Surviving your First Months with a Newborn
The days are long but the years are short. Truer words were never spoken. The hazy first few days and weeks of having a new baby at home can seem to go by in exhaustive slow motion. Life as you know it has completely changed and will never be completely the same. You were so anxious in the weeks leading up to baby day.
"Is it time yet?", "Was that a contraction?", "Did I just pee or was that my water breaking?", "YES, I'M STILL PREGNANT! STOP ASKING!" Sound familiar?
Now that your bundle is here, part of you misses the peace and waiting period pre-baby. But MOST of you is so obsessed with this little lump that all of the burdens of this tough season are worth it. Even though we push through the hard times of the first few weeks and are often told to "just survive", I think there are a few things that can help you feel more like you're thriving in these early days.
Please note that I am no expert. I do not accomplish all of these things every day. I am not better than you. I'm not supermom, nor am I expecting you to be. If all you can do is get up and keep your baby alive today, YOU ARE ROCKING THIS NEW MOM THING. However, I know some of us need a little something extra to feel WELL. Here are some of my top tips for thriving, not just surviving, that first precious month, broken up by major categories (because I'm Monica Gellar like that).
* 1. Try to take a shower every day. You don't have to wash your hair (that's like an every 3 days thing for me). Washing the breastmilk, formula, spit up, baby pee and poo off of your skin will do WONDERS for your mood (and hygiene). Honestly, getting in the shower, soaping up, even shaving your armpits real quick, getting out and drying off should only take 5 minutes. You DO have 5 minutes to do this for yourself each day.
>> Check out my fave dry shampoo here. It smells amazing, works like a charm, and who doesn't love a mermaid theme?
2. Make the bed. There's nothing more disheartening than going to bed at night (prepping for a night of cluster feeding, perhaps?) and walking in to find a bed still disheveled from the night before. The simple two minute process of putting away the mess of the night's past will help you feel a little more on top of life.
* 3. Eat well. Find some favorite go-to easy snacks that you can keep by your breastfeeding spot (we all have one) and your nightstand for those middle of the night breastfeeding hunger pains.
* 4. Put on clean clothes every day. Even if all you do is put on another pair of identical leggings and another nude nursing bra, this is a big deal. Yes, it requires doing more laundry. However, just like the showering daily task, putting on fresh clothes in the days and weeks postpartum makes you feel mentally and physically like you've done something heroic for the day.
* 5. Get out of the house at least once per day. Whether this is a stroller walk with your babe, a trip to the Starbucks drive through, or even just a scenic drive, this can make you feel HUMAN. Even if you don't want want to go in public with baby yet, there are tons of ways to get out of the house, get some fresh air, and a change of scenery. HGTV reruns on a loop will get old really fast.
* 6. Start thinking about your postpartum #MOMBOD plan. No, you shouldn't worry about dropping all the baby weight fast. Especially if you're nursing, our bodies retain a few extra pounds of fluff to protect our milk supply in case of famine. Seriously, it's biological! Not to mention the cortisol (fat-retaining) stress hormone that is pumped through nursing mamas, making it often harder to lose weight. However, setting up your postpartum ACTIVITY plan is really important. Daily exercise, even light to moderate, is so incredible for your mood! Endorphins are nature's anti-depressant pills! Taking 20-30 minutes daily (put that baby in her sweet little baby swing) while you exercise in your family room will make you feel better about yourself, your productivity, your goals, release some feel good hormones, and actually helps with your energy levels. Of course, it's recommended to wait until your standard 6 week postpartum checkup with your OBGYN to be sure you're cleared to exercise.
* 7. SUPER basic makeup and hair style each day. It takes me about 3 minutes to put on under-eye concealer, a mineral-based powder foundation, eye shadow, eyeliner, and mascara. That 3 minutes makes me feel like ME when I walk past a mirror throughout the day. It makes me feel like even though SO much of the "old me" is gone, this tiny part, my face is still here. No need to get into crazy contouring or cat eyes, just do some basics to feel fresh and confident. You'll feel more confident in front of your hubby, as you take a million selfies with baby, and again just as you walk by the mirror.
I also take less than 5 minutes daily to style my hair. Hair washing day (every 3-4 days) takes a bit longer since I have to dry my hair. However, I let it mostly air dry throughout the morning so that as soon as the kiddos are napping (hopefully simultaneously), I can spend 2 minutes touching it up with the blow dryer, and another 3-5 minutes doing a simple loose curl style. Again, this just makes me feel accomplished and more like ME for the day. These little wins can go a long way when you're trying to reconcile the pre-baby you with the post-baby you. I believe a lot of these self-care techniques can really help fight off postpartum depression as well.
* 8. Get you some root cover up spray. This will hold you until your next root touch up appointment! Nothing makes me feel less "on my game" than horrible roots. However, while breastfeeding in the first few weeks, breaking away to get your hair done for 2 hours isn't usually an option. This will help hold you over and make you feel sane. I like to spray it on my roots in little sections right after I dry it but before I style and curl it. It'll last until the next time you wash your hair. My fave brand is below.
Dark Brown (this is the color I use)
* 9. Shave your legs. Ok before you throw tomatoes at me, let me explain. When do women usually shave their legs? When they want to feel nice, presentable, fresh, and READY (for date night or the beach, whatev)! Why wouldn't you want to feel that way every day. I shave my legs every single day, not because I'm better than anyone else or more uptight, but because it makes me feel LIKE A BOSS. Like, ok maybe all else I accomplished all day was keeping me and baby alive, but at least when I slide my legs into the sheets at night, I feel nothing but smooth legs and accomplishment.
* 10. Fold over the velcro tabs on your baby swaddlers before you put them in the wash. This will prevent the velcro from sticking to other items in the cycle, ruining your clothes. We learned this the hard way. For even more protection, put them in a delicates / hosiery bag. These are our favorite swaddlers because they work and are safe. Boys and Girls.
* 11. Order your groceries online and have them delivered. You do not need ONE MORE THING to do. Especially if you're a germaphobe like me and don't want to take the baby into an enclosed public space for the first month, this is a must. I've used Amazon Fresh, InstaCart, and Shipt. Amazon Fresh is probably my fave (since actual Amazon employees do it from what I've heard) but Shipt is my current go-to since they shop at TARGET too and deliver within an HOUR! #HAVEMERCY
>> Use this code for $10 off with Shipt.
>> Use this code for $10 off with InstaCart.
12. Create a chore chart for yourself. Unfortunately, home tasks like laundry and cleaning the bathrooms don't go away just because you pushed a watermelon out. If you can get help with house chores like a cleaning service or an extra helpful mama, then take advantage of those perks! However, if you're like most of us and need to get it done yourself, breaking it up by day can help.
Here's a sample:
Daily: Wipe down kitchen counters and table, one load of laundry, run and empty dishwasher.
Monday: Clean kitchen more thoroughly. Dust.
Tuesday: Vacuum carpets, swap out bath towels for everyone.
Wednesday: Clean bathrooms.
Thursday: Dust and Wet Mop hardwood / tile floors.
Friday: Swap out bath towels for everyone. Vacuum carpets again. So many allergens and muck get into carpets, especially if you have pets. Twice a week is a good idea for this one.
Saturday: Change bed sheets for everyone in the house.
See, I told you I had a little Monica Gellar in me (f.r.i.e.n.d.s., anyone?!)
* 13. Try to get on a personal schedule, without stressing about being a schedule. Huh? Ok, so this sounds confusing but let me explain. BABY will not be on a real schedule for a while. My big sis gave me the best advice ever after my second babe when she told me to not even stress or think about getting baby on a feeding or sleeping schedule until at least 8 weeks. And she's got her PhD in childhood something-or-other and two kids herself so I trust the woman. There are a lot of great "baby schedule" theories and books out there. However, the first several weeks truly need to be on demand parenting...especially if you're breastfeeding. Babies are born knowing that they need pretty much. When they need to sleep, they sleep. When they need to eat, they root, try to eat their hands, stick their tongue out, and as a last resort they cry. Listening to your baby's needs on demand will create so much less stress for both of you, as you learn to trust him/her and they learn to trust you.
That being said, you should try to get on some sort of personal schedule yourself. Shower daily, wash hair every 3 days, chore chart, daily outing between 10 am - 12 pm depending on baby's eating and sleeping times that day. Probably the most important: wrap up your day around the same time each night. At one week postpartum, I begin giving my babies a nightly bath. We start a routine early on so that it becomes familiar and a comfort (for both of us). Also, once they start to notice patterns, it helps their bodies understand when it's time to wind down to bed for the night. Our nighttime routine looks something like this.
Please note that the timing of all of this doesn't need to be exact for a couple months. However, going up around 7:00 ISH, and following a timeline similar to this helps both you and baby signal to your bodies that it's time to wind down and go to sleep. Having a nighttime schedule and routine has enabled all of my babes to be 12 hour sleepers who LOVE bedtime and nap from just a few months old.
- Cluster feed through evening (often the case in the first month).
- 7:00 pm: Get together everything you need to go up to bed for the night (water, snack, phone, etc.)
- 7:15 pm: Prepare and give baby a bath, get him/her in jammies and swaddled for the night. Keep the tone and lighting quiet and peaceful, avoiding over stimulation.
- 7:30 pm: Read a book, say prayers (whatever you 2-3 step process you want as your 'nighttime routine')
- 7:40 pm: Final feeding of the night before putting baby down in his/her own spot (bassinet, crib, etc.)
- 8:00 pm: YOU go to sleep too! I know it might seem kind of early but going to bed at 8:00 when baby does instead of waiting until a "normal adult bedtime" will get you an extra couple hours which can make a huge difference.
***One last HUGELY IMPORTANT note on baby and toddler sleep: Putting them to bed later does NOT mean they will wake up later. If I've learned anything (from research and experience), MORE SLEEP = MORE SLEEP. Better and more frequent naps mean better night sleep. Better night sleep mean better and more frequent naps. Putting your baby or toddler to bed very late (9:00 pm or later) will not help them sleep in any longer. In fact, it will likely make them wake more throughout the night and wake up earlier for the day. The 7:00 - 8:00 time frame is the best from the research I've done and from experience with my 3 kiddos. PLUS, then as baby grows up and you get to go to bed later, you have some personal free time (with your spouse or yourself!) before YOU go to bed. #MOMWIN
* 14. Get one of these breastfeeding "let down" milk catchers. You attach it to the breast you're not currently nursing on while you nurse with the other side. This attaches, hands-free to your breast, and catches the let down you probably don't even realize you're having on the other side! It can easily catch an extra ounce at each feeding. Add those up together throughout a day and that's a nice little stash to get going. I loathe pumping. So this easy way of getting some extra ounces to save for when I need to be away from Adeline for short periods of time is amazing.
* 15. Find a TV show, podcast, or great audio book. That time spent awake in the middle of the night and during the day stuck under a nursing or sleeping baby can get pretty tiresome...pun intended. However, I've found if you have an awesome Netflix series you're obsessed with, an inspiring podcast, and an amazing audio book to look forward to during those times, it helps. Of course you'll want to spend plenty of time just staring at that beautiful creation of yours. Sometimes though, you'll want something to help you stay awake during night feedings or entertained during the day. I swear Gilmore Girls on Netflix got me through my first few months of night feedings with Luke! Here are two awesome books (both in audio and paperback option) that I think are great for new moms, though not in the parenting genre.
Check out our Resources page for some of my favorite mood-lifting books.
So there you have it, 15 things that I hope will help you feel like you have a little more control over this chaotic new life. I can promise you something else...you will miss the chaos.
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