It’s been six weeks since our daughter, Clementine, was born. She is finally sleeping better and going longer between feedings. She’s also becoming more alert when she’s awake. On the other hand, my husband and I feel like we were hit by a truck. I’m surprised we muddled through. Here are some tips from experienced parents and baby experts to make your first month easier.
Babies eat and eat and eat. While nature has provided the right equipment for you and your baby, it’s almost guaranteed to be harder than you think at first. From sore nipples to hard plugs, nursing can seem overwhelming.
1. Women who seek help have a higher success rate. Stacey Brosnan, a lactation consultant in New York City, advises: “Before you have a baby, find a way to ensure success.” . Talk to a friend who has a good nursing experience, ask your baby’s pediatrician for a lactation consultant’s phone number, or attend a La Leche League (nursing support group) meeting (check laleche. org to find one).
Take advantage of hospital resources. Kira Sexton, a mother from Brooklyn, New York, says: “I learned everything I could about breastfeeding before I left the hospital.” Ask if there are nursing classes or lactation consultants. Each time you’re ready to feed your baby, press the call the nurse button so the nurse can recognize you and offer advice.
3. prepare. At home, when your baby is crying for you, you’ll want to drop everything to feed her. But Heather o’ donnell, a New York City mother, suggests taking care of yourself first. “Grab a glass of water and a book or magazine to read.” And, because breastfeeding can take a while, she says, “Pee first! ”
4. If your breasts are engorged or your ducts are clogged, try hot compresses. A heating pad or warm, moist towel will work, but a linen pillow (often sold with natural beauty products) is better. Laura Krishka, a mother in Brooklyn, New York, says: “Heat it up in the microwave so it lines up with your breasts.” .
Heat helps the milk flow, but if your breasts are sore after breastfeeding, try a cold pack. Amy Hooker, a San Diego mom says, “A bag of frozen peas worked really well for me.”
6. If you want your baby to eventually be able to use a bottle, do so after breastfeeding is established, but before 3 months of age. Many experts say 6 to 8 weeks is good, but “we started with a bottle a day at 3 weeks,” says Jill Sizemore, a mother in Pendleton.
If your baby isn’t eating, he’s probably sleeping. Newborns get up to 16 hours of sleep a day, but only for a short period of time. The result: You’ll feel constantly alert and more exhausted than you think. Even the best of us can begin to resent harsh sleep deprivation.
Stop obsessing about fatigue. Now there’s only one goal: take care of your kids. Vicki Lansky, author of Putting Kids to Sleep and Getting Back to Sleep, says, “You won’t get enough sleep, so you may feel tired and angry, or you may just feel tired.” . “It’s just easier to be tired.”
8. shifts. One night it’s mom’s turn to rock the cranky kid, and the next day it’s dad’s turn. Amy Reichardt and her husband, Richard, a Denver parent, made a plan for the weekend while Richard was off work. “I would get up at night to take care of the kids, but I would sleep in. Richard takes care of all the morning care and then goes back to napping.”
The old adage “sleep when your baby sleeps” is really the best advice. “Nap together and go to bed early,” says Sarah Clark, a Washington, D.C., mother.
What if your baby has sleep problems? Do whatever it takes: nurse or rock your baby to sleep; put your newborn to sleep on your chest or in a car seat. “Don’t worry about bad habits just yet. It’s about survival – about you! ” says Los Angeles mom Jean Farnham.
In the first few weeks, it’s often hard to explain exactly what your baby wants. Of course, you’ll learn through trial and error.
11. “The key to soothing a fussy baby is to mimic the womb. Swaddling, shushing, swinging, and allowing babies to suck and holding them on either side of the body may trigger a calming reflex,” says Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the book, video, and dvd series The Happiest Baby on the Block.
12. play music. Forget that dubious theory that music makes babies smarter and focus on the fact that it may calm him down. “The Little Einsteins tape saved us,” says Kim Rich, a mother in Anchorage, Alaska.
13. to warm things up. Alexandra Komisaruk, a mother in Los Angeles, found that diaper changes triggered emotional breakdowns. She says, “I made hot wipes out of paper towels and a pumpable hot water bottle.” . You can also buy an electric wipe warmer for sensitive babies.
You’ll need other tips, too. Emily Earle, a mother in Brooklyn, New York, says: “Hold your daughter and do deep knee bends and lunges to calm her down.” . “On the bright side, my legs are back in shape! ”
15. soak to soothe. If all else failsーーand the baby’s umbilical cord is brokenーーthen take a hot bath together. Boston mom Emily Franklin says: “You’ll relax too, and a relaxed mom can calm a baby.” .
Involve a partner
If you’re raising your child in a two-parent household, it’s important to share the emotional burden and give both partners a chance to understand what needs to be done to help your child thrive.
16. let them be. Many first-time dads are hesitant to get involved because they fear that doing the wrong thing will incur the wrath of their moms. “Moms need to allow their husbands to make mistakes, not criticize them,” says Armin Brott, author of New Dads: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year (Abbeville Publishing).
17. take some time off after all the relatives have left. If a partner can’t get parental leave through work, see if they can use vacation or sick leave. That’s what Thad Calabrese of Brooklyn, N.Y., did. “I had more to do, and I had some time alone with my son.”
18. shared responsibility. Mark DiStefano, a Los Angeles father, took over the cleaning and grocery shopping duties. “I also take Ben out every afternoon for a little while so my wife can have a little time to herself.”
19. The partner also wanted to do something fun. “I used to take my shirt off and put the baby on my chest while I was napping,” says Bob Vonnegut, Isla Morada’s father. “I liked the rhythm of our heartbeats.”
Keeping your sanity
No matter how excited you are about parenthood, the constant care a baby requires can drain your energy. Find ways to take care of yourself by lowering your expectations and stealing short breaks.
20. first, ignore unwanted or confusing advice. “Ultimately, you’re the parents, so you decide what’s best,” says Julie Balis, a mother in Frankfurt.
21. “For the first few months, forget about chores,” says Alison McNulty, author of 100 Tips to Make Your Baby Happy. “Focus on getting to know your baby. If someone has something to say about a dusty pile or unwashed dishes, smile and hand them a rag or dishwashing detergent! ”
22. accept help from anyone friendly or naive enough. “If a neighbor wants to hold the baby while you shower, then say yes! ” says Jeanne Anzalone, a mother in Croton-on-Hudson.
23. there are many people who want to help, but don’t know how? “Don’t be afraid to tell people exactly what you need,” says Abby Moskowitz, a Brooklyn mom. It’s one of the few times in your life when you can order everyone around!
24. but don’t give people small jobs. “It takes two minutes to change a diaper. You’re going to need other people to do time-consuming tasks like cooking, cleaning the floor, buying diapers,” says Cleveland mother Kathleen Parker.
25. reconnect. To get away from the world, Jacqueline Kelly, a Lewisburg mother, suggests: “Get out and about by yourself, even if it’s only for five minutes.”
Take your baby out for a playdate.
26. get backup. Going to a big public place for the first time with an experienced parent. Suzanne Zook, a mother in Denver, says, “Having the support of my sister helped me not panic when I first went shopping with my new baby.” . Figure 27.
If you’re alone, suggests Kristen Goss, a mother in Fisher, Indiana, “stick to places where you’re likely to greet your child, like the library or bookstore for story time.” .
Get your diaper bag ready,” says Fran Bowen, a mother who lives in Brooklyn. There’s nothing worse than finally getting ready for a baby and realizing you’re not ready.
Hide a spare. Hollander-Brown, a mother in Long Beach, California, always keeps a change of adult clothes in her diaper bag. “You definitely don’t want to walk around with a cute baby, but covered in mustard-colored poop.” Figure 30.
30. finally, embrace the mess. “Keep your plans simple and always be ready to drop them,” says Margi Weeks, a mother in Tarrytown.
If nothing else, remember that everyone gets through, and so do you. Soon, you’ll get your baby’s first smile, which will help make up for all the initial craziness.
Heather Swain is a mother and writer in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the author of the novel “The Sweet Lemon.