Having a child is a huge change in a woman's life, whether it’s the first baby, or the fifth. While many moms feel connected to baby during pregnancy, the first several weeks after baby is born (often referred to as the fourth trimester of pregnancy), is when parents truly get to know what their baby is like and adjust to life and the ever-changing temperament of their little infant.
Early parenthood is characterized as a blurry-eyed mess of exhaustion, while both baby and mom try to find their stride. New parents realize just how little they know about life after baby as they try to make it work. While many parents spent ages focusing on symptoms and ailments of pregnancy and the milestone of birth, they probably spend a little less time on what it will be like caring for a small child. Odds are any lessons learned as a teenage babysitter are long forgotten.
Here’s the good news- we’ve provided a little cheat sheet with tips and tricks to help moms get through that first bit of parenthood with flying colours. Here are 20 things that mom needs to know how to be able to do by the end of the third week with baby, and how to master them!
20 How To Dress Baby For The Weather
Dressing baby so they’ll be comfortable in the weather is key to being able to remain out and active during the first few months with them. In the colder weather, put them in as many layers as you are wearing, plus one more, and remember babies 'one more item' can be a blanket in their stroller. In warm weather, particularly above 75 degrees F, one layer is enough for baby. Remember to use thin breathable fabrics, like cotton or bamboo, and keep baby covered from the sun with a hat, or the shade of an umbrella.
19 What A Baby's Cries Mean
Before I had children, I thought that baby crying was just, well baby crying when in fact there are different types of cries that mean different things. For example, a hungry cry will often be accompanied by baby opening and closing their mouth, trying to get to mom’s breast or a bottle. A hungry cry almost sounds rhythmic and gets more intense if baby doesn’t get fed. Is baby crying and rubbing their eyes? They’re probably tired, so try and get them to sleep before they get over-tired. Is baby crying with a high intensity, arching their back, and raising their legs up and down? These cries are often signs of colic.
18 When To Call The Doctor
We’ve all seen sitcoms that make fun of the nervous new mom with her pediatrician on speed dial, but in real life moms need to know when to call their doctor, and when to put the phone down and try to relax. If baby has a bad cold, or simply isn’t feeding, give the doctor a call. Dr. Clair McCarthy says, "A good rule of thumb is to make sure your baby is wetting a diaper at least every 6 hours or so.” Other times to call the doctor include if you suspect breathing issues (like if baby is making abnormal noises when drawing in a breath or makes loud noises while sleeping). If a baby three months and under has a fever of 100.4 degrees or more, call the doctor right away. For all other instances, follow your instincts when it comes to baby and their health and safety.
17 How To Check For A Fever
You know the super moms who can tell whether their child has a fever without a thermometer. Here are some tips on checking for a fever without one. First check baby’s neck and/or forehead to determine whether it is warmer than usual, using the back of your hand. If baby feels warmer than normal it’s time to bring out the real thermometer. Doctors often recommend an anal or ear temperature reading to get the most accurate reading. Ear thermometers are more expensive but can provide a quick verification of baby’s temperature. Oral thermometers are recommended for kids over three, but also note that taking a temperature under a child’s armpit is considered the least effective method of measuring.
16 Signs Of A Clogged Duct
A blocked duct is when milk flow is obstructed which can be painful and lead to feeding and other complications. Know the signs to nip it in the bud. A blocked duct generally only happens with one breast, with moms usually first noticing a small hard spot or lump that may feel warm or sensitive to touch and look red. Some find that warm compresses help, whereas others find that feeding baby more through that side helps. A low-grade fever may accompany a plugged duct. Call your doctor or lactation consultant if things persist.
15 How To Get Baby Fed
Babies need to eat to grow. That’s the bottom line at the end of the day. While it’s completely normal for babies to lose a little bit of weight in the first few days ‘on the outside’, they need to be gaining weight to thrive. For some moms this means breast feeding exclusively, for others it means formula, for others it means a combination of all the above. At the of the day this is all that needs to happen, so don’t beat yourself up if your milk doesn’t come in, or if you need to give baby some formula so you can get some rest yourself. The important thing is that everyone is nourished and well - the end.
14 How To Get Out Spit up Stains
Babies spit up, a lot. They’re just getting a handle on this eating thing and this means a lot of spit up on their clothes, and unfortunately yours. Pro mom tip – keep an extra shirt for you in the diaper bag just in case. For moms who breast feed, you’re in luck, it’s usually easier to get these stains out of clothes. Just wash with normal laundry soap and then leave it to dry in the sunshine since sun will bleach out any remaining stains. If the sun doesn’t work, try using a dab of lemon in the stained areas to give it an extra hand. Formula can be a little harder to get out, so consider using some cool water, a stiff brush and some baking soda to scrub out the stain, then leave in the sun, and wash as normal.
13 How To Get Out 'Other' Stains
Forrest Gump said, ‘It happens’ and with babies and diapers it happens a lot! Since your hands may be full at the time a baby has a blow out diaper, thankfully you can clean up in stages. If you are able to, run the clothes under cold water to get rid of as much poop as possible (if you can’t wash it right away, leave it in a bucket of cold water to soak). After the soak, put the outfit in a regular load of laundry with warm water and a scoop of stain busting powder (something like Oxi Clean). Don’t put the clothes in the dryer, hang on a hanger to dry to determine whether the outfit needs another round in the washer.
12 How To Put Baby To Sleep
Newborns typically sleep nearly 16 to 17 hours each day, which seems a little confusing considering how tired their parents are in the first few months after they’re born. Most young babies only sleep for two to four hours at a time. To make sure you can get them to sleep quickly and effectively figure out their cues and learn to act on them quickly. If you need to write it down to figure out their patterns that also works. Watch for when they get drowsy but are still awake, soothe them to comfort, but not to sleep, and then enjoy a little rest yourself!
11 Finding The Right Diaper
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of stories about which diapers work best for boys and girls, and at the end of the day it’s trial and error. Get some recommendations from friends and consider buying a small sample of various diapers to figure out what works best for your baby and their body. If a specific brand is linked to the most blow out diapers, it’s time to test out another. Talk to other parents with similar aged children so you can test out a few types together without breaking the bank.
10 Diaper Systems: What Works & What Doesn’t
When my twins were born, my son developed a diaper rash, so I went out and bought a bunch of cloth diapers that would be easier on his skin. Unfortunately, this meant I’d need to wash the diapers five times until they’d become absorbent enough to work. With the amount of laundry I was running anyway we never, ever got those diapers on our son. Find a system that will work for you and your lifestyle whether it’s a diaper service, disposables or cloth – and work out a cleaning cycle that fits with your schedule. If you have cloth diapers that require washing before use to up their absorbency, do it before baby arrives!
9 When To Outsource
With new babies comes new responsibilities. Sure, you may not be rushing out to the office, but you’re working. Think about the chores and errands that get in the way the most and consider outsourcing them. Hate the idea of grocery shopping, do it online. Don’t want to scrub that kitchen sink, consider hiring a cleaner to come in a few times a month. While budget may be an issue, consider trading off chores with your partner or a friend or relative for something you don’t mind doing.
8 How To Ask For Help
With a new baby comes endless offers from friends and family to take care of the baby, run to the store for you, and more! Most parents say no. Sometimes it’s a source of pride or a need to announce, ‘I got this!’, but here’s the thing, if you keep saying no people will stop offering. Need a haircut? Take your mother-in-law up on her offer to watch the baby. Out of dish soap and have a friend coming over? Ask them to grab you some on their way. Little things add up and will make your life so much easier.
7 How To Install A Car Seat
While most parents are on it in terms of getting their car seat installed in their vehicle and checked at a local fire station, moving said car seat can be another challenge. In a world filled with Ubers and Cabs, and relatives who are giving you a night off, it’s helpful to know how to move baby’s seat from your car, to someone else’s, and keep baby safe. Follow the instructions and re-install in your car a few times to make sure you’ve mastered it before you find yourself literally on the clock and needing to get it working quickly.
6 How To Fold The Stroller
Strollers are great. Make sure you get one that fits your life and your needs. This means one that will fold up and fit into the trunk of your car, or up that narrow hallway in your building. Make sure you know how to fold it up, are capable of both carrying it (and a baby sometimes) as well as locking it. While most of the time strollers are folded out, when you travel, or need to park it, it’s helpful to be able to fold it down, and lock it up like a bike when leaving it in a public area.
5 What Self-Care Means To You
Self-care seems to be a yoga class or a hot bath with a nice scented candle but remember it’s not one size fits all. It could be as simple as taking a nap with someone else monitors the baby, so you know if baby wakes up, you don’t have to. It could be going to the grocery store alone, scrolling on Instagram for ten minutes, or just putting on your headphones and zoning out to a favourite song for a few minutes. Self-care doesn’t have to be lengthy or indulgent. Figure out what works best for you, for longer and shorter moments of self-care and roll with it.
4 How To Get Yourself Rest, Quickly
Everyone tells new moms to sleep or rest when baby sleeps, but that can be easier said than done. Some people take a while to fall asleep, and if baby is only taking a 45-minute nap, some moms are just falling asleep as baby is waking back up again. Some simple tips to fall asleep faster: lower the room temperature slightly, you put your baby on a sleep schedule, consider doing the same for yourself, don’t look at or obsess about the clock, consider putting on some relaxing music, like what they’d play at a spa, turn off your electronic devices, or try some meditation when you can’t sleep.
3 When To Call In The Back-ups
Know yourself, and this can be a tough during a time when hormones are running wild and sleep is at a minimum. If you are finding yourself getting frustrated with baby, know that you can put them safely in a crib, walk to another room and give yourself a mini break. If you’re feeling like it's a bit much, ask someone else to step in, before you’re a crying mess alongside baby. Sometimes something as simple as being able to take a shower or walk by yourself can be just what you need to recharge your batteries. Also, don’t forget to line up a baby sitter so you can enjoy a date night occasionally with your significant other, even if it’s just for an hour or two!
2 How To Eat With One Hand
Moms are master multi-taskers, and this is because they need to learn to do things with one hand. Anyone with kids will find that they become masters of whipping up snacks and meals that they can enjoy while feeding, comforting or rocking a baby. Things like hummus and cut veggies, sandwiches, and wraps are great to stock your fridge with so you can eat while caring for baby. Haven’t mastered the one hand thing yet? Baby wearing can be a great way to eat, get chores done, and remain close to a new baby.
1 That You're Doing A Great Job!
Keeping a baby fed, clothed, soothed, and growing is a tough job! Not all moments with a new baby are photo worthy, and people aren’t exactly posting photos on social media of the tougher moments of parenthood, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening to everyone. Not every minute with a baby is going to be perfect, far from it! Know that you are doing a fantastic job and take some comfort in that…and even on your worst days, know that your kid is not going to remember that you wore dirty jogging pants for three days straight, but they will remember the love and care you gave them!