Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Things I Wish I'd Known/Tips for New Moms - The First Three Months

Now that Ava is approaching her three-month birthday (eek!), I thought it would be a good idea to write down all the important things I learned over the past few months. By no means do I profess to be an expert on parenting (who is?), but it is amazing how much you learn in such a short amount of time. It is such a trial-and-error process, and it is important to remember that all babies are different.

I hope this advice not only helps all those other new moms out there, but I also plan on reviewing this list before Baby Shep #2 is born (which hopefully won't be for a while despite Regina's vision).

Here are my thoughts, take 'em or leave 'em, in no particular order...

1. It is perfectly normal to think to yourself, especially during the extremely sleep-deprived first few weeks, that "this whole 'let's have a kid thing' may not have been a good idea."

2. Breastfeeding is really, really hard, and it may not work out as planned. My plan was to breastfeed Ava during my 12-week long maternity leave, and pump enough to give her half breast milk and half formula for another month or so after going back to work (I didn't want to pump at work). However, breastfeeding is way harder than I ever imagined!

First of all, it can take the baby and you a while to figure out how get a proper latch, and even if everything is correct, it is still painful at first. You also have no idea how much milk they are getting, which can lead to you thinking that they aren't getting enough (see #27). Additionally, unless you are pumping, others can't feed the baby. Thus, it is hard to be away from the baby or sleep for any long stretches of time.

I had it particularly tough...as a result of cracked and bleeding nipples that just wouldn't heal, I developed mastitis in my left breast after about two weeks. It was really painful, came with a fever, and I've never had worse chills in my entire life. So, I continued to breastfeed on my right breast and pumped on my left for another week. However, due to the antibiotics that I took for the mastitis, Ava developed a yeast infection diaper rash as well as thrush on her tongue. When babies have thrush, it can be passed back and forth between their mouth and the mother's nipples. So, at that point, I started exclusively pumping (side note - pumping is annoying for several reasons, but especially because after you feed the baby, you have to pump...which means that after you feed them in the middle of the night, you can't go right back to bed...ugh!). Also during this time, I had a bad cold and took Sudafed since it had been an approved medicine when I was pregnant. Little did I know that this can reduce your milk supply. I don't know if it was the Sudafed, or simply the fact that the pump wasn't as effective as Ava had been at getting out milk (this is often the case), but I was only able to pump about half of what she needed a day. As a result, the doctor recommended supplementing with formula. So, up until a few weeks ago when I started weaning before going back to work, Ava got half formula and half expressed breast milk. She didn't seem to mind at all, and gulped down whatever I gave her :).

It is not at all how I thought the breastfeeding process would go, but it was the best I could do given the circumstances. I feel good that Ava got as much breast milk as she did, and the formula definitely hasn't stunted her growth....have you seen her stats :). I am also very grateful for the time I did get to breastfeed her. Even with the pain, it was a wonderful experience. I sincerely hope that it works out differently with Baby Shep #2.

Overall, I highly recommend reading up on breastfeeding before your baby is born. I didn't, and regretted not having more information from the beginning. There are lots of great resources online, including KellyMom, La Leche League, and this "Timeline of a Breastfed Baby."

3. Drive-through Starbucks are awesome! Not only do most babies love being in the car, but a grande skinny vanilla latte can be all a mommy needs to get through a tough morning. Even if you are avoiding coffee during breastfeeding, their breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and oatmeal (which is good for milk production) are also delicious.



4. Have your baby sleep in their room, in their crib, as soon as possible. If you are in to co-sleeping, more power to you, but personally, it terrifies me. Even though Ava never slept or nursed in our bed, I would still often wake up in a panic thinking that she was asleep next to me...being smothered by our blankets. If you don't plan on co-sleeping, I recommend putting the baby to sleep in their room as soon as possible.

Ava slept in a bassinet, in her Nap Nanny (see entry below), for approximately the first two weeks. I then slowly transitioned her to the crib by starting her off in the crib for the first stretch at night and then putting her back in the bassinet for the rest of the night, then in the crib for the first two stretches, etc. I found that not only did Josh and I sleep much better when Ava slept in her room (most babies make lots of noises during the night, which woke me up when she was in our room), but she slept better as well. In fact, she was sleeping a six-hour stretch (and then eating and going back to sleep for a couple hours) by six weeks and completely through the night (10-12 hours) by about 10 weeks. 

I think it is important to make the transition early on, because I have heard from many moms who didn't that their babies had a much harder time sleeping through the night/learning to sleep in their room. One caveat to this advice is that Ava's nursery is super close to our room, so it was easy to get up and nurse her in the middle of the night. We probably would have kept her in our room for a lot longer if her nursery was on a different floor or across the house. 

5. Two words. Nap Nanny. Ava loves hers!! As I mentioned above, we even used it in her bassinet for the first couple weeks. But note that, after reading the Nap Nanny instructions, we could only do this (after asking our doctor to make sure) because it fit perfectly in her bassinet and didn't have any spaces on the side where she could fall out of the Nap Nanny and get trapped in the space. **Update - There was a recall issued in late 2012. While I think they are probably still fine if used according to the instructions, this is totally up to you.**


6. Start putting them down for an afternoon nap in their crib as soon as possible. I started this with Ava when she was around six weeks old. The first couple days, she only slept for about 30 minutes, but she was soon sleeping for longer stretches. She sometimes shocks me and sleeps for up to three hours during her nap...which is glorious! I think it is important to start this habit early, because I have talked to several moms who have had a hard time getting their babies to take naps in their cribs once they were older. 

7. Daytime television sucks. Make sure you have some good stuff saved on your DVR or in your Netflix queue. I was also able to find some diamonds in the rough, including CSI marathons, House Hunters, and some good old movies. Additionally, the terrible daytime television commercials will make you feel very good about yourself...they are basically a rotation of technical college and class action lawsuit commercials.



8. Not all newborns sleep a lot during the first few weeks. Ava certainly didn't, which made the whole "sleep when they sleep" thing kind of difficult.

9. Don't buy too many newborn-sized or "fancy" baby clothes for the first few months. I knew Ava was going to be a big baby, so we didn't buy too many newborn-sized outfits. Nevertheless, we still had too many. Also, since you don't take the baby out very much during the first couple months, I found that we didn't get to put her in many of her fancier outfits. With a few exceptions for holidays and some outings, Ava mainly sported her PJs and onesie/pant combos. Save your money for down the road. But it is really hard to resist buying cute little dresses like this one :).



10. Hire a professional photographer for a newborn photo shoot. You will be very glad you did. On this note, I recommend buying any clothes/props you want to use during the shoot well in advance (i.e. while you are still pregnant). They usually like to do the photo shoots within the first couple weeks, and you will not have time to go shopping (nor will you want to get out of the house yet).

11. Accept any offers for food (and other help for that matter). It is so nice to have dinner ready to go in the fridge/freezer, and no one cares if your house is a mess and you have no make-up on when they come by to drop off the food. It is also really helpful to figure out all the restaurants around you that will deliver!

12. You may not lose the post-baby weight at a consistent pace. I gained 50 pounds while pregnant with Ava, and I was really worried about how it would come off. To my astonishment, I lost 27 pounds in the first week after she was born! I lost another 13 or so within the next few weeks, so I thought it would only be a matter of time before all 50 was gone (plus some because I would like to lose even more). However, that last 10 pounds have been much harder to get rid of...and I'm still working on it :/.



13. Most likely, your husband will not automatically be very helpful (sorry, babe, but you know it's true). Note that I did not say he wouldn't be helpful, just that he wouldn't be automatically helpful. For most women, your "mommy instinct" kicks in immediately, but I think it just takes longer for guys. So, your husband may take the adjustment a bit harder and not realize exactly what they can do to help out. For example, they don't think "while my wife is feeding the baby, I can wash some bottles/heat up our dinner/pull the baby's laundry out of the dryer/etc. so she won't have to do it, and thus we can both go to bed sooner." Not gonna happen. However, at least with my hubby, he helps out as soon as I ask. And if you write about it on your blog, your husband might take a hint ;). So, for all you dads-to-be out there, learn this phrase and use it often once the baby has arrived: "How can I help?"...your wife will be very appreciative! 

14. You will Google more than you ever have in your life. I Googled everything from "what does a herniated belly button look like" (it turns out Ava has one), to "when do babies start sleeping through the night," to "projectile spit-up," and every breastfeeding question imaginable. However, don't believe everything you read, don't freak out, and remember that all babies are different.

15. You will become "that Mom" who takes a million pictures and shows them to strangers. Josh almost died when I whipped out a picture of Ava on my phone to show the bartender at Victor Tangos. But it did get me this French 75 on the house :).



16. Ask your parents/someone else you trust to babysit early and often. It is amazing how much a date night with your husband every few weeks can make you feel human again. Having your husband watch the baby so you can have a girls' night is just as fabulous!

17. If you have a two-story house and the nursery is upstairs, get a changing table downstairs as well. We were blessed to get lots of hand-me-down baby items from Josh's sister, including an extra changing table. I didn't even think about it until after Ava was born, but trekking her upstairs every time she needed her diaper changed would have been ridiculous.

18. The organic washable nursing pads are the best. One of my friends (Thanks, Jennie!) gave me these nursing pads at my shower, and she said they were her favorite. She was totally right! I tried several different kinds, and these were by far the best. They are machine washable, made of organic cotton, and are definitely the most comfortable. 

19. The "five s" method of soothing babies totally works! I read The Happiest Baby on the Block before Ava was born, and Dr. Karp's methods really came in handy when you have a crying baby. The five s's are swaddling, sucking (pacifier), placing the baby on its side or stomach, making a shushing sound, and swaying/swinging. Sometimes you only need to use one and sometimes you need all five :).

Josh is a master swaddler, and he said that he made sure to pay careful attention when the nurses swaddled Ava in the hospital (see #42). I am so glad he did, because Ava loooooves to be swaddled! On this note, there are several ways to swaddle a baby. For ideas and instructions, just search YouTube for how-to videos. Our favorite swaddle blankets are definitely the Aden + Anais ones (and we didn't need warmer blankets because it was an unseasonably warm winter this year in Texas), and you can also use products like the Woombie once your baby starts to break free from swaddle blankets.



20. If you use formula, use room temperature water instead of warming the bottles. This way, you can make a bottle if you are away from the house, and the baby won't balk at the fact that it is not warmed. You can always start using warm water and slowly make it cooler over time. This has come in very handy!

21. Babies' necks are almost impossible to keep clean and dry. Even after bathing your precious little one, you will sometimes notice a day later that their neck smells. Because of the folds in their neck and the fact that milk often drips into the area, it is really hard to keep the area dry. Also, their natural reaction when you try to clean their necks is to put their head down. I've heard the Tommee Tippee bibs help, and I still need to get some. I have also found the Johnson & Johnson wipes to be great for cleaning their necks between baths. 
 

22. Having friends with babies is so wonderful. I can't tell you how many texts, e-mails, and phone calls were shared with my mommy friends over the last few months. Their advice and support was invaluable! It is nice knowing that others are going through/have been through exactly the same thing. If you don't have any friends with babies, I recommend joining some sort of local mom group. My sister-in-law joined a group for mothers of multiples when she had her girls, and she is still really good friends with several of the moms.   

23. Buy some granny panties. Several friends told me to have some granny panties ready to go for the first few weeks post-delivery. TMI Warning - this is mainly because you basically have a huge period for anywhere from two to six weeks after giving birth, and because you can't use tampons, you are forced to use pads like a middle school girl. This is not the best thing for all those Hanky Pankys, so make sure to buy some underwear that you can throw away if necessary. Also, I recommend getting some that are super high. While this may not be the most attractive option, it is necessary if you have a C-section because you want to make sure your underwear line is above the C-section incision. Trust me.


24. WARNING - Mom and Dad, Gary and Betsy, if you are reading this, please skip to the next number. I'm about to talk about sex. I didn't realize that once you are cleared to have sex again by your doctor, it would hurt even if you didn't have a vaginal delivery. However, I had read somewhere that the best solution to this problem is a bottle of wine and some good lube. Couldn't. Be. More. True. Also on this note, it is possible to start your period only six weeks post delivery. It is even possible to start your period on the exact same day the doctor gives you permission to resume all activities..."it's like rayiaaaan on your wedding day...."

25. Take your showers at night once your husband is home. They are a lot more relaxing when you aren't worried about the baby waking up and screaming in the middle of your shower, and it is a lot easier to get ready in the morning (if necessary) if you just need to put on makeup and get dressed.

26. If your baby will take a pacifier, buy lots of them and stash them everywhere. You don't want to get caught without one in your diaper bag, stroller, etc. when the baby suddenly starts wailing. It is also nice to have extras on hand when your dog likes to steal them :). 

27. Babies have growth spurts, and they may want to nurse as often as every hour in the middle of the night. This does not mean that you are not producing enough milk!

28. If you have dogs, find a good mobile groomer. I use Pet Love. This way, you don't have to haul your dogs and an infant to the groomer!



29. You will need a lot of comfortable and flowy clothes for after the baby arrives. For the first few weeks, I pretty much wore pajamas all day. You especially want to have some loose-fitting pajama pants/sweats if you have a C-section, because you don't want the waistline to fit too snuggly on your incision. Also, if you are breastfeeding, I suggest buying nursing camisoles and wearing zip-up sweatshirts over them...especially when it is cold in your house. This way you don't have to pull up your shirt. Simply unzip your sweatshirt and unsnap the cami. My sister-in-law gave me this great advice, and it really came in handy. As far as clothes to wear out of the house, make sure you have several shirts/dresses that are flowy around the stomach area. It also doesn't hurt to buy some good shapewear :).

30. Sign up for Amazon Mom. Not only do you get a discount on diapers and other baby necessities, but you get free two-day shipping on most items. There was a waiting list when I signed up, but it just took a few weeks. 

31. The ideal temperature for a baby's room is between 61 and 67 degrees. Even though this seems pretty cold, cooler temperatures while sleeping has been found to reduce SIDS. If you have a home in which it is hard to control the temperature, I really recommend getting a GroEgg for the nursery. This nifty device tells you the room temperature and even changes color to let you know if it is too cold, too hot, or just right. I even recently saw on her show that Bethenny Frankel's daughter had one in her nursery, which made me feel cool :).

32. Being at home with a newborn all day can be really lonely. I imagine that it is a bit different when the baby is older and you can get out of the house more, but it can get lonely when you are home all day with a newborn...especially when your husband works long hours. To help with this, I had friends come over for lunch (they didn't care that I was in my PJs with no makeup on) and planned walks/other easy outings with stay-at-home mom friends and their babies. This helped a lot, and I definitely recommend making similar plans. 

33. There's an app for that. There are tons of iPhone apps out there to help with pregnancy/babies. Three that I found especially helpful were the "Full Term" app for tracking my contractions during labor, a white noise app (see #38), and the "Baby Connect" app.

You can use the Baby Connect app to track how much you nurse (there is a timer to track how long they nurse on each boob), how many ounces they drink from bottles, how much you pump, the number/type of diaper changes (which I only used for the first few weeks so we knew she was getting enough milk), medicine dosage (which I used for my own medicine when I had mastitis), how much they are sleeping, and much more. Perhaps the best part is that if your husband downloads the app as well, you can sync them so that you each have access to the information that the other enters on their phone. 

34. If you know someone who isn't using theirs, borrow a breast pump. Pumps are really expensive, and if you can borrow one from a friend, sister-in-law, etc. (thanks, Tori!), all you have to do is buy new tubing, breastshields, membranes, and the containers in which you are going to pump the milk. I also definitely recommend getting a hands free pumping bra (or cutting holes in a cheap sports bra). I clearly used mine while working out like this (kidding!).



35. Sometimes babies are just fussy. I knew this from babysitting as well as from growing up with so many siblings, but this came as a surprise to Josh. Sometimes, even if your baby is fed, changed, burped, and healthy, they will still cry. Often, it is because they are gassy or sleepy (they like to fight going to sleep), but they can also just be fussy because they are fussy....and it will hopefully pass fairly quickly.

36. The "grass" drying racks are not only cute, but they are also really functional. My mom bought one of these drying racks because she thought it was fun, but it has actually come in really handy! It is a great way to dry all those bottles, pacifiers, pump parts, etc., and it is a fun addition to your countertop.

37. It is easiest to just bite their nails. I got this great advice from my sister-in-law, and I am passing it along to you. Babies' fingers are so tiny that nail clippers (even the ones especially made for babies) are really hard to use. Both my Mom and Josh tried to clip Ava's nails, and they both ended up cutting one of her fingers (Ava didn't cry but my Mom did). Baby finger nails are also really thin and flimsy, so they are hard to file. The easiest way to trim their finger nails is to bite them off! Since they are so thin, they come off really easily. 

38. White noise is one of the keys to good sleep. A friend suggested downloading a white noise app for the hospital, because there is so much going on outside your room that it is hard to get any sleep even when the baby is sleeping. I loved having this both in the hospital as well as when Ava and I would nap in the family room during the first few weeks. Another very important thing to get is a white noise machine for the nursery. Babies are used to a white noise-type sound in your womb, so it makes sense that they would sleep better with one once they are born. We ended up using an air purifier that also makes a great white noise sound, but there are many white noise machines to choose from. 

39. A C-Section is major surgery. They tell you this in the hospital, but it doesn't really sink in until you get home. You will be extremely sore and will need a lot of help. I highly recommend having your husband, mom, mother-in-law, sister, friend, or combination thereof stay at home with you for at least a week (two weeks would be great!), because it is really hard to get around and you aren't allowed to drive for two weeks. Josh had to go back to work after a couple days, so my Mom stayed with me for the first week (on this note, it will be really hard when your mom leaves....we both cried). 

40. Buy some Milkscreen alcohol testers. My friend Sarah got these at her baby shower, and I thought they were genius! If you time it right, you can have one glass of wine while you are nursing. But it is nice to have these on hand to make sure the milk is okay when you have had a glass and a half ;).


41. Just like those phantom phone vibrations, you will experience phantom crying. I can't tell you how many times in the middle of the night, especially after I had just put Ava back down to sleep, that I would have sworn that I heard her cry....but it turned out to be nothing. It drove me crazy!

42. Have your husband pay attention to what everyone tells you in the hospital. Between the exhaustion from labor/surgery (I was in labor for about 15 hours, pushed for one hour, and then finally had a C-section), the painkillers, and the natural drug that is breastfeeding (especially at the beginning, breastfeeding makes you feel like someone slipped you something), it is really hard to pay attention to what the doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants are telling you. After coming to this realization after about a day in the hospital, I gave Josh express instructions to pay as close attention as possible to what they said. I'm sure we still missed a bit here and there, but he did a great job of taking mental notes of all the important things.

43. Get a Padalily, or similar product, for your infant car seat. Car seats are really heavy (especially when your baby is heavy as well), so these arm handle cushions come in very handy. Tessa gave me one at my shower, and I love it! Not only does it make carrying it a bit easier, but my pink padalily cushion also gives some girly flair to the gender neutral carseat we bought in case (or as Josh says "when") we have a boy.
44. Take note of your "birth story" times. Josh kept track of these on his phone, and I'm so glad he did! Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have remembered all these details later.

45. Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags. We have a large sterilizer as well, but these bags are great for quickly cleaning bottles, pump parts, pacifiers, etc. in the microwave.
46.  If you have an iPhone, get a case that has a plain back. I have a Kate Spade iPhone case that is pink around the edges and has a black back with white polka dots. While it is super cute, the black and white back totally distracts Ava when I am trying to take a picture/video of her on my phone. She will go from smiling and laughing to a total trance when I hold it up. Since it has a couple cracks anyway, it is time for me to get a new one...and I will make sure to get one with a plain back cover.

47. With most car seats, you are supposed to put the car seat arm back in its locked position when driving. This is for two reasons: 1) for most car seats, the handle needs to be in this position to fully create a cocoon around the baby in case of a crash, and 2) if it is up, the handle can break off in a crash injuring the baby or another passenger. A Partner at my law firm told me this, otherwise I would have had no idea. She also noted that you see people driving around all the time with the car seat arm up in the wrong position.
Correct position:


48. Unless you can tell the diaper is really dirty, you don't need to change the baby's diaper every time they wake up in the middle of the night. It is best to keep the room dark and quiet in order to not stimulate the baby at night. This way, they will go back to bed easier once they eat. It also helps to not change their diaper. Also, once they are sleeping through the night, you can't change it anyway!

49. If you are going back to work, I highly recommend starting daycare for at least a couple days the week or two before you return. I had a few people give me this advice, and I'm so glad I followed it. It is good for three reasons: 1) you figure out exactly how long it takes to get everyone ready, packed up, and out the door in the morning; 2) you can get some stuff done before you go back to work, such as go to the dentist, get your hair cut, get your car inspected, etc.; and perhaps most importantly, 3) it will prepare you emotionally for leaving your precious little baby every day. I took Ava two days a week for the two weeks leading up to my return to work, and even though it is still a very hard transition, I think it really helped.

50. Your baby loves you no matter what, and they think you are "doing OK, Mom." This commercial says it better than I can, but I will warn you that it may make you cry....especially if you are a new mom.


2 comments:

  1. Wow. You wrote a novel here! I have to add my comments though!

    #13 - YES! Hubby is GREAT help, but not a mind reader. And a daddy has daddy-instincts - you wouldn't want it any other way. So ASKING for help is the key to getting it!

    #25 - I disagree. I liked to take my showers during the day. The sound of the water soothed my kiddos to sleep!

    #30 - Just a public service announcement - Amazon is going to start charging sales tax in Texas on July 1st. Having diapers on my doorstep still beats the heck out of hauling the kiddos, carseat and big-box-o-diapers in & out of Sam's though!

    #35 - I think some of the fussing must be growing pains. Recall what you felt like during your teenage years. A baby grows EVEN FASTER! My brother would always say "It's so hard being a baby. You can't even tell us what's wrong!"

    #37 - I've never bitten the kids' nails. I have been doing Abby's nails while I nurse (using clippers on a nice, calm baby). I'm dreading clipping them for the next year though!!

    #38 - That was me!! We still sleep with white noise at home!

    #41 - YES! It is worse with the white noise! This is probably the only reason we still use a baby monitor even though Abby sleeps thru the night - just to keep me from going crazy when I wake in the night to phantom cries!

    #45 - The Medela bags are also great if you pump at work!

    #46 - You may want to go BLACK! Abby is fascinated by my phone too - it's solid bright pink. Not fascinated like - smiley, happy. Fascinated like - trying to figure it out. iPhone shots are usually of a confused face, not a smiley one.

    #49 - YES! I did this too - it was great warm up and gave me some time to myself!

    ReplyDelete

About Me

My name is Catherine, but most of my friends call me Cat. I was born and raised in Austin, went to TCU, and ended up in Dallas for law school (where Josh and I met). I decided that being an attorney was not my cup of tea and pursued a career in legal marketing instead. I am now a mother of two attempting to balance family with a full-time job, which is always an adventure. I love: my sweet babies, handsome husband, very large family, and fabulous friends; trying new restaurants; wine; TCU football; holidays; cooking; pajamas; La Croix; reading; coffee; podcasts; Central Market; carbs; the beach; mani/pedis; Anthropologie; binge-worthy TV shows; trivia; French 75s; Pinterest; cheese boards; The Ticket; dancing; Sprinkles cupcakes; The Texas Rangers; fresh flowers; thunderstorms; naps; Tex-Mex; the Texas Hill Country; porch-sitting; ranch dressing; throwing parties; and my job. I hate: working-mom guilt; snakes; heights; waking up early; ignorant people; stomach bugs; paper cuts; green fruit; bad hair days; snoring; the sound of people eating (Misophonia); Miracle Whip; scary movies; bad drivers; pulpy OJ; trimming baby fingernails; and working out. I think that sums it up.

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