Hi, new mom.
Are you tired? Frustrated? Irritable? Just plain mean?
I hear you!
I’ve been there and some days I’m still there. I’m not going to lie to you…being a new mom is tough. There are days when you want to lay on the floor and bawl. There are days when all you want is a shower! And there are still more days when you wish you could have just 5 more minutes of sleep. JUST! 5! MORE! MINUTES! There will be days when your partner is the devil and doesn’t seem to get “it”. And there will be messes. Lots and lots of messes. Cleaning seems to be an around the clock, pride swallowing, teeth gnashing battle where no one is the winner. It’ll happen.
And there’s always a but isn’t there?
You will eventually get into your own groove. Things will eventually start to click. And life will become just a tad bit easier. And your joy will overflow! I promise.
When I started my mom journey I wasn’t really aware of how difficult life would get. I also wasn’t aware of how beautiful it would become at the same time. I really think that some women are more in tune with their instincts and some are less. That’s okay. For me, I don’t have any issues following my instincts in learning how to feed my child, or keeping him safe, or removing hazards or how to play with him. This all seems second nature for me. But, dealing with my emotions and frustrations was a whole other can of worms. I struggle mightily with patience some days. This struggle caused me to create problems with nursing that really weren’t there. It caused me to second guess myself, even though my gut was telling me it was okay to proceed. This struggle blinded me to my own instincts and talents and left me even more frustrated, sad, mad, scared and quarrelsome. It happens. I tell you this because I want to share that it’s okay to be the kind of mom you feel that you should be. Listen to your gut, so to speak.
I wanted to share with you today 10 tips and tricks that I’ve found that have made my life just a bit easier. These are a few things that no one mentioned to me when I was first starting out as a new mom, but I really wished they had. Or better yet, that I’d listened to my own instincts.
- Buy a pack of cheap white washcloths, and leave them on the kitchen counter. You will use them and you will appreciate having them. They clean up dirty faces, spilled milk, and yucky high chairs. They are also nice to have around to freeze for teething. I say white because you can bleach them, and not worry about the color fading, and bleaching them helps keep them sanitized for little mouths, faces, hands, bums…
- Buy a pack of pre-fold cloth diapers and keep them in your living room, or wherever you spend the most time with your baby on the floor. I laid these out on the blanket under my little guys head, and they helped keep spit up contained, and I didn’t have to wash blankets and the like as often. Again, these are white so they can be bleached.
- If your little one is taking a nap, and you have a choice between a shower or a nap, take the shower. Trust me, at some point in time you may not remember when you showered last and as much as you need sleep, that shower may be all it takes to get you through to the next nap when you can close your eyes for a few minutes. I know the usual advice is to sleep when your baby sleeps, but that’s not always realistic. One of the hardest things I dealt with was not really being able to nap when my little guy napped because it takes me so long to fall asleep. Sometimes just taking a shower would refresh me enough that I felt like I could continue on. Do whatever it takes to make you feel “whole”.
- I’m not keen on the word “breastfeeding”. I know that’s what it is, but the word gives me chills because of the debate/war that is being waged around it. Our society has taken something that is special and turned it into something dirty because we have to fight about it. I prefer “nursing”. Nursing doesn’t just happen…it takes work. If you want to nurse, then do so, but be aware that as instinctual as it is, both you and baby need to learn how to make it work for you. I’m not going to get into a debate on why people can’t or any of the others fights raging around this topic. I spent the first 2 weeks pumping as much as I could because it hurt less than letting my little guy latch. This helped to build my supply and he was fed. I freaked out because I didn’t think he was getting enough and we supplemented with formula. And I’m happy with that decision, but in all reality I don’t think we needed to supplement. I didn’t know any better. I read books, I went to consultants, I talked to my mom. In the end, I basically stopped listening to everyone else and listened to my gut. By the time my little guy was a month and a half we had the nursing thing down to a science and we were both happy. And nursing has become one of my favorite pastimes. Is it comfortable? No. Nursing for me isn’t comfortable, but because I love the time spent nursing my son, I block out the little bit of discomfort and enjoy being together with him. I suggest you find that something that causes you joy even if something is uncomfortable. The discomfort is temporary, but the joy is everlasting.
- Co-sleeping. I know everyone says they don’t do it, and it’s bad, but if your little one wakes up every hour to nurse, then invest in a bedside crib/bassinet/basket that is level with your bed, so that you can just roll over, nurse your little bundle, and you can both go back to sleep. I didn’t do this and I regret it to this day. I was so exhausted for the first 5 months that I could barely function and everything pissed me off. Don’t be like me. Do what it takes to get the sleep you can and keep your piece of mind. There are tons of DIY’s for building your own just like this, or buy one from Halo if you’ve the funds. Do what it takes, but be safe! There is a wealth of information on the subject. Be informed and make the right decision for your family.
- Take whatever hand me down clothes you can get. I have a very generous and wonderful sister-in-law who sent me clothes for my little guy in every size I would need from 3 months to 2T. I will forever be grateful to her for this. Due to her generosity, we were able to pay off our hospital bills a bit earlier because we didn’t have to keep outfitting our little one and this eased our financial strain just a little with me staying home.
- Go outside! AS MUCH AS YOU CAN! I had our little guy in October so we didn’t have many months before snow flew and I was cooped up in the house. As soon as the snow started melting and the wind wasn’t so cold, we went outside for 5-10-20 minutes a day. The fresh air did wonders for my mental state, and it helped wear my little guy out so he slept better as well. Dress properly, wear hats and sunscreen, but do whatever it takes to go outside and enjoy nature, the fresh air and the sun.
- Make toys for your kids. Even if it’s a box full of noodles that they can shake or a bottle of water, use every day objects to play with your baby. They’ll love it and so will you. One of the earliest toys I made was a box that I cut holes into and threaded ribbons, string and yarn through that I then knotted the ends of so they couldn’t be pulled all the way through. My little guy loved the textures and was so enthralled with the simple mechanism that it kept him busy for short stretches of time. Have an arsenal of homemade toys. Simplicity is best. If all else fails, hand them an empty box. Children need to learn to use their imagination, and many toys don’t allow for this.
- Keep the T.V. off. Just do it. If you can’t keep it off, limit its use. You don’t need to watch it, your baby doesn’t need to watch it and neither does your significant other. Enjoy each others company. The distractions from the television affect us in more ways than can easily be seen.
- Play music. All kinds. Babies and kids love to dance, and it’s good exercise for mom too. We regularly listen to classical, country, old country, rock and roll, musicals and anything else I can find that my kiddo grooves too. Along with this comes the advice to invest in a good white noise maker. We used the sleep sheep a lot as well as this sound machine from Munchkin.
- BONUS! The little washcloths and towels for infants are worthless. Don’t buy them and don’t ask for them on your registry. Go and purchase some thin towels that are soft. (I say splurge a little on these as baby skin is so soft and sweet and tender and you really want something cuddly next to it after a bath.) I bought flannel, cut it into 10″x10″ squares, zig-zagged the edges and used those as wash clothes. Much softer, much more absorbent and all around better. I purchased white flannel because I could bleach it. If bleach isn’t for you, then figure out a way to sanitize these types of items that works for you.
My hope is that some of these tips and tricks will be helpful for you. These are things that I learned and use daily that have made my life less stressful and a lot happier.