This post is sponsored by Little Ones
I’ve heard people say all babies are different and I was like ‘Yeah but they’re kind of the same!’ and I couldn’t have been more wrong. One of my mates had a baby ten days after I did and our kids are like different species. Things that have been easy for her have been a nightmare for me and vice and versa. Even little things like my baby poos a lot and hers spews a lot. I didn’t even know that fundamental things like that could vary so much but her main gripe is ending the day covered in vomit and my main gripe having to change my daughter’s nappy three times in the space of about 20 minutes. It’s bizarre.
So with that in mind, I’ve teamed up with Little Ones (here’s my first post I wrote for them pre-baby on all the things I thought I’d need for a newborn – I was pretty spot on don’t you think?) to bring you my 9 tips for surviving the first few weeks with a newborn. All this is super fresh for me as our girl is 10 weeks old this week… gosh time flies doesn’t it? Not all of these tips will apply to all parents but hopefully there will be something useful in there to help new parents navigate the first few weeks with a newborn…
1. Don’t try to make sense of anything
Newborns are adorable weirdos and nothing they do makes any sense. They might lull you into false routine to throw you off guard but don’t be fooled. Baby Smaggle fed every single day at midday on the dot for like two weeks and then she totally went rogue, much her to very organised mother’s dismay. I found I was projecting adult expectations on her like ‘How are you hungry? You literally JUST ate.’ and ‘Why did you poo 4 times in 4 hours? How is that a thing?’. This may seem SUPER obvious to other people but babies aren’t actually small adults – they’re babies. Even if they appear to be displaying rational and reasonable adult traits, it’s probably just a weird coincidence. Which is why you can’t try to figure out why your baby went from a fed, dry, comfortable, happy, gurgling delight to a screaming gremlin in matter of seconds. There’s no answer, just embrace the absolutely absurdity of the situation and maybe have a giggle about it if you’re in the right frame of mind. Our little one does this tiny dramatic lip quiver that’s so freaking adorable I can’t stand it. Makes those gremlin moments much more bearable.
2. Time how much sleep you get and try your darnedest to get those precious 8 hours
Obviously you’re not going to sleep in big chunks but that doesn’t mean you can’t aim for the ballpark of 8 hours. If you find a time when your little one goes down for a nap and you feel like you could go for a nap, do it! Time how much sleep you got and try to add it all up to equal 8 hours within a 24 hour period. I admit, some days I don’t hit the magic 8 but I do try. Sometimes it means I’m in bed for 12 hours overnight (with regular feeding breaks of course) as I try to patch together a decent amount of overall sleep time but it’s totally worth it. Even if I don’t properly sleep, I try to rest which makes a massive difference. Also don’t get hung up on getting your sleep at night, especially if your kid takes after their night owl father… *raises hand*.
While I’m on the topic of sleep, I reckon the biggest evolutionary screw up that needs to be fixed ASAP is how women have to give birth to a baby (which is probably the most exhausting thing they’ve done in their lives) only to have to look after a newborn immediately afterwards. Such a dumb system. Get with the program evolution. May I suggest some sort of low-key hibernation instinct for newborns? Where they sleep for 48 hours straight at least once a week without needing to be fed? I’m just riffing here…
3. Stock up on maternity pads
I’ve been using a menstrual cup for years so the need for so many pads was a bit of a shock, especially after I ploughed through most of my initial supply of pads when my waters broke before I went to into labour. I was kind of assuming postpartum bleeding would be similar to having a period and I was wrong. So very wrong. This is coming from a woman who has incredibly heavy, often 10 day long periods, so I thought I was prepared. When you read those ‘What to buy before you have a baby!’ articles and you baulk where it says ‘5 packets of maternity pads!’ thinking that seems a touch excessive, just trust the article. You’ll go through them so much quicker than you think.
4. Stock up on nappies
You’ll need them. So many more than you thought you’d need. Especially if you have a baby who likes to do giant poos approximately 20 seconds after you just changed a wee nappy. Our baby will often pee on a brand new nappy before I’ve even done it up around her waist. Her timing is impeccable.
We’ve been using the Little Ones nappies from Woolies since the day she was born and they’re ace. I was worried about her skin (because her parents are allergic to everything) but she hasn’t had any issues with irritation or nappy rash. They have a super soft inner lining and they’ve been really gentle on her (potentially irritable) skin.
The absorbency of Little Ones is next level as dirty nappies don’t seem to phase our girl at all – the only thing that really wakes her is hunger – so the moisture wicking core is clearly doing its job. We also haven’t had an in-bed leak, proven by the fact that we have to remind ourselves to change her fitted cot sheet because it’s never been visibly soiled. How awesome is that?
We had our first out of bed leak the other day but it’s in no way the fault of the nappies, in fact it actually sheds a very flattering light on them. Allow me to explain. I breastfeed bub in a weird sitting position like monkeys do – my lactation consultant suggested it and it works a treat. Makes her way more efficient (it cut her feeding time from 1 hour and 10 minutes to 22 minutes!) and she eats sitting upright which is excellent for her digestion – she rarely spews. Anyway, it was super hot the other day so I was feeding her in just her nappy and suddenly she did this almighty poo and it somehow defied gravity, hit the gusset of the nappy and then shot back up and out the waist band; all over me and her. I laughed so hard I almost stopped breathing which is probably a good thing because I was covered in baby poo. You know what’s weird though? None of it came out the legs – the double cuff and super stretch elastic turned a potential three point leak into a (gravity defying) one point leak. Well done Little Ones. We also use their baby wipes – they’re only $2 per packet. Bargain.
Thankfully you can buy Little Ones at Woolies which is great for us because we frequently forget to buy them and have to do late night runs pretty regularly. Nappies and wipes just aren’t in our head as a regular purchase yet like milk or eggs. Hopefully they cement themselves soon as must have items because I’d much rather run out of milk than baby wipes.
I also love the the blue lines that form when your kid does a wee. It’s super helpful because sometimes they do a poo and a wee and you can’t really tell if they did a wee as well and if you have a summer baby, you’re pretty obsessed with making sure they’re hydrated so those blue line have alleviated a lot of new parent anxiety for me. The velcro-style tabs are also awesome because you can re-seal the nappy if you open it up and realise it’s clean. So much better than the old fashioned sticky tabs.
5. Leave the house as often as you can
Massive caveat – some parents have kids with colic or who cluster feed or are simply more demanding than other babies and that makes leaving the house almost impossible. If you can leave the house though, do it. It does wonders for your mental health. Even if you pop your screaming kid in their stroller and do a few turns around the block. I get it – it’s embarrassing when you’re out and about and your newborn is screaming their head off. If your baby is fussy and you just can’t deal with people, avoid cafes and malls and just walk outside. I’ve been slightly cursed in that it’s been way too hot to take a baby outside in the current Aussie climate but even a 3 minute walk to the local shops to grab a cheeky afternoon snack really makes me feel like myself again. Even on days when I’m exhausted, I’ll force myself to go somewhere. Ducking to the shops on my own after dinner (to go to Woolies to buy the nappies I keep forgetting to buy!) and leaving bub at home with dad is such a lovely little break. It’s just so nice to do something basic without having to worry about breastfeeding and nappy changes.
6. Lower your standards… then lower them some more
Confession: My daughter is almost 2 months old I think I’ve cleaned the bathroom twice since she was born. To be fair we’ve moved house (more on that here!) so we’re living in that special kind of squalor reserved for when you’ve just moved all your earthly possesions to a new location and you’re trying to figure out where everything goes but still. I used to be a once a week bathroom cleaning gal and now I just don’t care as much. I’m still getting everything done. The washing basket is empty and we’re still cooking nutritious meals (most) nights but there are weeds in the garden that are taller than me and a pile of blank thank you cards I meant to write and send a week ago. The old me would have knocked those jobs over immediately but parent-me is like ‘My baby did a cute thing. Imma gonna stare at her.’ and also ‘My baby FINALLY when to sleep. Imma gonna stare at the TV now.’
7. Reframe the way you think about feeding/tending to your baby
Breastfeeding for me was extremely painful for weeks and weeks. I’m almost pain free now but it’s been a long journey. In the beginning, feeding my girl was not something I looked forward to. Obviously, because it really, really hurt. I’d finish feeding her, put her down for a nap and then my blood would run cold when she started crying a few hours later for her next feed. I’d take a deep breath and try to latch her without sobbing and most of the time I failed – it was awful. This created a ‘work’ culture around feeding my baby. I started dreading it, like an unpleasant chore. When the pain started to be more manageable, I reframed my thinking around breastfeeding. It’s intense – I spend several hours a day doing it and it’s really draining (literally and figuratively) having your body used like that. When I looked at breastfeeding as a job I had to do, that meant I felt I needed a ‘break’ afterwards which I sometimes wouldn’t get if she didn’t go down for a nap or was a bit grizzly and wanted to be held. This is a dangerous game to play when you have a newborn as it might be days before you get a ‘break’. I now look at breastfeeding as my ‘break’ time and it’s made such a difference. I get to stop what I’m doing (laundry, work, unpacking boxes), sit down, snuggle on the couch with my girl and maybe listen to a podcast or watch a TV show. It’s actually very lovely. Then when I’m done breastfeeding I get to hang out with my girl for a while or get back to my day if she goes down for a nap. It’s a much lovelier way to look at it.
8. Try not to let the shell shock bury you
Not matter how hard a day we’ve had or how tired and overwhelmed we feel, Mr Smags and I still try to be ourselves. I still make him breakfast on Saturday mornings like I always have. He still makes me a cup of tea and cleans up after dinner like he always has. We’re still silly, we still try to make each other laugh. My aunty told me that couples with newborns make eye contact 80% less than they used to because they’re looking at their baby. So we’ve started kind of manically staring at each other several times a day.
It’s easy to slip into survival mode when you’re busy and sleep deprived so we always make sure to take the time to do something nice for each other or go out of our way to make each other laugh.
9. Enjoy it
I’ll admit our little bundle is a very chilled baby but that doesn’t mean we don’t have difficult days. Getting up every two hours at night to feed her is taxing but when I look at her beautiful little face with her big blue eyes, suddenly sleep doesn’t seem so important. Not to get all morbid on you but when I’m at my wits end when she won’t go down for a nap or I’m having a particularly anxious evening where I keep checking on her every ten minutes, I remind myself what a privilege it is to have a healthy, happy baby. Missing out on long stretches of sleep and sometimes furiously eating my dinner without chewing it properly because she’s screaming for a feed is so much better than the alternative. This doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to complain or have a cry on hard days, it just means that I can bring myself to a better place mentally if I focus on the excellent parts rather than the average parts of parenthood. I’m deeply in love with my little family and I’m all too aware of how quickly our little pudding is growing up so even though I’m fanging for a full eight hours of sleep and to sink an entire bottle of shiraz in one sitting, it’s so worth temporarily missing out on those things for her little smiles, the sweet smell of her head and watching her father gaze adoringly at her.
Everyone’s first few weeks of parenthood is totally different but these are things are the things that really stuck out for me.