The bleary eyes, the lack of sleep, the crying that just won't stop. We can all agree that bringing a new baby into the world is an amazing and magical experience. But, that doesn't mean it's easy.
The first few months of parenthood can be some of the hardest months of a couples' life. Even for the most prepared Type A mama, parenting can throw her for a loop. All she wants to do is love, care for, and provide for her little nugget. Yet, no one knew it would be this hard.
Luckily, there are tips, tricks, and products that can help make the first year just a little easier. Here's a list of things parents can do in advance to prepare that will save them from a headache.
15 Share The Responsibilities
Many moms look back at the first few weeks of parenthood and realize it is an absolute blur. In our household, we decided to do 4-hour shifts between my husband and me. We would each sleep, or be on call, for 4-hour increments. It was not the best plan since we didn't sleep and we were both exhausted. However, it was important for us to have some sort of plan.
Parents need to figure out in advance how they would split the baby's responsibilities. Parents need to understand that mom may be dealing with the physical recovery from birth and may be limited in which activities she can do. As a pair, they need to figure out what activities she'd like to keep or put on hold during that time, how night feedings are going to work, and who is going to be responsible for what activities, including vacuuming and baths. Having this plan ready ahead of time will save both parents confusion, stress, and precious sleep, during those early weeks.
14 Keep A Feeding Journal
When was the last time the baby ate, and how much did they have? On average, how much milk is the baby consuming per day? How many hours of sleep is the baby getting, and what is their wake-to-sleep pattern? These are just some of the questions parents are likely to be asked at their baby's first pediatric appointment. Unless mom has an encyclopedic memory (which stands up during sleep deprivation), it’s easier to write these things down.
Whether she chooses to go low tech or high tech, having a journal, app or post-it's to track the baby’s patterns will not only be good for doctors appointments, but it’s also good for when the grandparents are babysitting. Parents may also start noticing patterns that they can capitalize on, for example, when naps generally happen and use them to establish a routine. There are lots of great apps out there, but good old notebook and pen can work just as well.
13 Track The Time And Get A Sleep Training Book
While parents won’t be sleep training in the first three months of parenthood, the window to do so does open up just afterward. There are also several strategies they can adopt, in the first three months, that make the success of subsequent sleep training to be successful, such as putting the baby down for naps while they’re awake versus letting them fall asleep in your arms.
Having the opportunity to read up on sleep training from the start (or even before the baby comes) is a great use of time and sets the stage for success down the road.
12 Grab A Snack, Mom!
Many of us have trouble making healthy food decisions, even when we have our peak defenses up. Now, add sleep deprivation, exhaustion, physical recovery, and a little baby who is demanding hours upon hours of mom's time, and she's likely not going to make the best food choices.
The lure of ready-made cookies and treats can be extremely easy to choose when it’s compared to prepping and making a fresh salad. Or she may go another way, and just forgo food entirely, in preference for catching up on sleep. Her body needs the right nutrients to recover and to help with breastfeeding efforts, which is difficult enough with a great diet.
To help make proper food choices, it’s all about preparation. Pre-cooking proteins and slicing fresh fruits and vegetables, on the weekend, will give her fresh snacks to sustain her throughout the week when she's on her own. You can also prepare and freeze meals in the weeks leading up to your due date and hit up a bulk shopping trip to ensure you’re in the best position possible.
11 Don't Forget About The Soothers
While some parents believe soothers can interfere with breastfeeding efforts, it can’t hurt to have one on hand just in case mom wants to try it on her baby. Sometimes, babies just need to suck on something to soothe themselves and are not truly hungry. I didn’t think we would use soothers, so I didn’t invest in any soothers before birth. Luckily, one of our friends gifted us a Wubanub at our baby shower, this magical soother is attached to a plush animal.
Regardless of your opinion on soothers, it can come as a lifesaver in the situation of a crying baby who can’t be soothed by anything else. They’re inexpensive and easy to get, so why not plan to have one or two on hand, just in case? It’s better than letting your little one suck on a finger.
10 Start The Car, We're Going To Ikea
When my first child was born, the book “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” came out. In it, author Marie Kondo glamorized the benefits of folding clothes in a way that each item could be seen. I promptly started folding each piece of my daughter’s clothing so it stood up straight, ensuring I could see every piece she owned when opening the drawer. Let me tell you, this is not the most efficient use of time.
Upon finding out we were pregnant with twins, I started searching for time savers out of necessity. With three under three, I could not imagine the mounds of laundry it would entail. Insert cube shelves. These magical things take up little floor space (vertical living is key) and you can purchase cute bins to go in each cube. Think one for PJs, one for pants, one for tops, etc. The best part of this plan? No folding laundry! Let’s be real, a tiny wrinkle will not be the biggest priority during the first year.
9 Control The Startles With A Swaddle
Newborns have several built-in reflexes that help them survive, for example, sucking and grasping. Another natural reflex is the Moro reflex, also called the startle reflex, which causes them to startle when they sleep. This harmless motion may make them extend their arms over their head, which can cause them to wake up.
One way to help prevent babies from being startled is through swaddling. Swaddling is a way of wrapping baby so they feel secure, similar to how they felt in utero. However, even the most skillful swaddler amongst us can have challenges swaddling a baby.
Thankfully, sleep swaddles have been created to help babies stay asleep. Sleep sacks are mini sleeping bags that contour to the baby’s shape and keep their arms snug to their sides. Swaddling can be a huge help for newborns to sleep and stay asleep. For safety’s sake, just make sure to use a version where the hips can move freely, and one where arms are free for them to use once they start rolling over.
8 Definitely Need Multiple Changing Areas
Most moms have the main changing area covered, with a changing table and change pad, diapers, wipes, and other necessities, all organized and ready to go. Many even have this prepped in the 3rd trimester, and expertly decorated! However, I’m going to bet that you won’t be spending 100% of your time with the baby in that corner of the house.
To ensure you’re not constantly going back and forth between the baby’s room and family room, having a secondary changing area can be incredibly useful. All it takes is a changing pad and small bin with diapers, wipes, and cream available and you’re all set. No more toting a dirty (and possibly crying) baby back and forth to each corner of the house, every hour, for diaper changes.
7 Sign Up For A Mommy And Me Classes
During the first few months, the prospect of getting out of the house for anything non-essential can be daunting, to say the least. By the time mom packed all the necessary baby equipment, it’s pretty much time for the next nap (for the both of you!). But, getting these classes on the books can do wonders for mom's body and soul.
Whether it’s a discussion, mom and baby yoga, developmental play, music and me, or any of the other plethora of options available now, it’s a chance to get outside and meet other moms who are going through the exact same thing. This can be one of the best resources possible, that mothers may not have considered. Simply knowing she's not the only one going through this stage can be incredibly helpful. At the very least, it gives her a chance to partake in a fun activity and, at its best, these classes can be a chance to meet lifelong friends.
6 Get Diapers Delivered Right To Your Door
Babies go through diapers – a lot of diapers. The average baby goes through more than 2,700 diapers in the first year alone or at least $550 based on 20-25 cents per diaper. I once paid $10 USD for three diapers and seven wipes at an airport. One way to help keep these costs down is through online delivery systems in place, like Amazon.
Not only is this a more economical option, it’s also more convenient, with diapers coming directly to her door. No longer will mom need to rush out, at all hours of the day, to get an overpriced pack of diapers just to get her through the next 24 hours!
5 Saying YES To Help
We all like to believe that we’re Super Mom. As strong, independent women, it’s hard to admit we need help, let alone accept it. So many of us say “it’s okay, we’ll be fine”, no matter how dire of a situation we’re in, just be to able to wear the Super Mom badge with pride. But remember this – never in life is it more appropriate to accept help than as a new mom. People understand how hard this time of life is, and they truly want to help. Babies are cute after all!
So instead of putting on a strong front, offer a gracious “thank you” and let people in. Whether it’s helping to fold adorable baby clothes, dropping off a meal, or simply swinging by for some baby holding time while you prepare a meal, now is one of the best times to lean on your support network. Remember mamas, accepting help is a sign of strength, and allows you to bring your best self to the table.
4 Darken The Room With Blackout Blinds
They’re not only helpful for the baby’s room, to help get them used to proper sleeping patterns, but they’re also extremely helpful in the parents' room. I know that all the designer photos of bedrooms feature light, airy rooms. However, this is one area where practicality should win out.
There’s little doubt that sleeping patterns will change, once you bring your baby home, and you’ll often find yourself needing to catch up during the day. That is so much easier to do in a dark, cozy environment. Even being able to fall asleep in 10 minutes, as opposed to 30 minutes, will make a huge difference in the overall amount of sleep you’ll be able to get, given how many spurts you’re likely to be sleeping in. Invest in these, and I doubt you'll regret it.
3 Every Baby Needs A Fan
Another great thing for baby’s room is a fan. Not only does it help to circulate air, which many experts believe may be beneficial for baby, it also provides necessary sound blocking and helps to keep a baby cool during the warm summer months. Some moms choose to invest in fancy sound machines to help lull their babies to sleep, and those can work well. But we’ve found a small fan does much of the same trick, plus with the added benefit of air circulation.
The last thing you’ll want, after er you’ve finally, finally got the little one to sleep, is for them to be woken by a doorbell, sneeze, or car honk. The white noise of a fan also mimics the constant swooshing noise they felt in the womb. A fan can be a small purchase, that can pay dividends in a well-rested little one.
2 Pick The Zipper Suit, Not The Snaps
Please, someone, tell me why baby clothes manufacturers love snaps so much? Almost every piece of newborn clothing we used had snaps as closures. They’re inconspicuous, sure, but do you want to take time lining each one of them up after a 3 am diaper change? I certainly didn’t! I remember wishing that all baby clothing was magnetically fastened, kind of like those magnetic screen doors.
The next best thing is zippers. All the baby clothing that I’m buying for baby #2 now has zippers – not a snap in sight. It’s literally the difference between 5 seconds and over a minute struggling with snaps in the dark. It may not seem like much, but when you’re doing up to a dozen diaper changes a day, that snap time can certainly add up!
1 Plan Something To Look Forward To
While it’s undeniable that the first few months of parenthood is all about the baby, it’s easy to start believing that it will never change. That’s why it is so important to get something on the calendar that’s solely for you. Whether it’s starting a new class, planning a girl’s meetup, or going to a big event you’ve always wanted to attend, having something purely for you to look forward to will remind you that this crazy newborn stage doesn’t last forever.
You can also plan small events, like going to a local museum or art gallery, or meeting up with friends for a quick dinner, that will help remind you of your well-roundedness. While you’re there, it may be tempting to talk about your baby, given your entire life revolves around him or her. But, remember, that while your kiddo is a huge part of you, you were also an entire person before them. Having these fun things to look forward to, will help remind you that this phase won’t last forever.