All expectant women can, well, expect, to be inundated with tons of advice and words of wisdom from other parents who have been there, done that when adjusting to life with a newborn. Adjusting to parenthood and the relentless, around-the-clock needs of a precious, beautiful but exhausting newborn is one of the best but most intensely draining experiences parents will ever have.
No one can quite prepare for what it feels like to not sleep for 48 hours straight, be puked on and worry about whether or not they're doing things right. In between those moments are plenty of delightful sweet baby sighs of contentment, heart-melting episodes of staring into each other's eyes and the confidence that comes with getting the hang of this motherhood thing as time goes on.
Till then, there are steps moms can take to make every day life as stress-free and comfortable as possible. Just remember the old adage, that which matters the most must never give way to that which matters the least.
And what matters right now is not having the best-kept house on the street, or being the perfect hostess to friends and family wanting to visit for hours on end, or doing anything beyond the bare minimum when most new moms just want to hibernate and enjoy the 'fourth trimester' as the first 3 months post-partum are known.
What matters most is taking care of mom's own wellness and emotional stability, so that she can focus on her sweet little baby and developing bonds that will last a lifetime.
15 Keep (Good) Food In The House
We're not talking freezer meals, we're talking about food you'll actually enjoy. Basically, casseroles, lasagnas and soups you could thaw and throw in the oven or microwave. While it sounds good in theory, cooking that many meals involves hours of standing on heavy, tired pregnant feet and slaving over a hot stove.
Our advice is to keep pantry staples on hand, so you can whip up your favourites, when the mood strikes. Fresh fruit, veggies, crackers and cheese are all healthy snacks and keep you going. Can't stomach the idea of grocery shopping with a newborn quite yet? Many big-name grocery stores offer delivery options now.
Bottom line, keep food you'll actually want to eat in the house.
All the freezer meals I managed to make didn't even get eaten once baby had arrived. Call me crazy, but the idea of heating up something I had made months before just didn't seem appetizing. Nor did the Tupperware containers of um, interesting, frozen meals well-meaning friends and family dropped off.
14 Make Friends With The Neighbours
You may not even have done more than smiled politely at your neighbours and perhaps exchanged pleasantries about the weather. And that's ok. Now that you have a baby and are on maternity leave, you have a conversation piece.
Not only can nice neighbours provide social interaction (something new moms can benefit from if you are particularly isolated at home most of the time) but they can also prove to be excellent allies later on. Other parents in the neighbourhood can give you the inside scoop on teachers and programs.
All of these points can help make your parenting life easier on the road ahead, and in the meantime, making good friends who are a few houses down is simpler than trying to schedule regular play date with your best friend and her kid who unfortunately live 5 hours away. You're beginning to get to know the village that will help raise your child.
13 Order Online
Even though leisurely shopping at the mall while your bundle of joy sleeps peacefully in his stroller or carrier seems like a dream, it rarely happens. Shopping with the goal of actually trying clothes on, carefully examining the dietary labels at the grocery store or patiently waiting in the checkout line is infinitely more difficult when your newborn suddenly starts wailing for nourishment or has an explosive diaper you need to take care of immediately.
Enter Amazon. Or really any retailer that has an online presence and decent shipping policy. You will be able to browse, select and check out at your own leisure. There are also a multitude of coupons you can sign up for, but be aware, they can be tempting when they land in your inbox each day.
Be sure not to shop out of boredom (easier said than done some days), but when you truly need to purchase items and the fusspot won't let you put him down, online shopping is the simplest option.
12 Set Up A Command Centre
With a newborn, you'll be inundated with charts and lists. There are so many things to keep track of! Newborn feeding charts (how long baby fed, how many ounces of formula or amount of time spent nursing on each breast) how often baby eliminates, length of naps, etc. are just some examples.
Then there's all the forms you'll need to fill out. Birth certificate request, health card, social insurance number, health insurance forms and more.
In your sleep-deprived fog, it'll be easy to lose track of these important documents, so it's best to keep it all in one place. Grab an old-school binder or file folder and keep all originals in it. For electronic documents, set up a folder on your computer. Call it "BABY STUFF" for easy memory.
For things like feeding/sleep charts (if deemed medically necessary by your doctor- if not, don't worry about them), there are numerous good apps that you can download if you prefer to keep the info on your mobile phone.
11 Get A Good Data Plan
You will spend many hours a day surfing the net. Promise. Having a newborn baby is a magical experience and yes, you will spend lots of time staring into those beautiful eyes and cherishing those snuggles. But it is mentally and physically draining caring for a newborn all day and night.
When the baby is napping or otherwise content, and you just want to zone out and chill, the easiest thing to do is reach for your phone and start checking Facebook or Instagram. It requires no brain power and you can do it from the comfort of your couch. You will do this many times a day.
So that you don't have bill shock when you get your next wireless bill, be sure to add a decent data plan to your phone or home internet for Wi-Fi surfing before you have the baby. Download some cool apps, play Candy Crush and upload lots of photos of your sweet little munchkin to your heart's content.
You'll get a chance to delve into a good book, organize your closets or watch a critically acclaimed Netflix series later on- for now, you're just in survival mode.
10 Find A Rhythm To The Day
When I was pregnant with my first baby six years ago, I came across a baby book called The Baby Whisperer. The no-nonsense author recommended a cycle that went by the acronym EASY (Eat, Activity, Sleep, YOU).
Taking into account the baby's age, she espoused that the baby should eat upon waking up, have a period of time to be "active" awake (having a bath, tummy time, playing peekaboo) and then "passive awake" (rocking in the swing or being worn in the carrier while you go about your tasks but not being actively engaged) before putting her back down for a nap.
You could then have time to yourself (the Y in EASY) before starting the cycle again. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was pretty simple but brilliant advice actually. And while each baby's temperament and needs are different, sticking to a pattern like this helps set a tone and overall rhythm to your day.
Even for adults, having a solid routine to their day can boost mood, encourage regular social interaction and increase productivity. And in trying to navigate life in the haze of newborn days, having a simple routine can help bring you moments of calm and peace for focusing on just you and your self-care.
9 Don't Stress Over Schedules
It seems contradictory to the point above, but there is a difference in having a time-based schedule and a routine. I found this out the hard way when I eagerly registered for a mommy and me stroller fitness class during pregnancy. I had no way of knowing that trying to make the 10am class with a 4 week old would prove so difficult.
It always seemed to be that half an hour before I needed to pack up my daughter for the 10-minute car ride there, she would fall asleep. I never seemed able to time it just right. I learned from that experience to not be spend money on pre-registered activities, but instead, find drop-in activities where it didn't matter if we missed a class.
Eventually, as the baby got older and was awake for longer stretches, we fell into a good pattern where she would be awake and happy for our favourite baby rhythm and song program.
Likewise, if a book tells you that every 3-week old baby needs to nap for exactly one hour and fifteen minutes 3 times a day and sleep at least 6 hours in a row at night, don't worry. Knowing "averages" is fine, but as long as baby is growing and meeting her milestones as determined by the doctor, it's all good.
A routine will bring you a comfortable structure to your day, but a rigid schedule that goes awry is the quickest way to make you feel miserable. Which really, is the last thing you need when trying to simplify your life with a newborn.
8 Enlist Support
In many cultures, the new mom is expected to stay in bed for 40 days. During that time, the women in her life (mother, sisters, aunts or grandma) help with the baby, bring food and drink and allow her to rest and recover her strength. For some moms the idea of 40 days of mandated rest sounds heavenly, for others, it sounds like a prison sentence.
No matter your view, it's true that rest should be a priority. Moms who had C-sections or complications requiring some form of reduced activity should heed their medical professionals' advice.
But what's a mom to do if her partner has to head back to work, she has no family or friends nearby or she's a single parent? Enlist support. Ask for help from your religious community. If you can afford one (and there may be reduced payment plans available depending on your situation), a postpartum doula can be worth her weight in gold.
Even just hiring an occasional house cleaner every week or so for the first little while to help you stay on top of laundry or general housekeeping can be a sanity-saver. Numerous studies show that getting support early on can help ward off postpartum depression.
7 Rent Or Borrow Baby Gear
There's no point in anyone telling a new parent what the best pacifier, bottle, or swaddle sack is best for their baby. Each baby is an individual, and will express their likes and dislikes quite adamantly. Before you go out and drop mad cash on the best brand name stroller, swing or baby playmat on the market, consider borrowing or renting the equipment to see if baby actually likes it.
If so, great, if not, you can return it or be glad you didn't waste too much money on it.
Consignment stores are found throughout many cities and are great places to save money on quality products that are still within warranties and expiration dates. Staff at reputable stores are required to keep up to date with recall and health and safety notices issued by government inspecting agencies and pull any products that don't meet standards off the floor.
Facebook mom groups or online buy and sell websites like Kijiji and Craigslist are also good sources of baby gear, but you'll need to do your homework on recalls yourself. And whatever you do, don't buy a car seat used. Even if it looks ok to the naked eye, there is no way to tell if it has been in an accident and had its safety mechanisms compromised.
In Canada, it is actually illegal to buy or sell used car seats because of stringent federal safety rules (and no, you cannot purchase car seats in the U.S. for use in Canada- they are subject to different standards and can be confiscated at the border).
6 Discover Baby Hacks
These are straightforward practical pieces of advice, but take it from experienced mamas: discovering baby hacks and tricks will make your life infinitely easier.
For instance, the peri bottle. If you haven't had your baby yet and are reading this, you may not know what a peri bottle is, you soon will. It's a small squirt bottle that the nurses give you at the hospital post-delivery, to help you with the discomfort of urinating if you had a vaginal birth.
Particularly if you've experienced tearing down there (yes, I know...shudder), having a peri bottle to squirt warm water onto your hoo-hah can alleviate the stinging and prevent infection. Before you leave the hospital, ask the nurse for another one to take home.
Keep using yours and use the second one to fill with water each day and use on your baby during diaper changes. You may elect to use wipes for number 2s (particularly for the sticky tar-like meconium poops in the early days) but using water for wiping baby's sensitive skin is more gentle and less wasteful than disposable wipes.
There are tons more hacks out there, and the easiest thing to do is simply Google "baby hacks" or post on social media that you're seeking recommendations and scroll through the many brilliant ideas other parents have had. Necessity is the mother of all invention, don't you know.
5 Take Care Of Mom's Physical Health
Carrying a baby for nine months, and then going through the actual delivery is enough to earn you a month at an all-inclusive spa. Unfortunately, unless you're a Kardashian, it ain't likely to happen. The reality is, the postpartum period, adjusting to broken sleep and the onslaught of hormones, is not always restful.
It's very important to ensure that your physical needs are getting met, by eating enough nutritious food of course, but also taking care of your actual body.
Investing in a good armchair, for example, can help your back while you spend hours feeding or rocking your baby. It gives you armrests for proper ergonomics (which is essential when learning to properly breastfeed or holding the bottle at the perfect angle so that your hungry newborn doesn't suck in too much air) and a cushioned backrest can take the pressure of your shoulders.
There are real physical ailments that can arise if proper attention to ergonomics isn't paid, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, pinched nerves or frozen shoulder.
Make sure you continue to take prenatal vitamins (often recommended in the postpartum period too, as your body adjusts and tries to regulate hormones, especially if you are breastfeeding). Consult with your medical professional to ensure you are meeting your dietary needs, and consider using alternative therapies such as massage or physical therapy if need be.
And of course, if you can sneak away for a relaxing pedicure while someone else watches the baby, we give our full approval.
4 Make Home A Sanctuary
Your home should be your escape from the outside world. You want to be as comfortable as possible and feel relaxed and peaceful in it, especially now that you're spending so much time in it with your newborn.
Limit intrusions. Turn off your doorbell so that you don't run the risk of door-to-door salespeople nagging you. If that doesn't work, get a beware of dog sign to plaster to your front door, even if you don't have a dog.
Embrace the Danish concept of "hygge", which roughly translates to "coziness" or "well-being." It's an approach to everyday life that emphasizes creating a warm atmosphere, bringing in light and enjoying relaxed good times with friends and family or simply enjoying time with oneself.
This cultural concept originated in Denmark and other Northern European countries as a way of coping with long, dark winters. Hygge can certainly be applied as a concept in your own home to make it an oasis of calm and tranquility.
Simple things, like lighting a scented candle for its ambience and aroma, purchasing a cozy blanket for snuggling under, listening to relaxing music or making your favourite childhood porridge sprinkled with brown sugar are all examples of hygge. This precious newborn time is really one in which you want to slow down and savour the moments.
3 Keep A Journal
You're probably already going snap-happy and taking a million pictures of your little one (and probably boring your Instagram followers, tbh) but trust us, you are also going to want to have memories written down too. If you aren't already big on journaling, just take a few moments in quiet repose when you have you hands free to jot down your thoughts on paper.
Write a note to your baby that captures what you're feeling as you look down on her kicking happily on her playmat, or dozing contentedly in her swing while you sip a mug of coffee.
Not only will your baby love to read your messages when she's older (especially once she becomes a mom herself), but re-reading your notes when you are in the trenches of motherhood yourself and are having a tough day can remind you that there are plenty of good memories to fall back and that this moment too shall pass.
Plenty of parents opt for setting up a special email account for their babies or recording themselves doing video messages, but in our opinion, there's nothing wrong with keeping it simple and using an actual spiral-bound notebook and pen. Do keep it locked in a fireproof box for safekeeping. Those pages are priceless.
2 Splurge On Good Bath And Body Products
Sure, you may have heard that dry shampoo is the way to go now that you are a mom to a newborn and apparently don't have time to shower. NO. I mean, sure, it is a good thing to have on hand in a pinch, but ladies, not taking care of yourself is NOT a way to simplify life with a newborn.
It's very easy to let your personal needs fall by the wayside when you're adjusting to life caring for a small, helpless and very needy little human but we don't think you need to sacrifice yourself so much that a 10-minute daily shower becomes out of reach. Hit up Sephora or the drugstore, invest in good smelling shampoo and heavenly body scrub and let your daily cleansing ritual become something that you do just for you.
Trust us, you will feel a million times better when you are actually clean after smelling like dried breastmilk and spit up, and feeling like an actual human being will boost your mood and energize you (even if just temporarily!) so that you can go about the business of caring for baby.
Bonus, by bringing baby into the bathroom in a bouncy seat and exposing him to the white noise of the shower and steamy air, it will hopefully lull him to sleep.
1 Mom Should Be Kind To Herself
Having a newborn is tough. The toughest part may very well be that these tiny creatures don't come with a manual. You may not know what his cries mean right away, but as you settle into your new role as a mother and fall deeper in love with your baby every day, you'll get there (promise).
You may struggle with adjusting to the lack of sleep, or finding equilibrium with your partner again, or finding your groove with your new role as a parent. The key is to be kind to yourself. Don't put unrealistic expectations on yourself, and don't beat yourself up if your actual version of motherhood doesn't fit with the lofty ideals you envisioned when you were pregnant.
You are doing the best job you can, at the best job you will ever have. Keep things simple, and you'll give yourself the gift of unhurried time to recover, relax and sow the seeds of a relationship that will continue for the rest of your life.
Hang in there, mama- you got this!