My significant other and I have survived 3 months as first time parents. While I never expected a baby to come with a manual, I never expected it to be such a huge puzzle. “If we do activity 1 and activity 2, she won’t go to sleep, but if we do activity 1 and activity 3 while bouncing her on a ball, she’ll sleep for at least 4 hours. Then, we need to implement strategy number 2.”
We’ve been given a lot of advice and have read a number of books since finding out I was pregnant, but nothing could fully prepare us until we were in the midst of taking care of our little one. I’ve spent hours reading forums and asking other mothers questions along the way and thought I might share some things that we’ve learned that weren’t really addressed in the pregnancy books.
1. Buy a Miracle Blanket! We read all about swaddling, but this is swaddling on a whole new level. It has separate flaps for the arms to keep them close to the baby’s sides, a sack for the feet (easy to open for changing a diaper), and a long piece that wraps securely all the way around. Sure, it’s kind of like a baby straight jacket, but it made her feel secure. If we had bought it sooner, it would have saved us a lot of sleepless hours.
2. Rugs are very important for creating the perfect bedtime environment. Sure, all the books point out the white noise machine and swaddling blanket, but, if you have hardwood or laminate floors, rugs are very important as well, especially if you have animals. Even though we had all the typical noise makers, we had to invest in runners, because our dog would wake up our little one when he walked down the hallway.
3. Not all Vitamin D drops are created equal. If you breastfeed, you need to give your little one vitamin D, because there isn’t enough passed to them through mother’s milk. To get the full amount they need naturally, they would need to sit in the sun for a long time, to the point of burning their sensitive skin. So, we bought the only brand available in our area, Enfamil. It took a couple of months, but we realized it was making our little one gassy, which was waking her up at night. On our doctor’s advice, we ordered the baby vitamin D3 drops by Carleson Labs off the internet. These drops have no fillers. The bottle is basically vitamin D and coconut milk. To illustrate the difference, Enfamil requires you to give a whole dropper full of liquid. Carleson’s drops require a single drop that you can administer on a pacifier, finger, etc. After we switched, her nightly gas issues greatly improved.
4. Breastfeeding, though natural, is NOT easy. It took a lot of work to get our little one to latch well and there was a lot of pain involved. We made multiple trips to the lactation consultant at WIC. Three different nurses and lactation consultants advised us at the hospital. Everyone said to do something different, and I was surprised to find how many people in everyday life were quick to jump on the formula bandwagon. There were days I really wanted to quit, but I could see she was happier eating breast milk. It took some time, but my significant other and I eventually chose what we felt would work best for us and things improved.
5. There isn’t much support for breastfeeding in the United States. When I saw my friends advocating for breastfeeding in public on Facebook, I thought they were overreacting a bit. Then, I had a baby and realized how hard it really is. There aren’t many places, other than bathrooms, to privately breastfeed, but no one expects you to eat in the germy bathroom, so why should we expect it of our babies? But, where else can we mothers feed? Women will walk on the beach scantily dressed in bikinis and no one will say anything. Try to breastfeed in public with a cover and people will stare you down like you’re a criminal.
The support also doesn’t extend much to the workplace. As a working mother, I have to pump to provide food for when I’m not home. Yes, there are laws to protect mothers in North Carolina, but that’s only if you’re employed by someone (and I’ve heard stories about it still being a fight). I’m technically self-employed and my workplace doesn’t need to abide by the same rules that say they need to provide a non-bathroom room for pumping. So, I pump in the private bathroom, which I know annoys some people, because pumping takes time. Yes, I’m a bathroom hog.
6. What you pump isn’t what you produce. So many new moms trying to breastfeed believe they must not be producing enough milk if they don’t pump a certain amount. I did as well, but I learned from other moms that the pump isn’t as effective as your baby for getting milk out. You have to rely on the number of diapers being produced and weight being gained by your baby to determine if you’re producing enough. Many women start supplementing thinking they aren’t making enough, which then causes their bodies to actually reduce the amount of milk being made. They’re literally creating self-fulfilling issues. I learned to trust my body.
7. A baby doesn’t just go through physical growth spurts, but mental growth spurts as well. They’re called Wonder Weeks and they make your baby just as fussy as when they’re going through a physical growth spurt. They’re predictable and you can find a schedule online, but you must calculate them according to your original due date, not the date your baby was born, because they’re linked to the development of the brain. Depending on when your baby was born – early, on time, or late. You may have one fussy period after another or, worse, at the same time. Those ones make you think your baby will never be their happy little self again.
8. Your baby may start teething as early as 2 months and not cut a tooth for months. Our little one has been showing signs of teething for a month already – lots of drooling, hand gnawing, and fussiness – but there’s no tooth in sight. We’re trying every option besides medication to keep her happy and it’s been difficult, because her hand coordination is still developing. She can’t get the teethers to her mouth, which is why we recently bought Sophie the Giraffe, a molded teether that is big enough for her to hold under her arm. She’s starting to get the hang of it, but it’s been a bit of a struggle.
9. No matter how great your relationship with your significant other is prior to birth, it will be tested to the extreme once the baby is born. Lack of sleep, a needy baby, new challenges, and old responsibilities come together, and hit you all at once. It’s a lot of pressure. You have to learn healthy coping skills early on and actively work to be conscious of each other’s needs. There’s really no room to be selfish. It amazed me how many mothers posted on the forum I follow saying their marriages were over shortly after their babies were born. It’s really sad.
10. It will take you days to do things that once took you an hour…like write this blog post!
If you’re expecting your first baby, I hope this list gives you a little bit of a leg-up on being a new parent.