Many days, I’m hustling MonsterTot to the toilet while SweetCheeks is in the sling, hoping like a tornado chaser to catch the big storm (poop) before it’s gone (in his pants). I’m spelling out words for SweetPea’s construction-paper-cut-and-stapled-into-a-book while wiping a huge spitup out of my hair and onto the hem of my bathrobe. I’m pulling snow pants on a squirmy, reluctant toddler while the baby is bouncing in her little chair, a-gooing with her big sister. Lots of juggling goes on day-to-day and the big kids need more schlepping around to school & activities & playdates than when I had my third baby and the oldest wasn’t even four yet!
I’ve been on this path with a newborn four times now and each time I marvel that while she is the easiest member of the family to parent, she’s also the most needy. Here are our six top tricks to keeping life with an infant easier. A few of these are feasible only because I’m not working outside the home, so take that into consideration.
1) Nurse on demand.
We feed on demand–that means whenever my baby squalks or squeaks and doesn’t have a burp or diaper, I offer to nurse her. Sometimes she drinks a ton of milk, sometimes she just soothes herself. Yes, I am a human pacifier, and yes I’m okay with that. Using a pacifier before 8 weeks old can really impact amount of breastmilk you produce for the long term. Here’s an article about it. Basically, when the baby sucks, it tells your body to make more milk. The first few months tell your body an approximation of how much milk your body should make for the baby in the long haul. Don’t impede that if your breastfeeding goals are longer term.
If you are bottle feeding, try not to introduce a bottle before four weeks old as it can confuse their sucking mechanism and make nursing from the breast not go as smoothly. Here’s a great article about how to bottle feed a breastfed baby, including switching from side to side to develop eye contact both ways and sitting them upright to cut down on burps.
I also nurse to sleep while rocking–or bouncing her on my chest if I’m laying at an angle in bed. A hormone in breastmilk called prolactin helps make them (and us!) sleepy. I’m going to use all the tools in my tool box!
But does this mean my baby nurses all the time and no one else can ever take care of her? Kinda. Tiny humans need constant care in a way that our society isn’t structured to give. Moms aren’t always cared for postpartum, they’re expected to go back to work soon after birth, and we also want to get away from the baby sometimes because it’s hard having a little person crying and needing us around the clock. I figure the first 8-12 months are just going to be me primarily taking care of the baby. I used to pump & bottle feed with my first but subsequently I haven’t and even though it means I miss out on some events at night, I often just bring her with because of number two . . .
2) Wear in a sling.
I wear my big little chunker in a ring sling (Sakura Bloom double silk is my favorite) so she is vertical for a lot of the day. She kinda lives in it. The advantages to this are: she gets her burps & gas out naturally because she isn’t transverse, she strengthens her core, she is close to my heartbeat and smell, and I have my hands free while still being able to offer the security a newborn craves of human contact.
It’s really hard to figure out a ring sling unless you have someone show you, on you, with a baby. Just watching videos or seeing other people use one wasn’t enough for me. If you have a postpartum doula, she should be able to help with this. Or if you live near me, please let me bring you and your newborn a meal and show you how to use it!
But won’t my back hurt and can’t I set her down so I can get something done? Properly worn, your back shouldn’t hurt. You might need a different sling or carrier if it does. And I totally set my babies down, usually in this bouncy chair, but when they’re fussy and I need to get something done, the sling is the ticket! As they get older, they’re super easy to nurse in the sling, too!
This isn’t everyone’s favorite way to spend their evenings, but it’s made our lives so much easier! We did make a closet into a nursery (that post here) but she sleeps between us in our king sized bed and this means a few perks: she nurses in the middle of the night and I don’t even have to go to a different room to tend to her, she nurses in a side-lying position so I don’t even have to sit up to nurse her, she never cries at night because she has an all-access pass to nursing.
We also use Natty diapers at night and they hold so much pee that unless she poops, which she hasn’t in probably over a month, we don’t even have to change her diaper in the middle of the night.
On the rare occasion when she’s fussy at night and doesn’t have a burp or need to nurse (though I’m convinced burps are the number 1 culprit of non-hungary or diaper related fussing), I can
kick gently rouse my husband and ask him to walk her around a little.
Doesn’t this mean you will never have sex again because there’s always this baby in your bed, and she will never want to leave it? First off, there are plenty of places to have marital relations that aren’t your bed. The question of whether or not the baby will ever leave your bed is a valid one. We’ve gone through this twice before (SuperBoy moved to a crib in his own room at 6 months or so–in my ambitious pre-attachment parenting days where I slept on a mattress on his floor a LOT) and the transition to their own sleeping space is a pain in the rear, but when they’re older, I’m okay with letting them fuss a little more. No infant should be left to cry alone for a long period of time. It’s damaging to their prefrontal cortex. Google it because there’s a whole body of research on the topic and then you can draw your own conclusions.
4) Bathe together.
I hated leaning over the tub and hoping while I leaned that my infant wouldn’t somehow wiggle out of the baby bathtub insert thing. So with our second onward, I just hop in the bath with the baby until they’re old enough to be in there alone. This often means I take a super hot bath (feels so good on my sore pelvis and tailbone!) and then add cold water before bringing the baby in with me. I just sit with my knees up and balance the baby on my thighs, facing me, and use one hand to spongy-bathe her. Then I swoosh her just up to her chest back and forth in the water and make lots of funny faces. Of course, I use Molly’s bath wash on baby (and me!) and then call it a day.
Doesn’t this take so long and isn’t it a pain to get out of the tub with her? I don’t bathe her everyday–probably 3x a week or so. And I do take a bath everyday so nah, it’s not a pain for me. Getting in and out of the tub I do VERY carefully, of course, and take precautions not to slip!
5) Dress her in clothes easy to change a diaper in.
I used to think a baby needed outfits. Now I know a baby needs everything elastic and easy on-easy off, with no midriff showing in the Minnesota winter! And that sleep sacks are the best for nighttime diaper changing ease! This is my first winter baby and here are a few items of apparel I bought this round that have made life so much easier.
Footed overall: L’oved Baby. I basically want this in every color. This is the only thing lil babies need to wear!
Hat: Miou sells these Peruvian made alpaca wool bonnets. My girl lives in hers.
Socks: Lian Lifestyle cashmere socks in a pack of 6. She wears them everyday. They pull up nicely over leggings and keep her ankles warm, too!
A few long sleeve hand-me-down onesies and a bunch of leggings I had made before she was born–throw a sweater on top and we’re good if we’re going for the fully dressed look. Otherwise, she hangs in her footie overalls. On a rare occasion, I’ll put a dress and tights on her. I found a bundle of good non-itchy tights here.
6) Rest and say no to lots of stuff.
Just rest and say no when you have a new baby. Say no to getting back into your jeans right away or bringing your baby into public where everyone can cough on her. Your placenta detached from the wall of your uterus and there’s a big ole sore there. Let the blood go to healing your body and not to hiking around!
You may think I’m insane or preachy or a lot of both after reading what we typically do with our babies–so forgive me and know I am not judging you for not doing likewise! Just sharing what has worked for us. Share what has worked for you!