It’s hard to believe I have a 4-month old. Where did the time go??! Memories of those exhausting and exhilarating early weeks home with a newborn start to get fuzzy quickly so here are some of the tips I discovered as a new mom.
- Take care of yourself
Taking a shower and getting outside for a few minutes every day were really important for my mental health in those first few weeks. I remember just standing in the steamy shower with washcloths protecting my chest because I was so sore from breastfeeding some days. Other days, drying my hair and putting on makeup was what I needed. And then there was the heavenly sitz bath. It’s so important for your body to heal that prioritizing whatever will make you feel good on a given day is crucial for your well-being.
- Find a mom’s group
A friend told me to join while I was still pregnant but I didn’t join one until Emilia was 4 weeks old. Big mistake! Those get-togethers quickly became the highlight of my week. The format of groups can vary so take the time to find a good fit. My group is run by a midwife and we usually spend the first 45 minutes taking turns sharing what’s going on with our babies and answering each other’s questions. Every few weeks, there are guest speakers too. I’ve had massages, chiropractic adjustment, physical therapy consultation, and listened to a great presentation by a sleep specialist; it’s great.I also belong to a few Facebook groups, but my favorite (without question) is my breastfeeding group: The Leaky Boob. Each time I wanted to give up or had an issue I just couldn’t figure out (like Emilia’s nursing strike) my “leakies” offered support, solace and encouragement. Same for my moms group. I can’t tell you how many times a new mom would come in with a baby a few weeks younger than mine and share the exact same problem or frustration that I’d had when Emilia was the same age. If the other moms hadn’t been there to offer advice, I don’t know what I’d have done.
- Don’t be afraid to go out with baby.
The pediatrician’s office was the destination of our first post-hospital trip out, then we took a quick walk to a favorite bakery, but my first “big” trip out with Emilia was to the mall to find nursing tops. Glamorous, huh? My sister Vicky accompanied and was such a help, rocking the baby to sleep while I tried on everything in stock at Destination Maternity. I nursed Emilia in the ladies room lounge at Nordstrom and later, a dressing room, but that trip taught me that it was possible to get out with the baby. Soon after, I took a solo trip to Marshall’s and even met my sister for lunch in Boston one afternoon after perfectly timing a nap and feeding. It is possible with some preparation and it only gets easier with practice. For both you and baby.
- Enjoy skin-to-skin time as much as possible.
Pardon me if this is TMI, but I spent a lot of time topless, just snuggling my daughter, in the early weeks because bonding with her was really important to me. Granted, her poor latch left me with so much damage that I didn’t have much choice but to go shirtless while I healed between feedings, but we also snuggled in bed together when we co-slept and some of my favorite memories are of watching her wake up each morning, nuzzled in the crook of my arm. This is largely the reason I never bothered with dressing her in more than a diaper, too. We snuggled together around the clock and it was heaven.
- Try baby wearing sooner, rather than later.
Emilia didn’t take to her Moby wrap or her Ergo carrier on the first few tries, so I almost gave up until I mentioned it at my mom’s group and received the tip that changed it all: Put her in a start walking. Worked like a charm. I had to watch a LOT of YouTube videos and practice tying the Moby wrap a few different ways to see what Emilia liked, but we eventually landed on one she loved: the hug hold. The conditions need to be right though, which means that she’s fed and has a clean diaper. Otherwise, I just slide her in and start moving and she usually conks out immediately.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps.
I’ll listen to this advice the next time around — only I’ll probably have an active toddler to contend with by then. It’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in the newborn haze and I railed against the limited time constraints of my new life as a mom, squeezing in laundry and blogging and photography when I should have been catching some zzz’s. I didn’t realize that Emilia would eventually settle into a more predictable eating/sleeping pattern and I’d soon long for the days when we could spend whole days just napping and nursing together because they’re over in a blink.
- Don’t be afraid to say no to visitors.
You need to bond with your baby and it can be difficult when (well-intentioned!) visitors want to drop in. Our first day at the hospital, I’d only had one hour of sleep since delivering but entertained visitors from 11:30 in the morning to almost 9 PM. I wore myself out trying to accommodate everyone’s schedules and later resented how little time I’d spent alone with just my husband and daughter in the first 24 hours of her life. I remember feeling so guilty for taking her back from someone to hold at one point and that’s just not right. Next time, we’ll invite visitors to the hospital at specific times that work for us and probably limit visitors to the house until after the first week home.
- Take time to enjoy your baby.
Similar to the above, too many times, I’d hand my peacefully sleeping newborn off to my husband after struggling through a grueling, 45-minute feeding and then run to the kitchen to grab gel packs to ice my chest while he brought her out to greet company. Not only did I miss seeing people’s faces when they saw our daughter for the first time (or held her), but I was missing the most rewarding part: the moments immediately following feedings were some of the absolute sweetest, most contented, and snuggly. And lets not forget the adorable “milk drunk” face! It wasn’t without a heaping side of guilt that I eventually started taking 5-10 minutes for myself with her and also talked to Brian about how frustrating it was to miss that initial “meet and greet” with visitors.If you’re breastfeeding:
- See a lactation consultant ASAP.
I was wincing in pain, absolutely dreading every feeding and knew something just wasn’t right when I made my desperate call for help on our first day home from the hospital. Insurance completely covered the 2-hour, in-home visit and I received instruction tailored to our nursing issues in addition to a comprehensive crash course in all things milk production. I learned so much more than I did in the breastfeeding class I took through my hospital! Our LC even showed us how to cut our baby’s fingernails, swaddle her, and a neat trick for keeping her contained if we need to clean our a stuffy nose.
- Get some APNO and Lansinoh Gel Soothies.
APNO stands for “all purpose nipple ointment” and should be used sparingly since it contains a steroid, but it’s the balm of the gods as far as I’m concerned. I was very anti-medication throughout my entire pregnancy, refusing the flu shot and cold medicine and even Tylenol for headaches, but I loved my APNO so much, if you’d told me there was cocaine in it, it wouldn’t have mattered. God bless my friend Shawna for immediately mentioning it when I told her how damaged I was from nursing. Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that I referred to my daughter as “my little vampire” and nursed with tears streaming down my cheeks, sucking down quarts of water through a straw to distract myself from the pain. The first time I used it, the relief was almost instant and within a day or two, I was nearly healed. It saved my breastfeeding relationship, so thank you Shawna. Lansinoh Gel Soothies were another saving grace for me in my first two weeks of nursing. These little reusable gel pads chill in the fridge during feedings, then you just pop them on afterwards and wear until the next feeding. They’re kind of a pain because you’re supposed to wipe off the gel residue before nursing, but the relief they offer is worth the effort. Thankfully, someone recommended packing them in my hospital bag but I’d have at least 3 boxes to get you through your first two weeks. They’re pricey, but so worth it.