For 22 years I was the perfect mother. Then I had my first child. There is absolutely nothing like being a mom. Once you hold that baby in your arms you are a different person. Then the first time you can’t calm your fussy baby you begin the long and arduous journey of systematically throwing out each and every one of your pre-concieved notions of what kind of mom you would be and what kind of child you will have.
While you are going to have to come to those realizations on your own, I will give you a few practical tips for new moms that I have discovered (or re-discovered) over the last ten years (can you believe I have a ten year old!)
- Get enough SLEEP! This is perhaps the most important thing for new moms to remember. I am SO bad at this! This is partially because I have five children that are with me. All. Day. Long. It’s also because for some reason, as exhausted as I am, I can’t sleep very well. This morning I woke up at 4:30. I got up, took a shower and was able to see Matt off to work. Around 6:30 I went back to sleep but that was short-lived (remember, five kids). It’s a cruel irony that the women who need sleep the most are the ones who seem to be incapable of getting it. For me, adequate sleep means the difference between feeling like I can take on the world and wanting crawl into a hole.
- Learn to nurse lying down. See #1.
- Co-sleep. Beyond keeping you from having to get up and rock in a chair to feed your baby every few hours there is ample evidence that babies who co-sleep have a lower incidence of SIDS. The theory is that a struggling baby’s heart or lungs can be “jump-started” by their mother’s. I know this is a controversial subject but if you take some simple, common sense precautions the chances of rolling over and smothering your baby is significantly lowered (but do what you feel is right for your family). Precautions such as:
- Don’t take any medicine that can cause drowsiness (sleeping pills, Nyquil, etc.)
- Wear warm pajamas so that you can keep your blankets down around your waist and FAR away from your baby’s face.
- Dress your baby accordingly. If you are snuggling with your baby while you sleep (which I do) your body heat will give him extra warmth. Warm babies sleep longer (that’s good) but DON’T let him overheat (another SIDS risk). I usually have Henry in a jammie or onesie (not both) and a thin swaddling blanket.
- Dress to how you are feeling. I actually have pretty strong opinions on how I should dress. I think it’s important for stay at home moms to dress nicely, but in general I stay in my jammies for at least two weeks after having a baby. I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m up and running. After two weeks I wait to see how I feel before I decide what I wear.
- Try and take a shower, do your hair and put on make-up every day. If I am feeling tired, frustrated, frazzled and overwhelmed, the LAST thing I want is to look in the mirror and see a woman who looks like she has been defeated. I want to look good at least from the neck up. If you can’t shower you can still do your hair and face. These kinds of sponges or baby baths really help if your shower also has a tub (mine doesn’t :( Baby can splash in the warm water while you get clean.
- Let your husband touch you. We need human contact. Don’t get me wrong, snuggling with your baby is beyond wonderful, but sometimes after hours and hours of nothing but nursing, burping, spit up, diapers and crying; holding hands with or snuggling with your husband while you watch a movie or read next to each other on the couch can work wonders on your soul. Let him show you he loves you.
- Nursing hurts. It doesn’t hurt for long (for just a couple weeks) but unless you have nursed all through your pregnancy, every time you have a baby you have to grow a new set of calluses on the ladies. Lansinoh is a lifesaver to keep them from getting chapped.
- Nursing is messy. Breast pads are a must. I like the Lansinoh disposable breast pads. I’ve heard good things about Bamboobies for those of you who want something non-disposable but I’ve never tried them.
- Learn how to swaddle. Babies who are swaddled sleep longer and are more content when they are awake. I like blankets that don’t stretch and are at least 40 x 40. I don’t have these particular blankets but they seem perfect!
- Use Disposable diapers at night. Newborns poop all the time. My pediatrician suggested coating their bums with a thick coat of zinc oxide at night so we aren’t up changing diapers in the middle of the night. We use cloth diapers and diaper creams can’t be used cloth diapers. So we use disposable at night for the first few months or until they stop pooping at night.
- Happiest Baby on the Block. Best. Book. Ever.
What tips do you have for surviving those first few months with a new baby?