Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How we survived the newborn months

I read quite a few books while I was pregnant. But nothing really prepares you completely. Your intuition and "gut" actually do take you a long way. I thought that I would never know what to do and that I would need a book to guide me every step. But, it's surprising how quickly you learn your baby and what works for them.

However, there were a few things that I read and revisited after he was born that really were helpful. As well as some things I did while I was pregnant that I'm glad I did.

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block
I read the book, but I think you can get the idea from their DVD (library) or videos on youtube.
Newborns don't really have a lot of self soothing mechanisms. They are used to constant food, holding, and movement. The 5s outlined in the book worked REALLY well for us.

There were times that Tanner wasn't hungry... he just needed to be soothed. Holding him on his side, bouncing him, giving him his pacifier, and shooshing him instantly calmed him down.

2. Baby Wise
The first couple weeks is about survival - just eat, sleep, and rest. You are recovering and you're both learning how to breastfeed. But after about 2 weeks, we started using the babywise principle of "Eat - Wake - Sleep".

The idea is that you are not nursing or rocking your baby to sleep. You feed them, wake them up if they fall asleep and let them "play" (which for a newborn is only like 15 minutes), and then put them down for nap/bed when they are awake but tired.

We also let Tanner fuss if he needed to. "Cry it out" is very controversial. For us, it was very gentle. He would fuss a little for a few minutes, and fall asleep. We would often pick him up, give him his pacifier, and settle him again if needed. I believe because we started this early, we never had to go through the traumatic screaming and crying...

The biggest thing I learned from baby wise was that there are optimal wake times. You want to watch for sleepy cues like fussing, rubbing eyes, and yawning. Then your baby is ready to go down for nap. If you wait too long, baby will become overtired and have an even harder time falling asleep.

Tanner is a really happy, content baby, and I think he is a "good" sleeper. But I do believe that the babywise rhythm has helped him immensely. He slept 6 hour stretches at 6 weeks, and 8 hour stretches at 8 weeks. He was sleeping 12 hours by about 4 months old.

There is a lot to learn in the baby wise book. We took a loose interpretation of it. If Tanner was hungry, I fed him. We don't have a rigid, strict schedule. But following a routine did wonders for us.

Also, don't let your newborn sleep more than 3 hours at a time during the day. This will help them to learn day time vs. night time.

3. "Sleep when the baby sleeps"
This phrase has always bothered me. Newborns sleep a lot during the day. So I always felt like I should be sleeping constantly like my baby was.

I decided instead of "sleeping when the baby sleeps", I would take 1 nap a day. Usually in the afternoon. This made me feel like I wasn't "wasting" away the day. And I felt well rested. Especially for the dinner / bedtime hours.

4. Make freezer meals
The last couple months of my pregnancy, I made freezer meals. I would choose 1 or 2 dinners / week to double. This way, I was already cooking - I just made more of it. Then I froze the extras. I made:

- Soups & Stews
- Breakfast Burritos
- Energy Bites
- Fajita Filling
- Stuffed Peppers
- Banana Bread Muffins

I also stocked up on non-perishables like granola bars, spaghetti, and sauce. And frozen meatballs.

Between the freezer meals, friends & family, and occasional take out, I didn't cook a meal from scratch for 10 weeks.

5. Enlist Help
My mom came almost daily for the first month or so. She would visit for half hour to an hour and help me with what I needed. She would hold the baby while I showered, vacuum the floor, make me lunch, scoop the litter box, throw in a load of laundry, load the dishwasher.... little chores around the house that made me feel like dirt wasn't piling up.

My husband also made dinner most nights - especially in the early weeks. He did cleaning as well.
Pick a few things that are important to you, and that will make you feel like you can rest. And then ask for help. Usually there is an army of people waiting to do something for you.

6. Wonder Weeks
There is a book that describes developmental milestones that all babies go through - generally at about the same age. I didn't read the book - the app tells you about what you need to know.
Usually when your baby is trying to learn something new - like rolling over, or grabbing toys - they get fussy and needy. This has happened with Tanner at each of his "leaps". We have found that the fussy periods are easier to handle if we know they are coming, and if we know the reason behind them.

7. Follow Your Instincts
I love to read blogs and forums about babies and parenting. Sometimes I find good tips, and sometimes I drive myself crazy. I see what other babies are doing, and I want to be there too.

An example is when Tanner was about 4 weeks old, he was still napping in his swing. I read that a swing could be a sleep prop and that you should have your baby nap in their crib ASAP.
I decided to cold turkey the swing, and put him in his crib for every nap all at once. This was a miserable experience for me and Tanner. I decided to just go back to the swing, and take things slower. He now sleeps in his crib perfectly at every nap and at night time.

I have to remind myself that he will keep going through seasons and phases. He doesn't have to be just like the baby I read on a blog. If what I am doing is working for us - keep doing it. Until it doesn't work, and then gradually change to something else.

8. Clean Your House
I "deep cleaned" my house a few times in the last couple months of pregnancy. I wanted to come home from the hospital with clean bathrooms, fresh bedding, and no dust.

Some of the best advice I have received is this: "The newborn phase isn't real life." 
And it's so true. I thought I would never eat a meal with two hands again, or drink a hot cup of coffee, or feel like I wasn't about to fall over from being tired.

Your baby will sleep through the night. Your body will heal. And you will feel like yourself again.
Good luck, momma! Comment with tips that you have for the first months with baby :)

Another Resource: Lucie's List

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