Before my beautiful baby girl, Nyla, came into this world I imagined I would come home from the hospital with pure bliss glowing from my cheeks like Duchess Kate Middleton. I even practiced my princess wave. I pictured myself delicately cradling my newborn in one hand, while gracefully waving to all who pass by me with the other.
Wrong, I was so wrong! Nothing went the way I imagined. (Seriously! who comes out of the hospital in heels?!) But the worst part wasn’t the fact that my cheeks weren’t perfectly rouged like Kate’s, it was the fact that I was starting this new chapter in my life, and I felt lost and helpless. I never had “baby fever”, or had the urge to hold someones new baby. Honestly, newborns scared me, they are so little and fragile. As a rule of thumb, I only held babies three months or older. When Nyla was born it was not what I expected, I struggled in the beginning. With my mother 140 miles away, I had to learn a lot on my own. Yes, my mother was just a phone call away, and yes google was just a click away, but it was still scary being home alone with such a fragile precious newborn. Even when my husband was home, it was just two new parents equally afraid of doing something wrong with their new daughter.
But do not fear new Mama Wolf, your wolf pack is here to ease your mind, and those first few weeks with your newborn!
Nursing, and nip tips:
Since I planned on breastfeeding, I did my homework to prepare. But, Holy Moley! I was not prepared for how painful it would be! The second day I experienced “afterbirth cramping” while nursing. This is caused by oxytocin being released while breastfeeding. The hormone causes, and helps, your uterus contract to its pre-pregnancy size (thank you, mother nature!). But, not being prepared for the cramping while breastfeeding sent me into a series of labor flashbacks I do not wish upon anyone! I was so traumatized I didn’t think I would last a week. Soon enough my nipples became so sore, and my breasts so engorged and tender when my husband brought Nyla to me to nurse I wanted to push her away! Of course I didn’t, and thank goodness it only lasted a couple weeks.
Here are some crucial nips–er–I mean tips, for surviving those first weeks of nursing:
- Buy Nursing bras. If you can buy them before baby arrives, do it! That way you can use them right away. Remember to get a bra with room to grow for when your milk comes in. TRUST ME.
- Nursing Pads are a must. Your body is going to be a milk machine. In my, and Julia’s experience disposables were the best (our favorite was Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads). Cloth pads are great in theory, and work great when your milk balances out, but their absorbency did not handle our volcanic let down. (We read great things about wool breast pads, but never used them, if you try them out let us know!)
- A nursing pillow is a necessity! I tired a regular pillow, some couch pillows and a blanket for about 4 months until Julia bought me one. She saved my back, neck and my arms! I can’t believe I was nursing without it for so long! I used the Boppy Nursing Pillow and not just for nursing; it was great for naps, tummy time, support for new sitters and even our husbands used it for bottle feeds!
- Good ol’ fashioned air out. Go commando–on top–and let those nipples see the light of day! Use a loose top or bathrobe, but beware, you will get wet from milk leaks. Use something you don’t mind getting milk stains on (so probably not your husbands favorite gym shirt).
- Lanolin is a great cream to prevent or help those chapped sore nipples. Yes, be prepared to see some moisturized nipples. Lanolin will moisturize before or after nursing, and is safe for baby. We both received Lansinoh HPA Lanonlin and it worked wonders–and bonus–you can use it on chapped lips or little dry patches on you or baby!
Just say, “HELP!”
One of my biggest regrets in those first few weeks is not accepting, or asking for help from anyone. I was uncomfortable asking for help from friends or coworkers, and I think I was also feeling too prideful and felt I had to prove to the world that I could do it on my own. For goodness sakes Mama Wolf, swallow your pride and ask for help! Your friends, coworkers, and family members are all just waiting to hear what you need from them.
- Ask for food. Before you even go into labor see if a few friends will prepare a few pre-made frozen crock pot meals, or casseroles that you just pop in the oven. Or, better yet, ask them to bring you take out so you don’t have to do any work at all! Time is precious once baby comes, and preparing a meal is low on the totem pole. A bonus for when someone brings a meal is they get to see baby, and keep you company–or you have someone to hold baby while you shower!
- Another great way a friend or family can help you is doing some housework. The last thing you want to do after a night of 3am diaper changes and a 4am 45 minute nursing session is to do dishes and laundry. ASK FOR HELP. If your mom is coming over, or a sister, or a good friend, ask them to load the dishwasher. Trust me, they are happy to help!
- Another great person to ask for help from is, believe it or not, your partner! Shocker, right? Julia and I learned that you cannot simply assume your partner will take the lead on cooking and cleaning, you have to verbally ask them to help. But, once you do, they are happy to help! Ask and you shall receive!
Sleeping–or lack there of:
One of the most challenging parts of the newborn phase is the sleep deprivation. Unfortunately I do not have any amazing, magical tips to make your baby sleep more. But, what I do have is some hard learned lessons that will help you sleep more.
The first few weeks after Nyla was born every night when she woke up to nurse I did the silliest thing; I would get out of my warm bed, take her out of her warm crib, take the both of us into the chilly living room, sit on the sofa and nurse her there uncomfortably, and so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. I did this because I felt guilty when I woke Neil during the night (I know, I know, put down the pitchforks). I was also afraid of falling asleep while nursing Nyla, or leaving her in my bed. Then one night something terrifying happened. I decided to nurse Nyla laying down in bed–but to be sure to stay awake. The next thing I knew I was waking up to a peacefully sleeping Nyla, a peacefully sleeping Neil, and believe it or not a peacefully sleeping ME! That’s right, we were all sleeping peacefully in bed during a 3am feeding. That is when I knew I had been doing it all wrong. From then on whenever Nyla fussed I brought her into our warm bed to snuggle up to Mama and nurse her while I lay comfortably with my eyes closed. I was just always sure to keep an arm out to feel for Neil, the pillows far away from Nyla, and the blanket down far below Nyla or her reach*.
- A great tip, that may seem so obvious it borders on cliche` is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Duh! Right? You would think, but for some reason moms always have to be reminded to do this. Don’t be ashamed to nap! Don’t be tempted to throw that load of laundry in, just lay down and nap! At the risk of sounding cliche` again, please ask for help if you need more sleep. Sleep deprivation can trigger or worsen Postpartum Depression and/or the Baby Blues.** Sleep is so important for new parents, and for some reason us moms still feel guilty taking a nap! That is why you should feel comfortable asking for help from someone you trust to watch the baby while you nap. Some partners have even found it useful to take turns during the night with the baby.
- Another way to get more sleep is to room share or bed share.* Having baby safely nearby helps many new moms rest more peacefully because they know they can hear their baby if needed and take a quick peek to check on her. There are so many awesome products on the market if you are interested in safe bed sharing products. There is the Arms Reach Co Sleeper, a DockATot, and Snuggle Nest. You can also just sidecar your crib to your bed so baby is in her own space, but right next to you! Julia started with the Snuggle Nest, and when Theo outgrew that, and attempts to get him to sleep in a crib failed time and again, they decided to sidecar his crib to the bed, and alas! Theo sleeps peacefully in his own safe space right next to his mama! (For tips about side-caring your crib to your bed click here) **I will add this later**
- Keep baby comfortable. This also may seem obvious, but make sure baby isn’t too cold or too warm. Do not use loose heavy blankets, but a thin blanket tucked in safely along the crib can keep baby comfortable. Also, you can skip the blanket and just use a cozy pajama. If it is warm in your home dress baby accordingly. Feel your babies extremities, if her head, feet, or hands are cold, add another layer. If her extremities are warm or she feels sweaty, take a layer off. Check babies diaper to ensure it is dry and comfortable, newborns poop a shockingly large amount.
- Swaddling is a great way to keep baby comfortable and comforted. Not only is baby warm and secure, but swaddling also gives baby a sense of familiarity. Nyla loved her Halo Sleepsack! She was warm, and snug, without the risk of a blanket covering her face or getting tangled around her neck. But, as a safety precaution, as soon as she showed signs of rolling over I swaddled her with her arms out.
- Julia and I are believers in soothers. So Theo has a pacifier and Nyla has her thumb and we have two babies that are comforted, soothed, and not on the breast all night when sleeping. Nyla and Theo both started out on the Philips Avent Soothie, which meant much needed rest for us!
So there you have it Mama Wolves, my tips for surviving the first few weeks with your newborn. Those weeks are tough, but you will survive! Don’t forget you can always call on your fellow Mama Wolves for help!
Please comment below for more advice, questions, or concerns. As always, be kind, respectful and spread some cheer!
*Please read up on bed sharing and be sure to bed share safely!*
**If you feel as though you could have Postpartum Depression, or your Baby Blues have not let up in about 2 weeks please reach out to your doctor. You do not have to live with PPD, and you are not alone!**