Here are 10 tips that kept me sane sane and helping make life with a little one easier. I’m sharing these hoping that they might help a sleep deprived parent feel better. As always, they may also be totally wrong for your kid. Do what works for you, as per my post of my Theory of Parenting.
1 – Use Coconut Oil / Olive Oil. We first used this on little man’s bottom. The oil helps keep the meconium from sticking as badly and makes the first first few days of diaper changes easier. We also use it to moisturize post-bath (instead of using a lotion full of chemicals) and for diaper changes (although we have to be a little more careful with our cloth diapers). It’s our go to.
2 – You Don’t Need to Use a Baby Bathtub. We tried ours for the first few baths but it as awkward getting it filled and Silas didn’t really enjoy being in it, as was obvious by all of the screaming. Instead of the baby bathtub I just climbed into the tub and held him, with Papa close by to hand him to me and do the actual washing. Silas was much happier being held close and I could nurse him as needed to comfort him.
3 – Breastfeeding can be Difficult and it Takes TIme to Learn. I needed eighteen arms for the first week – one to support that floppy newborn head, one to support his body, one to hold my boob, one to keep my boobs from smothering my child (I’m a busty lady), and another fourteen to hold SIlas’ arms so that he didn’t keep putting them in front of his mouth right as we tried to latch (omg child!). Turns out that baby’s don’t see very well and use their hands to help find their, which means that the hand in front of the mouth is just them helping to find the nipple. But yet, still frustrating. Papa helped by holding the arms so I could work on the rest. A good swaddle will also help. Also:
a) Watch youtube videos on what a good latch looks like
b) Don’t be afraid to find a lactation consultant (if you’re in Toronto check out Helen at GTA Breastfeeding)
4 – Don’t be Afraid to Turn On a Light. When we were first learning to breastfeed, night feedings were really, really difficult. Especially when you’re supposed to be teaching them about the day/night by keeping the lights dim. Well dim lights meant that I couldn’t see well enough to get a good latch so we all just ended up frustrated and little man was hangry. Seriously, don’t worry about it just turn on the light and get latched. A fed baby is a happy baby and you can worry about the rest a little bit later. Once we got the hang of side-lying nursing we started to use an OXO Candela Zoom which provided enough light to see by/quickly check that Silas was okay while bed-sharing.
5 – Even if you don’t think you’ll go there, Learn How to Safely Co-Sleep. There are going to be nights when OMG all you want is a little bit of sleep and sometimes that ends up with bed sharing or co-sleeping (which is what we do all the time, as this mama likes her sleep and has a little one who won’t sleep on his own and has never wanted to). James McKenna has some great scientific research on co-sleeping and very good safety guidelines.
6 -The 2-3 Week Growth Spurt and Nursing is Kinda Hell. Somewhere between 2-3 weeks, Silas had a cluster feeding growth spurt where he nursed for almost 14 hours straight. Thank goodness for Netflix, full seasons of television shows, and having a large pitcher of water on hand to fill my glass as needed. Around hour 10 I had a minor melt down and Papa took over for an hour. I was so touched out that I needed a break, even if it meant an unhappy little one. Papa walked him around while I napped (if you can call it a nap at 11pm at night). When I woke up I was refreshed enough that I was able to be present and not resentful. It is okay to ask for that break!
7 – Find Other Moms / Join a Meetup Group. I knew that I’d go totally stir crazy if I didn’t have something to do most days. I found a local meetup group for moms and started going to events. It meant that I didn’t sit on the outside looking in wistfully and wishing that I’d be invited to join. I also made sure to tell every new mom I met in the neighbourhood so that they’d know as well (share the knowledge!). Sometimes I’m a little shocked at the ‘put together’ moms (hair AND makeup!?!), but then I just need to remind myself that they are doing what is important for them to feel like themselves. I just happen to prioritize knitting/spinning time over showering, heh.
8 – It Doesn’t Have to be Expensive. I totally fall prey to the OMG cute baby item, must buy now problem. I try to offset it by finding other things secondhand or on sale. My favorite places to go:
a) Friends! Does someone else have one they don’t need right now? I try to pay this forward by lending out things we no longer need as well.
b) Freecycle – I’ve found lots of clothes, re-usable breastpads, etc. for free. When I’ve gotten big lots and things that we can no longer use, I pass the windfall along to other friends. The big caveat for me is that it has to be a place that I can easily reach and at convenient time, otherwise it isn’t worth it for me.
c) Second hand stores – my favorite local Toronto one is Once Upon a Child. How can you go wrong with $1 per onesie? We also found our nursing pillow and glider there, both at significantly less than retail.
d) Craigslist – we found our gently used stroller with all accessories for way cheaper than a brand new one. I consider this a win! Plus, it allowed me to get a fancier one than we would have been comfortable purchasing brand new. The easiest thing for me was to rss feed my searches so that the information came to me.
9 – Smartphones / Tablets Help! My smartphone and tablet totally kept me sane during the early days of nursing, when Silas could nurse for 45-60 minutes at a time (including comfort nursing). I could read books via the kobo app and spent a significant amount of time looking at brightly coloured pretty things on pinterest. Especially useful when you final realize that no one else is awake at 3am on a weekday.
10 – Give In.Bend with the changing winds and give in to the flow of the baby. Fighting it will leave you frustrated, as many times there’s not much you can do other than cuddle, nurse, and walk/rock. I found that the times I was frustrated was when I ‘needed’ to do something (read, wanted to). When things didn’t go my way and little man needed me, I’d be mad about not getting to do what I wanted. The major thing that helped was changing my perspective – the less I fought, the happier and calmer I was (as was Silas). What also helped was carving out a little time every day that was 100% just for me so that I could recharge my batteries and do some of the things that made me feel more like me.
Other parents, any other advice or tips and tricks that you’d like to share?