When my husband and I left the hospital, a mere 24 hours after our first child was born, we felt like we were sneaking out of the hospital, deliberately disobeying orders. Our cautious exit felt more like a jail break because WHO WOULD LET US LEAVE? We didn't have a clue what we were doing! And we were now in charge of another human being! The responsibility was dizzying, and the trials started to pile on.
Lactation consultants were legalistic and unempathetic, doctors were pushing prescriptions, moms were offering their two cents left and right. It was emotional and exciting and we were so in love with our baby girl, but we were burdened and stressed and hi, exhausted.
When I offer advice to new moms, please know it's with every caution not to add to your worries or cause you to doubt. I've been there three times, and it's the worst. Anything I write here is absolutely to be taken with a
1. Give yourself grace.
It's an incredible thing you've just done, delivering a child into the world. No small feat at all. You might not have showered for a few days, dinner may be take out or freezer meals again, and the house may be upside down, but you're doin' it mama. You'll get your sea legs in due course, but it might take a while and that while may be longer than you thought. Give yourself grace when priorities slip and expectations aren't met, because you're doing a hard, amazing, all-encompassing thing. It's not perfect and you're not perfect, but you're mama and that's pretty close.
2. Know your boundaries.
Each family is different, so I can't make this decision for you, but for us, we chose to really guard our first few days as a new family of three. Because our family isn't local, having them visit would mean having long term visitors and possibly house guests. We knew the transition would be intense, so we opted to invite visitors when our baby was a week old instead of a day old. We didn't have visitors at the hospital; it was our own little hideaway, our first family holiday. I know this hurt some of our family members who wanted to be part of the experience more closely, and from day one, but we needed to make the best choice for us. This is such a roller coaster of a season and you've got to decide your limits with visitors and house guests and stick to them.
3. When you're ready, get out!
Whether you're nursing or bottle feeding, your day revolves around nourishing your baby and getting out in the early days isn't often easy. When you're ready, though, I highly recommend going outside once a day if weather permits.
Find a carrier you feel comfortable with, and grab some fresh air. I've tried tons of carriers and I swear by the Beco Gemini - it's so much more comfortable than the classic Baby Bjorn and feels more secure than the Ergo since the straps criss-cross in the back instead of simply going over the shoulders. I always loved the freedom of a carrier, as opposed to pushing a stroller, especially since I live in downtown Montreal which isn't the most stroller friendly, but a stroller is important too.
We chose the Uppababy Vista because the seat limit is the highest of any stroller on the market by 10lbs, it converts to a triple (which we need!), and the basket is enormous. But there are so many great strollers on the market. Do your research and go to the stores to try out each one and make the best choice for you. The important thing is you have options, so don't stay housebound forever.
4. Help your baby to have a schedule.
This isn't for everybody, but what worked best for our family was having some predictability in the day. Some parents operate best just going with the flow, but I found that lifestyle really stressful and chaotic. As soon as it was safe to do so (around 2 months), I started implementing a schedule with my babies and the routine was so freeing! We followed the principles from the book Becoming Babywise and by around 4 months all of our babies were sleeping 12 hours through the night (not waking even once!), and napping 3 times a day for 2 hours each time! I've blogged a ton about sleep training, so feel free to read there too!
Our babies had such a clear cut routine and everyone was happier knowing what to expect. I could easily schedule play dates, have coffee with friends, do groceries, or get work done during those predictable naps, and at night I got the rest I needed to recover fully from child birth, nursing, and a full day of parenting. It kind of worked too well, because when our youngest was five months we got pregnant with our second, ha!
Other tidbits + faves:
- Save your blog reading for night feeds - otherwise it's hard to stay awake! But watching TV might keep you awake longer. I didn't have a smart phone until my second baby, and I still don't actually know how I survived.
- Don't pay too much attention to growth charts and percentiles. My babies were always crazy high on the height/length percentile and average or below on the weight. I would get so worried until it dawned on me that hey, I'm super tall and average build. They're just like me! Duh! If your baby isn't in the 90th percentiles for these things, don't freak out. Consider genetics, diversity, and growth spurts.
- Buy your formula and diapers online! it's important to get out, but it's not easy, so save the errands for the mailman, and go out for coffee instead!
- Swaddle your babes! I loved using the Swaddle Me because of the velcro straps. Even my wiggly babies couldn't escape and it soothed them instantly!
- Not everyone can breastfeed. There's SO much more to say on that score, but you can read that all here.
- Crying is okay. Babies can't talk, remember? If they're burped, fed, changed, and clean, they might still cry and it's okay to leave them in their tears for a time.
- Related: Sleep deprived, good-intentioned mothers can hit a breaking point, and if you feel like you are so overwhelmed and exhausted that you may cause harm to your baby, seek help immediately. Postpartum depression is real, sleep deprivation is real (there's a reason it's a torture technique!), and neither mean you love your baby less.
- Related Again: ASK FOR HELP. It really does take a village, friends.