Becoming a mother whether for the first time or 10th baby can bring a sense of joy and anxiety all at the same time. Adding a new person to the household may require a transition period that may be difficult to get adjusted to. To be honest, motherhood is full of adjusting to different stages of your child’s development. The first year alone is full of rapid growth and major milestones, such as teething, crawling, introducing solid foods, talking, and walking. The first 3 months of a baby life’s is a critical period known as the newborn stage. Your very sleepy bundle of joy will mostly just eat, poop, and urinate and eventually begin to coo, smile, and interact with you. At times you will feel like a robot on the “eat, poop, sleep, repeat” cycle. When I had my son, as a new mom, it was very difficult doing anything outside of the newborn cycle of events, such as keeping the house clean or running errands. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way that were helpful to surviving the first 3 months.
Give yourself time to heal and rest.
Let’s be honest, labor is very intense no matter which route your baby arrived (vaginal or c-section). Your body’s muscles put in a lot of work and deserve much needed rejuvenation. With the sudden surge in hormones, you may feel like you are super woman and can conquer the world. Newsflash, you are superwoman, but it’s ok to retire your cape for a little while. When the baby is asleep, take a nap. Babies eat every 2-3 hours (if breastfed) or 4-6 hours (if formula fed), which means not much time for long siestas. If you have had a vaginal birth or dealing with those annoying hemorrhoids, try pouring witch hazel on a few maxi pads, freezing them in a bowl (to give it appropriate shape), and wear for soothing comfort during post partum. Adequate rest is imperative to healing.
Say YES to help
The arrival of a new baby not only excites mom and dad, but it excites family and friends too. Everyone wants to see the baby and help in any way they can. This can feel very overwhelming at first because you are trying to adjust to the baby and accommodating others is the last thing on your mind. Not to mention, some visitors may be a little over bearing because they are so excited to help that they don’t realize you need some privacy as you and baby try to work out the whole breast feeding connection or how to do bath time. Please keep in mind we want positive, helpful, friendly faces coming by to visit. Often times, the over bearing family members just need a little direction. Some of the most helpful things that family and friends can do are chores. When your guest asks to come out and help with the baby, say yes, and ask, could you help with washing the dishes, cooking some meals, holding the baby while I take a shower or nap, etc. This will help to weed out who is going to be the most helpful for you. While it’s nice that everyone wants to change a dirty diaper or feed a baby, those things are often not the most helpful and are honestly things that you as the new mom want to do to get comfortable with your new role. This is especially true for breastfeeding moms, when your milk comes in, no one else can feed your baby but you. When everyone is made aware of his or her role, it makes for a much easier and enjoyable visit for everyone.
Remember, you are mom- you can do this!
No one knows a baby better than his or her mom. You have carried your bundle of joy for those long months and became acquainted with your little one before you could even hear him or her cry. You have probably read all sorts of books on what to expect and asked your medical providers a ton of questions just to be prepared because you are just that awesome. In the beginning, it will feel like all you do is monitor baby progression from the amount of feedings, number of weight diapers, bowel movements, umbilical cord care, peeling skin, checking temperatures, and monitoring hair changes. In the midst of all the new additional responsibilities, remember to follow your instincts. A few tips:
Newborns should never have a fever. This is an emergency.
Expect 8-12 dirty diapers a day. The first few bowel movements are meconium and will be really dark and sticky. This will pass.
Expect to feed your baby at least 6-8 times a day, More if breastfed. It may take up to 3 days for your milk to come in, but don’t worry, your baby is getting nutrient and antioxidant rich colostrum for their tiny stomachs.
Remember this nursing saying, “what goes in, must come out”. Expect 8-12 dirty diapers a day.
Ask questions to your midwife, pediatrician, OB GYN to know what is normal and abnormal.
Babies will lose weight in the first few days then gain weight from here on out. Expect this to be one of the most important vital signs for your baby as he or she gets older and know that growth charts are used to monitor your little one over time. There is no bad percentile on the growth chart. As long as he or she continues to grow, then you are doing your job mom!
Utilize your support systems
There are lots of services that can offer assistance during this transition. If there are ideals that you feel strongly about, tell your support system so that you will have an accountability partner and a positive experience. For example, if you really want to exclusively breast-feed; make your spouse or partner aware as well as your midwife/OB-GYN and Pediatrician so that they can be supportive to your decision. If they are not, you may want to find new providers. One of the best pieces of advice that I received from my midwife after explaining that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed was to not buy formula as back up or I will be tempted to use it. Additionally, there are lactation consultants available if you are having trouble with breastfeeding or just need to find a group to talk to as you transition. Your pediatrician, OB-GYN, and midwife will monitor you and your baby to make sure you all are healthy and safe.
Don’t get angry or overwhelmed by all the mom tips
Believe it or not, being a mom signals advice and questions from best friends to complete strangers, solicited and unsolicited. You may hear everything from “you’re feeding the baby too much” to “you’re feeding the baby too little”, “put cereal in the bottle”, “wow, 2 months, he or she is awfully small”, “use this toy”, “you will spoil the baby if you pick him or her up so much”, etc. Just be you and do you. At the end of the day, no one lives your day to day routine so do you and let some things in one ear and out of the other and keep the things that you find valuable. Every baby is different and there is no standard for how to raise your child.
When venturing out with your little bundle, be prepared
Have you heard of “blow outs”? It’s nothing like a poopy outfit that will remind you to always have an extra change of clothes. It’s stressful enough managing to get out of the house with your cute little bundle. Be prepared for the things that can make the trip even more difficult. Extra bibs, diapers, wipes, pacifier, hats, jackets, and socks will save your life.
If you are a type A person like myself and enjoy a scheduled day, just go ahead and throw that idea away. When dealing with a newborn, there is no such thing as a schedule for most moms. Every day is totally different and you just live to get through another day sometimes. Newborns sleep wake cycle is totally off and they often have no concept of day or night. A successful day is cuddling your little one with lots of love and meeting their needs. If all the errands weren’t accomplished, it’s ok. You have a beautiful baby to spend the day with. There’s always tomorrow.
It may feel like everything is about the baby in the beginning. Family and friends may even call to check on the baby and you may feel left out. Don’t lose sight of yourself. Time with your medical providers, including your baby’s pediatrician, is the time to talk about your healing and how you are feeling. Post partum depression and baby blues are things that you should be screened for. Although it is normal to have tearful days, make your providers aware so they will know to monitor you for post partum depression. Also, have your partner or family member watch the baby so that you can enjoy the things that make you feel whole again. Whether it’s a hair appointment, massage, or gym time, voice what you need to happen and work with your loved ones to be sure it gets done. You will feel like a brand new woman.
Enjoy being a mom: Soak it all in
This is the only time this baby will be a newborn, then infant, then toddler, then off to college. OMG! Soak it all in. Take a billion pictures and videos and post them if you would like. It’s ok to miss events or dinner with friends every once in a while. True friends will understand. Do what you can handle and what makes you happy because being a mom is like a full time job. Get in all the hugs, kisses, and mommy/baby time that you can because they do grow up. All of the things that you always wanted to do with your child, such as walks in park with the stroller, get out there and do it. Live life to the fullest. When he or she is older, they will have some amazing pictures and stories to look back on with joy.
Read blogs and informational books
We would love to prepare for the expected and unexpected. There are amazing books out there such as to “what to expect” series that prepares a mother for the different stages of motherhood. Additionally, there are amazing blogs out there like this one that not only shares good information, but offers a sense of support from experienced mothers because you won’t feel alone through all of the array of motherhood attributes. There are apps that track your pregnancy as well as developmental milestones of your little one so that you will know what to look forward to each month.
Danielle Gordon, RN is a wife, mother, registered nurse, and Family Nurse Practitioner Student.