Becoming a New Mom

Originally Posted 7/3/07

I'd love any advice on surviving (& enjoying) the first months after your first baby is born. Any tips, thoughts, suggestions that you wish you had known before diving into motherhood? Everyone says to "enjoy your sleep now" and "go to the movies with your husband", but what about the day to day reality of having a new little person in your life?

First, its so wonderful. There is really something remarkable about babies.

But, in truth, there is also a lot of awkwardness as well. And knowing about the awkward, less than marvelous moments help prepare you for the truth of it all. So, in the name of truth...here are things I wish I knew.

1. Newborns take forever to eat. So literally, out of three hours, babies nurse an hour of that. A third of your entire day is nursing (or bottle feeding). And its really awkward and painful at first. So just hang in there. Did I mention its painful - I would say far worse than birth - but it often gets over looked!

2. You have to wear a bra 24 hours a day. Especially at first, your body produces a lot of milk, and if you don't want to wake up soaking wet - you wear a bra to bed (with your Lansinoh disposable breast pads - hands down the best). So be sure to buy at least one nursing bra without an under wire.

3. You will be doing laundry every moment of every day. I swear - babies spit up on every piece of available cloth - and you! - so keep the extra blankets from the showers - they will come in handy! And be prepared to change clothes a lot - its not the baby clothes that fill up the washer - it will be your clothes.

4. Those mean doctors - literally they will cut a slice out of your baby's foot (heal to be precise). Apparently little finger pricks aren't enough. About a week after your baby is born - there is one blood test that literally starts with a slice. I was so shocked - I wish I would have known. (Oh, and I really liked my doctor - just not the 4cm heal slice.)

5. You cannot hold your newborn too much. I remember feeling worried I was starting off spoiling my child with all the family attention - and then I would literally hold him through most of his naps to help him sleep. But, don't worry, you can't even dream of spoiling them until they are six months old. Just help them feel secure! Its ok, hold them as much as you want.

6. It's so busy. The first few weeks you will really wonder how to do it all. So, keep expectations of yourself really low. Making dinner was really too much for me in the beginning...so don't feel like a failure. Give yourself two months to do nothing but get accustomed to the new routine.

7. It's so slow. That just sounds awful. But, after you get the routine of it all, you find yourself with extra time. Babies just sleep a lot. I loved to read with the extra time - but if you don't - plan projects for yourself. Things in the house. Buy some cook books - and think about trying out new recipes. Start a journal. Plan a trip. Just know that you will have a lot of down time.

8. Baby gear - there is so much and its hard to know what is important. Maybe people can expand on the gear topic...but I know that a changing table is surprisingly nice. Your back really starts to ache after using your bed so many times - its just at an awkward height. Oh, and I did really love my rocking chair - but be sure to get soft sides!

Painting: Mother and Child by Gustav Klimt


Heather G. said...

Oh my gosh, thank you for this one! I will keep checking back to read up on everyone's tips as it will come in handy in the near future :) I would very much be interested in hearing more on the gear subject. What really worked for everyone?? And, holy cow, I did not know about the heal slice, that would be quite a shock!!!

kelli said...

My son is almost 16 months now, but for the first 4 months, he NEVER slept. No naps, no nighttime sleeping, etc. {For several reasons including blood sugar issues, serious acid reflux, etc.} That was my biggest shock. You constantly hear how much newborns sleep. So, how do you prepare for when they don't. Ever?? I think motherhood is about flexibility. Some people suggest tossing the books and doing what YOU know/learn to be best. I say- read as many books as you can and be prepared to write your own after the initiation. :)

Christopher and Alicia said...

angie, thank you for this, i wish i had that entry back when i had my baby!! i will definitely store it away for the next one. =)

lynette said...

This may sound cliche, but sleep when the baby sleeps (day and night.) This was so hard for me to do because I'm a neat-freak, so while my baby was sleeping I'd want to do laundry or the dishes, etc. However, I am a firm believer in the more sleep you get, the easier life and motherhood will seem.
Also, do one thing everyday that makes you happy... that will definitely help on the rough days.

Baby gear: My swing was my lifesaver!

Ashley A. said...

Sleep, sleep, sleep when you can because you never know how the night will go. Breast feeding took soooo long. I was so tired and he ate so slow but some of my most tender moments with my baby are while he was nursing. It makes you sit down and take a minute (or an hour).

Baby gear: I liked my nursing cover (hooter hider). Loved my moses basket. I bought the rocker base and kept him right next to my bed at night. Made night feedings so much easier. My baby loved bouncy chairs. I hate Baby Einstein- Max loves them. Just bought the new Phil & Ted's and love it. Genius design and can be a double stroller in a snap for the next little one. Sturdy and works in the snow and the city. Try everything out before you buy it- fold it, bend it, lift it, imagine cleaning it with poop all over it. Buy oxyclean and stain remover in bulk! Laugh, kiss, cuddle and play right along side them. It goes too fast!

Missy said...

What a fun question. It already sounds like you are prepared for whatever lies ahead (in some ways) by wanting to enjoy (and survive!) the first couple months.

Love #2 and #6. I didn't know I needed to wear a bra to bed, but once my milk came in (and somehow didn't stop) I quickly learned. I like the Motherwear sleep bra. Super easy to pull up or down when you are super out of it in the middle of the night. And you'll probably wonder how people ever graduate to two (or more!) kids at first. It is SO busy, but eventually a routine begets itself and you suddenly do find yourself with some time (even if that is months down the road).

Everyone has a different experience. Enjoy each stage your baby is in whether it is newborn or toddler. The true reality is that they grow right before your eyes and discover things that you never taught them. It's amazing to watch and be part of. At the same time there will surely be moments where you can't figure out what your baby wants. And then it's when we as mothers can come together (on a blog like this!) and share our experiences.

I'm so excited for you! You'll never think of love the same.

I wrote about some things (for baby gear etc) on my blog for newborns -
Other people added in the comments what they thought of too.
And here is a good list of things "I Wish I Knew" -

kelli said...

I think I was in "survival" mode when I wrote my first comment. (We had a really tough nap day yesterday). Now, for my experience on how to enjoy! the first several months:

*Take plenty of warm baths. (It helps the healing and calls for relaxation!)
*Buy a couple of new outfits for the "new" body. Feel good for the first couple of months instead of feeling miserable that you're still not "back to normal." It takes a lot longer than you sometimes prepare for.
*I LOVED going on walks (carrier or stroller) every day. Sometimes a couple of times a day. It let my baby sleep, it gave me exercise, and the fresh air was healing.
*Find friends/playgroups/blogs, ect. with women in the same situation as you. It feels so good to be able to relate as well as to exchange ideas.
*Take a lot of pictures. This is a give in, but it will help you revel in all the amazing accomplishments that happen so quickly the first couple of months.
Newborns are exciting! Good luck.

hannah m said...

Thanks, Ang, for addressing my question so thoughtfully. And thanks to everyone else who did the same. I know I'll be referring back to this come September when baby girl arrives!

Christopher and Alicia said...

i was just thinking and probably the best advice i got was just to enjoy my baby. no matter how long the nights seem, no matter how cluttered the house gets (and ooooh yes, it will get messy!) no matter how long it seems like you haven't been able to function like a normal human being - it will pass, and so will that sweet little newborn stage, so try and take a few seconds to count those little fingers and toes, look deep into those little eyes, and enjoy the miracle that is your baby. I promise you will get your life back eventually, but you will never get those first few weeks back!

The other advice I got was that if you feel sad, hand that baby off to your husband, friend, babysitter, sister, whoever, and TAKE A NAP! It's so hard to relax because you can get so wired, but even 10 minutes of deep breathing and relaxation in a dark room can help you feel so rejuvenated.

Don't try to do to much at once - it's ok that your baby is 6 weeks old and you consider it an accomplishment to get the dishes done and brush your teeth in a whole day - you also kept a baby alive and happy all day long and that is a big deal!! In the beginning I would make a (very short) list of things to do each day and on it I would put "love your baby", "smile at your baby", "hold your baby", it made me remember to stop and really enjoy this little person and feel like I still got something done that day.

Good luck!!

Missy said...

I think the small lists idea is a good one. I remember talking to my sister on the phone, I hadn't showered all day and my newborn was crying and wondering "wait, what did I do today" - nursing does take a long time at first, but count that as a check off the to do list.

And really if you ever do feel weird, a big part of it is because you haven't slept so I like the idea of just 10 minutes in a dark room and take a breather to yourself. I'm going to refer back to this for number 2.

Making dinners was hard for me too. The schedule of eating at 6 o'clock gets so thrown off, that next time I'll try to make a few meals and keep them in my freezer. Just a thought?

I guess I have a lot to say on this topic, because no one told me about the beginning stages so I want others to feel prepared (?). Loved my hooter hider too. I'd highly recommend one of those.

Ann said...

There are so many things!! And so many that I've already forgotten-and most of what few things i remember have been brought up by others but here's my two cents.

I agree that you should sleep when the baby sleeps, but like so many other said-enjoy the newborn stages. I had a friend tell me that she didn't mind being bleary-eyed and dazed for a long time after her son was born-she was just loving holding him and being with him. I felt the same with my newborn. I remember saying to my mom, while tears were streaming down my face and she and my husband were pushing me into my bed, "but she'll never be 5 days old again and I don't want to miss it!" I wish I still felt that way everyday.

Nursing was really hard to get the hang of right at first, and the post partum floor nurses gave me crazy ideas-like let the baby stay on for as long as she wants. My baby was staying on for over an hour on one side. My pediatrician quickly changed that-helped me see that I was just being a gigantic pacifier. She encouraged 5-10 minutes of rythmic sucking on each side. (takes a while to get 5-10 minutes in a row). By that time our bodies have given 95% of the milk they hold so staying on for hours longer-like I was and thought was correct-isn't giving baby any more milk.

The 'getting back to real life' process is SLOW and just when you think you have the hang of things, baby starts a new phase and your routine is shot. But everything seems to be a phase-good and bad-so just bear with the tough times because in a few days or weeks, something new will be going on.

That's about all I can think of that hasn't already been said. Being a mom is wonderful! And there's nothing better than holding a newborn in your arms, or waking next to your sleeping child as you both fell asleep together. It goes too fast!!

The Hollemans said...

One thing I found very helpful this time around (number three) was low expectations. Actually this has really become my new outlook on life. I wasn't expecting much sleep, so if I got some I was thrilled. I wasnt expecting much from myself, so when I did get to clean I thought I was amazing, I wasnt expecting to feel happy, (the blues hit me hard with number two) so when I felt the new baby high, is what I call it when all you want to do is look at your baby and think about how cute and good they are, and then never got the blues I was so content. Also another very helpful thing for me was I Tivoed a bunch of movies I had never seen before, so everytime I got up to feed him in the middle of the night I would watch part of the movie, so the time went fast, I forgot about the pain, and I was much less disappointed to hear him cry when I remembered I couldnt wait to see what was going to happy next in the movie. But the best advice is that no matter what you hear, it will never prepare you for all the rush of emotions you will feel. There will be definate moments of complete overwhelming, Where one night ahead with out knowing if there will be sleep anytime in the future, will seem like an eternity, so much joy and love like you cant imagine, scaredness for their safety and all the new responsibilty, and every moment is so bitter sweet. It goes way too fast and way too slow all at the same time. Hope this is more helpful more than pure rambling!