth, as well as practice nursing. A pacifier can calm babies when they’re fussy and also help them develop the sucking motion they need for nursing or bottle feeding. Pacifiers are also thought to improve sleep, and experts at The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believe they may help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

There are, however, some bummers for binkies. One is the potential for nipple confusion while a baby is learning to breastfeed. Baby may have problems latching onto the breast if they prefer the pacifier.

So, when can you give your baby a pacifier? The AAP recommends waiting until you have an established nursing routine before introducing a pacifier. It can also be difficult to retire the pacifier when the times comes. The good news is that there are many ways to ease the transition, and your doctor and care team can give you some tips.

Our advice for new moms:

Some babies like them, some babies don’t. If you do decide to give baby a pacifier, don’t force it. Let them set the pace. It’s also important to have a way to clean and sterilize it often. Ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

4. You can’t hold your baby “too much”

Has someone ever warned you that holding your baby too much will “spoil” them? Behind that probably well-meaning advice is the myth that babies might develop a dependency on being held, and won’t learn to be independent. Well we’re here to clear that misconception right up. Numerous studies have not only dispelled that myth, but led child development experts to encourage the opposite.

Long-term research focused on low-birth-weight infants who experienced skin-to-skin contact found that gentle touch is extremely important for healthy development. Even 20 years later, the effects were still seen physically, mentally and socially.

A different study, published in Current Biology, found that holding a baby and gently caressing them during a procedure, like a heel prick, activated neurons that relieved the baby’s stress and improved pain tolerance.

Still more, a study by the Harvard Center on the Developing Child found that when adults are responsive and attentive to children – with many back-and-forth interactions – it builds neural connections in a child’s brain that support healthy development.

They call it “serve and return,” and describe it like a game of ping-pong. You sing, baby smiles. Baby reaches for a toy, you hand it to them and play. You can learn even more about how much these little moments count.

Showing your child that you are sensitive and responsive to their needs develops trust in the relationship and helps them to feel secure and confident. Not to mention the significance it has in creating close bonds between babies and parents.

Our advice for new moms:

All of this is not to say that parents need to hold their babies constantly, either. It’s perfectly acceptable to set baby down in a safe place and give yourself a breather sometimes. It’s also important to note that it’s never safe to co-sleep with your baby. (Check out number 7 for more on that.)

But in general, don’t worry about spoiling your little one. Babies spend months and months in the womb, and then find themselves separated from mom in a strange new world. Naturally they have a lot of needs and want to stay close.

So, go ahead and snuggle away together on the couch. Or wear baby in the carrier while you’re cleaning the kitchen. This close time together is good for both of you!

5. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy

Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s often an expectation that breastfeeding should come as second nature for moms and babies. That pressure can lead mothers to feel guilty if they can’t breastfeed, or choose not to.

The truth is, it’s different for everyone – and that’s okay. While you’ve likely heard about the benefits of breastfeeding, there are many variables in the breastfeeding journey that can cause roadblocks and stress along the way. Sometimes babies don’t latch right away. Sometimes a mother can’t produce enough breast milk, or her milk doesn’t come in within the first few days. For others, breastfeeding can be painful.

And even if everything does go smoothly, there’s still a learning curve. These things are normal and often take time. Don’t give up.

Our breastfeeding advice for new moms:

Choosing the best feeding method for your newborn is a personal decision of what’s best for you and your baby. Empower yourself with information so you understand your options and can feel confident in your choice.

If you decide that you do want to breastfeed, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the breastfeeding support available to you – whether that’s from the hospital, a lactation consultant at the pediatrician’s clinic, a local nursing support group or a combination. There can be a learning curve for first-time moms, but with the right partners by your side, breastfeeding does get easier.

Finally, try not to let outside pressures get to you. You’re not a failure if you can’t or choose not to breastfeed. You’re not a failure if you breastfeed until your child is two. You’re not a failure if you decide to stop breastfeeding. The fact that you’re thinking hard about this decision already makes you a great mom.

6. Some babies just don’t sleep well

It’s hard to hear that your friend’s baby is sleeping in long stretches when meanwhile, you’re clutching your third cup of coffee after a grand total of four hours of shut-eye.

Babies learn to sleep through the night as a part of their development – and every baby is different. Newborns typically wake up every 2-3 hours to eat. Sleep improves as babies get older and can take in more milk. Sometimes there are other factors affecting baby’s sleep, such as newborn feeding problems, acid reflux or an ear infection. But often there isn’t a clear reason. Sometimes babies just don’t sleep well.

Our advice for new moms:

As adults, it can be hard to understand why babies wake so often. It may take some effort, but try to reset your expectations to recognize that it’s normal for infants to have short sleep windows. Also know that your sleep is important, too. You can’t pour from an empty cup, as they say. So grab sleep when you can by setting aside household chores that can wait, and napping at the same time as baby.

If you’re bottle feeding and your partner can help out, try setting a schedule so that you can each get at least half a night’s sleep. For example, one of you can get up with the baby between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., and the other can take the 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift.

If sleep is becoming a struggle, call your baby’s doctor or the clinic’s nurse line and ask what they recommend. They’ll know what’s developmentally normal at every age and can offer guidance. They’ll also be able to assess whether baby should be seen by the doctor to check for a possible health-related cause.

7. It’s never safe to co-sleep with your baby

It can be tempting to bring baby into bed with you just to catch a little sleep – and you may hear of other parents doing it. But the dangers of co-sleeping far outweigh the ease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bed-sharing brings the risk of accidental suffocation, strangulation or SIDS.

Instead of co-sleeping in the same bed, the AAP recommends that your baby sleep in a crib, on their back, in the same room as you for at least the first six months. Baby will be nearby, so you can conveniently feed throughout the night and check on them as often as you’d like.

Our advice for new moms:

No matter how appealing co-sleeping may sound, remember that safe sleep for infants means on their back in their own bed. There should be nothing else in the crib but a tightly fitted sheet. Sometimes just the peace of mind in knowing that baby is safe can give you more patience and energy during those tough nights.

8. Almost every mom experiences some form of postpartum baby blues

Having postpartum baby blues can look like crying on and off throughout the day. It can look like surprising yourself by snapping at your partner over the smallest things. It can mean feeling like you’re not bonding with your baby the way you’d expected.

Most soon-to-be moms know there’s a possibility of experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression after giving birth, but they’re usually not aware of just how common it is. According to the March of Dimes, nearly 4 in 5 new mothers (80%) get the baby blues. The baby blues usually begin a few days after delivery and last for a couple of weeks.

Our advice for new moms:

Bringing a baby into the world is an incredible feat, so it’s no wonder a mother’s hormonal and emotional balance can shift after giving birth. The best thing you can do for yourself is recognize that your health is a priority, too.

It’s important to schedule your six-week postpartum appointment with your family doctor, midwife or OB-GYN. During that visit, your doctor will check how you’re doing physically and mentally, and they can offer guidance and treatment if needed. But don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor before that. You can always make an appointment to ask questions or talk about how you’re feeling, and doctors welcome those visits.

At home, show yourself kindness and grace, and take some intentional steps for self-care. You can also share how you’re feeling with your partner and close loved ones. Feeling supported is one of the best ways to get through the baby blues and begin feeling more like yourself again. New mama: You’re not alone, and you’ve got this.

If your symptoms last longer than two weeks, or are more severe, you should call your doctor as soon as possible. You may be experiencing a more serious condition called postpartum depression (PPD), which can make it hard to care for yourself and your baby.

9. Search engines don’t have all the answers to your new mom and baby questions

The internet can be a blessing and a curse. It’s a powerful learning tool, but keep in mind that the internet at-large is not a highly trained medical professional.

Remember that time you Googled a symptom you were experiencing and you found every possible doom-and-gloom diagnosis? Well for parents, looking up your precious baby’s symptoms has the potential to send you into a whole new kind of panic – and often unnecessarily. Most of the time there’s a simple explanation, and one your doctor can help you figure out.

Our advice for new moms:

When you look to the internet for information, make sure you’re using trusted and authoritative sources. Also, beware of getting lost in a parenting discussion board wormhole where it can be easy to take someone’s advice without verifying the information. Talking with other moms online or reading group threads can be a helpful and supportive resource sometimes, but look to your child’s doctor for medical information and advice.

Also, when choosing a doctor for your baby, it’s helpful to find someone you feel comfortable talking to so you can discuss any subject that arises.

10. Alternate vaccine schedules are a myth

Childhood vaccination schedules are designed with babies’ and kids’ young immune systems in mind. So-called “alternative vaccination schedules” have not been scientifically studied and are highly discouraged by the CDC and pediatric medical experts.

Vaccinations align with well-baby visit schedules to protect children when they’re the youngest and most vulnerable, and to keep them safe until they receive full protection.

Our advice for new moms:

Talk to your child’s doctor. They’ll be happy to answer any and all questions you have about vaccines. They can explain the recommended vaccination schedule, provide you with the research behind it and help give you peace of mind about vaccine safety.

Unfortunately, there are some corners of the internet where misinformation is being spread about vaccines. You may even come across a mom at the playground or in your circle of friends who is talking about an alternative vaccine schedule. Just remember that childhood vaccination schedules are based on research, clinical trials and years of studying patient health outcomes – all with your little one’s well-being at heart.

11. Ask for help early and often – and don’t feel guilty about it

It can be really hard to admit that you need help. Sometimes social media can make motherhood seem like a walk in the park. It’s all flawless makeup, clean kitchens and perfectly risen homemade bread. But behind the scenes, things look different. Parenting is beautiful, but it can also be difficult, exhausting and messy. So don’t be afraid to reach out for a hand.

Our advice for new moms:

Asking for help when we need it isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It’s important to recognize when your reserves are getting low and know how to fill them up again. Maybe one of your friends likes to cook and offered to drop off a meal. Take them up on it! Maybe your parents can watch the baby while you take a much-needed shower and a nap.

From your family and friends to your baby’s pediatrician – don’t feel bad about asking for help. Usually when someone offers, they’re genuinely looking forward to making things easier for you.

12. Trust your maternal instincts

Will you overreact from time to time? Yep. Will you be glad you did so you have some peace of mind? Yep and yep. New moms take advice from doctors, family, friends and more – so why not take the advice from your own subconscious and heart? A mother’s instincts are always valid.

Our advice for new moms:

All the advice or parenting books in the world won’t prepare you for everything to come. But you know what’s best for your little one, and your instincts are there for a reason. Go with your gut, mama.

It takes a village

As a new parent, you’re absorbing so much information in a short time that it can be easy to reach the “information overload” zone. Your baby’s doctor knows this, and that’s why many doctors avoid giving you too much information all at once.

But whenever you’re curious about a specific topic or need advice, bring it up to your child’s doctor. Chances are they have loads of experience with the subject and they’ll be happy to offer guidance. You can also check out our parenting resource guide for more tips and information.

Once you’re a seasoned mom who’s seen it all, you might even find yourself sharing some of these insider tips with other first-time moms and dads in your life. After all, it takes a village.