Newborn baby hacks?
September 6, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to make the first few months after our baby is born special and meaningful and not just ruled by exhaustion? Any newborn baby hacks you can share? Bonus points for happy newborn stories.

I've been fully prepared to be more exhausted than I have ever been, to be walking around in a daze for months, to have to deal with a lot of drudgery (diapers, chores, laundry, etc.), finding it hard to have a minute to myself to shower (still utterly baffled by why i can't take the baby into the bathroom and let it cry while I shower for 5 minutes every day, or let my husband take the baby for 5 minutes every day while I shower, but I guess I'll understand in a few months), to live on the newborn's schedule, etc.

What I'm wondering is if you have any tips for reducing the exhaustion factor. For example, might it be worth it for my husband to sleep in a separate room some nights so that he gets a solid night sleep, and then other nights I sleep in a separate room (presumably in this scenario I've pumped enough milk for him to bottle feed) so I actually get a solid night sleep a few nights a week? Is that a fantasy, or something that could actually work? Are there other options that maybe people don't like for some reason or other, but that could reduce the crazed exhaustion factor?

I'm also wondering if you have tips for savoring what's special about our first newborn, despite the exhaustion factor. Maybe this will just come naturally, but I have been reading a lot and hearing a lot from new parents who seem to be primarily exhausted and the special, sweet, unique moment - those first few weeks/months of their newborn's life - seem to just pass in a blur of chores and sleep deprivation.

About us: We are early thirties, very hard-working professionals, who love our sleep. I am chronically low energy, and rely on daily workouts to keep up my energy. We've been together almost nine years and have created a pleasant life for ourselves. It aint broke, so in low moments we're questioning why we decided to fix it. We are very excited and scared to death about adding a third person to our family. (And if you read my last post, we decided not to do the amnio. Yikes!) I am hoping to take 5-6 months of parental leave, and he will take 6 weeks of parental leave (2 weeks at first), 4 weeks at some later point.
posted by n'muakolo to Human Relations (50 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
Two things that helped my best friend survive her first month with her daughter:

1. When the baby naps, you go take a nap too. You will most likely not have any trouble falling asleep yourself. And do not let ANYONE stop you from doing that. (I visited her when her baby was only a month old, and she apologized in advance that she was going to be sleeping a lot -- I told her not to worry about it, and when the baby slept, she went to sleep to, and I either did too, or read one of her books or something.)

2. This may sound weird, but -- get a subscription to some really trashy celebrity magazine, like PEOPLE or US, just for this year. This was advice given me by a co-worker as a baby gift for my friend; "the thing is," the co-worker said, "she'll have days when she's had only two hours sleep, her husband's a pain in the ass, and the baby's crying, and she can't even think -- but hey, here's a chance to take five minutes and just look at pictures of people in pretty dresses." I got her a subscription -- and it was tremendously well-received. (My friend relates that she actually had such a moment when the first issue came -- she was alone in the house and her husband was at work and she was exhausted and getting ready to feed the baby, when the first issue came through the mail slot and she was so starved for "something that's not involved with the baby" that she actually balanced the magazine atop her daughter's head to read it while she was nursing.)

And a 3. stemming off that 2. -- forgive yourself for the moments when you will think "OH MY GOD THIS SUCKS I NEED TO GET AWAY AND GET OUT OF HERE". You will have those thoughts now and then. Every parent since the beginning of time probably has (that's why babies look so cute, it's to trigger an instinct of protectiveness in us becuase otherwise we'd probably abandon them like bugs do or something). If you just let yourself have those moments of "OH MY GOD THIS SUCKS" and go do something escapist like read PEOPLE for five minutes, those moments will pass faster -- and then they'll make room for the moments of "wait, no, this is AWESOME" that will also come along.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on September 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

Hey, that was us. Two, early thirty professionals, both of whom liked sleep, etc etc.

Here's what you do: whatever works for you.

We loved the newborn stage, actually. I found I could get up and feed the baby and get back to sleep almost like it was sleepwalking at some point. After I went back to work, we did take turns, especially on the weekends. And I was a mother who showered every day - usually during one of the many newborn naps - put the baby safely in the crib; shower; if she woke up while I was still showering, it was never for very long.

Here's my other tip: start leaving the house right away. Even if it's just to go to get coffee and you never leave the car, you need to get into the habit of leaving the house with the baby so that you don't think of it as a big deal to leave the house with the baby. And leaving with the baby is much easier than leaving with a toddler, so enjoy it. Go out to eat and let the baby sleep in her pumpkin seat. Go for walks.

Also, I savored maternity leave by not worrying about the chores so much. I took a picture and emailed it to my husband at work almost every day (and he did for me when he was staying home with her). We danced a lot. I bought her a new outfit once a week (infant clothes are really cheap if you get them on sale). I napped when she napped (everyone will tell you this and you should do it!). We ate cereal for dinner a lot. I did laundry after my husband came home, and we had a cleaning service for a while. That's what worked for us - it was how we dealt with the exhaustion - by telling each other that the main goal for the first three months was to keep the baby alive, and to enjoy the baby - all the other stuff can wait.

Do what works for you; ask for help; enjoy it, it really is a fast stage.

And congratulations!
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:42 AM on September 6, 2011 [9 favorites]

My husband stayed home with us the first five weeks after our baby was born and it was a happy memory filled time. We snuggled on the couch with the baby, took long walks and generally had a lovely time with our wee one.

According to everything I've read, you're supposed to wait 4 weeks before giving the baby a bottle to make sure your milk supply is established properly and to avoid nipple confusion. I know people with babies who have had no problems doing this earlier, but it's probably something you should be aware of. I also know babies (my own) who think bottles are the devil and won't have anything to do with them.

I used to take the baby in the bathroom with me in his bouncy seat and he would chill or nap just fine while I showered. Now that he's mobile it's a little trickier, so I usually take my shower at night when his dad is home from work.

Also, get an e-reader or a smart phone that you can manipulate with one hand. Nursing is BORING and you're going to be doing it a whole lot for a long time. My stack of nursing supplies in the beginning were a boppy, a prefold diaper for dribbles, a bottle of water and my phone. My baby is almost 11 months old and the phone still comes with me when he nurses.

It will be exhausting, but it doesn't have to be debilitatingly so. Congrats on your new baby!
posted by chiababe at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of new parents do newborn photo shoots in the 1st week or so, while baby still sleeps all the time and they can be molded into all sorts of crazy cute shapes (I like hands under chin). Google around or check Pinterest for inspiration, you'll see a ton of cute ideas.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:50 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The one thing I tell new parents most often:

Even though we live in a supposedly enlightened age, I am still amazed at the number of new dads who simply don't want to change diapers. Daddy should change diapers as much as possible. I found that simple experience to be one of the most wonderful times of bonding and playfulness I ever had when my daughter was a baby. I made it a silly, fun time, and was infintely rewarded at her reactions. It was also great to see how her reactions changed in the first year, from obliviousness to cooing, to giggling and laughing, and then interaction and playing along.

So, for your husband, dive in to change those diapers, not just to "help" but purely for your own enrichment in bonding with your baby.
posted by The Deej at 6:56 AM on September 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

(Oh, and please don't hack your baby.)
posted by The Deej at 6:57 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you are planning to breastfeed. The best piece of advice my lactation consultant gave me was to take the baby to bed with me in the early afternoon (even if you are not normally doing the co-sleeping thing- roll up some receiving blankets to keep the baby positioned right) and take a nap while the baby nurses then sleeps. I tried to do this most days for the first six weeks or so and it made a huge difference. Getting a nap in the early afternoon will only help your supply in the early evening (when it tends to be lowest, and your baby seems hungriest.)

Your husband can totally go sleep in another room and get some uninterrupted rest if needed. If you are breast feeding, however, you can't get off the hook- your breasts aren't gonna let you sleep, even if your husband is trying to cover for you. I learned this the hard way when I found myself in hotel room (!) pumping at 3am to relieve the pressure so I could go back to sleep.

Seconding The Deej on the diaper question. Our agreement was this: I'm in charge of inputs, he's in charge of outputs.
posted by ambrosia at 7:05 AM on September 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

Another thing! Once my little guy got big enough to do side-lying nursing, it was the best thing ever because once you get the baby latched on, you can snooze away. It's still our go to nursing position.
posted by chiababe at 7:06 AM on September 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

still utterly baffled by why i can't take the baby into the bathroom and let it cry while I shower for 5 minutes

It's hard to explain, but there is this weird biological thing going on with your baby's cry. You will be able to hear a crying baby in another room and know immediately whether or not that is your baby. If it's not your baby, you can go take that shower. If it is your baby, it's incredibly distressing, and you cannot do anything but tend to that baby. Nothing really put me in touch with the fact that we are animals like having a baby.
posted by ambrosia at 7:11 AM on September 6, 2011 [11 favorites]

posted by KokuRyu at 7:12 AM on September 6, 2011 [13 favorites]

Honestly, we found months 4ish-8ish far more challenging than the newborn period. Agree with the "get out and about" advice. Newborns are portable, so go roaming with them.

If you have enough clothes and spit up cloths you will not be doing relentless laundry. We never did it more than once a week, except if there was some sort of major bodily fluids explosion.

The shower? Yeah, they are fine if you bring them into the bathroom while you shower. I used to pop my kid in her little rocky swing thing and shower while I watched her through the curtain. The not being able to shower thing? somedays when you finally get a break and the kid is napping, all you want to do is chill and taking a shower seems too much effort. It's not that you don't have the time available, it's just that it might be lower priority.

You only have a couple of requirements for the first few months and they are to keep you and your baby alive and functioning. You don't have to entertain, clean, cook, anything like that. Along with your husband do you have other support people? For the first 3 weeks of my daughter's life I didn't lift a finger to do anything I didn't want to do. I napped, fed the kid, read books (you get a lot of reading done if you can balance a book while you are nursing) and went for walks. That's it. Friends and family made me cups of tea when they visited and husband did cooking and cleaning.
posted by gaspode at 7:19 AM on September 6, 2011

I love the suggestion of going out as soon as you can with baby. I need to look at more than the four walls around me so I don't go insane and this totally helped when I had my first kid. As soon as I got the okay to drive after my csect, we'd drive to a Dunkin Donuts, pick myself up a nice giant coffee in the drive-thru, and then I'd go to the park and walk around the track with my headphones on. I really rely on exercise/workouts to keep my energy level amped up too and the solid hour or two of walking really did the trick for me. My kid was one of those kids who would fall asleep in the stroller so I took advantage of that, though YMMV as to what your kid enjoys. It wasn't as "relaxing" as napping while she napped (at home she'd only sleep for, like, fifteen minute stretches anyways), but it gave me a chance to think about stuff, enjoy my music, get some exercise, and look at my baby when she was the cutest, all sleepy and snuggled up enjoying her ride. :) Like they also said, it helped me not to be afraid to take my kid out. A lot of new moms end up sequestered at home because they feel like it's too much work to get out, but really all you need, especially if you're nursing, is some diapers, an extra change of clothes, and the mustered energy to get up and at 'em. I truly think half the battle in dealing with the big change that is introducing a new person into your home is to not sit around thinking aout what that means all day. Your day may not have a routine, per se, for a while while you have a newborn around, but I think it helps to have those small things for yourself like a shower to wake you up and make you feel human and a cup of coffee or tea to enjoy while cuddling baby during those times you have to sit and might feel like you're not "doing" anything.

Oh, and this: "finding it hard to have a minute to myself to shower (still utterly baffled by why i can't take the baby into the bathroom and let it cry while I shower for 5 minutes every day..."

You totally can. i used to stick my kiddo in the little bouncy thing and she'd just hang in there, sometimes wailing (but it's only five minutes, right, and she was fed and changed and was just making her opinions known), while I got my five little minutes of sanity. Also, once baby got into a routine of sleeping where it was a little more predictable, I just got up a little earlier to shower with my husband before he left for work, while baby was still sleeping. It gave us a chance to talk about non-kid related stuff for a few minutes before our days started, and if she was still sleeping by the time he left for work, I'd just close my eyes for a few minutes too. Don't forget to give you and your husband some time to just be married amidst the babymania. You'll enjoy your kid more if you get a chance to remember what brought that kid about in the first place. :)
posted by takoukla at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

How to stop a baby from crying.
posted by essexjan at 7:32 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't worry. People have been doing this forever. You will be amazed how accustomed you will get to not getting as much sleep.

In my opinion these are the saviors:

- making sure that husband is totally on board with being as 'helpful' as possible - that means that he is 95% responsible for making sure that you are fed, have plenty of water, and are not having to worry about household stuff for those first couple of weeks.

- co-sleeping.
- breastfeeding while in bed so that you can sleep while baby sleeps.
- generally sleeping while baby sleeps.

- offload as many chores as you can to others -- pay someone to clean your house, make sure that everyone in household (you + husband + visiting family) are constantly keeping on top of laundry, taking out the trash, running the dishwasher.
- but really, babies sleep a LOT in those first few weeks, so you'll be surprised how much 'free time' you have to run the dishes or laundry.

- showering does suck for the first 2 weeks - because, as you say, you're afraid that baby will cry. My trick was to run in the shower as soon as he fell asleep deeply at the beginning, and as time went on, I would pull the bouncy seat into the bathroom with me.

- getting out and about is nice for making you feel human.
posted by k8t at 7:32 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, in addition to what I said above... husband of course will want kid time! Make sure you hand the kid over and get out yourself (if you want to). Hell, sometimes I ended up just walking around the pharmacy on our block for 20 minutes, ostensibly to buy some tp or something, just to have alone time with my thoughts and the knowledge that the baby was in good hands.
posted by gaspode at 7:36 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't say how close you are to your family but Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Godparents, friends are lifesavers and usually want to help. Let them. Let Grandpa take the kid out in the stroller for a walk while you nap. Let Grandma fuss you and clean or make dinner, take full advantage of any help offered by anyone family or friends. They may not do everything exactly how you would but the thing that finally got my SIL through her 2 childrens early years without stressing was to stop sweating the small stuff and trying to be in control and simply saying thank you to what ever help was offered.

Also get out and about, go meet friends or family for coffee occasionally get out of the house and remind yourself that the outside world exists. Yes it takes energy to actually do, but it also helps keep you going.

If you don't have family near by there are groups you can join or you could just hire a housecleaner, or even get your favourite take away restaurant on speed dial.

The best hack I can offer is don't try and be perfect use all the help you can and whatever you do don't spend too much time on all those baby websites they will just end up stressing you out over how what you are doing isn't good enough and why aren't you doing it all perfectly and loosing the baby weight and keeping your husband happy while cooking organic home cooked meals for everyone every night. Hell I get tired just reading some of those forums.

All that is needed is to keep baby clean, fed and dry and you 2 as rested as possible. Everything else take the easy way out.

With the husband feeding scenario, your breasts are probably not going to let you sleep all night through, but if you don't co sleep and your husband wants to help he can go get the baby and bring it to you so you can stay in that nice twilight zone of half sleep.
posted by wwax at 7:36 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

My son breastfed and my wife pumped as well. To allow longer stretches of sleep for both of us, at night we would work in shifts. She'd go to sleep, and I'd stay up to 1am - 2am feeding from a bottle as needed, then she would take over and I'd go sleep.
posted by ShooBoo at 7:52 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just to expand on my co-sleeping comment above, with both of our sons we slept with them in our bed immediately after birth. Doctors will try to caution you against doing this (you could roll over on the child, the child will suffocate), but obviously we had no problems.

The biggest thing to consider is the size of your bed (we have two queen-size mattresses pushed together) and the firmness of the mattress (we have futons, which are very firm).

The result is that you don't have to get up in the middle of the night to feed your baby. You also may enjoy a closer relationship with your child. We co-slept with our eldest son until he got too big to stay in bed, and we still co-sleep with our toddler. The kids are happier, I think.

As for your sex life, just use a different room.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:54 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

I should add that co-sleeping has been a Japanese thing. People used to sleep in the same room, but with different futons and blankets. It's how my wife grew up.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:55 AM on September 6, 2011

Learn to swaddle! A tightly swaddled baby makes for a happy family.
Babies are very difficult to break. If you have to let the baby cry for 5 minutes while you shower so that you aren't on the edge of madness, everything will still be ok.
Use common sense.
posted by horsemuth at 8:05 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

(It is safe to sleep with your infant!)

I think the moans about it being hard to shower are from parents with multiple small ones, and/or from people who find it difficult to not shower at precisely the time at which they would like to shower. I never had a problem. I bathe; I put the kid in a baby chair next to the tub, and then dragged her in too when she needed a bath (I highly recommend "co-bathing" -- it worked so well that a bath with Mum or shower with Dad was a cry-stopping fiddle in the early weeks).

The newborn period was not so much 'crazed exhaustion' as it was simply very intense. My daughter was born in late August, and I remember stepping outside a few weeks later and finding the leaves were changing colour and the air was crisp, and I was quite amazed by this. I had been outside, but I hadn't noticed what was going on, and it came as a surprise to find that the rest of the world had been going on as usual, and a lot of time had elapsed. Amazing!

But even with the intensity it was a fantastic time. Live off ready-made food (those trays with pre-chopped fruit or veg are great) and let the house go dirty and relax and enjoy being the kid's mattress. You will get a lot of reading done just lying there waiting for him or her to wake again. Then things sort of speed up... The drudgery and exhaustion is a bit later, not so much in the newborn period.

You may have a baby who is quieted by car rides -- I recommend plotting out long drives which will take you to 24h restaurants. Make notes now of truck stops outside of town that are known for first-rate subs, etc.

One thing about Dad "helping" with bottles -- I would not have gone along with such a suggestion. Bottles and pumps are a lot of work and there is no good reason to use them if it is possible to avoid them. In every Dad-"helps"-with-bottles I have ever heard about, it is Mom who is responsible for fussing with milk storage, for washing out the pump parts, for washing out the bottles, and, obviously, for the hassles of pumping the milk. It is nice being tied to your beloved wee baby, not so great being tied to a machine. Good links.

Going out regularly is great advice. You will likely find that on fussy days, when you pop on a sling and head out the door, you AND the kid will both feel much, much better in minutes. It sounds easy and obvious now but when you are changing clothes on both of you for the third time thanks to the spit-up...yeah. Little things can become struggles, hence people carping about their trials in getting to the shower!
posted by kmennie at 8:26 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, just one more thing (promise!)

It is nearly impossible to do it wrong. Really.

Unless you actually throw your kid out the window or something you are doing it right. Even if breastfeeding doesn't work for you. Even if you can't co-sleep. Even if (heaven forbid) you fantasize about going back to work (I did, for sure. I was bored out of my skull at home with my kid and I live in the middle of New York City). You won't break your kid.

I pumped and my husband fed the baby sometimes. It was fine. He did all the bottle cleaning. He wasn't "helping", he was caring for the baby. Dad doesn't "help". Dad parents.
posted by gaspode at 8:32 AM on September 6, 2011 [22 favorites]

Seriously, I never got as much sleep as I did when babyrabbit was a newborn. We coslept from birth, and in those first weeks when he slept a lot, we were sleeping until noon some days! Of course he fed every hour or two, but I hardly even noticed, and some days Mr. Rabbit would come home for lunch and we'd still be in bed and he'd call us bums. Dude. Co-sleeping is the best.

Mr. Rabbit did sleep in the other room, though, because I'd have to switch the baby from one side to the other a lot and it really made his sleep poor, so there's that. But now we've pushed two mattresses together (yes, we're still cosleeping at nine months old, because it's still easier and gives us more sleep than the alternative) so we're together again.

Until they're rolling over and crawling and such, babies are really, really easy.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:41 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Special/meaningful can co-exist with exhaustion. I think all the advice above is great, and I'd just add that don't stress about making every moment educational/spiritual/fabulous. You'll make mistakes, and unless things are radically messed-up, your child will thrive and grow and you'll wonder how this all happened so quickly. Enjoy it all, poop and giggles.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:04 AM on September 6, 2011

Bottles and pumps are a lot of work and there is no good reason to use them if it is possible to avoid them.

I'm going to argue in the alternative: the OP is going back to work after 5 or 6 months of leave, at which point the baby will need to accept a bottle. I have lost count of the number of babies I know who refused to take a bottle when Mom needed to go back to work. This adds a whole additional level of stress on working Moms who are already overloaded as it is, and don't need to be anxious about their child being hungry while she is at work.

Yes, pumping is a pain in the butt. But pumping allowed for my husband to be able to feed his sons and therefore increase their bonding. (Bonus points for your husband bottle-feeding without a shirt on, for more skin-to-skin contact.) Talk to your pediatrician about when to start a bottle if nursing is going well. Probably four weeks or so. Just one bottle a day- what worked well for us was for my husband to give the bottle in the early evening, when I really needed a break. A baby that takes a bottle gives you options and freedom, and that is a very good thing.

Also, be prepared that breastfeeding may not come easily. Ask around for recs for a good Lactation Consultant- our pediatrician was an excellent resource. Having problems in the beginning is not the end of the world- babies are resilient and sturdier than they look.
posted by ambrosia at 9:16 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's been great advice on this thread. Seconding that having a lactation consultant on call, getting out alone each day, and figuring out what the husband will do will all help prevent exhaustion and allow you to cherish the little moments.

What made the days most enjoyable for me was having other new mothers to talk to and share stories with. During those first few weeks, La Leche League meetings, and other new mom groups were a godsend. I'd suggest searching those out now so that you have some people to talk to once the baby arrives. Having other moms to talk to and other babies to look at helped me realize just how special my little one is.

Another sleeping "hack" for me was putting the baby in a carrier. My daughter wasn't a big fan of sleep at first and a mom at one of the new mom meetings recommended putting her in the ergo (with a towel for support), leaning back in a rocking chair, and sleeping together. Of course, you should make sure that the baby's mouth isn't blocked by the carrier.
posted by JuliaKM at 9:32 AM on September 6, 2011

It's really not that bad. I had a whole bunch of challenges, both with my health and with getting the baby fed but it wasn't the zombieland that you often hear about. I took showers as needed, got enough sleep, and enjoyed the early months on the whole despite moments of fatigue, stress, and confusion. I think most of that was just the transition to being a parent and figuring out this new life,more than anything about total exhaustion due to baby care. Also, there is definitely a huge tumult of hormonal stuff going on as your body adjusts to post-pregnancy and that can be a little rough but there's not much to do about that other than be ready and have people around you who can support you if it gets bad.

Having a bunch of meals frozen in advance was a real help and I had wonderful friends who volunteered to bring dinner for the first couple weeks. Getting out of the house, once per day, even just for a walk or to lay on a blanket in the backyard with a sleeping baby were helpful. Little babies are super portable and tend to sleep a lot so we found it pretty easy to get out and do things with a baby strapped it to a carrier.

Don't be afraid to ask for help, even if you don't know what the problem is!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:33 AM on September 6, 2011

Co-sleeping/breastfeeding with my baby meant that my husband and I were the most well-rested new parents I've ever seen. Like, I had no idea it was going to be so easy. If getting enough sleep is your priority, you should absolutely do this. The baby wakes up and starts to squirm, you stick your breast in its mouth, it falls back asleep, you fall back asleep before you've even fully woken up. It's awesome.

Get a baby wrap (I liked this one when my guy was small) and keep on doing what you normally did before it was born. Carrying a newborn in a wrap is not all that different from carrying a really large fetus in your womb, except you have to change its diapers and feed it occasionally. And they're a lot happier (read: quieter, healthier) in there than they would be in a stroller or a bucket.

Read The Happiest Baby on the Block for the ultimate in newborn baby hacks. The gist is that when your newborn is crying, you have to swaddle it, bounce it, give it something to suck on, and provide some white noise, more or less replicating the pre-birth state. Babies love this. I read the book before my kid was born, and noticed every pediatrician that handled him in the hospital using some version of this method. It is very effective.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:42 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Good luck, you will make it!!

Swaddle them. My youngest is three and a half, and she still insists on being wrapped up in one of those white-with-blue-and-pink-stripes hospital fannel blanket. (My cousin's husband has said in some seriousness that he's going to have to show his kids' college roommates how to swaddle the kids.)

If someone comes over to visit, ask them to do something (ash dishes, hold the baby) while you talk. If someone offers to help, given them one specific task (load the dishwasher, do a load of laundry, bring me a lasagna). People love to feel needed, and you need the help!

We bottle-fed our four, so as Dad I got to do the nighttime feedings. Dunno what you can do there, but can your husband handle the nighttime diapers?

Having the kids in the same room as our bed made it impossible for my wife to sleep. Our hyper-sensitive new parent Hearing woke us every time, though, not to worry!

Do you have one of those soft bouncy chairs with the vibrating attachment (like this)? I called it the Narco-Chair because it always put the kids to sleep. And when they sat in it, they were propped up (fighting reflux!) and able to see everything going on around them.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:46 AM on September 6, 2011

The maternity nurses told me if baby's a decent latcher, concerns about nipple confusion are pretty overblown. I started my first one on a "rescue bottle" at two weeks (because the pediatrician said we could do it then, or we could do it in another week when I was in the hospital from exhaustion and dehydration -- I had a few issues the first time); that went so well I started my second one the first NIGHT in the hospital once I knew he was a good latcher and I was an experienced breastfeeder.

A "rescue bottle" is basically a bottle (typically one a day) given while otherwise fully breastfeeding. It can be pumped milk OR formula. I use formula -- I've had no supply problems, and I really dislike pumping (and I have a manual pump -- with an electric one I might feel differently). We did this for the first few weeks so I could get a four- or five-hour stretch of sleep to aid in my recovery; now that #2 is 9 weeks, I basically just breastfeed him unless (like today) we have a really bad night, in which case daddy gets up with him and feeds him some time after 4 a.m. so I can have some uninterrupted sleep. You may need to pick a particular time for a rescue bottle and have that one ALWAYS be a bottle, if your boobs are very regimented; or you may be able to play it by ear. You'll figure it out.

"For example, might it be worth it for my husband to sleep in a separate room some nights so that he gets a solid night sleep, and then other nights I sleep in a separate room (presumably in this scenario I've pumped enough milk for him to bottle feed) so I actually get a solid night sleep a few nights a week? Is that a fantasy, or something that could actually work? Are there other options that maybe people don't like for some reason or other, but that could reduce the crazed exhaustion factor?"

It might be. We have the baby in a "sidecar" (a little bassinet attached to the adult bed); my husband basically sleeps through anything less than full-blown screaming so he's not bothered when I wake and feed, but we do separate to different bedrooms now and then (baby is off-schedule, someone has a cold, etc.), and it goes fine. We use our phones as walkie-talkies to call each other for stuff and not have to get out of bed. :)

The one thing is, your boobs fill up pretty regularly and (especially at the beginning for me, tapers off after about six weeks for me) may become full enough to wake you. (Overfullness is painful.) I wouldn't count on being able to sleep through more than one feeding -- but again, play it by ear, see how your body and your baby work.

That "sleep when the baby sleeps" thing always made me want to scream because I can't nap. At all. But what worked well for me was lying down on the couch or in the bed with a trashy novel or a People magazine (as above!) or a stupid movie and letting my brain shut mostly down and my body relax. Almost as restful as actual sleep. And I wasn't lying there going, "OHMYGOD WHY AM I NOT SLEEPING???!?!?!?!"

One big different in exhaustion level for me is whether your baby is a slow or a fast eater, which you just can't do anything about or know in advance. My first took 20 minutes a side. This one takes SIX. You get a lot more sleep with 12-to-15-minute feeding sessions than with 45-minute feeding sessions. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:47 AM on September 6, 2011

If there is a grocery delivery service in your area -- check out Amazon Fresh, for example -- have pre-cut pre-washed fruits and veggies delivered on a weekly basis. Good nutrition will help your energy, and having it available to just scarf will make a big difference.

My second child is now ten months old; I went back to the gym when he was a month old. It was hard handing him off to the child care ladies, but I trust them and they are very good, and having an hour and a half to myself + the exercise was amazing. Heck, sometimes I'd just hand him off and shower. Or hand him off and read a book.

My first one was a very resource-intensive kid AND I was bound up in being the be-all end-all to her, and it very nearly landed me in a psych ward. (Literally. We had to go to the ER because I was having ideations of self-harm.) This second one, my son, is much more laid back, and I'm also much, MUCH more willing to actively seek out a break.

I personally liked having pumped milk available in case I really needed a rest, and when I got pneumonia when the baby was 4 months old and I had to take some pretty toxic drugs to get over it, it was a lifesaver. If you do want your baby to take a bottle, I'd recommend introducing one within the first 3 weeks -- I know 1 kid who had nipple confusion, and about 12 who just flat refused bottles of any kind. That having been said, pumping is an enormous, ENORMOUS pain in the ass, so balance that out.

Only you will know what will make the biggest difference to you; will you be happier with someone else doing your laundry? Or with someone else dandling your baby while you read a book with nobody touching you? Think about how you've reacted to stressful situations before, because that will be a clue.

Congratulations! It's a wild ride, but the best thing I've ever done in my life!
posted by KathrynT at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2011

We are going through this right now with our three week old. I am by no means an expert but I'll tell you what has worked for us so far.

1. Get geared up for the fact that breast-feeding (if you go this route) will likely be the most difficult part of this experience, not the sleeplessness. I was not prepared for how emotionally and physically challenging BFing would be. For some, BFing comes super naturally and there are no problems at all but for most it is a challenge at first. Don't be afraid to shell out the money to see a lactation consultant. Get a breast pump. ThinkBaby bottles are great if you need to give the baby a bottle (they most closely mimic BFing because baby has to work at getting the milk a little bit more than regular bottles).

2. Sleeping is difficult but not that bad. I generally wake up to nurse the baby, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes at least twice a night. My husband just went back to work today and we started a new system where I get up to feed the baby during the night until about her 5 am feeding. He does this feeding so I can sleep. This gives me about a four hour block of sleep. Sometimes I feel exhausted but mostly I feel pretty ok.

3. Master the swaddle. It has been the single most useful thing, aside from BFing, to help get our daughter quieted down and ready for a nap.

4. Eat. Seriously, eat whatever sounds good for the first two weeks. The last thing you need to worry about is cooking.

5. Keep the house cleanish. Some would say don't worry about the housework but for me my stress and anxiety levels get much higher when I am in a dirty house. My husband and I have done our best to clean for a few minutes everyday and it has helped tremendously.

6. Get out of the house when you are physically able. Even if just for a few minutes a day it helps to get some fresh air and interact with the rest of the world.

7. Don't be afraid to ask for help. The first week we had family around quite a bit and I got used to asking them to do things for us. Our house was clean, the fridge was stocked, our cars were serviced, the baby was occupied while we took naps. It was great. Take advantage of help offered.

8. Spend time with your spouse when baby is asleep and you aren't. Although my husband was home with us for the last three weeks it has been difficult to spend any time by ourselves. I've never missed him more.

9. Give baby lots and lots of kisses, it is my favorite part about being her parent. That and bath time. She loves bath time.

Good luck!
posted by teamnap at 10:26 AM on September 6, 2011

Baptisms/Christenings/other ceremonies are a traditional way to make baby's early life have something "special".
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:42 AM on September 6, 2011

the OP is going back to work after 5 or 6 months of leave, at which point the baby will need to accept a bottle

"Some Myths:

Babies must learn to take a bottle so that they can be fed when the mother is not there...."

more here

Also, the idea of a bottle that mimics a breast is in the realm of science fiction, or at very least in the realm of artificial hearts. Here is an illustration of a cross-section of a lactating breast; the mechanisms used for extracting liquid from that is rather different from that used with a bottle nipple. Anyway, the first link is stuffed with great advice for somebody returning to work in the middle of the first year. As it says, "you and he may become very frustrated and there is just no need to go through all this."
posted by kmennie at 10:46 AM on September 6, 2011

First of all, congratulations!
As I am writing this it is 5.15am, I have a wide-awake just-fed three month old and a comatose three year old in bed with me - woke up to find that husband has indeed crashed in the spare room, but washed and sterilised all the bottles before he went to bed - Bless!
I'll limit myself to three pieces of advice!

My first, most important tip for you is for you AND your husband to do a little reading now about post-natal depression, and be aware of the difference between ordinary baby-related exhaustion and PND. Just in case, it is so much better to be able to act quickly. I have been lucky to have two very 'easy' happy babies, but it wasn't until Nick came along that I realised how much bonding I missed out on with James - everything is so different this time.

My second tip is not to tiptoe around the baby if you can possibly avoid it - my experience has been that a healthy well fed baby WILL sleep wherever, when ever, and will settle into their own natural routine. A bassinet set up in the living room or wherever you spend most of your time - play the radio, talk in normal voices, vacuum if you want to.

Thirdly, if you and your husband are night owls now, try to get in the habit of going to bed early! After three years, this is advice my husband and I still struggle to follow - and it would make our lives so much easier - but the temptation to stay up just a little longer for one more hour of adult time is too strong! Most of our sleep deprivation is our own fault!

Best of luck!
posted by Catch at 10:49 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Breastflow bottles are designed for nursing infants, and the action used to drink from them is the same as that used to breastfeed. They are a good choice for many breastfeeding mothers who want to give a bottle once in a while. If you are in the US, they are very easy to find at Walmart, Target, Babies R Us, etc. We used them and liked them.

Trying to feed a baby from a cup is...difficult, to say the least (at least for my baby it was). You really will make your life a lot easier by introducing a bottle at some point.
posted by feathermeat at 10:59 AM on September 6, 2011

If there is anything to glean from this thread, OP, it is that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and you have to figure out what works for *you*, and let the chips fall where they may. People will have lots of opinions about the Right Way To Mother Your Baby. But what works so well for them may not work so well for you. You know your child best, and you know yourself best, and you are not doing it wrong if you find your own way.

And kmennie, it is technically true that *some* babies may learn to drink from an open cup or from a spoon. But suggesting that a bottle might create frustration, and an open cup won't, is simply not true, and betrays a bit of ideological rigidity that I would like to spare the OP. It's hard enough to go back to work. Finding affordable childcare that you are happy and comfortable can be a real challenge. Finding affordable childcare that you are happy and comfortable with that is willing and able to cup or spoon-feed milk might be a bridge too far, and I am reluctant to pronounce any method out-of-bounds. Bottle-feeding is not the end of the world.
posted by ambrosia at 11:05 AM on September 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

Another congrats!

I have a 6 month old. Things that made life better for me:

- a baby carrier (I was given a bjorn). My baby did *not* like strollers until about a couple of weeks ago. But he did like the bjorn. It let me go on cry-free walks.

- some kind of small internet-enabled device to look at while nursing. I found nursing really boring, and I spent a *lot* of time doing it. I loved my ipod touch. I think an ipad might be even nicer. I have a laptop, but it's too cumbersome while nursing. Magazines, as suggested above, would also work well.

- I find pumping a chore, but I'm a bit shy about nursing in public. Getting a nursing cover (bebe au lait for me) gave me more confidence and freedom in that first month while I was waiting to introduce the bottle.

- The shields that came with my breast pump were too small. I didn't realize it until I got some bigger ones from pump 'n pals. They were much more comfortable. I can't understand how anyone uses those tiny little things that come with the pump.

- Don't worry if your baby doesn't fall asleep in the car. Mine hated the car. Getting out of the house by car, as some have suggested above, was stressful for me, because it involved non-stop wailing. Baby likes the car now.

- I found it hard to get a shower in every day. I guess my showers are longer than 5 minutes, especially when I'm sleepy. I made my husband wait to leave for work until I was showered.

- I find my rest is of much lower quality when I co-sleep, but others obviously disagree. I would experiment to see what works best for you.

- I would rather nurse the baby in the middle of the night than have my husband feed him a bottle. I would get uncomfortably engorged otherwise, and not be able to sleep well anyways. But maybe your biology will allow it. He did change the night-time diapers, though.

- Swaddling worked really well, although he's outgrown it now.

- I did not sleep when baby slept. Often I used that time to eat. Or read the internet. Or tidy the house. It was the boredom, more than the lack of sleep, that I found hard to take. I needed some awake time that didn't involve the baby. Again, you'll just have to try it out.

- I go to bed earlier now. It really helps. My husband and I take turns getting up at 6am with the baby. I slept until 8am this morning! It was wonderful.

Good luck!
posted by pizzazz at 11:11 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Special things to do:

With digital cameras, I would suggest taking pictures EVERYDAY. I know, sounds insane, but you will be very happy you did. Babies change so fast that you won't notice until you go back and look at all of the pictures later on.

I am sure you have a million and one baby outfits that people have given you, I would take pictures with the baby wearing the stuff and e-mail them to the people who gave the gifts. It gives people a little warm and fuzzy feeling when they see the baby in the outfit! ; )

As for how to get rest...I took six short weeks leave and then the daddy took some time off after. It worked out better that way for us because the baby was with a family member. During the time I had off, I took care of the baby during the week (or during his work days) so that he can sleep. During his days off, he got up to feed and change the baby. If the baby crying wakes one of you when it is your turn to sleep all night, then by all means, sleep in the other room!

What makes a newborn wake up and cry: hunger, poop/pee or both, gas or some other discomfort

So, that being said, try giving the baby some breast milk and then some formula. Formula has a bit more body and will keep the baby fuller longer since it is consistent with calories, iron, protein, essential vitamins and all that other such. Breast milk consists of what you create via what you eat and drink so it may not always have the same amount of body. The baby will sleep longer if he is fuller. If the baby takes 2 oz., put 2.5 oz. in his next bottle. This way, you will know if he drinks more. I know it is wasteful, but then he won't have too much gas by sucking in air when he empties the bottle. As time time goes on, you will see that the half ounce extra will be helpful to find when he is ready to eat more.

There is cluster feeding at night that helps a baby sleep through the night (where you train the baby to sleep longer so you can too!)

I have lots of tips so if you want to be bored, message me, I don't want to bore EVERYONE! ; )
posted by Yellow at 11:21 AM on September 6, 2011

Baby light thief is just over 2 weeks old now, so I can't speak from a whole lot of experience. I'm the dad, and I am lucky to be able to take time off for maternity leave (and in California, I could have used Family Temporary Disability Insurance (FTDI) to get up to 55 percent of my wages [PDF / Google quickview] -- there may be something similar in your state: PDF / Quickview).

I took off the first two weeks with my wife to help us adjust to the little guy, and I change diapers, feed him on the bottle, burp him, and help mom express her milk when pumping. Diapers really aren't anything terrible - the only problem is when he's squirty from the butt, and he makes a slippery mess.

At the suggestion of our pediatrician, we started seeing a lactation specialist, which I think is covered by my wife's health insurance. The specialist is great - she's helped my wife figure out how to get a good latch, helped her start pumping so I could feed the little guy in the middle of the night. He's still not great at feeding, so he's on the breast to start, and then is topped off with the bottle. Fun facts about breast milk we've learned in the past weeks: the milk transitions from non-fat to whole milk, starting with the first suckle to the last drop. If your baby isn't feeding long enough, they're not getting the best stuff, so pumping after feeding can help augment his diet. Also, breast milk (and your baby's appetite) have peaks and troughs. Around midnight is the low point for breast milk, and it gets a lot better around 3 or 4am, so if you're putting your baby on the bottle, or taking turns feeding your little one, midnight is a good time to bottle feed and let mom sleep. My wife has to pump pretty often to keep enough milk on hand for him, which can be a mark against your plan for stashing enough milk to take a whole night off while your husband bottle feeds the little one.

Our lactation specialist is supportive of wide-nipple Playtex nipples and bottles. Note on those VentAire bottles: you don't need to loosen the bottom of the bottle when feeding, as the little rubber gasket will let air in when your little one sucks in. Magic!

Swaddling is magical, and there are a million ways to wrap your baby in a swaddling blanket, just browse YouTube and try some out. While we were in the hospital, each nurse had her proffered method, so I can't say any one is better than others. Be sure to get the wrap nice and tight. Our little guy still likes having his legs up at his chest most of the time, but sometimes does the little corpse pose, with his legs extended. Other times, he likes having his arms out, so we swaddle under his armpits. After he's swaddled, we then tuck a second blanket between the mattress and the edges, to keep him further bound. If he's fussy, he will get out of all of that, so no worries about being too restricting on the wrapping.

If your little guy is fussy after feeding, and seems to want more to eat but just suckles, round nip pacifiers with open centers are great. We got a few from the hospital, and that really helped calm him on his second night. Since then, he's suckled on it sporadically. It helps sooth him when changing, but you'll usually need a 3rd hand to keep the pacifier in baby's mouth and do the rest with the diapers.

My wife's parents have 4 daughters, and were told a number of things about when to introduce some food into the little one's liquid diet. With the first daughter, they were told to wait one month before adding some rice cereal to the diet, and that helped her sleep longer at night. With the second daughter, they were told to wait 6 months, but by that time, she wanted nothing to do with solids, and it was a struggle to get her to take anything other than milk or formula. Daughters 3 & 4 were started on rice cereal sometime after the first month. Our little guy is quite young, so we haven't asked about solids yet, but we figure to follow her parent's plan of some time after the first month.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:10 PM on September 6, 2011

I'm also wondering if you have tips for savoring what's special about our first newborn

Mine's going to be a year old next week. In retrospect, what's special about a newborn is that the both of you get to just be. You don't have to entertain a newborn, teach it stuff, worry about it's behaviour, say no and take stuff away, submit to its struggles to get away when you just want to cuddle, prepare nutritious meals that it won't eat anyways... I know having a newborn is impossibly hard, but there are definitely ways in which it's much much easier than having an older baby. Just hold the baby, feed the baby, keep it warm, etc., and just relax if you can. Just be.
posted by kitcat at 12:11 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

- I gave up non-essentials, like having a tidy house. Clean, yes, but not tidy.
- The baby slept in a basket next to our bed (sadly, husband would not agree to co-sleep); husband woke w/ baby, changed diaper if needed, then passed baby to me for nursing, then made sure baby got tucked back in.
- We were pretty broke, didn't have much baby paraphernalia, and didn't need much.
- Nursing was hard to start (boy was born with Jaws of Steel) but got easy, and was a source of joy, comfort and snuggling. I read a lot of paperbacks while snuggled with my nursing baby. It was lovely.
- Talk to your baby a lot. While you wash dishes, while you fold laundry, while you drive.
- Get outside; I was given this advice by a friend, and it was good advice. My 24 y.o. son still loves the outdoors, and I'm sure that's why. (smiley)
- Give yourself a break. You'll get masses of advice. Follow what sounds sensible, politely ignore what doesn't.
- Babies and children are adaptable and resilient; they need love and a few basics, and thrive.
posted by theora55 at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2011

Call the doc at first sign of post partum depression. I wish I had gone to the doctor sooner rather than later - perhaps the newborn stage would have been more pleasant for me if I received appropriate treatment early on.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:03 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

What I'm wondering is if you have any tips for reducing the exhaustion factor.

What worked for us was co-sleeping and learning to nurse side-lying. This saved me so much unnecessary sitting up and messing with pillows to nurse in the middle of the night, and I almost always fell back asleep while baby was nursing. I feel I got much more sleep than if I had to get out of bed, fetch baby from nursery, nurse in chair, make sure I didn't fall asleep and drop baby on floor, return baby to nursery, shuffle back to bed, repeat every 2hrs.

The idea that you will save sleep by having your husband take night feeds is somewhat of a fallacy, I think. In order to keep up your milk supply (and avoid painful engorgement), you would need to be awake and pumping while husband is giving baby a bottle. For me, I would much rather just nurse the baby and fall asleep than try to fiddle with the pump pieces and bottles and all that. Also, the notion that formula feeding will help get you more sleep is a fallacy as well, as breastfeeding mothers get more sleep overall and the sleep they do get is higher quality. (Which makes sense, since you don't have to bother with powder and bottles and washing everything.)

There were also a LOT of couch naps in the early days. I would fall asleep anywhere and everywhere, and it made being awake off and on at night that much more bearable.

I'm also wondering if you have tips for savoring what's special about our first newborn

Pictures! Especially ones of mom + baby. I have a bunch of photos of my husband with our newborn, and none with me.

Don't worry too much about doing things perfectly. Just do your best, and that will be enough. If "best" means you eat on paper plates for three weeks because dishes are too much work, great! You'll get them done eventually.

Babywear! Get yourself a Moby wrap or a ring sling or another baby carrier, and take some short walks. I found babywearing much easier than maneuvering a stroller, and the baby will like being so close to you. This also leaves both your hands free to open doors or eat a sandwich or throw a load of laundry in the wash.

Congratulations, and best wishes to you and your growing family!
posted by meggan at 2:09 PM on September 6, 2011

Essexjan, here's an explanation of why that water thing makes the baby stop crying... Only instead they're doing it with the sound you make at a wine tasting. (The moms in the video are using water)

Damn, I can't find a version with subtitles. But the idea is that the sound is very close to what a baby hears in the womb, so it's a comforting familiar sound. It worked on 6 out of 10 infants tested. The sweet spot seems to be 7000 hertz.

And this is actually from a show dedicated to different life hacks. So, yeah, they did just hack the baby!
posted by Caravantea at 4:32 PM on September 6, 2011

So much great advice on this thread.

Absolutely nthing getting out of the house as much as you can. If something is a 2 minute car drive away, make it a 10 minute walk.

Also, my better half and I found with both of our young'uns that it was important to have some "safe destinations" we could get to.

By "safe destinations" I mean those places you are familiar with, that have (or are close to) facilities you need (for example, to prepare bub's bottles or heat them, to change a nappy - even if it is somewhere less than ideal) and that you can feel comfortable in, but at the smae time enjoy time out of the house.

We've got a local shopping centre/mall a 5 minute drive down the road (or, if you like, a 15 minute walk). We found ourselves just getting out and going there perhaps every second or third day for a little while - it got us out of the house, we picked up any groceries we needed, we could sit and have a coffee, and it was comfy for bub feeding and changing too.

It wasn't all that exciting, but it was enough to ensure we didn't get cabin fever from being inside or at home so much.

Apart from this - get outside and take the baby. Talk to the baby as you carry them around (explain what you are doing, or what the bub is looking at - "This is our fruit tree, and there's the flowers and they'll turn into fruit eventually, etc").

And don't stress the small stuff - the floor can be swept tomorrow, or by someone else who is keen to help you. And if someone offers to help - TAKE THEM UP ON THE OFFER.

Even if it is for small things - a homemade frozen meal, the offer to do some washing, fetch something etc. Do it, thank them and keep on going!
posted by chris88 at 6:17 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and by the way - the highlight of a new bub ... the radiant smile you get first thing in the morning (or when you get home from work, in my case with my now 6 month old)

Love the happiness, the smile and the anticipation from bubs that something good's going to happen because you are in the room, getting them up or have come home. Best thing in the world, and I'm not all that clucky about kids!
posted by chris88 at 6:20 PM on September 6, 2011

The biggest, biggest thing: do what works for you. If it stops working, do something else. I have friends who coslept miserably for months before deciding to try *not* cosleeping, at which point everyone became happier. That said, I cosleep with my six-month-old; it works for us. I'm lazy and I like sleep. When he fusses in the night, I pop a boob in and close my eyes. Like others above, we have two bed smashed up next to each other, which means I can still roll over and snuggle with my partner.

For us, the baby has not been the most challenging part of having a baby. He's mostly easy, although YMMV. What's been difficult has been the way the rest of our lives have changed around having a baby, even though good things have come out of it. When it came time for me to go back to work, my anxiety got worse than it ever had before. I ended up finally seeking treatment for it, and leaving my job (both of which have been really good things for me). My partner and I were raised very differently, so we've had long conversations about why we approach certain parenting things certain ways, but it's improved our communication. Our social circle is really baby- and kid-friendly, but the people who don't have kids still sometimes invite us to bars at the last minute when we can't get a sitter, and it's sad to skip out on that.

Newborns are really portable. In the first 6-12 weeks, take the baby wherever you can. I loved tucking our little one into the Moby wrap and just...going! He went everywhere with us. Grocery store, restaurants, movie night at friends' houses, reeeeally long walks, on the bus for me to stop by work, the local coffeeshop, whatever.

As soon as you feel comfortable, find a babysitter. You need time for yourself and time with your husband. My partner gives me time for self-dates. He takes the baby, and I go out to dinner by myself, read my book and have a glass of wine. I really feel like me when I do that. (I do the same for him.) And, we make sure to get regular dates together. Our favorite is when we can drop the baby off at the sitter's house, because then we just go home, make and eat an uninterrupted dinner, and have sex without worrying about the baby waking up. And keep the lines of communication open -- don't hesitate to say, "I need x. I know you need y. Can you help me figure out how we can both get what we need?"

Having this baby has been super awesome so far and it actually keeps getting more fun, as he gets more engaged with the world. There are hard moments -- night before last, I hardly slept because he was sick. But last night we both slept great, and I woke up to the most beautiful grins.
posted by linettasky at 9:59 PM on September 6, 2011

We're at 3 1/2 months.

In group family situations, make sure there's only one skipper at a time... we found that as helpful as extended family is, nothing is as stressful as having seven people second-guessing the reason for junior's crying, or burping method, or current cradling technique, at any given moment.

We formula fed, so here's some advice for those who need to go this route: After a few fumbling weeks, we found that using a bottle warmer wasn't very efficient for overnight feedings. There was nothing worse than listening to him cry for the two or three minutes it took to warm the thing. Instead, we warmed a 16oz thermos of water in advance, and then brought a small container of powdered formula upstairs. We just poured the already-warm water into the bottle and added the scoops of powder and shook, making sure there were no clumps. After he didn't seem to mind cold, we premixed into a specially made formula mixing pitcher (Dr. Brown's), and just brought a bottle upstairs for each feeding. This reduced the amount of bubbles, although I'm not sure that's as important as old wives' tales would have it.

(In between those two phases, we microwaved bottles for a while too. You're not supposed to because of the danger of uneven heating scalding the baby's mouth, but 10-20 seconds depending on amount of formula, and a good shake afterwards, worked perfectly every time. But obviously I'm not a bottle safety expert, so go at your own risk)

Also, for the first few weeks, you'll love your baby, but it'll be on loan. Don't worry about that -- when he smiles at you for the first time, you'll get the full amount back, with interest.
posted by condour75 at 11:20 AM on September 7, 2011

I didn't read all of the comments (the Father of a 4.5 month old has no time!), but I'll add a few of my experiences:

- Dad has to be involved in things like breastfeeding. For us, it means I time the feedings and record them, make sure Mom has a drink, change the baby beforehand, etc.
- There are a lot of things that Mom will be best at. Dad's can't stress about those - best to spend that energy doing something for Mom (trickle-down theory).
- Don't neglect bottle feeding. Once we started a good routine for breastfeeding, we completely neglected bottles. We thought it would be trivial to revisit as needed - not the case. 2 months and $200 worth of bottles that were immediately rejected later, our son now happily takes a sippy cup.
- Take the baby places. When I run errands, I intentionally take the baby with me. It can take a little longer to run a quick errand, but it gets the baby used to other stimuli.
posted by jmevius at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Is this an urgent care situation?   |   Hoodie to fuel make believe Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.