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Goodbye, Guilt!

As a new mother, you'll experience exhaustion you never thought you could handle, love beyond anything you imagined  -- and guilt like you've never known: over working (or not working), over not breastfeeding exclusively, over seeing friends (or ignoring them). But guilt doesn't make you a better mother or your child a happier creature. It's not inevitable, either. Breaking the habit takes effort, but repeating the following mantras is a good way to start.

• I'm doing my best. It's easy to go to bed at night thinking of everything you didn't do for your child. Instead, list what you did give her: food, shelter, love, and laughter.

• Parenthood isn't a solo sport... at least it shouldn't be. But many mothers try to take sole responsibility for their child's every need. Sharing the burdens  -- and the joys  -- of new parenthood with Dad, of course, but also with grandparents, relatives, and friends can lighten your load and enrich your child's life.

•...and neither is guilt. That's right-your guilt can be fed by others who, in subtle ways, are sowing the seeds of self-doubt. "Associate with people who are on your team," suggests Russell G. Robertson, M.D., an associate professor in the department of family and community medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee. "Ask yourself if the criticism is coming from a person who cares about you or someone who wants to have a pity party together."

• Nobody gets to have perfect parents. Think of the people you admire. Were they raised by paragons of nurturance  -- or did they blossom in the shelter of parents who did their best?

Now look at that baby. If you still have doubts about your parenting skills, gaze into those adoring eyes. Could a baby have become so lovely in the hands of a less-than-stellar mom?