Becoming a new mom can be extremely overwhelming. Most women – if not immediately, over the course of the first couple of weeks post partum – will undoubtedly feel unworthy to stand up to the task that is motherhood. There is so much to learn, experience, and do. The lack of sleep and uncertainty about how to handle even the smallest of situations can combine for what can quickly turn into an incredibly stressful period of time. Sometimes, it may be all you can do to keep from crying. Regardless of whether this is your first baby or whether you’ve had other children previously, each experience is unique and different, and you will encounter many different things along the way with each individual baby. Just as every pregnancy is different, so is every post partum period of motherhood.
Today, I want to offer you a glimmer of hope. Yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! It might not seem like it, but you are going to make it through. These incredibly stressful days of the screaming baby who has pooped up their back and out of their diaper 10 times won’t last forever. The incredible amounts of sleep your baby is experiencing while you’re wide awake, staring sleepy eyed into their little face, watching them as they dream, also won’t last forever. You will soon learn to decipher and decode your baby’s cries. You will learn what sleepless nights feel like, and you will make it through like a trooper. I promise you!
Today, I offer you this inspirational list as a survival guide of sorts. You can give one or all of these things a try to help boost your spirits, and bring you back to a centered state of mind in no time. You will find that with each passing day, you get a little bit stronger. Here are some personal tips from me to you that have worked for me throughout my time as a mom – and believe me, with 5 children, I’ve been through the ringer. I have seen and experienced so many different things through my walk as a mom, and I want to take positive things from those many different experiences and provide you with some things that truly do work. You will also find many tips on baby care, and I hope you will find them helpful as well.
Don’t Be Afraid to Cry
There’s a reason why I listed this one first. Crying is one of the best things a new mom can do to relieve the stress, tension, frustration, and even anger you may be feeling. There are so many things that can and will overwhelm you as a new mother. Some of these things will hit you on a daily basis for a while. Crying is a fantastic way to release. We ALL need to release in one way or another. Pick a comfortable spot somewhere you love in your home, and just hug a pillow, and cry. Let it out. Keep a box of tissues near that area because chances are, you are going to need to use them quite often. And guess what? That’s okay.
Keep an Emergency Bag on Hand
Having an emergency mom bag in the car is a surefire way to always have what you need on hand. Sure, you travel with your diaper bag to every appointment, store run, and church event, but what if you find that you forgot to restock your diaper stash in the diaper bag, and the baby really needs a change with absolutely no stores in sight? An emergency mom bag or box is a great way to have a backup for your backup. If you’re like me, you like to stock up on things when they are on sale and have too much of something on hand because you’re afraid of running out. Your emergency bag or box should be able to fit somewhere convenient in your car, like underneath your seat, or hang on the back of your seat, or even go somewhere in the trunk. Some ideas of things to include:
Diapers and wipes
Extra pacifiers, if your baby takes them
A clean bottle and breast pump parts, if applicable
a bottle or two of water
An outfit for baby should they need to be fully changed
A onesie, just in case
Tylenol or Advil for mom
A healhy snack or two for mom, such as a granola bar or pack of trail mix that won’t go bad
A few baby toys
Cash – it’s always a smart idea to keep a little cash for backup emergencies, because you just never know
Copies of baby’s insurance card
The Chores Can Wait
Even though there are dishes in the sink, laundry in the laundry basket, and the floor needs to be swept – remember, your baby needs you right now – and you need your baby, too – and your rest. You should spend at least the first week home snuggling your little sweet pea and sleeping as often as baby sleeps. Although it might sound cliché’, sleeping when baby sleeps will allow you the rest you need to recuperate and heal. It will help you when those sleepless nights come around, when baby decides to wake every few hours for cluster feedings.
Don’t Go Too Crazy
As scary as all of this new mom business is, try not to go too crazy over every little thing. You’re probably thinking, “That’s easy for you to say!” but I can assure you, I’m the queen of worry. As hard as it all may be and as overwhelming as it all may seem, you will get through all of this. Moms have been doing this for centuries. What we believe to be a big deal is usually not, and that’s the point where we need to learn to stop what we are doing, take a deep breath, and relax.
Breastmilk Works for Everything
Seriously. By no means am I exaggerating anything when I say this. You can use breast milk to cure baby acne, put some on scratches when baby decides to scratch their face, use it on diaper rash to help heal it, use it in bath water to moisturize baby’s skin, use it for cradle cap, use it on allergic reactions and more. Baby have an ear infection? Use it alongside their antibiotic and it will be gone in no time. Conjunctivitis? Breast milk.
We’ve all been there: it’s terrifying to think about cutting our baby’s nails. Now, you don’t have to. That’s not to say that you don’t need to take care of keeping your baby’s nails short – on the contrary, it’s extremely important. The safest, most effective and best way that I’ve found to complete nail care is to simply bite the nails off gently. You will want to turn the babys hand so that her palm is facing away from you, so that you can gain the best access to the grown out nail, and begin gently biting at the corner. Chances are, you will also be able to gently peel some of the nail away rather than bite the entire thing across, which also works wonderfully. This method (biting) gets the nails shorter, is safer than using clippers, and you can do it while baby sleeps.
Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, pump, baby sleeps, or you change a diaper – you will want to be sure to keep a log – at least for the first month. This will ensure baby is eating enough, pooping enough, peeing enough, and sleeping enough. It will also help you to learn your baby, their habits and their patterns. Below are links to logs you can print and use:
Diaper Log & Feeding Log Combined
Baby Sleep Log
Despite what your mama told you, and despite how you were raised, putting baby to sleep on thier back is the number one way to ensure their safety and prevent SIDS. Always put your baby to sleep on thier back. Use a swaddler wrap with velcro closure, or a Halo sleep sack which zips up and the baby wears it to bed, rather than loose blankets. Never put anything in your baby’s crib or bassinet besides your baby when he or she goes to sleep. Those adorable stuffed animals, crib bumpers, and comforters sure do look pretty during the day – but at night time, they pose a huge risk to your baby.
Coconut oil is another one of those go to items, similar to breast milk, that can be used for absolutely everything from cradle cap, to dry skin, baby acne, diaper rash and beyond. Pick up a container of Virgin Coconut Oil, which you can usually find for around $7-10 in most stores. A little bit goes a long way.
Stay Hydrated and Fed
It can be so easy to overlook our own needs as mothers and human beings when caring for a new baby; however, it is very important that we remember to always care for ourselves as well. After all, if we are not taking care of ourselves, how then will we be able to care for a tiny baby who requires all of our time, attention, and energy? Choose healthy whole foods for health and energy – especially if breastfeeding – and drink 10-12 glasses of water per day, or more.
Sign Up for Subscription Services
Signing up for bundle subscription services on things like diapers, wipes, and formula, if you choose to formula feed, can really help to take a huge burden off of your shoulders. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 3 AM only to realize you’re out of diapers or that you’re on your last scoop of formula and need to make a run to the store. Subscription services, such as The Honest Company‘s monthly bundle services make diapering your child easy and fun. They have so many cute patterns for both boys, girls, and even unisex styles available – and it’s incredibly cost-effective. The best part is, their diapers are sourced naturally and contain no harsh chemicals like some of the leading brands – that means a healthier, happier baby. Their organic baby formula is also top of the line and provides baby with all of the essential vitamins and minerals they need – and they’ve got formula types to fit every need for every baby.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you are fortunate enough to have the luxury of having help around, perhaps a mother, sister, or best friend, be sure to utilize their assistance as often as you need to. Maybe you just can’t make it to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, or to the store to buy milk and bread. Maybe you need some help with housework. There are usually more than enough people around who are willing to go that extra mile for a new mom. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
If you weren’t fortunate enough to be able to prep meals, cook them, and freeze them ahead of birth, fear not. Plan to take half of one day while your newborn sleeps – and we all know they can sleep for long stretches at a time throughout the day, so you can actually get some things accomplished – and prepare some meals for the week. Even if what you do are little things, like cook rice to go with meals, or bake a bunch of chicken to use for different recipes throughout the week, or cut up veggies so they are prepared and ready to go in Ziploc bags – these little things will go a LONG way when mealtime rolls around and half the work is done for you.
This one. Yes, prayer. You might think this sounds silly, but prayer – and a whole lot of it – has saved my sanity more times than I could ever admit. When I am at my weakest point, simply saying, “Jesus, help me, please!” has helped so much by empowering my soul and my mind. It gives me the peace of knowing he cares, that he is there, and that I am never alone – even in my most stressful moment. Also, it does what God tells us to – which is to ask for what we need – and knowing that he hears me during my most desperate moments means so much. It offers me such a peace in knowing he’s got this, he’s in full control, and there is nothing too big for him! He’s got my back.
Caring for your baby’s cord is simple. Keep it clean and dry. Doctors no longer recommend using alcohol on or around the cord stump, but just to allow it to dry up and fall away on it’s own. So, do that. Also, do not immerse your baby in a bathtub before her cord has fallen off. After the cord is gone, you can begin bathing in the tub. If your baby’s diapers are too high and rub against the cord stump, fold the diaper over before fastening.
Meditation has become one of my absolute favorite ways to calm down, recenter myself, bring myself back to the moment and simply just be. It’s not as strange and weird as I once thought it was. In fact, it involves no finger to thumb “omm” nonsense, either. There is a great app you can download on the Google Play Store known as ‘Calm’, and it’s one of the most fantastic apps I have on my phone. I love it dearly, and if you like meditating or are curious about giving it a try, I highly recommend it. There are many amazing mediation plans to choose from.
Take a Walk
Sometimes, taking a nice leisurely walk with the baby in his or her stroller is just what you needed all along. Connecting with Mother Nature by way of taking a walk is an amazing way to destress and enjoy some fresh air. It’s also great for baby, too!
Have a Cup of Tea
Did you know that the act of brewing a cup of tea or coffee can calm us down tremendously, scientists say? You don’t even need to drink it to get the benefit from it! But if you’re like me and you love tea and coffee, brew up a fresh cup of some of nature’s goodness and sip to your heart’s delight. It’s a great way to unwind. Keep in mind if you’re breastfeeding, you will want to keep your caffeine intake to under 200 mg per day – the same as when you were pregnant. So, about 2 cups of coffee, and 4 or so cups of tea per day. Better yet, if you like herbal tea with no caffiene, that’s your best bet – or try a Mothers Milk Tea blend for optimal milk production.
Get Up and At ‘Em
Just because you have a new baby, doesn’t mean there’s suddenly no reason for you to get up, take a shower in the morning, brush your teeth, fix your hair, and change out of your pajamas. Undoubtedly, you probably won’t want to do too much moving around in the first days following birth – and that’s understandable – but once you’re home, and life as a mom is finally starting to settle in, doing these things on a daily basis will help you to restore a sense of normalcy for yourself and also, help you to feel like a human again. Maybe you have a few extra minutes to blow dry your hair or put some makeup on. Do whatever you like that makes YOU feel good – but make sure you actually DO something.
When In Doubt, Call the Doc
If you feel like something is going on with your baby that just doesn’t feel right, call his/her doctor. You’re the mother, and you should always listen to your gut. Never underestimate the superpower that is being a mom. We can sense when things just don’t seem right.
Know the Signs of Post Partum Depression (PPD)
Post Partum Depression is an extremely serious, very common problem many post partum women face. It can happen as soon as hours after delivery, and up to one year following the birth of your baby. PPD isn’t exclusive to any one ethnicity or age group. It happens to many women. Post partum depression is a severe form of depression in which you may feel extremely sad, crying uncontrollably for no reason at all, and may have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. Do not ever be ashamed to seek help. Your doctor needs to know about this. There are so many ways in which your doctor is ready and willing to help you treat this problem before it gets out of hand. There is counseling and there are many medications which are available to help treat the disorder. Never be afraid to speak up. You deserve to feel like yourself again. You deserve to smile again.
Some signs to look out for are as follows:
2. Not wanting to participate in once favorite activities
3. Withdrawing yourself from your family and friends; becoming a ‘recluse’
4. Anxiety or panic attacks
5. Restless sleep or insomnia
6. Having thoughts of suicide or thoughts of hurting your baby
7. Feeling extremely angry and lashing out
8. Severe mood swings
With any luck, you’ll get the hang of this motherhood thing in no time. Chances are, you’re feeling better already – and that’s fantastic! Enjoy your baby, because they are only this little once. They grow so fast. Embrace every moment – because each one is a gift.