When you’re pregnant with your first, you get bombarded with horror stories about labor and delivery, needless to say, you go into labor knowing the ins and outs of what could go wrong or, hopefully, right.
What they never tell you about is what it’s like taking that baby home, the facts on how best to swaddle, feed/nurse, bathe, and flat out survive! They don’t tell you about all the unique questions you will have, the fears and anxieties, the marital stress, the bodily stress which makes after birth recovery ten times more difficult. How your body, even 4 months after, is still recovering! That being said, I want to share a bit of what I’ve learned in order to help any new mom out there.
First, meet James, my sweet (generally), little bub. He is 4 months old to the day in that picture and boy does he keep me on my toes. Being a mom is great and I love him to pieces, so don’t get too overwhelmed by my “overwhelmedness”, my story is different than your story, and no matter what your baby is like, or how you are, God chose you to be your child’s mother, that IS something and that SAYS something about you. If you ever feel underqualified, remember that God believes in you and trusts you with His own. You will survive this!!
What they never told me about nursing:
- It is very hard to get a proper latch, you want your baby to take in more than just the “nipple”, and any improper latching will hurt you.
- Those first few nights after birth are hell if you are breastfeeding because that milk doesn’t come in right away. Don’t fret and supplement with formula if you must!
- Prepare to pump all day and if you plan to freeze, know that not all women can freeze their milk, something about the enzymes causing milk to go bad even in the freezer! (this was true for me)
- Don’t feel condemnation if you can’t keep it up. Honestly, I breastfed for a month and that was all I could handle, and even James was not reacting well to the milk so formula saved us both!
- “Letting down” as they call it, which happens a ton when your breastfeeding, like, even if your baby so much as cries sometimes, is painful and when you do plan to dry up, you will want to limit the milk let down triggers if possible.
- Get a bra that holds the pumps on!!! I spent hours holding those things on because the suction doesn’t hold. Also, more milk won’t flow if you up the suction power, just put it to what level you can handle comfortably and pump often/or breast feed often if you want milk to come in faster (no food tricks will make it come in more).
- Babies may lose a pound at first on breastmilk, and if you notice your baby gaining too quickly later on, try to make sure they are not just getting the first fatty foremilk. Which lasts about 15 min into feeding per breast, until you reach hindmilk which has more nutrients and less fat.
What they never told me about caring for boys:
- Circumcisions are no joke, but they do heal within 10 days roughly and require very little care. Just buy Vaseline to have handy when you bring your little guy home and keep diapers loose…no pants either!
- Keep the skin around circumcision pulled back (you will need to do this even after it is healed until they are 1 to 2 years old or you risk them developing a penile adhesion. (Was never told this and our little guy almost developed one recently!)
- Boys have the ability too shoot pee very high (sometimes into their own face during changing time). My son pees every time we put him in the bathtub and frequently during diaper changes. Be prepared, keep a pee guard up and understand that the diapers you got at your shower may not work for you. Pampers has worked best for us when it comes to avoiding leaks up the back/sides.
What they never told me about caring for newborns:
- I honestly wouldn’t believe the myth that some babies just cry for no reason, my little guy has always had a reason and the whole “colic babies just cry and there isn’t much you can do about it” phrase is nonsense. My son had gas (still does) and acid reflux and it took me a long time of learning to realize what was ailing him and how to help.
- Learn how to massage the stomach and bicycle the legs to help with gas and constipation. As you struggle to find the right formula mix (which you should give each formula at least a month before switching), gas and bowel issues will ensue. I no longer need Mylicon drops (which barely work) to ease my kiddo.
- Babies have under-developed stomachs so bare with them when trying formulas and don’t just assume that your child has an allergy to milk, which apparently isn’t as common as I once thought. James had constipation for a few weeks when we switched him to a formula with milk that wasn’t so broken down for him, but now he is great on it. It just takes time.
- Prune juice ( a VERY tiny amount) in milk will ease constipation!
- Tummy time is very vital, even for newborns! And helps with gas also.
- Be sure to bathe every single fat crease and wrinkle on your baby-they get stinky fast (within a day) and diaper rash can develop anywhere. Newborns need bathed only ever couple days or they can dry out too much.
- Trim nails while baby sleeps, use a grinder if you’re afraid to trim their nails and give a newborn a few weeks before you trim them because their skin may be attached to the nails at first.
- In the first month of life your baby will shed a whole layer of skin, just gently wash off and keep lotion on them. This is normal adjustment to life outside the womb.
- Newborns breathe really funny. Like, many have periodic breathing patterns when sleeping where they stop breathing for 10 seconds. This is normal but anything longer I would keep tabs on.
- Babies aren’t great at regulating their temperature. My son can go from very hot to clammy and cold in a matter of minutes. Just be sure to dress your baby light at night or during naps because overheating is a major risk for SIDS.
- Not all newborns sleep. My son only slept 10 minutes here and there and once he kept me up 24 hrs. No joke! Get your sleep now if you’re expecting!
- Overstimulation can quickly cause a fussy baby. People love to make babies laugh and try to get a smile out of them but babies can only handle excitement in short bursts-the time lengthens as they age but even my 4 month old can only take so much. Overstimulation can lead to overtiredness which in turn means your baby will struggle to calm and lay down for a nap. (Just be aware of the cues that your baby is done playing), this goes for newborns and older babies.
- Rotate your newborn’s head while they sleep so they don’t develop flat or bald spots.
- If bottle feeding or breastfeeding be aware that your baby’s head is elevated properly or they may choke on the milk or even run the risk of getting ear infections. My son choked on milk a lot and stopped doing this around the 2 month mark.
What they never told me about babies:
- At the 4 month mark be prepared to change the way you get your baby to sleep. At this time babies don’t sleep so easily and fight it even. Rocking, singing, swinging baby may have worked before but now it can have the opposite effect, and overstimulate your already tired baby. This is the chance for you to teach your baby to self soothe. My son takes a pacifier only when he is ready to take a nap. Just get them to where they are tired but still awake and lay them down in a quiet darker location with a fan on. I might still pat his back and help him with pacifier but otherwise he sleeps on his own now. (Setting a nightly schedule is vital)
- Rotate your baby if they get fussy while they are sleeping-they don’t know how to roll over yet so they can get uncomfortable if in the same position for to long, just as we do.
- Bottle sizes/types/and nipple sizes are a challenge for new mothers. Especially when dealing with colic. My best solution was anti-colic Dr. Browns bottles or Tommee Tippee anti-colic bottles. You will want a slow flowing type bottle and start small on the nipple size until your baby shows signs of not getting milk fast enough. Do frequent burping breaks to ease colic and just let your little one have time to adjust to bottle feeding. They are learning too.
- Teething began as early as 3 months with my baby, prepare for the saliva and constant fingers in mouth. (you’ll want to have many teething options for when those teeth really pop through because fingers in the mouth can cause teeth issues later on). No teething toys? a rag will do in a pinch.
- Shots can be a rough time-but more so for you mom than the baby. My son got a fever with his second row of shots and wouldn’t take Tylenol. If your child gets a fever, try a cold wet rag on the forehead and loose clothes with no socks. If you bathe him/her, make it warm not room temp or this can cause a spike in the fever.
What they never told me about post partum healing:
- Using the restroom sucks, and sitting on your butt sucks for a few weeks if you had stitches. Just keep ice and witch-hazel pads handy and spray bottle with a tad of hydrogen peroxide/water.
- Your stomach may look ruined but it will go back to a likable shape, especially if you do exercises to strengthen them as well as doing Kegels to strengthen your other muscles.
- Stretch marks will be sore as they heal, but they will fade from red to purple and will eventually turn light or whitish.
- Your joints will be recovering awhile as well as your back since you still have relaxin hormone in your body keeping you loose.
- You will get random pains/cramps for months as you regulate. Your back will be the last thing to feel normal…mine still isn’t! Just try and keep back straight/good posture.
- Your emotions will be crazy! course that could be from the stress of having your life completely change.
- Your hair may fall out around 3 months. Yep, mine is falling out drastically still. I read that taking Biotin could help as well as continuing to take prenatals.
- Your feet may forever be larger. This never happened to me, but for some ladies, your feet get bigger due to the relaxin and stay bigger.
- Your breasts are done for, lol, sorry. They may just stay this large though after breast feeding is over they get thinner.
- You may have post partum bleeding for a long time, don’t overdo and let yourself heal. If you don’t, this process will last longer and you risk hemorrhaging.
- Take care of yourself!
- And if you plan on getting pregnant again right away, my advice is to wait at least 6 months so your body has plenty chance to heal, this is also best for your future baby.
Well, that is the jist of what I’ve learned so far as a new mother, and that’s leaving out plenty still! If you’re a new mom and have any specific questions for me, I’d love to try and answer them. I know I’m not an expert but I also know how I felt on those long rough nights when I was scared and stressed beyond belief and the doctors offices were closed or they flat out didn’t have an answer for me. Hearing other moms voice the same issues and how they resolved them gave me a sense of peace as I hope I can do for you as well.
May God bless you all for bringing new life into this world. And may He fill you with peace and joy that passes understanding, each day is a chance to renew and build positive memories. Seriously, with James, one day we are both crying, the next we are laughing and I’m marveling at him achieving new milestones. Take care of yourself and nab some sleep and rest whenever you can girl. You got this!