(I drafted this post several weeks ago when Emma was only a few days old. I’ve learned a lot more since but that’s another post…) To all you new mommies, Be prepared for a long (a very long) blog post about my experience during the first few days at home with a newborn baby…
Let me tell you, girlfriend, there are a few things I wish someone had told me about what to do when you first bring your newborn home. I mean, literally, what do you do when your baby yells from the top of her lungs and you think you’ve tried everything? It’s not necessarily as simple as trying the “5 s’s” (from The Happiest Baby On The Block by Dr. Harvey Karp). I had to have a revelation about WHY she’s crying first. After I realized that her initial cries are really just about wanting your attention, I learned to read the rest of her “communication”. Once I finally got it (and thankfully, it only took me two or three days), it was all so much easier.
You may not need that revelation because you already know that all they need at the beginning is your love, food, a solid burp and a dry diaper. But I was too worried that I may spoil her or ruin all chances for a regular sleeping/feeding routine. How silly of me to think that a tiny baby who just left my womb should “learn” already or should be put on a schedule! That’s why that book “The Happiest Baby On The Block” has opened my eyes. Here’s an excerpt that helped me understand what my job really was:
Congratulations! You’ve done a great job already! You’ve nurtured your baby from the moment of conception to her birth day. Having a baby is a wonderful – and wonder-full – experience that makes you laugh, cry and stare in amazement…all at the same time. Your top job as a new parent is to love your baby like crazy. After showering her with affection, the next two important jobs are to feed her and to calm her when she cries.
Like I said, all that may be no news for you but I didn’t really know what it meant until I had a screaming baby to calm down. I didn’t know that it’s totally normal that your baby may be hungry again an hour after your last feeding.
This article has helped me better understand my most important responsibility:
And yes, it is going to feel like all you are doing is nursing, burping, changing diapers, etc., but that’s just how it is for the first week or two. Don’t plan on getting much done during this time. You’re lucky if you can fit in time to use the bathroom or take a shower.
Today, I can tell immediately when she’s hungry – she doesn’t even have to cry anymore to let me know -, when she needs to burp or have her diaper changed. Overall, she hasn’t cried much since, slept through for hours and has been easier to put down to sleep. Besides swaddling, I didn’t even have to use the other “s’s” to calm her down because she has been so calm. No guarantee that this is not gonna change today or tomorrow but at least, it made me and Paul feel a lot more confident about this whole parenting thing. And for me not to cry in despair all the time alongside my baby is priceless! Also, here are some learnings that have made my (and Paul’s) first few days with Emma a lot easier: Swaddling/Sleeping:
- … is THE key to making Emma feel at ease and calming her down. So when you have to change baby’s diapers in the middle of the night while you’re barely awake, this awesome swaddle sleepsack makes it really easy for you. Since it’s still cold at the moment, we got the fleece one but we’ll switch to the organic cotton one soon.
- I thought I could just use regular pillows like I did in the hospital. Also had a My Breast Friend nursing pillow from a friend but I tried it and it didn’t work for me. Then I tried the Boppy pillow and am loving it.
- What I learned very quickly about breastfeeding: You have to be comfortable and relaxed. Makes it a lot easier. Having your comfy pillows and everything you need in reach (like a Nalgene bottle full with water!!) are a must. I feel also very strongly about bonding with your baby. When Emma was a bit older, she started looking at my while nursing. There’s nothing better than that fuzzy feeling of being so incredibly close to my daughter.
- Very last minute, I took most of the solid feeding supplies/items off my registry as I realized that I won’t need that for several months and could just purchase it over time. It helps people focus on gifting you the stuff you really need at the beginning.
- I decided to hold off on getting the breast pump until I knew whether I was able to produce enough milk. They recommend not pumping/bottlefeeding until breastfeeding is established.
- Ain’t gonna lie: The first few times, your nipples will hurt and you’ll want to scream out loud because it hurts so much. But only Day 3 into my breastfeeding adventure, I improved the “latching on” with Emma and now it doesn’t hurt anymore. I don’t even need that magic nipple cream anymore. Although, it was very useful in the beginning.
- In general, I am not a big fan of pacifiers and I really don’t want Emma to run around with a binky when she’s already walking. When they asked in the hospital if they could soothe her with a pacifier, I reluctantly agreed.
- After we came home with Emma, we had to try three different kinds until she finally used this one. She still is not really into it. So think about getting a variety of different ones to try.
- I got a few pacifier chains on my registry which I’m not sure I’ll need since Emma is not really into pacifiers. That may or may not change later but I could possibly have used other stuff more.
- I waited to see which type of diapers they were using at the hospital and which ones would fit her best before I got the large-sized packages. At CPMC they use Pampers Swaddlers Newborn so I got the same just to make it easy on me. First few days/weeks don’t seem to be the time for experiments.
- During the day, we change Emma’s diapers in her nursery. While half asleep during the night, I prefer to change her right there on our bed. Since you don’t want to end up with poopy bedding at midnight, I found this diapering kit handy. I have it next to our bed and use it as a changing pad for the nightly diaper changes.
- We’re loving our baby timer iPhone applications (nursing, sleeping, baths, pooping, etc.). Paul and I both have them and we sync the data daily. (Yeah, I know, we’re data nerds.)
- When Emma was born she was smaller than I expected so we only had one (!) warm footed onesie for her that fit her! I had to actually leave the house for a bit to buy more, smaller clothes for our girl. Can’t believe out of all the clothes I had, nothing fit her! Make sure you have plenty of warm, footed onesies in newborn size. (I prefer footed onesies because at newborn age they won’t keep socks on and you want to make sure they stay warm during the colder months.)
- Long-sleeve t-shirts with side snaps. When you first have to change/dress your baby, you’ll be thankful for easy-to-put-on clothes like these t-shirts with snaps. They are great! We had to buy a bunch more of those since Emma likes to pee on them while we change her diapers. The snaps allow you to dress her without pulling the t-shirt over her head – which she hates and makes dressing her much easier for daddy, too.
- Black & White and high contrast toys (Sassy is my favorite brand). At the beginning, they can’t see much so high contrast colors or simple black & white toys are best to engage newborns. As wonderful as the organic toys are, they mostly come in softer shades and are therefore harder (or impossible) for baby to notice.
- While shopping and preparing for baby, I forgot about me. I don’t have any clothes that are convenient for breastfeeding, i.e. zippers or buttons. It doesn’t really matter how high you have to pull up your tank top/shirt while you’re at home but it may be nicer to just wear tops with buttons while you’re out and about to get easy access to your boobies.
- Speaking of which: I’m a bit uptight when it comes to breastfeeding and am on the “spare-other-people-your-naked-breasts-while-nursing” team so I got myself a cute nursing cover like this one from Etsy.
- Let’s be honest, there’s lots of weird stuff going on with your vagina after birth. Nothing scary but it would have been nice to know a few more things about the healing process. That’s all I’m saying.
- Having Paul stay home with me is an amazing blessing. He wants to help me so badly that it was easy for us to team up and find our groove. I breastfeed Emma, he burps her and changes most of her diapers. Especially, at night, he’s right there to help after I nursed Emma for the third time.
- Paul putting himself on diaper duty has allowed him to find his own way of bonding with his daughter. He loves it! And is proud that he’s better at burping Emma than I am.
- Accept all the help you can get! Seriously, there’s no need to say you’re ok if you need milk or hand sanitizer or toilet paper if someone has offered to pick anything up from the store for you. Let your friends be there for you! Apparently, they love it. I’ve learned quickly to let friends bring us food, beverages, take Griffin for a walk, or even come over to hold Emma for an hour so Paul and I can catch some sleep. There’s no award for parents who are trying to wing it all by themselves.
Phew, I think I’m done for now. Take from this post what you like and what you think is relevant for you. By no means, am I telling you “what to do”. Every mom is different and not everything works for everyone. But, we’re in this together so let’s talk about our joy, fear, excitement, successes and disappointments, shall we?