A Newborn Instruction Manual for Soon-To-Be Parents
This post is for my cousin, who is pregnant with a baby girl (YAY!!!), my coworker whose wife is going to have a baby very soon, and all of the expecting mothers out there on the internet. I feel like so many posts about newborns, and conversations you’ll have while pregnant, usually involve some version of two statements: “Sleep now, because you won’t when the baby is here!” and “It all goes by so quickly!” You know what those statements do to new parents? Instill the fear of God in them. I was a little terrified I was going to be thrown into a black hole of sleepless nights and shower-less days and the whole newborn stage sounded slightly distressing. Stop. Saying. Those. Things. Let’s talk about how wonderful newborns are instead, shall we?
Don’t fear, new parents: the newborn stage is wonderful.
So, I just want to write a different perspective: I LOVE NEWBORNS. I forgot how much I love this stage and as much as I want her to grow up, which she will quickly, I’m truly enjoying this sweet, snuggly, itty bitty stage. I don’t mind the constant diaper changes, frequent feedings, or getting woken up in the middle of the night. The snuggles are worth it, every hour of the day. I also have a very content and happy baby, which I think is a combination of me being relaxed, following her cues, making sure she’s well feed (girl loves to eat!!!) and establishing a good night time routine early. Also, of course, I’m blessed with a healthy baby and am surrounded by a team of loving people that help every step of the way. This, I think is key to balance – especially if you’re a working mom – to know your babies are being cared for by loving people. (If you want my opinion on work / life balance, you can read things to be happy about if you’re a working mom.)
So, soon-to-be parents, here is your newborn instruction manual: let her sleep, feed her when she’s hungry, put clothes on her, don’t forget her at home, change her diapers, and clean her.
You got this.
1. Your baby will sleep.
This one is first because this is what all new moms want to know. I read parts of Baby Wise but didn’t really buy into that whole philosophy, which is to put your baby on a schedule to get them to miraculously sleep through the night. Sounds great on paper but did not work as stated in the book for us. Then I started reading the other extreme by La Leche League, which encouraged sleeping with your baby and nursing all of the time – and that you won’t smash your baby just like you wouldn’t roll over a melon in the bed. uh… no. Point is: there are a million different opinions on how to get your baby to sleep the maximum amount of hours a night, and you’ll drive yourself insane trying to figure it out. There is no magic solution. Every time you think you’ve mastered something, she’ll change – that is the only consistent and reliable attribute of a baby! I feed my baby when she’s hungry and let her sleep until she wakes up. End of story.
I do think, however, that the Happiest Baby on the Block has some great tips, which include swaddling, using a white noise machine, and nursing. From the day we brought her home, I started a nighttime routine which included swaddling her and nursing her in a dark room. She’s usually down for the night between 8:30 – 9pm. It took a few days but she started sleeping really well, and only gets up once or twice during the night. Some nights are better than others. She has slept in her own crib in her own room from the night we brought her home. It’s very close to our bedroom, but if it were farther away and I had to do too much work to get there, she’d be sleeping in our room.
- Read the Happiest Baby on the Block and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child for practical sleep tips and what is the normal amount of sleep per age/stage
- Swaddle with the Miracle Blanket or the Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle
- Use a Wubbanub pacifier because it won’t fall out as easily.
- Use a White Noise Machine to help her sleep longer. I had one of these from my pregnancy to drown out the snores emanating from my cavalier king charles spaniel, a 17 pound dog who snores as loud as 100 Harleys during Myrtle Beach Bike Week. I like this one the best – the ones that are electronic and have different choices like ocean, crickets, etc. aren’t as comforting.
- Consider using a humidifier. I’m not sure if this actually does a thing, but I use it every night just in case it contributes to ten more minutes of sleep.
- Don’t stay up all night to make sure your baby is breathing. Or leave the monitor on crackling because that will keep you up, too. She’ll be fine. Get some sleep.
- Limit your googling. Advice I definitely don’t follow, but should.
- Invest in at least three kissy kissy convertible gowns – they are the BEST. Made of super soft, high quality cotton, these long gowns make diaper changes simple. I used them for both my babies.
2. Your baby will also eat.
I chose to breastfeed. I don’t think that makes me any better than moms that choose formula, but that’s what I know so that’s what I’m going to write about here. When I made the switch with Thomas, I used Target brand generic Similac and it worked fine. Either way – whatever works best for you will be ALRIGHT. Baby will eat, grow, and be healthy.
I LOVE breastfeeding. I’m blessed with solid “milkers” as my son dubbed them, and my little baby girl loves to eat. All of the time. Prefers the source. We’re a happy pair. You may see me on the cover of Time Magazine in 4 years with a pre-schooler latched to my chest. Ha.
If you are planning on breastfeeding, please know that it’s wonderful but difficult at first and you’ll have a bazillion questions. Find a lactation consultant. Ask your doctor for a recommendation. The hospital may have one. When you do have your little bundle of joy, ask the nurses for help. Be prepared for nurses to touch your boobs. Get over your modesty. When you get home, you’ll have more questions. It’s best if you have someone to call. Even though I’d done it before, I wished that I had someone to call – she kept falling asleep, I wasn’t sure how long I was supposed to nurse, etc. A lactation consultant is a much better assistant than Google.
Interesting fact: even if you think you aren’t making milk, most likely you are making milk. Pumping isn’t an indicator – babies are more efficient than a pump. You can pump, then nurse, and baby will still get milk.
Surprisingly, since I like to buy every baby gadget available, I did not get a special breastfeeding pillow… I just use my arm. I do keep my iPad near. Now I know there are many perspectives on breastfeeding, and sanctimommies who will tout staring into your baby’s eyes to bond while you breastfeed, and it is a bonding experience. And I do stare into her eyes, when they are open. Most of the time she has her eyes closed and she’s going to town because she loves to eat.
I pump. A lot. And everywhere: while driving, in four different states, while perched uncomfortably on the edge of a restaurant toilet, at work… you get the picture. I introduced the bottle around 2 weeks, despite what the internet says. It’s worked out just fine – she still breast feeds but also will take the bottle. However, we tried a few bottles before finding that the Phillips Avent worked the best. She was spilling out the milk everywhere with other bottles. We use the one with the slowest flow nipple so she will still nurse. (Some babies stop nursing when they start using bottles which are faster… so I didn’t want to risk and we stick with newborn bottles.) Also – with baby #1 I thought I needed to sterlize bottles and had this microwave contraption. Don’t bother. Soap and water or the dishwasher are A-OK. (The Boon drying rack is cool, we use that a lot.)
I got an Evenflo Breast Pump for free. I did not choose this breast pump, my insurance chose it for me. I got a free breast pump through our insurance plan, which apparently is the one thing that people like about Obamacare. Check with your insurance company to see if you’re eligible. I got the Evenflo pump, which retails for about $100, and am extremely happy with it. I used the considerably more expensive Madela Pump In Style for my first child and I see no need to spend the extra money on it. This one works great. (I do only pump one at a time even though it’s a dual pump, which I did with the Madela. I find it easier.)
If you choose to breastfeed, you’ll likely have an irrational fear that you’re not producing enough. It becomes an obsession. You’ll have a perplexing desire to hoard your breastmilk. You’ll build up your supply in special milk bags, put it in the freezer, and admire. When your baby needs to eat the milk you’ve diligently stored, you will be reluctant to give it up. Husbands: say things to your wife like, “wow! that’s a LOT of ounces!”
BTW: I had a very dramatic episode when I got sick, and was not pumping my normal amount. It came back. Disaster averted. However, during the crisis, I purchased another breast pump so I have two, which I recommend if you’re going to pump at work… I have a bag with my breast pump and dish soap so I don’t have to take my supplies back and forth. Much simpler.
Make sure you have a hooter hider so you can nurse in public. You can nurse anywhere you’d like – it’s your right – however, I personally like to be discreet about it and cover up.
Also: you need to eat. Find a grocery store that does the pick-up grocery shopping. It’s life-changing. (you can read about the best way to shop for groceries, if you’re curious.)
3. You’ll have fun playing dress up.
This is the MOST FUN. Your baby will outgrow newborn clothes in approximately 5 minutes, so get larger sizes when you’re stocking your little one’s closet – 3 months and larger is the way to go.
Dress your baby like a baby. Boys have their entire lives to wear polo shirts and khaki pants. While they are too young to protest, john johns, smocked outfits, bubbles, and knee socks are the MOST ADORABLE. (check out my favorite places to buy cute southern baby clothes)
Don’t save the cute outfits or special occasions – they outgrow their wardrobe about every month, so let them wear their cute outfits while they still fit!
4. Yes, you can take your baby in public.
But you’ll carry around a lot more gear to make this a feasible option.
The hospital will not let you leave unless you have a carseat. And while you may never want to leave the luxury accommodations at the hospital with the nursery around the corner with on-call babysitters 24 hours a day, they will not let you stay. Before I was officially admitted to the hospital, while enduring labor pains and contractions, one of the questions the nurses needed confirmed was the fact that we owned a carseat. You are not allowed to have a baby without owning a carseat, at least that’s what they implied by asking me this question. This was asked again before they would discharge me. Hmm, maybe I should have said “no” so I could stay an extra night. Instead, I told the truth.
We got the Britax B Safe carseat and I am extremely happy with it. First, full disclosure: one of my BFFs owns The Kangaroo Pouch, a baby store in Myrtle Beach. She registered for me. She picked out my car seat (and… everything else.) She patiently responds to my daily texts. Like, the day when I texted to find out what the harm is in leaving my sleeping child in her car seat since that seems to be the place she likes the most. She’s much better than Google. She informed me that other moms have let their babies sleep, but it can be damaging to baby’s organs to leave them in there too long. (Thanks for that terrifying imagery.) I have moved her to a new location for naps.
If you’re in Myrtle Beach, you can go to the Kangaroo Pouch for help installing and making sure you’re using your car seat properly. Also, the local fire department will install it for you.
I have both the Baby K’tan and a Baby Bjorn to carry her. The Baby K’tan is great to keep in your diaper bag – however, you have to buy a certain size so it won’t fit everyone. Baby Bjorn is adjustable so you can let your husband use it. I also have the Moby wrap, and it’s ok, but it is complicated! It’s like origami trying to figure out how to wrap it around properly and it’s huge.
Using a stroller makes going out to eat / shopping much easier.
My husband surprised me with the Bob Jogging Stroller for Christmas (from the Kangaroo Pouch, of course), despite the glaring fact that I am most definitely not a jogger. Had the Bob decided on the name Bob Walking Stroller, and leave overachieving runners out of it, this would never have been an issue. I love this stroller. Love. My carseat fits in it. I got a little stroller organizer from Skip Hop for the back of it which holds my Camelback water bottle, iPhone, headphones, and keys. My ONLY gripe with this stroller is it’s size. It takes up the entire trunk of my Honda Accord. So, if you need something compact, this is not the stroller for you. If you want a comfortable stroller that is excellent on walks, this is it. My other one was not as smooth and I could not take long strides without kicking the back of it. I am perfectly happy with the trade-off of having a larger stroller and take it with me everywhere. I just don’t store a bunch of junk in my trunk.
We take this everywhere – and stroll right into a restaurant and find an empty spot to park it. Usually, she snoozes in the stroller or is content sitting in it while we eat. If we don’t take the stroller, we take her carseat, and put it in a chair or on the floor so we have a place to set her down so we can eat. Also, we choose family-friendly restaurants.
DEAL – Amazon is offering a free B Safe Britax carseat with purchase of a Bob stroller.
Get a stylish diaper bag.
I believe I found the PERFECT diaper bag – the Skip Hop Grand Central in black & white stripes. It’s a simple stripe, it can expand to be large, and it’s made of a durable material that can be wiped clean.
Here’s what I carry in my bag:
- Wipes – travel wipes are the best. They don’t dry out. This is all I will buy now. The ones that you buy and put in containers – either the large one for the diaper changing table or a cute small one for the diaper bag – dry out. And let me tell you – you don’t want to be in the middle of a diaper change and grab dried out wipes.
- Diapers – bring a lot.
- Hooter Hider
- Blanket – the Aden & Anais swaddles are excellent and versatile, and we use as a burp cloth and light blanket. Get a few packs.
- Burp Cloth
- Baby K’tan
- Camera – Fuji x100s (LOVE this camera. But you have to know how to shoot manual to work it so if you don’t have a photography background you’ll hate it. Get a high quality point and shoot. I don’t suggest a DSLR because they are enormous and heavy. Go for a high quality point and shoot, like the .)
- Bottles (Philips Avent)
5. Even if you’ve never changed one before, you will become a proficient master diaper changer.
I thought the 8 packs of 40 diapers that The Honest Company sent in the first bundle was a little extreme, until we went through nearly all of them in the first four weeks and the next shipment came just in time. You’ll go through a lot of diapers – about 300 in the first month. I love The Honest Company’s diapers – they do their job (most importantly) and they have cute designs (also important!)
Old school vaseline is what my doctor’s office recommended we use for diaper rash. Now I just slather it on every time I change her diaper and her bottom has been rash-free.
If you have a boy… it’s best to keep a washcloth on the changing table to cover him up — otherwise, you run the risk of getting shot in the face if left exposed.
Diaper Changing Supplies
- Diapers (duh) – We like Pampers Swaddlers & The Honest Company diapers
- Wipes – Pampers Sensitive Travel Wipes are my favorite. The wipes don’t dry out. The standard ones that come with a reusable container are terrible… they dry out after a few days.
6. You’ll learn to bathe your baby in a sink.
And here’s the final thing. You’ll probably want a clean baby. Really, you don’t need to bath a baby every day, but it’s a fun activity and they like warm baths.
We use this whale tub for sink baths and a little scooper called a Dunck but you could also just as easily use a cup. If I were to get a new one, I’d get this fancy baby bathtub that has a temperature thingy and is designed to always have clean water in the tub.
I like to give her a little baby massage after the bath and slather her with lotion because it smells nice. Also, babies skin is really sensitive. Your baby will most likely develop at least one rash. Don’t worry: she has not contracted some skin-eating amoeba. My first baby went to the doctor for every suspicious looking skin condition and was told “eh, they have sensitive skin. Try some lotion.” Second baby gets Ava Anderson Diaper Rash Cream, which is the cure for everything.
Then you’ll blink, and five months will go by. You’ll blink again, and it will be five years later.
On shopping for baby gear: This post contains affiliate links, mostly to Amazon, and if you click over and purchase something I make a small commission at no additional expense to you. If you live in Myrtle Beach, I suggest shopping at the Kangaroo Pouch because it’s the best and they can answer your questions about gear – and patiently listen while you explain your current “I don’t know what I”m doing” moment (like “My baby used to sleep in a swaddle and now gets up every two hours! WHAT DO I DO????)