When You're the First of Your Friends to Have a Baby

At 24, I was the first of all my friends to have kids and it wasn't easy going through it without that support. Here's my advice on how to deal when no one else in your social circle has a baby.

An image of a group of friends.
Photo: Getty Images.

I always knew I wanted to be a mother, and I always had a mission: to be done having kids by age 30.

It may sound strange for a Millennial to set this sort of goal. These days, maternal age continues to climb in the U.S. Among women with an advanced degree, like myself, the median age to start having kids is 30. There are plenty of good reasons to wait to get pregnant until later in life, whether establishing a career, traveling, or enjoying a social life.

For me, it was just a personal choice and at age 24, after a couple of years of marriage, I gave birth to my first child—and quickly discovered I was completely unprepared for motherhood.

Through the misty lens of memory, I can look back and recall the learning curve of young parenting with some humor, but at the time, it felt isolating and overwhelming. Since I had no younger siblings, no friends with infants, and almost zero babysitting experience, my son landed in my life like a blazing meteorite of unknowns. I had never changed a diaper. I had no clue just how intense sleep deprivation of new parenthood could be. And hold up—I was supposed to breastfeed this kid every two hours? Uh, no one told me that.

Though it was undeniably tough to transition to parenthood, especially while my peers enjoyed their post-college childless life, the experience came with plenty of lessons. As someone who's been there, here's what I learned about making the best of parenthood when none of your friends are there yet (no matter what age you are).

Consult the Experts

So your friends have never heard of a binky and their only sleep woes are from getting home too late? Maybe it's time to lean on other resources.

Specialists like your pediatrician, lactation consultants, and even therapists exist to help new parents—so take advantage of their expertise! Don't be afraid to call your doctor's office with concerns. Use baby's well-checks to ask all the burning questions your childless pals can't answer. And, if finances or insurance allow, make full use of services like postnatal counseling, parenting classes, and lactation assistance.

Case in point: During my son's first few weeks of life, I wasn't exactly the picture of breastfeeding success. Cracked, bleeding nipples, and painful engorgement made me consider throwing in the towel with nursing. A few visits with a lactation consultant set me on the right path. I ended up breastfeeding my son nearly to his first birthday.

Not sure how to find resources? "Many hospitals offer support groups. La Leche League is an excellent resource, and there are online groups (many local) where moms can ask questions and get encouragement," says lactation consultant Jocelyn Bermudez, IBCLC, of the Snarky Boob Queens podcast. "And for low-income moms, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is an excellent resource. They offer breastfeeding peer counseling, nutrition education, food supplementation, and free breast pumps for eligible mothers."

Take Advantage of Technology

These days, all sorts of apps can make parenting easier—especially when you can't lean on friends for advice. To track your baby's feedings and developmental milestones, for example, Bermudez recommends the apps Hatch Baby, Wonder Weeks, and the Breastfeeding Baby Tracker. A little digital encouragement can go a long way toward building your confidence as a new parent.

Although solutions to many new-parent conundrums are just a few clicks away, just remember to vet your sources for trustworthiness. (Let's be honest, Instagram isn't exactly the summit of parenting wisdom.) "Be careful when googling or seeking advice on social media," recommends therapist Kayce Hodos, LCMHC, PMH-C, NCC, who specializes in pre- and postnatal counseling. "If the info isn't coming from a reliable expert, move on and call your healthcare provider."

Handle FOMO Like a Pro

I won't lie: as a young mom, the fear of missing out (FOMO) was real. As much as I adored my infant son, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy when I found out friends were meeting up for drinks while I sat home with nursing pads and hemorrhoid cream for company.

What I didn't realize at the time was that missing out on certain social activities is a totally natural part of the transition to parenthood. "Regardless of your age, when you become a mother, there is usually a bit of FOMO," says Hodos. "Motherhood involves a lot of grief because you give up so much when you have a tiny human depending on you."

That said, after you've had a good cry into your Boppy pillow, it's constructive to turn your emotions into action. "Express how you're feeling to your partner and your friends, and reflect on how you'd like things to be," Hodos recommends. Brainstorm ways you and your partner (or someone else close to you) could trade off to allow for socializing with friends, or invite your pals over to your place for some kid-free hang time after baby is in bed.

Find Your Tribe

Possibly the biggest game-changer for my first year of motherhood was connecting with fellow moms. Since my existing social circle was mostly child-free, I had to seek out parent friends elsewhere.

A meetup group for moms in their 20s (called, no joke, "The Hot Mamas") proved to be a saving grace. Getting together with other moms gave me a network of women in my life stage. At playgrounds and mall walks, we compared notes on colic remedies, post-baby sex, and the virtues of cloth versus disposable diapers.

It can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there by meeting new people. (And, granted, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's significantly harder to make friends in person.) Still, any connections you can make with other parents can be a major positive for mommy mental health. To find your mama tribe, try searching for groups on social media, or ask your pediatrician or lactation consultant for recommendations.

Meanwhile, investing in new relationships doesn't mean you have to let go of old ones. "While it can be challenging to maintain friendships once your life has changed so drastically, keep in mind what you do still have in common," encourages Hodos. "Everything may seem different, but you still have the foundation of the friendship. It just may need to be nurtured in new ways."

The Bottom Line

It's hard to believe, but the seven-pound bundle who made me a mom at 24 is now a teenager. And the two more kids I had when I was 26 and 28 are close behind. Now, in my 30s, I am focusing on my career. I teach parenting classes to underprivileged new mothers, calling upon memories of my own inexperience to help them better prepare. If motherhood has you struggling, take heart. Tapping into resources, getting educated, and finding a community can equip you to be the best parent you can be, no matter your age.

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