From One New Mom to Another:
My Tips and Tricks to Surviving the First Few Months
1. In the delivery room, be open to all options. Whatever you go in expecting will be the opposite of what actually happens. While its okay to have plans and goals, don’t be upset when those fall through. You’ll save yourself a lot of regret and disappointment by staying flexible.
2. After the baby is born, everyone will tell you how things should be done best. Doctors, nurses, friends and family will all be informing you of the right way to do things and what you should never do. In the end, however, your instincts will take over and you’ll know what’s right for you and your baby. Not doing everything by the book is not only inevitable but is necessary to be a mother. Remember, he’s your baby and you have the right to raise him any way that feels right. Trust your intuition.
3. If you’re breastfeeding and don’t have a good pump, get one. You’ll need it when you get engorged, for relief between feedings and for pumping to store. Also, if you have difficulty breastfeeding, whether it be latching problems or low milk supply, you’ll want the pump so you can still give your baby your milk as long as possible. Pump and freeze what extra you have while your supply is up. Get a hands-free pumping bra that fits up with your bottles and pump. If you’re pumping as often as your baby is feeding, prop him up in the boppy, feed him with one hand while you keep your other free for control. You should be pumping as long as your baby is feeding so when he finished, you’re finished.
4. For nipple lubrication when pumping or otherwise, use olive oil instead of lanolin. In addition to being cheaper, olive oil is more slippery so it causes less friction and less chance of blisters. Some women are actually allergic to lanolin, so you avoid that being an issue. Also, olive oil is easier to wipe off, allowing the nipple to dry and heal quicker while still moisturizing enough to avoid cracking and bleeding.
5. Drink lots and lots of water. It will help with milk production, start regulating your urinary tract (which by the way will be out of wack for a few months post partum,) and make you feel less drained and yucky.
6. While ponytails, headbands and hair clips will be your best friends, shower when you can. When a visitor comes, hand the baby over and hop in the shower. You probably won’t get more than one every other day if you’re lucky, but they work wonders to make you feel better instantly.
7. The first 6-8 weeks will be a blur. You’ll feel like crying from exhaustion and screaming from frustration but be overjoyed all at the same time. Just try to be patient. Every day gets easier as you learn what works for you and your baby and he adjusts to the new world. As soon as you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, the baby will change just a little, and you’ll have to start over. There will be no pattern or schedule for a very long time, so just try to stay calm and enjoy this time learning your new family member.
8. Possibly the most important advice I ever got was “sleep when the baby sleeps.” This is no joke. You’ll learn to fall asleep at the drop of a hat, and it will save your sanity. You may want to clean, cook, or get work done, but don’t. No one will fault you or think you’re neglecting your responsibilities if you try to catch up on rest. Seriously. If you are too tired, you’ll be cranky, causing your husband to stress out, causing fights and avoidable bitterness between you two. Also, the baby will pick up on that tension and cry more. In general, if you stay calm, everyone else will too.
9. There will be days your baby eats or sleeps less or more than usual. Don’t freak out unless it lasts more than a few days or if you think it is affecting his health. There are a million and one reasons your baby acts the way he does and half the time you can’t figure it out.
10. There is sense behind the advice that holding your baby all the time will make them dependent on being held and not put down, but not in the first few weeks. Almost all rules like that go out the window for at least the first month. If holding your baby is the only thing that will calm him down, for sanity’s sake, do it. You’ll find that most advice is “forgotten” when it comes to stopping your baby’s tears or getting him to sleep or eat. It’s okay. You won’t permanently damage your baby by loving him too much. Most habits aren’t formed until he’s 4-6 months old anyway.
11. As soon as you feel comfortable, put him in his crib to sleep. Having the baby in your room will detract from your sleep, and therefore your health, because you will wake up at every movement and breath your baby makes. It doesn’t matter how heavy of a sleeper you used to be, once you become a mom you’ll wake up at a pin-drop. An Angelcare Monitor works wonders to relieve the fear of SIDS if that’s what keeps you up at night.
12. It may be the hardest thing in the world to listen to your baby cry and while everyone will tell you that its okay to let him, it will still break your heart every time. Your baby will survive through tears and tantrums, so try to be okay with a little crying. However, what people don’t tell you is that letting your baby work himself up makes it harder to calm him down, so sometimes stopping the fit before it gets out of control is an excellent way to avoid some unnecessary stress. (By the way, babies can’t “cry it out” until they are closer to 3-4 months old because they aren’t capable of calming themselves down, so that advice is a no-go for awhile if you have the heart to try it.)
13. When in doubt, call the pediatrician. Google will only scare you in to thinking something is seriously wrong with your baby. Yes, you’ll check the internet first, but then call the doctor. They have a nurse on staff meant specifically for your “silly” questions, and the have a doctor on call 24 hours a day if you’re really worried. Seven calls a week resulting in nothing is better than not calling only to find its something serious.
14. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help from anyone and everyone!