This is part of a series of guest posts for first time moms that I have put together from a variety of moms with a variety of perspectives. This one is written by Melissa of Confessions of a Dr. Mom. Please stop by her blog to read more of her posts. You can also follow Confessions of a Dr. Mom on Twitter.
Becoming a Mother and welcoming your first child into the world is such an amazing life altering event. You've probably read countless books, heard an inordinate amount of advice, and may even wonder...am I ready? Well...don't worry, the moment you see, hear, and touch your precious baby for the first time all your doubt will melt away. I'm here today to share with you a few key tips that I learned through my (mis)adventures during the newborn days in the hopes that this type of (un)solicited advice comes in handy...hence, my first tip:
- You will get tons of advice, some will be unsolicited...take it all with a grain of salt. It can actually be a good thing but keep in mind that what may work for one may not work for you. This is why it helps to get tips and advice from various friends and resources, it will expose you to a variety of experiences.
- Have a plan but don't be a slave to it. This applies to your birth plan, your feeding plan, your sleeping plan, and pretty much any plan you have. For example, it's great to have a birth plan but prepare for an alternate one, just in case. I knew with my first that I wanted an epidural and would do almost everything in my power to not have a c-section. But, I also allowed myself the option to opt out if my or my baby's health was at stake. Luckily, I didn't have to do that but at least my mind was open to it.
- Decide how you will feed your baby: Breast vs Bottle or somewhere in between. It's definitely a good idea to know ahead of time what your plan is. Again, it's also a good idea to have a back up plan here. I didn't and it cost me a whole lot of heartache.
- I was intent on breastfeeding, for all the obvious reasons. However, I was not at all prepared for the difficulties I would face. Aside from the pain...which does eventually go away, my milk never came in. That was a devastating blow to me because this meant my baby needed formula.
- I never even considered that this could be an issue, I was heartbroken. So, yes, it caught me off guard and in the midst of all the sleep deprivation and post-partum hormones, I was an emotional wreck. I don't say this to scare you, rather, to encourage you to be prepared in case feeding your baby doesn't necessarily go as planned.
- If you plan on breastfeeding, I think it's a good idea from the start to get set up with a lactation consultant. Most hospitals have them in the room right after delivery but just in case, don't forget to ask for one. Read up on common problems and be prepared for them. Have some bottles and formula on hand at home, just in case. I only say this because at my most desperate hour when I realized my baby needed something, anything...I had nothing and sent my hubby out in the middle of the night in search of bottles and formula (thank goodness for 24 hour Walmart).
- Have an idea about sleep training vs co-sleeping. Of course during the first few weeks with your newborn, you will essentially be on their schedule: feeding, cuddling/sleeping, and changing diapers. It's a good idea to have a plan about where you would like your baby to sleep: with you (co-sleeping), in a bedside crib or bassinet, or in a separate room in a crib.
- Here is another area I was completely caught off guard. Although I knew I wanted my baby close by for ease of feeding, I actually hadn't read much about co-sleeping. I had a bedside bassinet where I hoped my bundle of joy would sleep and then eventually his crib. Guess what? Dear, sweet baby boy had other plans...and oh boy...were we in for a major change up.
- Again, my mistake here was not having a back up plan. Remember when I said, every baby is different and what works for one may not work for another? Well, my son would have none of the sleeping alone...noooo....this boy required my arms all.day.long. Eventually, I listened to his cues and learned to give him what he needed and we ended up co-sleeping. I only wish I had been open to it sooner.
- That being said, many babies are amenable to sleep training though I wouldn't start until at least 4 months old or older. You just have to decide what will work best for your family based on your baby's temperament.
- Read about common newborn skin conditions. This will help minimize your worry within the first few weeks. Babies can get so many different looking rashes and skin irritations that it's easy for moms to mistake it for illness or allergies. Of course, if ever in doubt, contact your pediatrician.
- Here are a few very common newborn skin conditions to read up on: skin peeling (very common on hands and feet of a newborn), erythema toxicum (very common rash that looks like tiny red bumps), neonatal acne (just like it sounds except it will go away without any scarring), milia (tiny whiteheads), and stork's kiss (red splotchy birthmark) just to name a few. All of these are nothing to worry about and go away on their own.
- Ask for help. Now is not the time to be shy. Taking care of a newborn is one of the hardest things you'll ever do. If your mom, mother in law, sister asks how they can help, tell them. It would be nice not to have to worry about dinner, the dishes, the laundry while you get accustomed to your new little bundle. Just make sure you're clear: you need help with the chores and could use an extra set of arms while you go take a shower. Their time with your baby will come...now it's your time.
- Prepare for the unexpected. This is worth repeating...meaning don't be afraid to change up the plan. It will help you be more flexible and adjust to your baby's needs. If something is not working, know when to change direction...it's okay and you will save yourself a lot of undue stress.
- Tune in and listen to your mommy intuition. I put this one last because above all, I hope you will remember this one. You can read every parenting, sleep training, guide to breastfeeding book out there but the most important tool at your disposal is your Mommy Intuition. We all have it. It took me awhile to tune in and listen to it, but when I finally did...I relaxed knowing that although many of my best laid plans had to be thrown out the window, I was doing what was best for my baby.
Resources I like and why
- The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
- Why I like it: Great book on how to comfort your baby by using the 5 S's : swaddling, side position, shh sounds, swinging, and sucking. This book was easy to read, made sense and provided useful insight into why our babies cry.
- Eat, Sleep, Poop by Scott W. Cohen, M.D., F.A.A.P
- This is a new book serving as a common sense guide to baby's first year. I love Dr. Cohen's common sense approach and how all his recommendations and insights are also based on first hand experience with his daughter. Though there are a few things in the book that didn't work for me with my firstborn, they worked for Dr.Cohen and he provides sound advice on most issues you will encounter with your baby during the first year.
- Why I love this site: Dr.Sears has a comprehensive web site that pretty much covers most issues you will face with your newborn. Honestly, his advice has gotten me through some extremely tough times. His sections on co-sleeping and breastfeeding are excellent.
- aap.org: This is the American Academy of Pediatrics web site
- Here you will find recommendations about sleep safety, breastfeeding, pretty much anything regarding babies to teens. This is a great resource to find the latest safety guidelines on pediatric issues.
Congratulations and best wishes as you embark on this wonderful new journey into motherhood. Above all, cherish this time with your baby. Although there will be those days you wish would just come to an end and the sleepless nights are taking their toll, try to remember it won't last forever. The memories you make with your baby now however, will last a lifetime.