surviving the first weeks with a newborn

ImageI’m coming up on nearly 2 full months of mommy-hood. It’s been a lot of things: amazing, fun, emotional, exhausting, exciting, and monotonous, depending on the minute. Gazing at that beautiful baby makes up for a LOT of discomfort and stress, but it’s still HARD.

The hardest things have been the lack of sleep (obviously), breastfeeding (the first weeks were, for me, MUCH more awful than labor), and as silly as it sounds, just feeling very one-dimensional (a feeding machine) and unproductive (there is so much sitting). I have to remind myself constantly I am doing important work, and not to feel guilty or lazy for not having a chance to cook great meals, straighten my hair, keep in touch with girlfriends, check my work email…

A friend told me the first 6 weeks are purely survival mode for the whole family, and it is SO true. I’m glad he said that, so I could a) know it was normal to be feeling so frazzled, inadequate, emotional, and zombie-like, and b) to hope for an end to the madness in sight. Hannah is just over 7 weeks and I have to say that things are SO much easier than they were just a couple short weeks ago.

Those first weeks were HARD, and every day still has its moments. While I’m no expert or can’t speak for everyone’s experience, I do have a few tips for surviving the first 6 weeks+ of having a new baby. So I wanted to share some of the things that I found saved me (and continue to make life easier during this crazy adjustment).

 

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My lifesaving baby gear includes:

  1. A comfy chair. I bought a vintage chair for Hannah’s nursery that’s great for rocking, reading stories, and nursing, but I really quickly learned that I spend a LOT of my day feeding her and I don’t necessarily want to be locked away in another room to do it. Also, with Hannah’s sleep habit being that she will only sleep on one of us at night, a recliner became a necessity really fast. I just need to find a cute throw blanket to toss over the back eventually and it will blend into the decor more or less.
  2. iPhone. It’s been priceless! Obviously to keep in touch with people, take photos, and have something to look at during those long late-night feedings. I also use a free app called Eat Sleep to track feedings (so I know when the last one was, how long, etc.) It SAVED me during the first few weeks when I couldn’t think straight. I also use some of the free white noise apps to lull Hannah off to sleep when she’s fighting it at night and much of the time it works like a charm! Finally, because it’s always with me, I use it to make lists constantly. I always think of things while my mind if wandering during feedings and I know I’ll forget it by the time it’s over. I have a running to-do list, shopping list, and idea list. It’s SO helpful to just dump some brain contents somewhere.
  3. Babyganics brand. Every time people come to meet or visit Hannah, I make them use the Babyganics hand sanitizer we have out. It’s alcohol free so it’s not as sketchy as those other brands so I don’t have to worry that my germophobia and new-mom paranoia is doing more harm than good. We also use their baby lotion and it’s free of scary stuff Johnson & Johnson has in their products.
  4. Sleep-and-Plays. These are the BEST. We have a billion cute onsies, baby skinny jeans, dresses, skirts, etc.. but Hannah pretty much just lives in these. They are warm, and you don’t have to pull anything over her head. And no messing with pants/socks for diaper changes. Once she’s a little older I’ll worry more about the style factor of her outfits but for now these are my favorite.
  5. Gripe water. I had never heard of this until some late-night Googling about Hannah’s fussiness and this stuff is amazing and instant for curing hickups, upset tummies and gas. We use Mother’s Bliss because it is organic. It’s simply a combination of liquid herbs and she loves the taste.
  6. Soothies pacifiers. In Utah we call them “binkies.” This brand is her favorite, though I don’t know why she’s got the preference. I’ve heard the same from other moms.
  7. Scratch mittens. Baby fingernails and so sharp they can easily scratch their faces in their sleep, and mom while nursing (oww).
  8. Boppy nursing pillow. It saves my wrists and back from getting stuck in an awkward nursing position, and she loves to nestle in there after she eats.
  9. Muslin swaddle blankets. They are light and breathable and giant. We use Aden and Anise brand and love them.
  10. Seventh Generation brand. We use the diapers and wipes, until Hannah’s big enough for the reusable diapers I stocked up on. When we ran low and I had to shop at a store that didn’t carry this brand I grabbed Pampers and they were the WORST for blowouts! Seventh Generation brand are earth-friendly AND just better quality. We got awesome bulk deals on Amazon (free shipping with Amazon Prime).
  11. A baby swing. This is MAGIC for us for naps or when I simply HAVE to get something accomplished (a phone call made to the insurance company or work call, for instance), the swing will usually buy me some time. And if she’s drowsy but fighting sleep, the swing will usually do the trick to get her a nap. We were lucky to get one to borrow!

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A big part of the adjustment to baby (as if hormones, pain and exhaustion aren’t enough) is simply feeling like you are no longer your own person, and that can be rough! So I wanted to share a few things that helped me feel like some semblance of my old self, or at least made life easier for me.

1. Healthy, easy snacks. Breastfeeding increases my appetite like crazy – WAY more than pregnancy did for me. Even in the middle of the night. So having some easy to eat snacks (that require no cooking, cutting, forks, etc) has saved me. Bananas, almonds, dried fruit, and Clif bars are my favorite things to have around because I can manage them one-handed and they aren’t junk food.

2. Baby sling. I have the Baby K’tan and it’s awesome for soothing a newborn (walking around the house while snuggled in there must feel cozy like the womb) AND having my hands free is so nice. I can’t do everything with her in a sling, but I can walk around the house and tidy up, fold laundry standing up, dust the furniture, etc. I spent a lot of the first 4 weeks doing this all hours of the night to keep her calm and although I was exhausted, it was easier than carrying her the whole time and I was able to be a little productive.

3. Nursing stuff. I like reusable nursing pads more than the disposable (they are much softer). I use the FuzzyBuns brand. And my favorite nursing tanks are the Mama tanks from H&M. A lot of nursing tanks double as postpartum shape wear which sounds like a good idea til you realize you live in them and they are comfortable for exactly 5 minutes. The H&M ones are better and cut higher so I don’t have my gigantic nursing-boob cleavage hanging out.

4. Comfy but flattering clothes. After having a baby you’ll be exhausted and sore and miserable, and when you start feeling better you’ll be exhausted and down on yourself because you feel so frumpy. I live in yoga pants (more flattering than sweats), nursing tanks, and a long cardigan. I feel less gross than in pajamas and it’s just as comfy. I also try to throw on some jewelry everyday to feel semi put together. Earrings are easiest because necklaces get tugged on during feedings, bracelets can get in the way when holding a baby in your arms, and rings.. well, mine don’t fit like they used to, still. 😦

5. Coffee. Duh. 🙂 There’s no time of day I won’t drink coffee now because nothing will keep me awake when I get a chance to sleep, at this point.

6. All-day lipstick. I was never really a lipstick wearer, but now I throw it on pretty often because it’s easy, it lasts, and makes me feel like I’ve made some effort. I like Lush brand in “strong.” It’s a bold orangey-red so I feel like I channel Emma Stone when I wear it.

7. iPhone. Again. It’s my sanity!

8. The one thing that makes me feel in control of my life. For me, it’s having my bed made. The house can be a disaster, there will be no clean laundry, the baby is crying and I haven’t showered in 3 days.. but something about having a nice clean bedroom helps me feel in control of my world. Some people might choose having their nails done or something but for me it’s always been the bed. Followed closely by a clean and empty kitchen sink. If I can have both, it’s a successful day.

I don’t know what the next days, weeks, months, or years will hold but I feel rather proud to have made it through those first weeks with my sanity in tact. There are definitely things that help to make it through and it DOES get better. That’s not just something people say.

PS- my friend Katie took that first picture – one of many amazing shots she took a few weeks back. I will have to share more later because they are so good. I should have included in my mom-essentials, friends and family! We have been so lucky to to have so much support and love.

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