Looking back over the years since I’ve had my first baby, there have been countless lessons learned, wisdom gained, and knowledge acquired–and I’m still learning. There have so many times I’ve muttered to myself “I wish I knew that the first time!”, and with some things, wondered why in the world no one ever filled me in beforehand!
So…I’m going to do that for you. Six babies later, I’m sharing not only some of the truths I’ve learned, but also tips on some baby basics and advice for new moms, and maybe–hopefully– you’ll glean a little something that will help you on your motherhood journey. And while you’re in the thick of it, you’ll know that someone else has been there, and understands.
You ready? Here we go…what I wish I knew with baby #1!
You will still look pregnant after you have your baby. Like 4-5 months pregnant. At least. Unless you are a freak of nature (and I still love you if that’s you–just extremely jealous), you will probably wear your maternity jeans for a month or two after your baby is born, and at the very least, lots of very stretchy and comfy yoga pants. This came as a big shock to me. I had no idea that that’s how it worked, and I squeezed into the pants I brought to the hospital to wear home. So, just be prepared. That’s half the battle, right? Bring your comfiest, stretchiest pants with a waistband that won’t hurt you (especially if you have a c-section, like I did several times). Your stomach will go down over the next weeks, but it takes time.
Just remember—you are a ROCK STAR. You just grew and gave birth to a tiny human, and you’ve earned your stripes, and that stomach. You are beautiful, and even though you don’t feel it, tell yourself in the mirror at least ten times a day how awesome you are. If you forget, I will remind you.
Trust your instincts.
As a new mom, you might be wondering if you have the “mom instincts” to know what to do, and how to do it. If they just “come”, or if they happen over time. Actually, it’s a little of both. You’re the mom, it’s your baby, and with that comes an innate sense of what “feels right”, and what doesn’t. Listen to it. Trust it. Don’t be afraid to act on it.
When my oldest was just two weeks old, his umbilical cord was just not looking right. The whole surrounding belly button area was red and a little inflamed, and even though I had no idea what it was actually supposed to look like, I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. He was also so fussy, I couldn’t get him calmed down, and I decided to take him into the doctor to get it checked out. I was nervous about it, because I didn’t want the doctor to think I was crazy. If nothing was wrong, I would like really foolish, and it would suddenly be very obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. In the end, I decided I would much rather go in and look a little silly, then not go in and be worried sick, or have something be really wrong.
When I got to the office, it took only about five minutes before they sent him directly to the PICU of the nearest children’s hospital–we skipped the emergency room, everything. He had a very serious bacterial infection that required a week in the PICU, a PICC line inserted and another week at home on heavy antibiotics. The doctors kept asking me over and over again how I knew, how just a little redness around the belly button clued me in, but I didn’t really have an answer other than I just knew. I didn’t know what was wrong, or that would be that serious, but I’m so glad I trusted those instincts. That has proved to be the case over and over again, with all of my children, in every situation, both small and large.
One size does NOT fit all. Despite popular opinion and what you may see on social media, there is more than one way to do things. There is usually not a right or wrong when it comes to parenting, even though you might be told that on more than one occasion. I remember having little old ladies stop me in the grocery store, and lecture me on the fact that my baby MUST be freezing because he only had one pair of socks, one jacket and his ears weren’t properly covered. (And this was when it was 80 degrees outside.) These days it’s morphed into things like breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, co-sleeping or not, working or staying at home, and a million other hot topics. Don’t listen to it. Make your own, informed choices and be confident in them. You know best what your baby and your family needs, when you are really honest with yourself and do the research.
I was devastated that I wasn’t able to breastfeed when I had my first baby, and that first week was perhaps the most anguished I’ve ever been, as we were both absolutely miserable, and he was starving. Finally, after trying so many things, and after getting a lecture from a professional that brought me to tears for the millionth time that day, I called my mom. She gave me the “permission” to just let go–to realize that my body wasn’t going to cooperate with what I wanted, and that it was OKAY. I was okay. The baby would be okay. I wasn’t any less of a mother because I bottle fed my baby. I have held firm to that conversation over the years, and applied it to so many different situations. I get to decide what’s right for me, and that makes it right!
In the same token, be supportive to all the moms around you, even if your choices are different. They get to decide what’s right for them too! When we stick together, we are SO much stronger. One of my least favorite things (okay, my least favorite thing) about social media is how much criticizing there is of other moms and women. If you don’t agree, that’s fine, but don’t tear someone else down.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions. Yes, you definitely want to trust your instincts and make your own decisions, but asking for help and advice when you need it is also an important part of being a first time mother, and I’m still doing it now! I love to talk to other moms that have already been where I’ve been, find out what worked for them, what didn’t and why, so I can learn from it. It was invaluable to me especially when that first baby was born, and I couldn’t get enough information from the people around me. Take advantage of others’ experience and wisdom
Relish that newborn stage–it’s over in the blink of an eye. I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times, but there is a reason you have. It’s true! That squishy, cuddly, pull-the-knees-up-to-your-chest phase only lasts a matter of a few weeks, and soon you’ll go from newborn to baby. Let the dishes sit. Hold your baby. Soak up every last minute of it, because it will be over before you know it. I realize that’s sometimes easier said than done, because you’re most likely not getting any sleep, and you’re still recovering from having your baby. But make it a conscious effort, and you’ll never regret it.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s really hard to get things done when you have a newborn. Really hard. Two of the times I was a new mom it was to twins, and I learned the hard way how important it is during the day to sleep when they sleep, despite my ever-growing list of things to get done. Since I’m a list girl, I always wanted to focus naptime and crossing things off my to-do list, cleaning the house, and other tasks, but I discovered that if I completely ignored resting, I wasn’t able to get all of it done anyway. If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, it’s even more important to try and get some during the day. When I had a new baby(ies) plus older siblings at home, I instituted a strict nap time/quiet time for them too (depending on their age), so I could at least rest, if not actually sleep. I’m a big believer that when can do anything…if you get sleep. :)
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Oh, this is so much easier said than done! When you’re already feeling overwhelmed and tired and actually exhausted and already behind in every other aspect of your life, plus a spouse and possibly other children to take care of, it’s hard to even imagine being able to carve out a spare minute for yourself. But it’s important. Really important. Vital, I would actually say. When you haven’t taken care of yourself, you won’t have anything to give to others. Whether it’s a bubble bath, pedicure, taking thirty minutes to read a favorite book, meditation, or whatever it is that you love, make the time to do it. You will be a better, more relaxed, happy mama!
You’ve got this. You are a mom! It is an incomparable joy—nothing comes close to the love you feel for your baby. I know that even though you love your baby so much, it’s hard. Really hard. Recovering from birth and perhaps surgery (I’ve had three c-sections + vaginal birth) is uncomfortable, and very likely painful. You’re tired, aren’t getting enough sleep, and are learning to adjust to whole new way of life. I totally get it. But you CAN do it. Lean on your spouse, parents, friends, and all the others in your life that love you, because they’ll want to be there for you. Let them. Know that you are strong, you’ve got a beautiful baby, and things will get even better. You will heal, the baby will start sleeping for longer and longer periods of time at night, and you will gradually adjust to your new normal.
MY TIPS: (affiliate links below)
Here are just a few of the things I have discovered with my kids…in case you want to give one a try!
Give them a bottle, even if they’re breastfeeding. This piece of advice actually comes from many of my friends who did breastfeed. I’m mentioning it because I have heard it so many times! Even though they almost exclusively breastfed, it was nice to be able to leave the baby at some point, and have them be able to take a bottle once in a awhile. They introduced their babies to a bottle within the first week (with breast milk that they pumped), and it made a ton of difference for them. Now…this is one of those “hot topics”, so of you don’t agree, that’s okay! Just remember, everyone gets to choose. :)
As an almost exclusive bottle feeder, I always used the Playtex Nursers
with either the drop in liners
or regular liners.
It’s my favorite for lots of reasons, but I love that you can just throw away the liners–there is no bottle washing (trying to get milk out of corners made me crazy).
At bedtime, once they are fed and changed and they’re not sick–it’s okay to let them cry. I’ll admit, I HATE to hear my babies cry. But I did learn that once all of their needs were taken care of, and they were comfortable, and I had sung and rocked and patted–they had the ability to put themselves to sleep. I set a time limit, and if they didn’t stop crying by then, I would go in and pat them and sing to them and get them calmed down. They did all learn to go to sleep easily, and on their own, and having good sleepers was one of the best things that could have happened to me!
Pacificers are better than thumbs. :) It’s so much easier to take away a pacifier, than a thumb! My kids all took pacifiers except the last one, and how I wish she would have! We take them away around 18 months, or when they start talking, and it’s always worked for us.
The pacifier of choice at our house? The Avent Soothie
. It’s just like the ones at the hospital (at least all of the hospitals my babies were born in), and my babes all loved them.
The fire station or police station will put in your carseat for you and teach you how to do it correctly. If you worry about not putting in your carseat correctly (and actually, a lot of people do not have them installed properly), you can contact your local fire station or police station to get al the specific of where you need to go. They have someone trained to put it in the right way, and show you how to do it. You can go in more than once–anytime you need it! I’ve been in on multiple occasions, and whenever we get a new vehicle. Carseat safety is huge for me–it’s one thing I don’t want to take any chances with. Make sure you watch, learn, and ask plenty of questions, so you’ll be able to do it properly on your own. You will have to take it in and out, so it’s key to know what to do.
My favorite carseat is this one by Chicco! When my babies were tiny, I used the Stroller Caddy, and the carseat just clicked right in to the frame. It folds up pretty flat, and fit easily in my vehicle. When they hit 6-8 months, I transferred them over to the regular stroller.
Disposable sippy cups. I don’t use regular sippy cups anymore. Well, hardly ever anyway. I love disposable ones because they’re cheap,
Comfy baby shoes…
I just love babies in shoes. Anything tiny is just so cute, and I can’t resist! I also want their feet to be comfortable, and when they start walking, it’s even more important. So, my babies pretty much live in Robeez shoes
or something similar. They’re good for balance, and don’t restrict little growing feet. And–they’re adorable!!!
Bathe your baby in a laundry basket when they can sit up.
I didn’t try this until my last baby, and I really wish I would have known about it before then! Once babies are too big for a baby bathtub and can sit on their own, they’re still pretty tricky to bathe–slippery, squirmy–but a laundry basket
helps keep them in smaller space, but still lets them sit on their own.
Put them in the empty bathtub with toys while you’re showering. Oh man, sometimes it’s just hard to fit in a shower when you have a little one! Once my babies are old enough to sit up (but not old enough to stand on their own), and if I have a separate bath and shower, I like to put my baby in the empty bathtub with a bunch of toys to play with while I shower. It keeps them happy, I’m right there to watch them, and I can fit in a shower.
If there is one thing that I can swear by, it’s a baby carrier. I cannot tell you how much I love it! Whether you prefer a sling, wrap, or baby carrier, having a way to carry your baby and be hands free is worth its weight in gold. Find one you like!! It helps you get chores done around the house. lets you go grocery shopping more easily, and also do other activities where taking a stroller is difficult or impossible. It’s one of my number one baby items! If you have more children, it’s so helpful when you’re trying to watch a toddler, and hold a baby at the same time. My absolute favorite is the Boba Baby Carrier.
It can hold up to 48 pounds–up to 3 or 4 years old–and it’s SO comfy! I’ve used other brands, and my hips and back just ache after a little while. I’ve worn this all day and not been bothered by it at all. I’m also not a huge fan of carrying babies forward facing, and this one can be worn in front with their small, and on your back when they’re older. We use it ALL the time. Love love love it!
I’d love to hear about your favorite tips, ideas, and advice! We’re all in this together. :)
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