Looking back over the years since I’ve had my first baby, there have been countless lessons learned, wisdom gained, and knowledge acquired–and I’m still learning. There have so many times I’ve muttered to myself “I wish I knew that the first time!”, and with some things, wondered why in the world no one ever filled me in beforehand!
So…I’m going to do that for you. Six babies later, I’m sharing not only some of the truths I’ve learned, but also tips on some baby basics and advice for new moms, and maybe–hopefully– you’ll glean a little something that will help you on your motherhood journey. And while you’re in the thick of it, you’ll know that someone else has been there, and understands.
You ready? Here we go…what I wish I knew with baby #1!
You will still look pregnant after you have your baby.
Like 4-5 months pregnant. At least. Unless you are a freak of nature (and I still love you if that’s you–just extremely jealous), you will probably wear your maternity jeans for a month or two after your baby is born, and at the very least, lots of very stretchy and comfy yoga pants. This came as a big shock to me. I had no idea that that’s how it worked, and I squeezed into the pants I brought to the hospital to wear home. So, just be prepared. That’s half the battle, right? Bring your comfiest, stretchiest pants with a waistband that won’t hurt you (especially if you have a c-section, like I did several times). Your stomach will go down over the next weeks, but it takes time.
Just remember—you are a ROCK STAR. You just grew and gave birth to a tiny human, and you’ve earned your stripes, and that stomach. You are beautiful, and even though you don’t feel it, tell yourself in the mirror at least ten times a day how awesome you are. If you forget, I will remind you.
Trust your instincts.
As a new mom, you might be wondering if you have the “mom instincts” to know what to do, and how to do it. If they just “come”, or if they happen over time. Actually, it’s a little of both. You’re the mom, it’s your baby, and with that comes an innate sense of what “feels right”, and what doesn’t. Listen to it. Trust it. Don’t be afraid to act on it.
When my oldest was just two weeks old, his umbilical cord was just not looking right. The whole surrounding belly button area was red and a little inflamed, and even though I had no idea what it was actually supposed to look like, I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. He was also so fussy, I couldn’t get him calmed down, and I decided to take him into the doctor to get it checked out. I was nervous about it, because I didn’t want the doctor to think I was crazy. If nothing was wrong, I would like really foolish, and it would suddenly be very obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. In the end, I decided I would much rather go in and look a little silly, then not go in and be worried sick, or have something be really wrong.
When I got to the office, it took only about five minutes before they sent him directly to the PICU of the nearest children’s hospital–we skipped the emergency room, everything. He had a very serious bacterial infection that required a week in the PICU, a PICC line inserted and another week at home on heavy antibiotics. The doctors kept asking me over and over again how I knew, how just a little redness around the belly button clued me in, but I didn’t really have an answer other than I just knew. I didn’t know what was wrong, or that would be that serious, but I’m so glad I trusted those instincts. That has proved to be the case over and over again, with all of my children, in every situation, both small and large.
One size does NOT fit all.
Despite popular opinion and what you may see on social media, there is more than one way to do things. There is usually not a right or wrong when it comes to parenting, even though you might be told that on more than one occasion. I remember having little old ladies stop me in the grocery store, and lecture me on the fact that my baby MUST be freezing because he only had one pair of socks, one jacket and his ears weren’t properly covered. (And this was when it was 80 degrees outside.) These days it’s morphed into things like breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, co-sleeping or not, working or staying at home, and a million other hot topics. Don’t listen to it. Make your own, informed choices and be confident in them. You know best what your baby and your family needs, when you are really honest with yourself and do the research.
I was devastated that I wasn’t able to breastfeed when I had my first baby, and that first week was perhaps the most anguished I’ve ever been, as we were both absolutely miserable, and he was starving. Finally, after trying so many things, and after getting a lecture from a professional that brought me to tears for the millionth time that day, I called my mom. She gave me the “permission” to just let go–to realize that my body wasn’t going to cooperate with what I wanted, and that it was OKAY. I was okay. The baby would be okay. I wasn’t any less of a mother because I bottle fed my baby. I have held firm to that conversation over the years, and applied it to so many different situations. I get to decide what’s right for me, and that makes it right!
In the same token, be supportive to all the moms around you, even if your choices are different. They get to decide what’s right for them too! When we stick together, we are SO much stronger. One of my least favorite things (okay, my least favorite thing) about social media is how much criticizing there is of other moms and women. If you don’t agree, that’s fine, but don’t tear someone else down.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions.
Relish that newborn stage–it’s over in the blink of an eye.
Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
You’ve got this.
Give them a bottle, even if they’re breastfeeding.
At bedtime, once they are fed and changed and they’re not sick–it’s okay to let them cry.
I’ll admit, I HATE to hear my babies cry. But I did learn that once all of their needs were taken care of, and they were comfortable, and I had sung and rocked and patted–they had the ability to put themselves to sleep. I set a time limit, and if they didn’t stop crying by then, I would go in and pat them and sing to them and get them calmed down. They did all learn to go to sleep easily, and on their own, and having good sleepers was one of the best things that could have happened to me!
Pacifiers are better than thumbs. :)
The fire station or police station will put in your carseat for you and teach you how to do it correctly.
My favorite carseat is this one by Chicco! When my babies were tiny, I used the Stroller Caddy, and the carseat just clicked right in to the frame. It folds up pretty flat, and fit easily in my vehicle. When they hit 6-8 months, I transferred them over to the regular stroller.
Disposable sippy cups.
I don’t use regular sippy cups anymore. Well, hardly ever anyway. I love disposable ones because they’re cheap, and if they get lost or ruined, you don’t have to worry as much!
Slings, Wraps, Carriers
If there is one thing that I can swear by, it’s a baby carrier. I cannot tell you how much I love it! Whether you prefer a sling, wrap, or baby carrier, having a way to carry your baby and be hands free is worth its weight in gold. Find one you like!! It helps you get chores done around the house. lets you go grocery shopping more easily, and also do other activities where taking a stroller is difficult or impossible. It’s one of my number one baby items! If you have more children, it’s so helpful when you’re trying to watch a toddler, and hold a baby at the same time. My absolute favorite is the Boba Baby Carrier. It can hold up to 48 pounds–up to 3 or 4 years old–and it’s SO comfy! I’ve used other brands, and my hips and back just ache after a little while. I’ve worn this all day and not been bothered by it at all. I’m also not a huge fan of carrying babies forward facing, and this one can be worn in front with their small, and on your back when they’re older. We use it ALL the time. Love love love it!
Laundry Basket Bath