Congratulations – you are now the expert on someone you’ve known just days… or even just hours. As a mom, your first tip is...
Congratulations – you are now the expert on someone you’ve known just days… or even just hours. As a mom, your first tip is to remember that you are the one who gets to decide, and be confident about the decisions that come up – even if you find things aren’t exactly how you thought they’d be!
Get a shower every day. If you do nothing but feed your baby, feed yourself, and shower – you are successful. You will feel so much better if you take the time to take care of your basic needs! Eventually it won’t be so hard to do more – but for the first few weeks, you’re getting used to a whole new way of life!
Remember that all advice from relatives and friends is something that you can accept, or reject – even if your mother in law did raise 10 children or your grandmother insists that it worked for her in 1950. Sometimes you’ll feel like welcoming advice, because you really don’t know what to do – and sometimes you’ll feel like the advice is intrusive – but try to answer (or sometimes ignore) what’s given to you, assuming good intentions.
Don’t try to do it all. Don’t forget to ask for, or accept, help. Think of specific people ahead of time that you can rely on for specific things, like a friend who will pick up food for you, a friend who can watch your baby while you nap, or even someone to go with you to buy that swing that you didn’t think you’d need.
Going to your first doctor’s appointment? Doing your first errands? Plan for any outing to take three times as long as you get used to all of the new things you are doing – and know that that’s okay! Before my baby, my weekly shopping trips from the minute I left home till the groceries were put away used to last an hour. The first one I took along took 2 and a half. But my sweet baby just slept in the carrier and didn’t care too much.
Decide to be open to change; adapting to reality apart from your expectations will make the necessary changes a lot easier to accept and implement. Sometimes the way you expected things to turn out – the way you envisioned things – will not fit with your baby’s likes and dislikes, or moment by moment needs. You get to learn about them, and teach them about the world.
Use a smartphone app like “Total Baby” or “Baby Daybook” to track feedings and diapers so you’re ready to answer at your next doctor’s appointment – and for your own peace of mind to refer to if you become concerned. You can be as detailed or general as you like – or just use a pen and paper if that’s easier! This is mainly for the first two weeks – although it can be helpful for the whole first month if your baby takes a little longer to gain back to birth weight.
Record something on your little calendar or baby book whenever you can – whether it’s “first time meeting the grandparents” or “first sleepy smile.” Take pictures of the first time your baby wears special outfits, because you never know when a growth spurt will hit, and while you’re busy feeding her, she may outgrow your favorite!
Set up a feeding station with all necessary supplies for middle of the night feedings. You may want a bottle of water for yourself – whether you’re nursing or not – and healthy snacks, such as mandarin oranges or nuts. It may be helpful to have a clean burp cloth, a pacifier, a fresh swaddle blanket, and a good nursing pillow – see what you need the first few times, and try to stash a fresh supply whenever you get a break!
Breastfeeding and/or pumping? Stock up on lanolin, nursing pads, extra pump supplies and nursing bottles if you only have a starter set (having two sets allow you to go 6 hours or so without washing everything), and enough storage containers or bags.
Remember that your baby will lose a little weight before he gains it back – and don’t freak out if he takes his own pace in gaining back to birth weight, if you’re breastfeeding – as long as he is producing enough wet and dirty diapers and gaining something! Many women compare their babies to others in their circle of family and friends, but each baby truly is an individual and will grow at his own rate.
Breastfeeding? Remember: you have enough milk – or will have after a few days – so ignore curious family and friends who might make you doubt that. Take the advice of your lactation consultant or the nurses you had at the hospital, and any support you may have from breastfeeding groups (there are many on social media) – and if you are struggling to establish your supply, reach out to knowledgeable people until you understand how it all works and feel confident about it, too. Many mothers who haven’t happened to breastfeed themselves don’t have a knowledge base for breastfeeding and will tell you things, or just repeatedly ask you things, that may drive you crazy – but that can apply to pretty much any aspect of your parenting. Remember that your supply is built up when your baby nurses frequently, such as during growth spurts.
If you are going to breastfeed for a period of time, get nursing tank tops! You can wear them under any shirt for support and easy access.
Not breastfeeding? Know your self-care for your body ahead of time, and take the time to actually implement those steps during this chaotic time of feedings and sleeplessness. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins – including iron, assuming you are told to.
Don’t push yourself to exercise vigorously the first month, or even to lose weight; you need more rest than you’ll be able to get. If you’re breastfeeding, you should not diet, as in restricting calories to below the recommended daily intake for your height and weight plus about 300 extra, unless monitored by a doctor, as you could decrease your supply by restricting calories too much. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t look how you thought you would for another few months!
Video: Baby Care Tips For New Moms
Your husband can handle having the baby – so don’t freak out if she cries downstairs for a little while when you’re resting upstairs! He’s figuring her out, too, and is likely more comfortable after a getting a few diaper changes and feedings down. My husband became a master swaddler, and knows that if I’m asleep, there’s either stock milk in the freezer or formula if all else fails. He even sometimes wears our sweet baby, and often this has lulled her to sleep. (He was educated beforehand about the dangers of shaken baby syndrome, the fact that she couldn’t have solids till x months old, and other vital things, but a lot of it is pretty much common sense. Mommies just tend to worry.)
If you’re out of clothes to wear, out of clean bottles, and there’s literally nothing in the fridge – do what you need to in order to function, or better yet ask for help, but now is not the time to deep clean the baseboards, organize the closet, and iron clothes – not that you’d have the energy, anyhow! Don’t feel pressured, either.
Go for a walk – even if you don’t quite feel like it. It can be very short, but you may find it energizing. Walking is the best exercise for the first few months.
Remember that your baby just spent 9 months in a very cozy place where there was a lot of movement rocking him to sleep and he was pretty confined… and now he has to deal with this outside world. He may want to be rocked and walked around in order to calm down. Be patient and try different things until you find something that works today… and know that it can change tomorrow!
Overwhelmed? Your baby doesn’t move much yet – put her in the crib or swing (and fasten her in), and walk away for 10 minutes out of hearing range. When you come back, remind yourself that the only way she knows how to communicate at this point, or interact, is through crying – and that will change!
My godmother was right – the swing she sent me was a lifesaver. The motion, vibration, and white noise can lull a fussy little one to sleep when nothing else cuts it sometimes. Consider trying one of these! But also, don’t leave your baby in equipment all of the time – keep it balanced.
If she’s been fed, burped, and changed – and he is still fussy – it may be time for a swaddle. Sometimes confining a little baby’s arms helps them to calm down; they just don’t know what to do with those yet!
Video: How To Swaddle And Calm A Newborn Baby
Making a shushing noise is also a comfort technique you can use with your newborn baby and one you should keep in your arsenal. White noise machines also help a baby sleep sometimes.
Singing and playing music may not only calm the baby, but also can keep you sane. Don’t know the words? Just make some up – or look some up online. The best part is, your baby won’t know the difference yet!
Take advantage of freezer meals. Freeze the lasagna your neighbor brought over for later in the week, and if you’re not already inside the first 30 days when you’re reading this, make double portions of your favorite freezable recipes and set half aside a few days a week in the months leading up to baby’s arrival. Also, keep some things your husband can make – whether that’s sandwich material, or for the really desperate, pizza coupons….
Ignore your phone as much as you’d like – you may find you just don’t have time for it the first month of your baby’s life. (Except to take pictures – but don’t forget to take ones on a really good camera, too!)
Immediately write down your appointments and anything you’re supposed to bring if you need to make doctor appointments the first few weeks. You won’t remember once you hang up. Set reminders if you know you’ll need to schedule something. You can’t trust your brain those first few weeks. I couldn’t even swipe my credit card correctly on my first grocery trip – I kept pressing the wrong button. You’ll be sleep deprived and fascinated by every hiccup and sigh your little bundle of joy makes, which is a great distraction and excuse!
Buy 5 or so (inexpensive) outfits ahead of time that aren’t maternity, but would fit whatever you were at about 25 weeks pregnant. Dresses are great in some ways, but if you’re nursing, you have to be careful that they will work for that. Stretchy pants and loose shirts are great choices for this time of change in your body once again. Having that many outfits will allow for a few changes in case of spit up or other accidents, before you absolutely have to wash all of your clothes.
Start tummy time right away! For just a few minutes at a time, several times a day, lay your baby on a play gym or even just a spread out blanket. Encourage him to raise his head by talking to him. It will take a while for him to build his muscles, but eventually this will help him get a strong neck to steady his cute little head.
Give yourself grace! This is all new, and it will take time to figure it all out. This was my mantra – I would get frustrated, and then I remembered my friend telling me: Just give yourself some grace these first few weeks!