This post is about dealing with a newborn. While my experience is from a heteronormative viewpoint, I think some of the advice could help families of all backgrounds. Always consult your healthcare provider before making any medical decisions. If you are dealing with depression and/or anxiety, please talk to your healthcare provider. Trigger warning for breast talk and cisgendered viewpoints.
Surviving the first four weeks of parenthood can be brutal and unforgiving. I took classes and I still wasn’t ready. Things changed so quickly physically and mentally! Literally, one hour I was elated and the next I spiraled into a deep depression. By the time we got home, I was weeping on the phone with a friend about how I was terrified of my own baby. I thought I would never emerge from the anxiety and depression.
But I did. Two weeks passed and there was a growing light at the end of the tunnel. While I still struggled, and STILL struggle, things became more stable. Each day presented a new challenge that we had to engage with and it showed us we could adapt and grow.
It’s been five weeks and time had never been more relative. I decided to post some lessons we’ve already learned.
Are you breastfeeding? Then get a good pump to help you out. Are you formula feeding? Get decent bottles to prevent mealtime struggles. Buy a baby sling, wrap, or carrier. Take a baby class or lactation class. Subscribe to Amazon Prime and get diapers and wipes shipped to you. Get good bras. Buy or check out baby development books. Take the time to talk with friends and family about their experiences with newborns. Get a fan if you run warm. get a blanket if you run cold. Even a good pillow, study pillow, a water bottle, or a decent pair of shoes can make a huge difference. Little Buddy and I both run warm and he was born during a heatwave. A fan makes a cluster feeding spurt bearable. Whatever can help you prevent even two days if stress will be worth the extra money or time.
I was so freaked out by my breasts once I started breastfeeding that I didn’t even want to touch them to express milk. Add to that not having nursing bras, you had me walking around with heavy, engorged breasts that were scabbed and bleeding from latching issues. I was exhausted. My mother bought me a pump and my stepmother bought me nursing bras. They made the days and nights much easier.
2. Stock Up
It’s a little like investing, but for things you already use or may need. Besides the obvious like diapers, wipes, or formula, you may want to prepare to hunker down the first two weeks and limit your errands.
– Pads. You will need them if you give birth.
– Toiletries. Things like hand soap or hand sanitizer run out real fast. Check your bathroom before baby comes home/your due date. Is your toothpaste running low? How’s the toilet paper situation?
– Pain medication. Check with your doctor to see what you can take that is safe and won’t incapacitate you. It will help after cesarian birth, vaginal birth, with breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Babies are surprisingly heavy and will struggle while eating. Your shoulders and back will feel it.
– Vitamins. Once again, check with your doctor for safe brands and doses.
– Food and snacks. Good healthy stuff like fruits, veggies, complex carbs and proteins. Also, treat yourself. I started craving hamburgers and Newman’s Own ginger and cream cookies. Make food ahead of time and freeze it. All babies have growth spurts and there will be days you are only able to feed them, so having pre-made food on hand will lessen the stress.
– Nipple Cream. If you are breastfeeding, it may be a necessity. I use Lansinoh HPA lanolin. I live in a super dry climate and it eases rough latches.
– Towels. I’m totally serious. Small ones, big ones. Doesn’t matter. I carry about four with me all the time. Spit ups are inevitable. Blowouts will happen anywhere. If you breastfeed, you may just start leaking everywhere.
– Entertainment. I found that familiar things like my favorite tv shows or movies helped me get through rough patches will a little more calm. Find some things you love – books, video games, tv/movies, music, etc – and have it on hand. Nighttime feedings were less dreary with a distraction.
– Patience and amusement. Babies are learning everything for the first time. They grow more in the first year than they ever will again. The world is loud and confusing. All they know is you. Take a deep breath, have a good cry, whatever helps you get centered. You are both learning together, so be patient.
Understand that your baby will cry and you should respond to them promptly. But, if you’re showering or eating lunch, it’s okay to take some time. Give yourself permission to have two seconds all your own.
Also, laugh. I bought new pants because my pre-pregnancy clothes don’t fit. I put on a pair of new pants that are super awesome. Little Buddy promptly spit up on them. I just laughed.
So your little one just ruined three onsies with three intense poops and it’s not even noon? Laugh it off. There’s not much you can do about that!
3. Be Organized.
You will need to keep track of things: poops, pees, behavior, etc, etc. I use the note app on my phone to remember when he ate last, what breast, and how many dirty and/or wet diapers he’s had.
Maybe a notebook will work best for you, or a whiteboard by the changing table. I’ve read about breastfeeding moms who wear a bracelet or hair tie around the the wrist that corresponds to the breast they’ll need to use next.
4. Work On Being Less Squeamish.
Poop. Constipation. Little private parts that need cleaning. Eye goop. Breasts and nipples. You will encounter most of these things.
My brother-in-law changes his child’s diapers while wearing latex gloves, which is a vast improvement from when he wouldn’t change them at all. Babies are gross. They can’t help it. Be one with the grossness, and be okay with not being okay with it.
My big hang up is eye goop and all the weird breastfeeding stuff. Little Buddy pretty much took a chunk out of my right nipple with poor latching. Both nipples cracked and bled. I’ve hand a milk bleb I had to pull off. Possible mastitis. Hard, painful, engorged breasts. It all freaks me out. While breastfeeding may be “natural”, it does not come naturally. Little Buddy is a rough nurser. He sharks around and is impatient with latching. We still struggle with feeding and there are days I cry because my breasts are so foreign to me now. It’s okay to feel weirded out, but you’ve got to come to some kind of peace with it.
Two weeks after Little Buddy was born, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and toddler nephew visited for a week. This was after I saw a lactation consultant, but was still struggling with latching. I had to get ok with having my in-laws see my breasts and nipples out and about often. There was no other choice because they insisted on being around all day. The universe will throw you the things that trigger you the most. Step up and conquer it. Believe me, you can.
5. Don’t Read The Comments Section.
You will want to seek advice and information. You will read books and scour the Internet. Whatever you do, do not read the comments. Do not visit forums. Do not listen to well intentioned but know-it-all family and friends that talk at or down to your choices instead of providing support.
I spent the first month obsessively lurking on mommy blog comment sections and baby website forums. That is where worst case scenarios live. It’s where people go to feel self-righteous. You will work yourself into a state if you aren’t careful. Find your info, then leave. If you are desperate for content, go to a website that has nothing to do with babies. Keep trashy magazines on hand. Get a Pinterest account. Just don’t read the comments.
Save questions for your doctor. If you’re worried, go to urgent care or the hospital.
Suddenly, a day, two weeks or a month will pass by so quickly. You will notice your little one is growing out of their diapers and onsies. They will start displaying their personality. Congratulate yourself on your victories, big or small. Go easy on yourself during the hard times. You know what is best for you and your family. If your little one is growing and loved, then you’re doing it right.