I’m five months into this motherhood adventure and am finally in a place where I can see fruit from the seeds planted those first six weeks. Those who follow my story know that I didn’t have much time to prepare for Adeline’s arrival (we moved to a new state five days before she was born)! I was more concerned about my natural birth than anything else at the time, so I spent more time preparing for that than I did reading up on post-birth care. Oopsies!
Despite my late start, I had an army of great women in the form of my mom, mother in law and women at my church to guide me. Below are five tips from my mommy-mentors that saved my life as a first-timer and set me up for peace and success five months down the road.
Rest When Baby Sleeps
The real phrase is “sleep when baby sleeps”, and I did do that after a few really difficult nights up with baby. It wasn’t realistic for me to sleep every time the baby napped, however. I still had laundry to do, meals to prepare, and honestly, I don’t enjoy taking naps (though I will when absolutely necessary).
My movin’ and shakin’ lifestyle had some negative effects. I didn’t stop bleeding until 8 weeks postpartum, probably because I was on my feet so much. The swelling took longer to go down for the same reason, and I ached more “down there” because of the blood and pressure of being upright. SO: Don’t be like me in that regard. But if you are like me in personality, sleeping every time the baby naps sounds like the biggest waste of daylight ever known to mankind. Here are some ideas for “productive rest” to get you off your feet while still getting stuff done:
- Have a laptop or iPad? Answer emails, place an Amazon order, or start a Shutterfly photo book from the couch! I would dictate emails into the iPad, listen to podcasts, or work on the blog while elevating my feet.
- Laundry problems? Before you lay the baby down, empty the dryer. Fold the clothes while reclining on the couch (I lay them on the floor, pick them up, fold and lay on the coffee table).
- Meal plan! Meal planning saves so much time and energy per week, it really should be mandatory. An infant’s hour nap is enough to do a two week meal plan and grocery list.
Don’t Hush the House
In our former apartment the “nursery” was also the office, spare bath, storage room, and laundry area. I mentioned to my mom that I’d need to schedule the laundry around the baby’s nap in order to avoid waking her up.
“Oh no, don’t do that!” My mom advised. “Run the laundry. The more noise she’s used to, the easier this will be.”
I could kiss her feet for that advice! (Did you hear that mom? No, I will not literally kiss your feet, but you can dream.)
Josh and I have never quieted the house for Adeline. Even when she slept in the living room in her bassinet, we talked in our normal voices, opened the doors, ran the laundry and played music. We now live on the main street of our city, with cars racing by at all hours of the day and night. The fire station – located behind our house – has alarms going off anywhere from 1-3 times a day. Needless to say, Adeline will sleep almost anywhere.
Some moms might wonder what I did at first, when these things DID wake her up. If I knew she was not hungry, wet, and she was due for a nap, I would let her fuss for five minutes or so. A few weeks of this and she became an expert at self-settling, which I’ll discuss a few points down. If she woke up for good, I adjusted my schedule and tried again the next time, never losing sight of the end goal: A baby who sleeps well with noise.
Get Out a Little
Depending on your birth experience – C-section or vaginal, relatively smooth or with complications – this may not be possible the first few weeks. Multiple children can make this more difficult as well, unless you can find a babysitter. But if you had a smooth birth, this is your first baby, and you feel up to it, get out of the house! Another way to put it would be “treat yo’self”: you might be happier staying in reading your favorite magazine while daddy takes baby duty. Just don’t try to do it all. Don’t refuse help.
From three days postpartum I took Adeline for a short walk in her stroller. I hope to do this again next time (but with more rest to offset being on my feet). The sunshine, weather, and just being out of the house did wonders for both myself and baby. I have such fond memories of those first walks with my little coffee bean.
A week after she was born our little family went to Starbucks and the next day we attended church. Again, this isn’t for everyone and you must decide what works for your health and family. For us, it helped us establish normalcy and connect with our new community.
For first-time moms resigning from their jobs to stay home, I highly encourage doing this once you feel comfortable. I firmly believe this made my transition from job to home much more positive. I worked until a week before Adeline was born, we moved a day after I took my leave, and I went into labor five days later. I didn’t have a car as Josh needed our SUV to commute to work. Those daily walks were a lifesaver to my attitude and outlook.
Practice “The Pause”
My all-time favorite baby book is BabyWise by Gary Ezzo. This is a controversial book and not everyone likes it, particularly those who use the attachment parent method. Regardless, this book set me up for success and has helped me establish flexible routines for every aspect of family life.
The “pause”, however, isn’t from BabyWise. It’s from the book Bringing Up Bebe, a treatise on French parenting by an American woman living in France. The author mentioned that many French parents in her acquaintance didn’t rush to their children the moment they fussed or cried. They “paused” for one to five minutes before assisting the child, depending, of course, on the urgency of the situation.
Some don’t believe in self settling; I do, because I’ve seen it work. I have seen it with my own daughter but also with children I nannied. The point is to teach the child that their needs will be met, but on your terms. I am the parent; I use discernment, wisdom, and common sense to establish my baby’s schedule based on her physical needs and the structure of the day.
The first month I fed Adeline on demand and did not try to implement any structure; she was too young. But from four weeks on I began to establish a schedule, practice the “pause” when needed, and now at five months just returned from a weekend away as baby spent two days with daddy! Establishing structure and patterns from an early age truly make for a happier, easier baby and thus a happier family life.
Give Yourself Grace
Finally, don’t ask too much of yourself in this season. I had to repeat this mantra over myself when it came to breastfeeding. Struggling with low supply the first three months, I wanted to give up every single day. I still don’t like breastfeeding, but the day I gave myself grace was the day it stopped stressing me out.
Whatever it is – establishing the routine, getting dinner ready on time, just transitioning to motherhood – give yourself grace! Every seasoned mother who advised me shared these same words, giving me hope that things would get better after the first six weeks. And they did. They were so much easier, things made more sense, and I felt confident in my decisions.
And don’t forget to pray through postpartum! You can get my free ebook on praying through your pregnancy, birth, and baby by signing up for my newsletter below. <3
All the best from one mommy to another ~