Motherhood is everything everyone says it is. It is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s also the most difficult journey I’ve ever embarked upon. Here are some tips to help make your life a little easier.
- Things will change, but they will also stay the same. Just because you are now a mom doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the same things you used to. I still enjoy cooking, fashion, and trashy TV. I don’t see that ever changing. Yes, you will put your own needs on the back burner. Yes, your priorities will change. However, you will still be you at the very core of it all.
- Be patient with yourself. This is a time in your life where you need to be very, very patient with yourself. You will find that you need to adjust your expectations more than you ever thought you would. For someone who likes to be in control, it was really hard for me to let go and not worry about having a clean house or what was going on at work. Nothing matters as much as the tiny human you brought into the world. This is a big change - things aren’t going to settle overnight, or even over the first month. You will get into a groove, I promise.
- Everyone has difficulty breastfeeding. I don’t know a single person that has said, “Nursing was so easy from the start!” in regard to their first child. I know people who have dealt with under-supply, over-supply (yes, it’s a thing), too-small nipples, too-large nipples, dairy allergies, lip ties, tongue ties, and more. If you choose to breastfeed, there will likely be bumps along the road. Seek out a lactation consultant (ideally while you’re still in the hospital) and persevere for as long as you’re comfortable. Remember, a fed baby is a happy baby - whether it’s formula or breastmilk. Personally, I preferred to combo feed (nurse and supplement with formula) because it took some of the burden off of me, and it helped my husband feel more involved. Breastfeeding is very time consuming in the beginning, and it’s exhausting.
- Wear your baby. The fourth trimester is real, you guys. Babywearing absolutely saved my sanity the first three months of my daughter’s life. I could eat, go to the bathroom, and walk around with my hands free. Although most people tend to gravitate toward a soft structured carrier (like an Ergo) or a stretchy wrap (like Solly Baby), there are many more options. I highly recommend you join your local Babywearing International chapter. Once you’re a member (it’s easy and cheap to sign up) you have dozens of carriers at your disposal to use on loan. Go to a meeting and have an expert listen to your needs and find the carrier best for you. I didn’t become a member until my daughter was about 5 months old, and I wish I hadn’t waited that long. I used, and loved, the Solly wrap when my daughter was an infant. I used a ring sling after a few months had passed, and I wish I had used that from the start. A ring sling is so quick and easy, and lasts much longer (weight-wise). I still use my ring sling occasionally on my 18 month old, 27lb daughter.
- Take care of yourself. Before having a child, self-care may have consisted of regular mani/pedis, massages, or shopping trips. Those things will still exist after having a child, but when you’re in the early days of motherhood, self-care will likely look much different. This checklist is the most realistic one I have found. As much as you want to take care of your newborn, you aren’t going to be able to if you run yourself into the ground. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby. Along the line of self care, join a mommy group. Many hospitals have them, and it’s a great way to meet moms who are in your same position.
- Rely on your village. Everyone’s village looks different. It depends if you’re in a relationship, have family nearby, know your neighbors, or have friends you trust. In some capacity, you have people that care about you and about your child. Use them, I beg of you. If they offer something, say yes (only if you’re comfortable with it - see PPD/PPA above). Accept as many meals as people will bring you. If someone offers to come over and hold your baby for a bit, go lay down or take a shower. The people who love and care about you do not expect you to entertain them when they come over. Let visitors do the dishes, the laundry, and the vacuuming. If you don’t feel like company, say so, and have them come another time.
- Download (more) baby apps on to your phone. There are two apps that I used a lot when my daughter was an infant. First, I used Baby Connect to keep track of everything from feeding to naps. I still use it to keep track of her height and weight. Secondly, I also loved The Wonder Weeks. Although nothing is foolproof, it was helpful to know if there was a difficult period coming up, and what signs to look for.
- Sign up for delivery services. Don’t go out of the house to do errands unless you want to (#targetvacation). For your daily everyday needs, use a grocery delivery service to take the load off. Whether it’s Google Express, Amazon Fresh, Instacart or something store specific, take advantage of it. Some stores may not have delivery, but they can bring the groceries out to your car. Do whatever it takes to make things easy for you.
- Load up on some TV. If you are lucky enough to have some maternity leave, you will be spending a lot of time on the couch. Now is the perfect time to binge watch TV, because those days will eventually be nonexistent (sob). My shows were Scandal and Friday Night Lights. This list will have something for everyone. Additionally, I highly recommend getting into podcasts. It made nighttime feedings much more bearable.
Try your best to enjoy this time, however trying it may be. Although these first few months may feel like they’ll last forever, they won’t. Welcome to the club!