Note: I started this when Vincent turned 3 months. He’s now closing in at 5, but everything is still pretty damn fresh in my memory!
I thought I’d put together a little guide about the first 3 months by someone who has just gotten out of the first 3 months for any pregnant, first-time moms out there. I know: You’re already getting bombarded with advice from other moms. But most of those other moms had their babies a while ago, am I right? Even if their kids are still little, things change SO much, so fast in Baby World, and the first few months are probably blurring together to them in their minds anyway. So, if I were about to have another newborn, here’s what I’d want to remember.
(Key points in bold in case you’re super tired or busy and don’t have time to read everything. :D)
1. Just because sleep is the Holy Grail of parenthood, it does not have to be as unattainable. Jim and I discovered the hard way that baby sleep experts are experts for a reason. We, like many parents, decided the experts didn’t know what they were talking about. Swaddling wasn’t for our kid. Our kid must not like swaddling because he cried and fussed when we did it, so we took it off. Only later, when Vincent was having a particularly hard time sleeping, I decided to try it again. I ignored his fussing, swaddled him snugly, plopped him in bed, put in a pacifier and turned on the fan, and he quieted right down! After doing it several days in a row, he would actually start smiling as soon as he was swaddled. Sadly, he started rolling all over the place, so we stopped. But now I’m sad because of ALL THAT TIME I lost not swaddling. So remember: Swaddle, swing, pacifier, and white noise.
- If you suck at swaddling like I do (I think that’s why we had problems at first), the Halo Sleepsack is awesome. Even though Vincent sleeps with his arms out now, he often won’t sleep unless he has it on. He loves it.
- If you’re worried about using a pacifier, take solace in that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pacifier use for sleeping as it’s associated with a significant decrease of SIDS when babies are put down with one for sleep. I know there are fears of potential issues with teeth and nipple confusion, but from what I’ve read, there’s no risk for dental problems with normal pacifier use during the first few years, and in my book, SIDS risk (which is my New Mom Fear) trumps worries over nipple confusion. If my baby suddenly decided he preferred nipples of the rubbery persuasion, I’d pump breast milk and give it in bottles. Inconvenient, yes, but I’ll take that over SIDS, thanks.
- Swings are a must have. I was lucky enough to have a lot of baby experience going into this whole parenting thing, so I knew I wanted a swing. Jim was skeptical, but now I hear him telling other people, For the love of God, get your ass a swing! Yes, I was worried about SIDS via asphyxiation but was reassured when our pediatrician said that “while not as safe as a flat bed…if you keep any blankets away from his face, you should be fine.” Also, the threat is lessened if you get a reclining swing.THEN I used to worry about Vincent developing flat spots or spending too much time in the swing until I learned that Dr. Harvey Karp recommends a swing to put younger babies to sleep. I felt better after learning that. I recommend reading this blogger if you’re interested in swings and sleep. (Incidentally, Vincent does not have any flat spots, and he’s in his swing a LOT. But he also spends a lot of awake time on his tummy, so I think that has a lot to do with it.)
- White noise helps a LOT. I seriously recommend playing this. We play this for Vincent in the living room (his swing and the computer are both out here), and often, he’s out within minutes. I sent this link to my friend Meagan, who used it on her newborn who was being fussy and wouldn’t sleep. Soon after, I got a text from her declaring me a “fucking lifesaver,” lol. When Jim and I move Vincent into our bedroom, where Vincent’s co-sleeper is, we use our huge, noisy fan for white noise. (Which, of course, has the added benefit to being linked to a lower SIDS rate. Didn’t I mention SIDS is my new-mom fear? Heh.)
Other important things we learned about baby sleep: start getting the baby ready to be put down for sleep as soon as he/she shows “sleepy cues.” Don’t fall into the trap of thinking He hasn’t been up that long! Just a little longer… Jim and I have found out the hard way that overtiredness is NOT a myth! It’s much easier to get Vincent to sleep when he’s just starting to yawn as opposed to waiting longer.
Also, we’ve found that while light didn’t bother Vincent when he was only a couple weeks old, he had a much harder time with it once he got older. One of the girls in my birth group on Baby Center suggested that it seems to correlate with their eyes getting better, which not only seemed to be the case for us, it makes complete sense. Once babies can see better, they’re more easily distracted and can become too stimulated to sleep. So even though Vincent’s swing is in the living room, as soon it’s time for him to go down for a nap, the lights and TV get turned off. Sleep is usually much easier after that.
(Yes, our set-up isn’t that great, but right now, we don’t have room in our bedroom for the swing. Or, at least, not to have it near an outlet. Half the outlets on our main floor don’t work. So I’ve done a lot of reading by flashlight and we’ve both been watching much less TV than we used to. Sucks, but my guess is that your situation is better than ours!)
Recommended: This site is wonderful if you’re like me and get paranoid about your baby’s sleep.
2. Breastfeeding only sucks at first.
Well, that’s been my experience, anyway. And trust me, I had a lot of things setting me up to fail, with my blood loss leading to my milk coming in late and then my milk not having enough calories. Eventually, it all came together, but I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about how, once my milk finally did come in, breastfeeding HURT. Like hell. I remember getting to the point of near tears, and I have a pretty high pain tolerance. I was tempted to just pump and give it in bottles, but I stuck with it, made sure we were positioned correctly, and within a couple of weeks, it was cake. Way easier than making a bottle.
Now, I don’t even have to do much. I plop Vincent down on the Boppy and he’s like one of those dolphins at Sea World, practically jumping up to get his meal.
One thing I see a lot in my baby groups is that many women–women who DIDN’T have complications–say that they “don’t produce enough milk,” give up, and go to formula entirely. Why? There’s some skepticism on if these women are really not making enough milk, but let’s say for the sake of argument that they aren’t. Why not just breastfeed first, then give formula? That’s what the hospital had me do, that’s what our pediatrician had me do, and everything worked out well: Vincent got the benefits of breast milk but the formula made sure he got the calories until my breast milk regulated itself. Also, it saves money because you won’t use nearly as much formula as you would have if you were formula feeding exclusively.
If your baby is one where nipple confusion is an issue–thankfully, it hasn’t been an issue for Vincent at all, he goes back and forth every day–then I’d personally pump and bottle feed. Inconvenient, sure, but the benefits of breast milk are way too important to give up on.
3. Even if you plan to exclusively breastfeed, keep some formula on hand
You never know when you’re going to eat something that bugs your baby. Vincent went through a spell where when I’d try to breastfeed him, he’d end up crying and arching his back. If you’ve read anything about baby cues, this can be (and was) a sign of pain. Turns out soda was the culprit. I didn’t think that it could be at first–the hospital gave me 7-up the week I was in the hospital and Vincent was fine–but lo and behold, as soon as I got soda out of my diet, Vincent never had another episode.
My point? You never know when something like that is going to happen. You can’t just let your kid starve until you get the offending food out of your diet–or until you figure out what it IS. Best to have formula on hand. I would also say it’s best to give the baby formula every once in a while just so they’re used to the taste, in case this scenario ever DOES happen.
Incidentally, it seems like things like this can come and go. When I have soda now, it doesn’t seem to bother Vincent at all.
Also, I would never wish this experience on anyone. Seeing your baby in pain from just trying to EAT is awful.
4. Start tummy time as soon as possible
We hated it. We pushed it off for a while. Then our pediatrician said that we needed to be doing it up to 4 times up to 15 minutes a day.
First of all, I’m going to tell you right now that, at first, there was no way we were going to get that much tummy time in. Newborns sleep a LOT. Especially those first couple of months. Pretty much as soon as Vincent was done eating, he was back to sleep. There was no way we were getting a total hour’s worth of tummy time in.
Still, if I could rewind time, I would have put him down even just for a minute right away. Because by the time we did start doing it, Vincent REALLY hated it. He still gets annoyed on his tummy (even though he’s the one who’s rolling over onto it all the time!), but he’s much better than he used to be. I wish I had started Tummy Time Hell earlier and gotten the “getting used to it” part over with sooner.
5. Get a carrier–and get the baby used to it when he/she is a newborn.
When I finally gave into the pressure to create a baby registry (AND YOU SHOULD–people are going to buy you stuff whether you like it or not, so you might as well make it easier on everyone), I did little research on which carrier to get. I chose the Moby wrap mostly because I had heard that it was very comfortable and I liked the way it looked. I blew off the reports that it had a huge learning curve. Hey, Jim and I are smart people. We can figure out a big piece of cloth.
Sigh. Oh, past Spring, you silly girl.
Okay, in my defense, I did figure out the Moby quickly. When you’ve seen a few videos, it’s not that hard. It’s not the actual putting on part. It’s the getting it the right “tension” so it’s not too loose or too tight–it’s the feeling comfortable with it part. It’s the this fabric is so long that it’s annoying part.
I remember putting Vincent in it the first time. I tried the newborn hug hold, but I quickly realized there were a couple of problems. I am a short woman–barely 5 feet tall. This means I have a short torso. And I had a long newborn. Honestly, I don’t think any amount of expertise was gonna make that work.
I did it that one time and that one time only. I was done. The Moby wasn’t for us, I decided.
Then Vincent got a little bigger. Thankfully, he started holding his head up well pretty much from birth. But once we really were sure we didn’t need to hold his head, I decided to try the regular hug hold because then I could leave his legs out. I tried. He cried. We repeated it over and over. He hated it. I hated it. Again, I decided it wasn’t for us.
But because I really, really wanted it to work, I kept trying–and finally, it clicked. I was doing the same movements, but I’d finally grown comfortable with it, and so did Vincent. And then we discovered something. Vincent liked the Moby wrap. I liked the Moby Wrap. Jim, who initially hated the wrap at first as well, started liking it himself.
Unfortunately, by the time we figured all of this out, Vincent was starting to get too heavy for it. Yes, Moby says that you can carry toddlers in it, but I’m telling you now, Vincent will be in tightly and then start to sag. From what I’ve read, other parents say the same thing: Somewhere around 15 pounds, the Moby isn’t the best thing anymore.
So, if I were doing this all over again, I’d get myself and the baby used to the carrier from the get-go. The first several times may be hard, though. Be prepared for frustration. Holy crap, is it worth it in the end.
Also, if you’re only going to have one carrier (which I recommend having more than one), DO NOT PICK SOMETHING LIKE THE MOBY. Sure, I love it now. But it does take a while to get used to. Meanwhile, Vincent has lots of other relatives who love him, want to hold him, and, on occasion, babysit him (THEY ask to babysit him more than we ask them to, believe it or not!), and it would be nice if they could use a carrier, too. But they don’t have access to the Moby, so they don’t have that time to learn to put it on. I wish I had a regular, easy-to-use carrier just so I–and others–could have been wearing Vincent while I was still getting used to the Moby.
That being said, I do love our Moby wrap now. I will use it for the next baby–if there is one. But if you’re about to have your first and you have your heart set on the Moby Wrap, please, please, for the love of god, if you can, PRACTICE BEFORE THE BABY COMES. It’s even better if you have a friend with a baby to practice on because using a stuffed animal is SO not the same thing. If you’re comfortable with it before the baby comes, you’ll get more use out of it.
Also, I would suggest making it yourself or buying a used Moby. Really, at the end of the day, it’s just a long piece of fabric. Put that money you would have paid for the Moby toward an easier-to-use carrier. (I have my eye on the Ergo. :))
With all this being said, strollers are still great too. I’ve noticed several baby-wearers kind of sneer at women who use strollers, clucking at how those “poor babies” are stuck in strollers. I’ve got news for you: Vincent liked his stroller way before he liked the Moby wrap. Also, I’ve never gotten him to sleep in the Moby wrap. He almost always falls asleep in the stroller. AND…it’s easy for your and your partner to switch off who has the baby than if one of you is carrying the baby in a carrier.
Okay, I’m done. For now. I have lots of opinions on lots of things, but 5 is a good number to leave this off at. Also, this is just getting kind of long! lol.