My little man is one month old! It is hard to believe that it has been a month since Patrick has arrived. It has been an amazing month so far.
It has been a month of me learning how to transition from being a slightly workaholic teacher (ok maybe more than slightly) always on the go, to a temporarily stay-at-home mom only rarely on the go.
It has been a month of Dave and I learning how to transition from husband and wife into father and mother. We quickly learned the importance of taking turns, patience and finding humor in things. We have both grown to love each other even more as we view the other in their new role.
It has been a month of wonderment at how you can love someone so much that has been in your life such a short time, and how that love can grow more and more each day as he continues to grow and change. I get such joy out of the little things, like watching Patrick sleep, stare in awe at the lights on the ceiling, or wriggle around in the bath tub.
Not to romanticize the past month, because it has had a great deal of challenging moments as well. As I look back, I have come up with a list of 25 things, including items, people and moments, that have helped me survive my first month of motherhood and organized them into categories. I hope you enjoy! Feel free to add any suggestions for the list in the comment section!
1. Nurses – Don’t even get me started on how fabulous the nurses were at Hillcrest Hospital, where I delivered Patrick. From the labor and delivery nurses, to recovery and postpartum, all the nurses and nurses assistants were fabulous! They looked after me and Patrick in those first few days. They helped me get through labor and my c-section, adjust to breastfeeding and manage my pain. They watched over me to make sure I was eating and drinking, taking my medicine, and getting enough rest. They helped me with the little things that I wasn’t able to do alone after surgery, like get in and out of bed, walk, use the restroom, and clean myself up. They took amazing care of Patrick, and made a new mom feel great by telling me how cute he was (as if I needed anyone to tell me that!). Without the amazing nursing staff at Hillcrest, I would not have been able to get through my first 96 hours. We even received a nice card signed by all the nurses after we arrived home!
2. Husband – The other night Dave and I were giving Patrick a bath, and Dave said to me, “I don’t know how single mothers do this alone.” He was referring to giving a bath to a wriggling and slippery newborn baby, but that statement really applies to the entire parenting experience. I am so lucky to have such an amazing, supportive and involved partner to be there with me as I begin my venture into parenthood. I know that not everyone is so lucky, and I feel blessed. Dave, although having much less experience around babies as I have, has caught on very quickly. He got over his anxiousness about doing something wrong or breaking our son very quickly, and has become an amazing Dad. He shares in all of the responsibilities, and makes sure that I take time to relax and get caught up on my rest. Having a partner as supportive and loving as him has made the past month that much more enjoyable, and has allowed me to fully enjoy motherhood.
Must Have Items
3. Boppy Pillow – The Boppy Pillow has to be one of the best inventions when it comes to baby items. The pillow made feeding, whether nursing or bottle, a much easier, comfortable and less awkward task. It also double as a great tool to use to prop baby up for those early pictures. Patrick loved laying on the Boppy Pillow in the first couple of weeks during his awake time. They now make a few different variations on the Boppy Pillow, including a newborn lounger and travel pillow. I recommend getting the naked pillow and a couple covers. That way you have a back-up when one needs to get washed after a spit-up ordeal.
4. Colorful Quilt – We were lucky to have received a handmade activity quilt from a family friend at one of our baby showers. It has been one of our most used items that we received. It is great for tummy time because all the different colors keep Patrick’s attention. It is easy to fold up and transport from room to room, or to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a visit. If you aren’t lucky enough to know a talented quilter, you can find one, like this Tiny Love Super Mat, at stores or online.
5. Swing – We love our Cozy Coo Sway Seat Swing from InGenuity. Patrick loves sitting and sleeping in the swing. It swings in a side-to-side motion instead of front-to-back. I have heard some babies will prefer one over the other, so we lucked out that ours liked the motion. We used the white noise sound a lot the first couple of weeks, and have started to use the music more now. It also vibrates, which helps to calm him.
6. Pack n Play with Bassinet/Changing Table – We live in a two-story home, so after my c-section, stairs were not my best friend. We have the bassinet and changing table upstairs, so if I was staying downstairs for the day I was not able to carry Patrick upstairs if I was home alone. We had the Pack n’ Play set up downstairs, and it made life easier. We have a station upstairs and downstairs, and don’t have to continually run up and down. Ours has a reversible napper and changer, which once you get the hang of it is really easy to flip back and forth. The napper is padded and comfortable for him to nap in. The changer is plastic, so messy diaper changes are easy to clean.
7. Ready to go bottles – The hospital gave us a supply of these when we left. I was having to supplement after feeding since Patrick had lost just over 10% of his body weight. These bottles have the formula all mixed and ready to go. You just shake the bottle, remove the cap and put on a nipple. The entire thing is disposable when done, so no clean-up (although we started saving the nipples and washing them for re-use). In the first week, it was nice not to have to worry about mixing bottles on top of everything else. After that first week we stopped using these for feedings. I wouldn’t recommend using these day to day for feedings, but I like to keep some on hand as back-up in my diaper bag for quick, emergency feedings when I am out.
8. Well packed diaper bag – Those first few trips out of the house can be daunting. One thing that will make them easier and less stressful is knowing that you will be able to face any situation that arises thanks to your trusty diaper bag! You don’t want to over-pack resulting in a heavy bag that is more of a burden than helpful. You don’t want to under-pack and be stuck without a change of clothes, diapers, or other item necessary to calm your baby in a public place with everyone looking at you (every new mom’s greatest fear when leaving the house). Here are a couple helpful lists of what to pack in your diaper bag:
- 12 Items in Every Supermom’s Diaper Bag from Skinny Mom
- Essential Travel and Diaper Bag Packing Checklist from The Honest Company
For the Breastfeeding Mom
9. Nursing Pads – Leaking is an inevitable reality for the breastfeeding mom. Nursing pads are the solution that will keep you from making that fact known to the world via two wet spots on the front of your shirt. Make sure to change them if they become wet to avoid irritating your nipples. I always keep a few extra in my diaper bag as well. There are disposable nursing pads, but for the more environmentally friendly, there are also washable pads that can be reused.
10. Lanolin – Another must for the breastfeeding mom, especially in the beginning. The lactation consultant gave me a small tube in the hospital, but I definitely had to stock up when I got home. This thick cream helps to heal and soothe your nipples, which are put through a lot at the beginning of breastfeeding. It doesn’t need to be wiped off before feedings either.
11. Good nursing bras and tops – Wearing tops with easy access to the breast will help as you are still nursing with your training wheels on, especially for those half-awake late
night feedings. While many regular clothing items will still work during nursing, I found that those designed for the nursing mother made the process less awkward. I purchased most of my nursing attire from Motherhood (which is usually having a sale of some sort) and Target. I purchased several nursing tanks with the clip-down straps, which be incorporated into outfits or just worn around the house. The Seamless Clip Down Nursing Bra was my favorite (I ordered 4). Also invest in some sleeping bras to give your breasts a little more freedom at night while still being supported.
12. Baby Connect – My husband and I both have this app on our Iphones, and we love it. We use it to track Patrick’s feedings, diapers, sleep, tummy time, doctor appointments and milestones. It automatically syncs, so it doesn’t matter who inputs the data, we both can see it. It is available for Iphones, Android phones, Kindle and has a web version as well. Some day care centers even use the app, which would allow you to see what your little one is up to throughout the day.
13. WebMD Baby – This is a great app, especially to calm the nerves of a worry-some new parent. It has informative articles about your baby’s development and daily tips from a doctor. There is information about milestones your baby will be reaching. There is a section for moms and a section for dads. There are informational videos, parenting tips and detailed information about what to expect at each doctor appointment. Of course, what would a WebMD app be without a section about all the illnesses and emergencies that could affect your little one? This app is full of useful information, and with it on your phone, it is easy to read one handed during feedings.
Calming My Little One
14. Music – This may not be true for all babies, but mine loves music and sounds. I played a lot of music for him in the womb, so that might have something to do with it. He will sit and listen to music, white noise, and nature sounds calmly for what seems like forever (but in reality is more like 10 minutes). The first thing we listened to together in the hospital was the Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Journey. He really responded well to this, and I enjoyed it because it was music that I knew, without having to be the traditional lullabies. Rockabye Baby! makes lullaby renditions of a lot of popular artists. I have since purchased their Beatles and Dave Matthews Band albums. A lot of baby items, such as bassinets, swings, bouncy seats and mobiles, come with sound machines as well. Those with white noise are particularly good in the beginning because that sound is supposed to be similar to what the baby heard in the womb for all those months.
15. Soothie – Oh, the great pacifier debate. Should you give your newborn a pacifier, particularly if you are breastfeeding? Will it result in nipple confusion? This is a decision I recommend you make prior to delivery There will be several individuals there trying to influence your decision while in the hospital (most trying to convince you NOT to use a pacifier), so if you have your mind made up about what YOU want to do in advance, you will be less likely to do something you don’t want to do, whether it is use the pacifier or not, based on the opinions of others. I knew going in that I wanted to use the pacifier as a means of calming my baby before I had him. Even then, after statements from a few nurses and the lactation consultant, I felt guilty and avoided using it for the first day. When I finally did start using it to calm my son when he was not hungry but just wanted to suck, I felt like I had to hide it when a certain nurse or individual would walk in. By the time I left, I realized that he was my child, and it was my decision. For him, pacifiers helped to calm him, and gave my nipples a rest.
16. Gas Drops – My little man is a gassy little guy. One of the causes of his fussiness was excess gas. We have used the gas drops a lot in the past month. They almost instantly stop his crying, and he likes the sweet taste of the drops. The drops work quickly to relieve his gas, and within minutes our little man is tooting away his pain and discomfort. We don’t leave the house without these in our diaper bag. Tummy time is another way to help relieve his gas pains.
17. Swaddling – Swaddling is another, and very effective way to calm an upset baby. Patrick would fight it, kicking his legs and punching his arms, but after a couple minutes he would settle down. Throw in a little rocking in our glider and the combo usually resulted in him being out for the count. The SwaddleMe wearable blankets are great for an easy to use, tight and secure swaddle. Patrick is a hot baby, and sometimes the thicker swaddles would get him sweaty and uncomfortable. My favorite blankets to use to swaddle him are the Aden+Anais classic muslin swaddling blankets. They are large for easy swaddling, and light-weight to keep Patrick cool.
18. Camera – It doesn’t matter if it is on your phone, digital, non-digital, Polaroid or video, you NEED to have a working camera when your baby is born. A camera is an absolute must-have in order to record the memories of your little one. They grow-up so fast, and you only have a short time to document them at this precious stage. In the past month, we have taken literally hundreds of pictures of Patrick already. Already I look back and am amazed how small he was only weeks ago. Our camera, as well as the cameras of others, has helped us to document the wonderment that is this child that I brought into the world only a short time ago. My husband will be the first to tell you that I have an obsession with pictures, and our house is full of them. I am OK with that though, because pictures capture moments in time that you can’t get back, and are a permanent reminder of those special times.
19. Shutterfly – Going along with my obsession with pictures is how I get those digital memories into hard copies I can hold in my hands. I am also obsessed with Shutterfly. My husband tells me I have an addiction, and am currently cut-off (temporarily anyway). Shutterfly is great because it is a reasonably priced way to get prints of your pictures. Other products suchs as books and photo gifts can be a little on the pricey side, but Shutterfly is always having a promotion or emailing out coupons and promo codes to reduce the prices of these items. They also have print packages you can purchase to lower the prices of photo prints. I even ordered a new case for my phone with pictures of Patrick!
20. Newborn photo session – A friend of ours surprised us with a newborn photo session after Patrick was born. This is not something I would have thought about doing, but I am SO glad we did! We worked with Brittany Gidley Photography (if you are in the Cleveland area I HIGHLY recommend her!), and it was amazing! She photographed him within his first week, and we have so many precious shots to cherish! We have received so many compliments on the pictures. We were able to use them on our announcements, and they now are decorating our home. Check out some of Patrick’s great shots here. I definitely suggest finding a professional newborn photographer near you and taking advantage of this. You only have a small window of time to get it done, and once the moment is passed you can’t get it back.
21. Social Media – I am a teacher, so I am used to being around people all day. I am used to talking with my friends about what is going on in their classrooms and lives on a daily basis, and interacting with teenagers (which has its positives and negatives) all day long. Transitioning from that, to being alone with a baby that doesn’t hold a conversation well was tough. My mom spent that first week with me after Dave returned to week, so that helped, but soon she was gone. The people in my life hold normal, responsible, grown-up jobs, so they can’t sit and text or talk on the phone with me all day. Social media helped me stay connected and sane during my days as I waited for Dave to come home from work so I could have a real face-to-face conversation. Facebook kept me up to date with what was going on in the lives of my friends, as well as in the lives of my “friends” who I haven’t actually communicated with in years but we still want the Facebook world to know that we once knew each other a little better. I could fill my time browsing facebook, updating my status or profile, and uploading pictures of my little one to share, and it kept me connected. Twitter helped to keep me up to date on what was going on in the world outside of my circle of friends, as well as entertained me with the humerous tweets of the many comedians that I follow. And of course Blogger has given me a vehicle to keep me busy by sharing my experiences and thoughts, no matter if anyone reads them or not. At a minimum, it will remind me what to expect next time I go through this, and be there to embarass my children one day. Without social media, my days would be much more lonely, and I would have no idea what was going on in the lives of others. I might actually have to CALL people to find out what is happening with them!
22. Visitors – In the first few weeks, visitors are key to making sure you stay sane an connected. Interacting with others online is great and all, but nothing beats face to face communication. Also, people can’t help you out with the baby, clean, or bring you food online! In the first week, especially if your partner is going back to work, it is helpful to have a family member or friend stay with you. Particularly if you are recovering from a c-section like I was, which further limits what you are allowed to do. I couldn’t go up and down stairs without pain, pick up my baby, drive, or even get out of my tall bed without assistance. Luckily, my mother came in from out of town and stayed with me during that first week. Not only was she able to help me out with all those things I couldn’t do on my own (which for an independent person like was frustrating all on its own), but having that human interaction helped to keep me sane. Other short-term visitors will pop in and out, mostly in that first week. Don’t be afraid to say yes when they ask if they can bring something or do something around the house. This is not the time to be to proud and stubborn to ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to tell someone it is not a good time for a visit, or that it is time for them to go. The needs of baby, as well as the sanity of mom and dad is important in order for the first weeks to run smoothly.
23. Pinterest – I can’t even express how much time I spend on Pinterest over the past few weeks. In a sensible way, I have been going back and reading all of those articles I pinned while pregnant about newborn care, recovery after delivery and what to expect in the coming weeks. I have also pinned numerous recipes to try (mostly to show my husband since he does the bulk of the cooking). In a wishful thinking way, I have pinned workouts I intend to do once I have fully recovered, and ways to cut expenses in our budget. In a helpful way I have pinned wedding ideas for two upcoming weddings I am helping out with. In a just-for-show way I have been pinning house projects that would be so amazing, but will never actually become reality. In a “Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into” way, I have been pinning articles about parenting and how to raise boys. No matter the lens through which I am browsing Pinterest, it has given me something to do with my time that can be done one-handed on my phone (those one-handed tasks that can be done while feeding become invaluable).
24. Hot showers – It seems simple enough. However, finding the time to take a shower seems impossible with a newborn. Finding the time to ENJOY a shower seems even more so. I recommend making this a priority, especially in those first few weeks. Nothing makes you feel more human that taking a hot shower. When you lay the little one down for a nap, take the monitor in the bathroom, and return to humanity by enjoying a nice hot shower. I tried to take it a step further by attempting to treat myself to a facial mask and/or quick manicure afterwards. It is a game of beat the clock…can you fit it all in before the baby wakes up? Fit in what you can, as often as you can. You will feel so much better and re-energized after.
25. Naps – One of the best pieces of advice I took from all the articles I read and people I spoke to was this: You sleep when the baby sleeps. It took me a few days to internalize this. After my mom left, I was trying to get things done around the house when I got Patrick down for a nap. I saw this growing to-do list glaring at me, and felt guilty if I laid down during the day. However, with getting up during the night for feedings, I was never getting enough sleep. Once I started sleeping during the day, I felt SO much better. I would try to catch a quick one hour nap right after he fell asleep (we have been lucky and he sleeps in 3-4 hour stretches), then get up and do what I needed to do until he woke up. My to-do list could wait, but Maslow would tell me that my basic physiological needs needed to be met first, and sleep is a major one. I have become less stressed, and as a result have been able to better care for Patrick since I have taken better care of myself. Amazingly, my to-do list had gotten done bit by bit, and my world hasn’t fallen apart.
If you are a parent, what helped you get through the first few weeks?