Dear Expecting, New Mama –
First and foremost congrats! You are about to embark on your biggest adventure yet and it will truly change you from the inside out. Literally – my stretch marks can attest. All kidding aside, becoming a mother is one of my greatest accomplishments and my biggest job. I would love to share what I have learned along the road to three kiddos. A few tips and tricks. I consider myself a vet but even I struggle as a third time mom so before we go any further please please please, remember to be easy on yourself and give yourself grace. I should really listen to myself more.
I will never forget preparing for my first baby. I registered for and bought everything. All the things. Amazon was my confidant. My husband would affirm this statement as well as JP Morgan Chase. Even with my third, Amazon is still a close buddy but now I know what I really need and don’t. Also times change and new gadgets hit the market so there is always something to update and try out. Parenting methods change, research changes, heck we are living through a two-year Coronavirus Pandemic at this point so that in itself is much different than when I gave birth for the first time almost 9 years ago.
1.) Take all the help – You’re not putting people out if someone asks to hold your baby while you shower or run an errand. People love babies and while they are newborns and don’t know any better, let someone else hold your baby so you can have an hour to do something or rest.
2.) Taking it slowly – After birth, regardless of how you deliver, be easy on yourself and take it slowly. I read something one time that said a mother should stay in bed for 40 days postpartum. This is completely opposite of what we see online – especially on social media. An influencer will give birth and in 8 days have a full face of makeup on and is wearing jeans. This is not real life. Nurture your body, rest, hydrate. Go at your own pace. This is not a race.
3.) Treating yourself to saying no – This is something that didn’t fully hit until my third baby. I have gotten really good at saying no. I used to go along with everything with my first two babies. I didn’t not want to go to the family birthday because I didn’t want to upset someone. But now, if it doesn’t serve our family (our schedule or the baby), I say no. Babies are only this little once with their high needs. Next thing you know they are 18 months and taking 1 nap a day with a solid bed time and family events are much easier to swing without creating an overtired baby and schlepping loads of gear.
4.) Divide and conquer with your partner – This little person needs all the things so however you can delegate between the two of you – the better. You can no longer do it all, so do not try and be the hero and do all the things. She who does the most does not win. She ends up exhausted and resentful.
5.) Baby wearing – With all three babies, weeks 5-9 were the hardest. This coincided with Leap 2 of the Wonder Weeks (download the Wonder Weeks app for helpful insight into fussy times when your baby might be changing cognitively). The only way my babies were napping at this point was in a carrier on me, aka the contact nap. I have used the Ergo, Solly Wrap and the Artipoppe carrier. Love them all. Teach your partner or parent to baby wear too so you’re not the only one who can manage this. My husband preferred the Ergo. We referred to it as the “happy pack” as it was the only thing that could make baby happy at times.
6.) It’s only crazy if it doesn’t work – All 3 of my kids have been motion babies. They loved to be bounced to sleep. Up and down, up and down. Rince and repeat. A seasoned mom recommended bouncing on a yoga ball with my first. That exercise ball helped me through many a fussy times. Until I sleep train my babes at 16 weeks, I bounced them to sleep all day every day. After 16 weeks I threw it out in celebration but it was such a helpful tool to me. My mom thought I was nuts. But I said to her and I will say to you – it’s only crazy if it doesn’t help you get through a challenging time. If it works – it’s gold.
7.) Pay attention to yourself: PPA and PPD – I have anxiety when I am not postpartum so when I give birth my system is in anxiety overdrive. There are so many resources out there for moms now and not enough awareness of these helpful tools. Whether it’s prescription medicine, talk therapy or a support group – prior to birth, inquire with your OB into resources for you in the instance you have postpartum anxiety or depression. This isn’t something to suffer through. Make it a priority to check in with yourself and get help when needed.
8.) Trust your gut – I was so eager to nurse my 2nd son. I wanted a completely different experience than my first who was undiagnosed with a tongue and lip tie. I took my 2nd to 4-5 different professionals who all said he was “fine” pertaining to oral ties. He was not fine. Nursing was a major challenge and so was bottle feeding even. I knew something wasn’t right and I trusted my gut and went to an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant). This is considered the “big guns” in the world of lactation as they are the most professionally educated lactation experts. Sure enough, he needed a tongue and lip tie correction. By this time I had already thrown in the towel on nursing but he even needed the correction to help with sucking on a bottle so I am so glad we had both corrected. Now they are linking many childhood issues to uncorrected oral ties so I am glad we had them corrected for that reason as well.
9.) Meal Planning – When you give birth and you are recovering and tired you most likely will not have your brain power to meal plan and prep. You will also potentially be nursing and therefore starving. Prior to birth make an effort to meal prep and freeze as many meals as you can. Have a friend organize a meal train for you to send out to your friends and family. I never had a meal train until my third birth and it was more valuable to me than any shower or gift. I was so amazing to have people drop food on my porch for us! Note to the people dropping meals – leave it on the doorstep. There will be no coming inside at this time. Mama needs to eat and sleep and you will be able to visit that baby as soon as she is able to withstand a visit!
10.) Milestones don’t matter – By the time all babies are 18 months they will most likely align on many skills. My first didn’t walk until almost 18 months. My second child walked at 11 months. All kiddos are different and when you’re helping your kids fill out a college app or their resume for their job hunt, no one is going to care when they said their first word or walked.
11.) Don’t Google – I am serious, don’t. If you are concerned or worried, make an appt with your pediatrician. Dr. Google is the ultimate spiral and will take you down a rabbit hole as big as the ocean. So unnecessary.
12.) When it’s age appropriate, sleep train – With my first I waited until he was 7 months. I was exhausted. With my second I waited until almost 5 months. Even more exhausted with 2 kiddos. This week I am sleep training my 16 week old third baby. This is the youngest age most professionals will suggest sleep training. We are on day one and she’s already turning a corner for the better. The Snoo has been sent back and swaddles are done and I have deflated the yoga ball. Onward to independent sleep!
The final and most important note I will leave you with is one I still struggle with as I brought my third baby home. Everything is a season and each season will pass and you will see the new parent challenges in the rearview mirror. When you are in the middle of the storm, it’s hard to rationalize with yourself that the storm will pass, the clouds will lift and you will see “the sun” again. But you will. And if you are struggling to digest the fact the clouds will pass, you are not alone. Lean on your friends and family as much as you can. It will pass. You will make it through. You are doing amazing!