Don’t get me wrong: Being a new mom is hard, no matter how many times you do it. All of the usual suspects, like sleep deprivation and postpartum pain, are there and ready to pull you under at any minute. Plus, there are some new challenges, like how to get your older kid adjusted to life with a sibling.
But with my second baby, I cannot believe how much easier it all is. Yes, easier. And so much easier that I honestly can’t believe it. And it’s not because I’ve suddenly got it all together. I’m still the same crazy, disorganized, haphazard, messy me that I’ve always been. I’ve just got a few tricks up my sleeve. It’s stuff that now seems like common (mom) sense, but that I didn’t have a clue about the first time around.
So, expectant and new moms: Don’t wait for Baby #2 to do it better. Here are the super practical parenting tips I wish I had known three and a half years ago and am so grateful to know now….
Prep for a diaper change before taking off the current dirty diaper. That means opening up the diaper and laying it out next to baby as well as taking out as many wipes as you think you’ll need. (I’ve got it down to a science at three wipes per super-poopy newborn diaper.) That way, you won’t risk a diaper-free pee while wrangling what you need. Golden showers or worse? No, thanks!
Make sure the diaper ruffle isn’t tucked in. That tiny little frill isn’t a cutesy decoration—it actually helps to prevent leakages.
If baby is having regular poop-splosions and wet onesies, go up a diaper size. Yes, you might still have half a package of tiny diapers left, but make another mom happy and give them to her—and make yourself happy by not having to wash the crib sheets yet again.
BREASTFEEDING AND ASSORTED BOOB ISSUES
If nursing hurts and doesn’t get better within 10 seconds, unlatch and try, try again. The first time around, I was terrified to unlatch my son. I was just so happy that he was eating, and I thought if I took him off my breast, he’d never latch on again. Yeah, no chance of that happening. Babies are hungry and persistent, so unlatch, relatch and repeat as many times as necessary. Your hungry little barracuda might get a little irritated with you, but he’ll learn the right way to feed—and fast.
But on the flip side, don’t stress about mastering the million ways to latch a baby onto your boob. If you’ve got a position that works for you, stick with it. With my son, I worried that I only had one good option in my breastfeeding arsenal for each side, and that one wasn’t “optimal,” according to the lactation consultants. But hey, it worked, my boobs weren’t raw, and neither of my babies ever complained. The takeaway? Expert advice is great…up until a point.
When your hungry little monster seems insatiable, that’s because he is. Cluster feeding happens during growth spurts. The good news? Your baby will sleep a lot the next day, and your uterus will contract more, making your postpartum bump go down a little faster.
Invest in a sleep bra for nursing. Even though it’s normally lovely for the girls to be free—Lord knows this was the case while you were pregnant—the polar opposite can be true when you’ve got a gallon of milk weighing down each boob. This gets better once your body regulates your milk supply, but in the beginning and especially with your first baby, it’s kind of awful.
Put nursing pads in that nighttime bra so you don’t leak through your pajama top. If your newborn is—God-willing—sleeping for more than two hours at a stretch, you will have two wet bulls-eyes reminding you of that in the morning, at least early on. (See above.) The other day, milk actually splashed through my shirt and onto my arm, and my 3-year-old asked me what in the hell it was…though in a much more age-appropriate way. Pads are also great if you’re using lanolin to soothe your chomped-on boobs: That stuff is wonderful, but it’s oily and can stain clothing. This advice also applies during the day, of course, when when you’re back to work or away from baby for any significant amount of time.
Swaddle well and swaddle early. I was convinced that my son didn’t like to be swaddled for the first two months of his life. And maybe he didn’t, but only because I was doing it wrong—i.e., wrapping him too loosely. Because of that, he was frustrated and pulled a Houdini every night. Once I honed my baby-burrito wrapping skills, everyone slept much better, and that continues to be the case with my 2-week-old. Everyone loves a different wrap—from the ubiquitous Aden + Anais blanket (which is also great as a lightweight stroller blanket and a nursing cover) to the easy-to-wrap Summer Infant swaddle that has a velcro fastener—but my favorite is a slightly thicker yet still soft option from Swaddle Designs.
Do what works for you. For me, this means that during baby’s naps, she’s usually snuggling in my arms. Instead of binge-watching Pretty Little Liars (again), I’m trying to get a little Momsanity writing done, so I’ve devised a solution with her on my chest, the boppy on my lap and the computer precariously perched on the boppy.
The thing is, she won’t be sleeping on me forever (or even for more than another month or two since I’ll need to get her on a proper schedule), and I know it. My 3-year-old, while still a total snuggler, is already such a little man who is trying his best to be independent from me. This little girl is my last baby, and I want to enjoy every minute of her and every minute of these early days together. That said, when I need to use the bathroom, fold some laundry or just stretch my aching back, baby goes into the bouncy seat. And at night, as much of bedtime as possible is spent in the bassinet next to my bed, because I also want to get her used to sleeping without me. Just not all the time just yet.
Set up a separate nighttime area for yourself before going to bed. You and your baby will not be sleeping through the night in the beginning. It’s just a biological fact: Newborns need to eat every few hours. You might want to feed in the comfort of your own bed, but this never worked for me. I’m a lot more comfortable on the living-room couch…as long as it’s set up just the way I like it. Nursing pillow, burp cloth, bottle of water to keep me hydrated, pillows propped up just so and a blanket to keep me warm. Good to go, and easy for me to go back to bed when we’re all done.
Take that shower. This will seem like an impossible dream in a few short weeks, but right now—in the early days of new mommyhood when your significant other and various helpful elves are around—do it. Your poor, beat-up body will feel exponentially better, as will your sleep-deprived brain.
Don’t give up the Sitz bath and squeezy bottle too early. You might feel miraculously better some days, but that’s the surest way to make sure that you suddenly don’t. If you’ve had a vaginal birth, you’ve had some major trauma down below and maybe some stitches; things need tending to. And, of course, self-care is extra important if you’ve had a C-section. Take care of yourself, mama, even for just the minimal maintenance, and you will be able to take care of baby a helluva lot better.
Lock the damn door. To use the bathroom or to take that power nap. Your significant other and baby will both be OK, even if you hear slight crying from one and/or both of them. In fact, they’ll be more than OK, because they’ll forge their own bond and learn to work out these mini problems without you.
Just say no. You’re a mom now, so get used to using that little two-letter word. Visitors right after baby’s birth if you don’t want them there? Say it with me: No. Cereal in a four-week-old’s bottle, because that’s the way our parents did it a million years ago? Say it with me again: No. Anything that’s annoying and opinionated and unsolicited? Once more and with feeling: NO. See? Easy.
Learn 92 more super practical parenting tips! After I published this post, I realized that I had forgotten to include a few really important things. Things like how to avoid being covered in spit-up at all times. And that weird thing that your nipple does after breastfeeding that shows you that you have a bad latch. And the magical trick that makes a baby close his eyes pretty much instantly.
So I started jotting down everything as I was experiencing it with my daughter, and no one was more surprised than me when I got to the end of three months and I had somehow had 107 tips! That’s right—107 tips that would have made my life as a new mom so much easier the first time around.
I was elated…and a little angry. No one had told me about any of this? Seriously?!
Well, I’m here to tell you about it. I put all of that information in a handy little book called 107 Things I Wish I Had Known with My First Baby: Essential Tips for the First 3 Months. If you’re pregnant or just had a baby, this is the book for you. And if you’re neither of those things, share it with a friend who is.
Put simply: You don’t have to learn these practical parenting lessons the hard way. Enter motherhood with all of this knowledge and you’ll have a lot less stress and a lot more baby cuddles. And what new mom doesn’t want that?
107 Things I Wish I Had Known with My First Baby: Essential Tips for the First 3 Months is available on Amazon, for download on Kindle and to order as a hard copy. Check it out, and let me know what you think!
Tell Us: What lessons do you think are essential for new moms?
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