Of course I had to start the post with a picture. I love this photo of my two guys. Oliver had fallen asleep on me and I was walking him into the bedroom to put him in his moses basket for his nap. When I walked in, Mr. Project was sleeping on the bed with his arm up and so I gingerly placed Ollie next to him, knowing that he would sleep oh so well curled up next to his daddy. Of course then I had to take some pictures.
So I’ve been a mom for a little over 6 weeks now. Going into this whole thing I didn’t know what to expect… So if I were to go back in time and give myself advice this would be it*.
1. The first night will be crazy, the first week insane…
Just know right now – going into it – that you cannot predict or know anything that will happen in the first week you have this little one in your home. Everything in your adult life has been fairly predictable. You get up, get dressed, eat, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch TV, go to bed – or some variation of that. Predictability is what makes the world turn. We like to know what to expect, and we make decisions based on that. 2+2 will always equal 4, the world makes sense once again. Well with a newborn, 2+2 might equal 6 or 1, and the next time it will equal something else! So stop expecting it to equal 4 and you’ll get through this stage with sanity and some sleep. I thought that we would take him home and rock him to sleep and then go to sleep ourselves, and yes wake up occasionally through the night to feed and rock etc, and all would be well with the world. Well newborns have a way of figuring out exactly what your plan is, and doing the opposite. So I have found its best to pretend not to have a plan, and then if baby decides to throw a wrench in it, you just go with his plan. Basically – BE FLEXABLE. You thought that the baby would sleep after you fed him at 10PM, but he decides he really wants to scream for 2 hours, just go with it. Don’t keep trying to put him down, just hold him or feed him, and do what he wants to do for the next 2 hours. If you try and force him to keep your schedule, then you are going to lose! And the most important thing to know is that once you think you have it figured out, he’s going to change. They grow so much from one day to the next that almost everything changes in nearly a week’s time. Those first few days at home we could only get him to sleep in his baby chair, but then he didn’t want to sleep in it anymore, so we tried the swing, and that didn’t work, so we tried the moses basket again, and finally he liked it. Had we only had the moses basket, we would have been in a world of hurt those first few days and we were so glad we had the baby chair as an option. Seriously though, just go with the flow, it will all settle down soon enough.
2. Sometimes they just want to cry. sometimes they just want to eat. sometimes they just want to be held.
Having a baby is the ultimate science project. you try to hypothesize why they are crying, or why they aren’t sleeping, you test your theory in as much of a controlled environment as you can, but sometimes they just want to cry, eat or be held. You may have fed them 5 minutes ago, you may have been feeding them for what seems like the past 4 hours, but they still want to eat. No one told me about newborns wanting to clusterfeed. They can be hungry little guys and just want to nurse for 4-6 hours straight. Of course if you don’t know this, you think something else MUST be wrong because you just fed them. Nope, they just want more food.
My little Ollie gets really fussy right before he sleeps. He goes from super happy, to incredibly cranky, to passed out in about 5 minutes flat. He just needs to get some of that energy out, sometimes its just a fussy cry with kicking, sometimes its an all-out holler cry, but sometimes he just needs to have a good little cry. And sometimes he just wants to cuddle with his mommy. I know I need reminders sometimes to just stop whatever I’m doing and have a good solid lovebug moment with him, so when he fusses, and I don’t think he’s hungry or trying to get energy out, I will just hold him and love on him, its good for his soul and mine.
3. Schedules are sanity savers
Now that Ollie is a little bit bigger, his behavior is much much more predictable. We follow this basic pattern every 3 hours: Nurse one side, burp, change diaper, nurse other side, play/talk/sing, fuss (pacifier), alone quiet time (chair, swing, tummy time, nnext to us), super cranky time, sleep. He’s awake for about 60-90 minutes and then sleeps the remainder 90-120 minutes. Sometimes he is not super cranky before sleep, sometimes he is. sometimes I’ll rock him to sleep, sometimes I try to let him work through his crankies himself. Either way, we keep this basic schedule. He was pretty reliable from the time we brought him home, always wanting to eat every 3 hours on the dot, though back then he would only be awake 30 minutes and then sleep the remaining 2.5 hours. I took my scheduling cues from him and found out early on that if I tried to force him into a different schedule then it pretty much ruined everything else for at least a day.
I try to follow a regular night-time schedule of bath, book, song. snuggles, sleep, and really it only took a handful of days before he figured out the day/night thing. A good friend of mine said that if they sleep better during they day, then they’ll sleep better at night, and that was very true for him. We never worked on “keeping him awake” during the day, we just took our cues from his natural schedule, and he figured out the needing to sleep during the dark thing on his own. The nice thing about figuring out their schedule is that you can get so much more done. Ollie is now to the point where he eats at exactly the same times every single day – 7, 10, 1, 4, 7, 10 (varied nighttime feedings). So whenever we make appointments, or need to run errands, we always plan on about an hour after his feed time. So I plan to go to the gym at 2PM every day, and if we have dinner at a friend’s house, we say either 5 or 8. And if sometimes he does something completely out of wack, thats okay, we just go with the flow. But more or less, his predictability allows us to find sanity once again, and get out of the house a lot easier than we had thought possible.
4. Pacifiers are awesome.
If your baby is not taking to a pacifier, try a few different shapes (and make sure to buy newborn size). Once they get the hang of the pacifier, you will be loving life. I know we get a lot more happy awake time and a lot more restful sleep time because of the pacifier. Once you find out which one they like, BUY A TRUCK FULL.
5. They get so big so fast. But its okay.
At least I hope its okay. The first week home from the hospital I just wanted to hold him and touch him and remember every bit of his tiny self and never forget what he felt like or smelled like. I cried many times mourning the loss of his newborness as I knew he would grow and grow and never be this same tiny thing. And still now, it seems as every day comes to its close, I mourn the end of that day of his life, and in the morning I celebrate all the wonder and newness of his growing little person, what new laugh or cry or smile will be part of our lives today?
6. Keep calm and carry on
I truly believe that babies can sense the emotions/feelings of those around him, so my motto is to stay calm. If I feel stressed because he wont stop crying or wont sleep then I sing him a song which allows me to focus on the moment and not on the stress that I’m feeling. Or if I sense that he is stressed, I’ll place him on my chest and focus on keeping my breathing slow and steady, so that he can pull some peacefulness from me into his own little body. It is also important to recharge your battery. I believe I have gotten mom super-powers since having a baby. I can survive on less sleep, get more done in less time, I even have the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes, because of all this, it is easy to forget that I am human and that I still need time to myself, and time to recharge and reset. So making time to get exercise is so important, and take a shower, and get dressed etc. All these things will allow you to do more for your child than ignoring yourself into oblivion.
7. Ask for and accept help
Mr. Project has gone on two business trips in the past 6 weeks. It was extremely hard to not have someone to pass the baby off to when I needed a moment to clear my head. I think its very easy to go a little crazy without some help now and then. If you feel like your going bonkers, ask for some help, make sure that if you are alone with the baby all day long, that you have somewhere you can go like a mommy group just so you can have some time around adults too.
8. Skin: sensitivities, allergies, acne, and cradle cap
Science project time again! I never knew skin could have so many needs! Baby Acne has come and gone thank goodness, and generally Ollie has a good complexion. However he has had quite the bumps on his arms and legs and around his neck/back. My friend mentioned it might be allergies, so I would extra-dutiful in making sure all of his clothes got washed in baby detergent. Since taking this step, his bumps/rash have gone away! I swear though every day its something else. Today he has started to have dry patches of skin. I just got a new soap so I think that must be the culprit, but the new soap was for sensitive skin, which I’m thinking he has due to the laundry soap issue. So I’m going to try extra lotion before I go back to old scented soap. He has not gotten cradle cap on his head, though he does get flaky dandruff patches that go away with a good scrubbing (if they keep coming, I’m going to get some tea tree oil to put in his shampoo), but he did get cradle cap on his ears. The backs and the lobes were covered with these gross yellow scales. I asked my mom what to do and she said to rub it really good with shampoo and a rag. After doing this once, they were remarkably better, after about 3-4 times, it was all gone. I am looking forward to the day when skin care is pretty straight-forward.
9. Tummy issues and BMs (nursing moms)
When babies are first born their GI system can be very finicky. I have learned several things from this. 1. Dont’ eat any crazy foods at first. Oliver got bloated/gas from strawberries, chocolate, and raw onions. I had to learn this the hard way. 2. Your baby may not burp very much in the beginning… try not to stress about it. He really isn’t eating that much, and nursing creates way less bubbles than bottle feeding. 3. You will never be so obsessed with poop. I swear some nights when he would fuss and fuss, I would do about a million google searches about baby’s bowel movements. I was scared that he had constipation, or was just not digesting correct etc etc. I worried that his poop was the wrong color or the wrong consistency, that he had too much or not enough. All that worrying can really make you exhausted. All I can say was that in my experience, after the first few days of him passing meconium, there were a whole lot of days of watery green stuff, but then eventually it turned to a very normal butternut squash soup type substance.
They will get gassy, they will have burps that you can’t get out of them, they will cry and cry and cry because all that gas is stuck in their belly. But after a few weeks or months their GI system will mature, at least that’s what I’ve been told. Already at 6 weeks, Oliver has very few gas issues, and is able to pass gas quite well on his own (I think it may be one of his talents) and he is a much better burper too.
10. Being a mom is the best job in the world.
All of the technical stuff is just part of the nuances of taking care of a baby. Being a mom is so much more than tending to a child’s needs. It is the most wonderful, joyful, exciting, ever-changing experience that one could ever have. A baby is like pure joy, like sunshine. Some days I am totally exhausted, but I miss him when he is sleeping, and can’t wait for him to wake up. When I see his little eyes open, its as though the sun has risen and all the darkness of life goes away. When he smiles at me because he knows my face and my voice, its as though I have one purpose in life and that is to love and raise this little being. And it is such a blessing to have a purpose, a reason to be here, a job that no one else could do quite the way that it needs to be done. And somehow I know that it is just going to get better and better with each and every passing day. I just wish they wouldn’t pass so quickly.
*I have heard that EVERY baby yields a different experience, so your mileage will definitely vary, but I wanted to share some thoughts that I’ve had over the past 6 weeks, and some advice to help you keep your sanity if you are expecting your first. Of course if your baby is nothing like my baby, then none of this will help!