Even though new parents get nine months, minimum, to prepare for the arrival of their little bundle of joy, somehow all of that preparation seems to go out the window once they bring that bundle home from the hospital. You don’t have nearly enough onesies, but there seems to be a lifetime supply of those silly little socks that your baby keeps kicking off. You can’t remember where you put anything. All those beautiful nursing bras you bought are sitting in your drawer while you’re walking around in the same stained, stretched out camisole you put on — was it last Tuesday? Or last Wednesday? And every time your partner takes a night shift, your newborn cries uncontrollably — so you’ve ended up co-sleeping in order to nurse while you snooze despite the presence of that heirloom cradle and brand-new bassinet gathering dust in the nursery.
Welcome to parenthood.
You’re probably getting inundated with all kinds of advice, but it can be hard to sift the wheat from the chaff. We’ve gathered together a few parenting hacks and hints to help you get through these trying — but ultimately incredibly meaningful and rewarding — first few months as a family.
Advice So Classic It’s a Cliche
How many times have you been told to “sleep when the baby sleeps?” This old chestnut bears repeating because it’s so hard to actually follow this advice. We get it; you want to catch up on all the eps of This Is Life you’ve missed, you want to zone out by scrolling Instagram, you want to clear away at least some of the clutter that’s accumulated. It’s OK to use this quiet time for some self-care, sure. But sleep is in such short supply that you really ought to snatch naps for yourself whenever you can.
Speaking of Sleep
The jury’s still out on whether or not co-sleeping is really safe, so err on the side of caution and use a co-sleeper that attaches to your bed if you want to keep baby close at hand. Or simply set up the crib in your bedroom. Always put a baby on her back to sleep, never on her stomach or side. This is proven to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
You shouldn’t put anything else in the crib besides your baby for the first several months. That’s because blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and Boppys can all pose suffocation hazards. Make sure the mattress is firm, and dress the baby in warm enough layers that no blankets are necessary.
There’s Gonna Be Gas
No two ways about it: babies are gassy. They are going to spit up, they are going to fart, and they are going to have explosive diarrhea that’s so bad you’ll consider razing the house to avoid cleaning it up. It’s all normal.
However, some babies are just gassier than others. There are a few tips to prevent excess gassiness, and to relieve it, you’ll want to stock up on simethicone drops, something called gripe water, and patience. (Most babies’ digestive systems will be a lot less fussy after the age of 4-6 months.) Oh, and when those diaper blowouts do occur? Here’s one incredibly helpful hack for dealing with the aftermath.
Baby Food, Schmaby Food
Pediatric experts agree that exclusive breastfeeding is best for the first six months or even the first year. But sometimes that’s just not possible. Before you start investing in tiny jars of mashed peas — or expensive gadgets to help you make and freeze your own baby food — be sure your babe is ready for solids. If he can’t hold his head up, still has the tongue-thrust reflex, and doesn’t seem interested in the foods on your plate, he’s not there yet. Wait a couple of months.
When he does show signs of readiness, simply mash up some very ripe banana or avocado to start with. Other good early foods to try include soft tofu, scrambled egg, cooked sweet potato or squash, and of course the ever-popular Cheerios. Steer clear of that awful rice cereal stuff, which looks and tastes like wallpaper glue and has about the same nutrition.
Take Care of Baby’s Sensitive Skin
Your baby’s skin is sensitive, so don’t use heavily scented lotions, soaps or other products on it. A very mild soap or shampoo is all you need for bathtime – the bubbles and fun, fruity scents can wait until she’s a toddler. It’s a good idea to make sure that anything that touches your newborn’s skin is organic, whether it’s lotion or clothing.
If your baby suffers diaper rash, cradle cap, or eczema, use a healing cream to clear it up in a jiffy. And don’t forget that laundry detergent can cause irritation; opt for a natural one that’s formulated for use with baby clothes.
Wear, Don’t Carry
When you have a newborn, you get used to doing things one-handed pretty quickly. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a baby carrier, wrap, or sling, you’ll free up both hands to cook dinner, do laundry, tend to your other children, clean, garden, and so on. Not only that, but you will increase the bonding potential between you and Junior.
There’s a huge range of carriers, from simple cloth wraps to ring slings to pouches. It may take some experimentation before you find one you really like, but keep testing them until you hit the jackpot. It’s worth it.
Having a newborn can be a challenge, but you’ll rise to the occasion and overcome all the obstacles. When in doubt, ask your pediatrician what to do, and don’t rely too heavily on friends or family, whose advice might be outdated or otherwise inapplicable. And remember that although the days might seem long, the years are short. You’ll be attending your child’s high school graduation before you know it, so enjoy these days to their fullest!