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!

3) Co-sleep.

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.

Sleep sacks: Kate Quinn, Sassy Knitwear, and Baby My Love all make great ones.

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!

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24 Responses to 6 Ways to Make Life with an Infant Easier

  1. Jess B says:

    Yes!!!!! I always say the baby gets a year; a year where their needs take precedent. And yes, mamas need time to heal! Birth is a big deal and caring for new life is a BIG deal!

  2. Ashley S. says:

    You are not preachy! One of the things I appreciate about the mom friends I admire most is the confidence they have in what works for them and their families. You’re one of the least judgy and most supportive moms I’ve met (on the internet)!

  3. Aw man. I SO needed this post. My first baby is 7 mo and we’re still nursing on demand, cosleeping, and babywearing. I feel like so many people “kindly” judge and ask questions and think that we should be letting her cry it out, getting babysitters, not nursing her to sleep, etc…but I just haven’t been able to do those things b/c it’s hard for me to hear her cry or know that she’s scared with other people and such. I think I need reassurance from people like you that it’s OKAY for a baby under 1 to want/need their mama all. the. time. I try to tell myself this is a season and someday our kids will be older and I’ll do more nightly activities, etc. but this is where God wants me right now.

    I did wonder how and when you eventually transitioned your kids to crib or bed…age one? In your room or their own room?

  4. Sarah says:

    Well, I do exactly the same with my babies :) I found that with my first baby, this type of ‘pairing’ of mom with the baby was hard for me to get used to, even though I could see it made it easier for them, but now I know I give it a year and then time and nature move them on from that close cocoon naturally. My husband just started to be able to put the baby to bed himself after a year. But I am OK with that now. In early days I used to just take her with me everywhere or go out during her first long sleep stretch! I didn’t even try to force a long separation. It’s all about grabbing the chances and rolling with it with multiple kids. It helps to have friends who understand these things. Especially Catholic friends who expect you to have the baby at events too!

  5. Therese says:

    You are not preachy or judegmental. This is exactly how I’ve done my kiddos, baby 4 is 3 months old now. I just wish I wasn’t so insecure with the first one. I really wish we valued and realized as a society the importance of the post partum year for both mom and baby. It makes me sad for other women, not judge them. And I hope my daughters and daughters in laws, never have to be apart from their babies. Thanks for writing!!!

    • Natural Mama Nell says:

      The rushing away from our children pressure is awful. If you need to get away to breathe, feel like a human again, or whatever, I get it. But the outside pressure is rotten!

  6. Ellen Johnson says:

    Well, this post just goes to show how different everyone is, because other that 5 & 6, none of these survival techniques are in my wheel house! And that’s totally fine! I’m a-okay with routines, independent sleep, pacis and the occasional pumped bottle, and my kiddos are happy and healthy and well adjusted. We all have to do what works for us. :)

  7. Jen says:

    We do the same, except for baths. I really dislike taking them, and I just bathe my baby a little more than once a month. Not for everyone, I know, but it works for us :-) The hardest one for me is saying no to activities, that take place during the day. I get a little lonely and like to get the older kid’s energy out so I probably do more than I should, but I definitely ease in slower every time around.

    • Natural Mama Nell says:

      Every round makes us a little slower, right? And i hear you on the baths–I used to hate them, too!

  8. Jessica says:

    I love this! My first needed all this for more than year. He nursed until 3, was worn until he got too big, and still co sleeps 75% of the time. And I’m honestly going to be sad if my second (5 months) isn’t the same!

  9. Lauren B says:

    I love the bathing together idea. I don’t usually take baths, but that sounds so nice! And easy.
    We introduced a bottle at 3 weeks with my first so my husband could feed her once or twice a week. Much as I despise pumping (major props to the moms who do that part or full time!), I know there are few moments sweeter than a little baby snug in your arms, content to eat for 20 minutes. :)
    We also co-sleep, but don’t bed share (smaller bed, husband has an odd schedule/deep sleeper). I loved it with my first. I’m due with our second in a few weeks and didn’t even bother making a nursery this go-round. We have a bassinet at the ready and I look forward to not even having to put my feet on the floor at night! We basically make our bedroom into a mini nursery with anything and everything I could need right there.

    • Natural Mama Nell says:

      So smart on making your room into a mini nursery!! And I hear you on the sweetness of a dada feeding a baby–we did that with our first :)

  10. Mary says:

    I don’t do these all- but I do the ‘bathe with the baby’ thing, and the easy clothes thing… and yes! Both of them are incredible time savers. Oh, and with my fourth I FINALLY learned to say no, my postpartum time was the best. I will do the same with this one.

  11. Desiree says:

    Yes! I do all these, especially #1, 2, and 3. Nursing on demand is a total lifesaver. Happy baby, lots of milk. Win!

  12. Leigh says:

    Yes!
    As an overproducer (I make more than enough milk, my pumping record is 36oz in addition to fully nursing a newborn) with super sucking babies so pacifiers are pretty useful to me from the start. But I know my supply is solid
    Carriers are amazing. So much so that there is an entire organazation, Babywearing International (BWI) devoted to helping people with them. BWI Twin cities has more than a dozen free meetings a month were trained educators can help you with any of your carriers, or with a huge selection of ones in our library. Plus if you become a member ($30 a year) you can borrow one a month. Its a great way to make sure you found the best one for you, try something out, or just have something extra pretty for a wedding.
    Sharing sleep was a game changer for us. I think I woke up all the way twice at night the first six months of my second daughters life. She just wanted to root, nurse, and pass out and I just needed to help her find where to latch. My fourth just stopped cosleeping at 10 months and it was an easy transition for everyone.
    I knew I could handle three kids when I nursed my two week old while washing my hair in the shower. I don’t think my youngest has been washed alone, he is in the bath or shower with us, or in the bath with siblings. The Angelcare bath seat was I picked up for him has been totally worth it in both places.
    No is a wonderful word. It makes room to say yest to things like snuggles, naps, healing. And netflix nursing marathons.

    • Natural Mama Nell says:

      I LOVE the BWI group!! And dealing with overproduction is rough! But I’m glad you figured out what works for you. Netflix nursing marathons: for the win! XXOO

  13. Carolyn says:

    Hi Nell!
    It looks like you and your family have found what works for you. That is great!
    I’m wondering if you could post a link to the research showing that letting a baby cry damages his/her prefontal cortex. And what age? I find this topic fascinating. I agree that very young babies (younger than 4-6 months old) should not be left to cry.

    Have you seen the 2016 Australian study in which babies (ages 6-16 months) whose parents used graduated extinction (basically the Ferber method) did not have significantly different emotional or attachment issues compared to the control group? I’d love to see your sources so I can have a more well-rounded understanding of the research out there.

    Thanks!
    Carolyn

    Here’s the link to the Australian study:

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/05/21/peds.2015-1486?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=4&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3A%20No%20local%20token&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

  14. Joanne says:

    I really enjoyed your post, especially the emphasis on doing what works for you. My baby is now 13 months. I had postpartum anxiety and panic attacks, and had to go back to working 12 hour shifts 8 weeks postpartum which made everything seem so much more difficult. I had the hardest time getting him to latch even after trying different lactation consultants, nipple shields, etc and I ended up pumping exclusively and supplementing with formula. It’s so tempting to have a “plan” In mind and become guilt-ridden when it can’t be realized, but in the end, you do what works for you and your family and your baby, and ignore comments from others. And my formula fed baby turned out just fine :-)

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