So here you are, home from the hospital with your bundle of joy tucked tight to your breast. He’s soft, warm, and smells amazing. You don’t want to put him down. Wait—you can’t put him down. The momentyou try he erupts into earth shattering cries. Luckily as a newborn their wailing is cuter than it is debilitating, but it still pulls at your heartstrings.
This brings us to the first lesson every new mother needs to learn, and possibly the hardest: put that baby down.
You Matter Too
Yes, it can feel selfish and contrary to what everyone tells you. Your whole life is this baby. You carried him in your womb, birthed him, and now he relies on you 100% of the time. There is no way you should be thinking about yourself when he is the apple of your eye.
Even though he wants to be held 24/7 that doesn’t mean you can’t also take a little break now and again. When your husband or boyfriend gets home from a grueling day at work, tell them “too bad” and hand the baby off. You need a shower, you smell like sour milk. Wash your hair, luxuriate. Try and take time for a few activities for yourself. Trust me, your baby won’t remember that you put him down once for a half hour. You don’t want to grow to resent your child for trapping you.
1 in 10 women in the United States experience post-partum depression, and a lot of the time that can only get worse if you feel like you are doing this alone. It can seem like it isn’t worth it to even try to leave the house. Either you’d have to know you have the confidence to breast feed in public or pump milk in advance, or you would have to bring what feels like a full store of formula.
Leaving the house with a newborn is a daunting task, but you should do it at least once or twice a week. Even just grabbing a cup of coffee or heading to the library can remind you that the world is still out there. This can do wonders for any depression you may be having as well.
Your Baby Doesn’t Need That
The excitement of finding out you are pregnant is soon overshadowed by everything you don’t know. Trying a simple search online for things your newborn may need shows a plethora of items that you don’t have the faintest idea about. A wipe warmer? Gripe water? Why would a baby need so many toys and dangling things?
Guess what: a lot of the items marketed towards infants are entirely unnecessary. At first this can be hard to see, because you want to provide for your child. But remember, most children went without a million toys and devices and did just fine. So did their mothers.
My child didn’t need a single pacifier. Seriously, he never really got into them or needed one so the million I purchased were never used. It’s important to remember that you can’t really prepare ahead of time because every baby is different.
Single mothers often can’t afford every toy on the market necessary to entertain their child. A lot of toys that are said to help development are really just meant to distract a baby and can even hinder growth.
Take for example baby walkers; they actually delay development when it comes to walking. They often put unnecessary strain on a baby’s hips and spine because their legs are not ready to walk. This is just another thing your baby doesn’t need.
Another toy that isn’t so great are those cute little seats designed to help your baby sit up before he can do it himself. This can seem like a great idea because your baby can now be involved in everything without you having to hold them, since the chair provides support. This is not recommended for young babies because it forces the baby into a position its body isn’t ready for and prevents muscles from actually developing.
It can be tempting to want to pick up one of everything on the market geared toward new mothers, but you need to learn your baby first. A swing is usually recommended, but there is no need to get a crazy expensive one. Stick to cheaper options to test with your newborn and see what works for them. Some love swings, some love rockers, some even love both.
More than anything, your baby needs you. Everything else you can experiment with as they grow.
Proper Car Seat Application
Buckling your newborn into a car seat can seem like a no brainer for many parents, but it actually isn’t the case. A recent study showed that around 95% of parents make mistakes when installing their car seats or placing their children into them.
This is very important because if you get into a car accident your newborn has no resistance to injury. Their soft little bones can’t hold up to a crash, and if they aren’t buckled properly their car seat can actually do more damage than good. It is even possible for them to slide out.
Making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, it just means you have work to do. So make sure to look up the proper guidelines for your infant car seat, and know what exactly is safest.
Here are a few helpful tips to keeping your newborn safe in their car seat:
- Make sure that the harness is tight and doesn’t gape away from the baby’s chest. You should only be able to fit two fingers between the straps and their chest.
- The chest clip should be positioned on the chest, not lower, as it could puncture their stomach and damage their organs.
- The straps in a rear-facing seat should come up behind them and over the shoulders, they shouldn’t be higher than their shoulders.
- No extra coverings should be used that came outside of the original packaging. Nothing that would obstruct or hinder the purpose of the car seat like neck pillows or padding.
- If your newborns head is falling forward or to the side feel free to use receiving blankets rolled up on either side of his head but don’t tuck anything in or around him.
- A baby should never be buckled into their car seat with thick jackets or blankets. Always be sure to remove thicker layers and then cover them with a blanket once they are buckled in. This keeps them from sliding out because the extra padding means you loosen the harness.
No one is ever trying to make a new mom feel guilty. There is so much to learn all at once. Just be sure to take any suggestions for corrections kindly and do research on what is safest and recommended.
Enjoy Your Baby
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. The dishes can wait, the laundry can wait, the dog . . . okay he can’t wait, let him outside quick before he pees on the floor. But other than him, everything that feels so urgent and disastrous that is piling onto your shoulders can wait.
Too easily we mothers can fall into the need to make everything perfect around the house. That’s just not possible with a newborn at the hip. When he’s so young and fragile and incapable you don’t want to leave him anywhere even for a moment. The sweet thing can’t even sit up, he needs you!
So don’t worry about cleaning. You’ll get to it.
In ten years you won’t remember all the mountains of laundry or the grime on the windowsills, you’ll remember the sweet moments of cuddling and feeding your precious baby each day. Too soon he will be crawling around and too excited to play for those soft, quiet times.
All those toys everyone says your newborn will need won’t be necessary, because you will be there to entertain him. My son had one or two teething toys until he was about eight months because that’s all he needed. By then he was old enough to start showing a preference and I let him pick out the toys he wanted. That was always entertaining because, well, babies are silly. By the time he was one he had way too many toys, but that was still my fault. It is totally normal to want to spoil your child, but remember that the best way to spoil him is ultimately free: your time, love, and attention.
Hopefully this little collection of advice helped any new moms out there who don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Hey, I’ve been there.
Remember that you and the baby matter most and everything else comes after. There are no specific rules to follow and no milestones to meet immediately. You aren’t failing if your baby takes a bit longer to sit up or grow teeth.
Remember how you feel when you look at him so peaceful and asleep. You’ll need the memories, because these days don’t last long.