How to survive the Newborn Phase
Having a new baby is… wild. Everyone explains it differently, as the “longest shortest time,” “a big blur,” or even “a struggle to keep this little person alive.” Newborns are very curious creatures and if I had a dime for every time someone said “they don’t come with an instruction manual,” I’d have at least 2 dimes. Rest assured, your baby is 50% genetically the same as you and 50% genetically similar to someone you were attracted to enough to sleep with at least once, so you are already off to a really good start! You really are the best person to care for your baby and will know a surprisingly large amount of what they need and how to care for them through your natural instincts.
My husband and I did a class called “Bringing Baby Home” put together by the Gottman Institute and we found it really helpful (I would definitely recommend for anyone nervous about actually bringing a baby home). One of the main lessons I took away from it was not to “gatekeep,” or basically the pattern that easily falls into place where the mom controls who holds the baby and knows how to do everything right and the dad is the fumbling idiot. C.J. (my husband) was going to do things very differently than me and my way is not “right” (even if my way might be faster and result in less crying for all parties involved). It’s really important to let dads figure things out on their own (of course helping them when asked), but not to come and “take over” the second they are struggling.
Here are a few Life-Saving tips I picked up that helped us survive the newborn phase (or dare I say, THRIVE!):
Happiest Baby on The Block Video. Harvey Karp (also the creator of the Snoo, which I review here), wrote this book and this summary RULES.
Watch this video.
Learn this video.
Become one with this video.
Priscilla Dunstan’s Baby Ears App. This lady is a baby wizard and discovered that babies have 5 common cries that each tell you what the need (for example, a cry that sounds like “NEH” means they are hungry). The app helps you learn each cry. For me, learning the difference between NEH and EH was life changing (so you don’t keep feeding them when really they just need to burp). After Cohen was fed/burped by telling me NEH and EH, I would usually follow Dr Karp’s tips for soothing if he was still crying (change diaper, swaddle, give paci). Cluster feedings can happen (meaning your baby might be hungry 30 minutes after they JUST finished eating if they are going through a growth spurt), so listen for that NEH to tell you when they want food and give it to them!
It’s a challenge to know who to listen to with registering for baby gear (I mean, how many hundreds of dollars of products does someone who weighs 7 pounds actually need?!), but I compiled the go-to items for dozens of moms who voted on their favorite must-haves here. The witching hour is real (an hour in the evening where babies like to lose their marbles) and a Solly Wrap and going outside can be really helpful.
ASK FOR HELP. I’ll go a step further and say plan for help.
Make a list of 3 people who you can ask to come over and watch the baby while you nap, 3 people who can make a delivery with your favorite treat, and have a reference for a housecleaner if things get out of hand (not a lot worse than staying home all day to look at every item you own strewn about the home). I was very hesitant about setting up a Meal Train but was SO glad we did. We spaced out meals every 3 days or so for around 8 weeks. Everyone was really respectful and didn’t stay very long. We had some of the best food I’ve ever had from friends’ cooking! Want someone to stay longer and chat because you are deprived of adult connections? Just say so! Want them to hold your baby while you enjoy the meal they just dropped off? Tell them! Want them to get the heck out because you are still getting down that whole breastfeeding-thing and don’t want your dad’s coworker to see you squeeze your breast into your infant’s mouth as you both struggle? “Thank you so much for coming over! I’m going to have to say goodbye so we can get ready to nap.”
BASIC. PERSONAL. HYGIENE.
Lastly, I’m not going to be completely unrealistic and say “take time to yourself.” I did get my hair blown out when Cohen was about 2 weeks old and I felt like a new woman. I will say: basic personal hygiene. No matter what, shower every single day. Don’t wear the same pair of pregnancy yoga pants more than 2-3 days in a row, particularly if there are bodily fluids, from any party, on them. You may feel extremely lazy and like you’re good for nothing other than making milk (and even that may not be going well, and that’s alright), but you have the world’s most important and temporary job right now. You are your tiny baby’s introduction to THE WORLD. That baby needs to be held and touched and loved and there is no one better or more comforting to your precious babe than you.
You are off to a great start and can find more information on all things taking care of baby from how to help your baby thrive, including the early introduction of peanuts, dairy, and egg to reduce the risk of your baby developing a nut allergy by 80%, how to prevent and save an infant from choking, what to expect during a C-section and more.
I will be putting together a video on my diaper bag method and how to change a boy’s diaper without a diaper changing station AND without getting peed on (my very own technique), so stay tuned! You can see my latest updates on Instagram at @PoppieLady. Let me know if there is anything in particular you need tips on, or if you have a tip to share!
Did anything really help you when you had a newborn? Comment below? We could all use a little help!
The Poppie Lady