Disclaimer: I am a FTM. My bad, FTM stands for first-time mom. Who would have thought that there was a new language to learn once you had a baby?! I didn’t. In fact, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know. It’s now been just over 1 month since our little boy Ira was born so I am by no means an expert, but I’ve already learned so much!
There have of course been those impossible days that I’m sure you’ve all either experienced or heard about. You know – the non-stop crying, spit-up everywhere, greasy hair. Oh, and then there’s the baby to worry about. But then there are the days where that same baby does something amazing, something new that they’ve never done before, and you just know it’s all worth it.
Where am I going with this, you ask? Well, I know when Ira was born I would have appreciated something like a baby start-up guide as I was in full on survival mode – especially during month 1. So I’m sharing what I’ve learned about taking care of a newborn in the hopes of making your first month easier (even if just a little).
But first, a word of advice from one FTM to another, it will get easier. Don’t be too eager to get through those first few hard weeks because before you know it, they’re not newborns anymore.
Survival Tip #1: Do I smell something?
Changing diapers is not something I had done before Ira, but I can tell you that I got very good at it very fast. You’re changing diapers at least 8-12 times/day (and note that a day with a newborn is 24 hours long, not 12 hours. The day does not stop when the sun goes down). We quickly realized that a change station was going to be necessary on each floor of our house, because who wants to run up and down the stairs every hour or two with a newborn? Not me.
The second station (which we added during week 1) is on our main floor in the living room. We have a portable change pad, and I’m obsessed with the Skip Hop Diaper Caddie that holds all of the rest of our changing essentials. We also bought a 2nd diaper pail for downstairs, which was key to keeping those smells at bay and making life easier for us. No need to run around the house looking for things! Genius!
Tip: if you do have a boy, you can purchase a “pee pee tee-pee” for those unwanted waterfalls. They work.
Survival Tip #2: Mom, where’s the milk?
I am breastfeeding, but when we first got home from the hospital, we were topping up Ira’s feeds with formula. It worked wonders getting Ira back to his birthweight while my milk was slowly starting to come in, because it does come in slowly which you might not realize.
Create a comfortable space
Currently, Ira feeds for 20-40 minutes every 2-3 hours during the day & night so as you can see, you’ll spend a lot of time feeding and you’ll want to be comfortable. We’ve set our nursery up so that when I feed at night, it’s a calm and relaxed environment for both me and baby. We bought a glider that reclines so I have a comfy space to sit with him, and a small night table beside it where I can put any feeding essentials that I need (more on that below). I make sure to turn on relaxing music (Sam Cook) and put a nightlight on as well, because keeping those light low helps baby learn the difference between day and night.
I’ve been using My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow for feeds. We purchased 2 (one for each floor) so we’re not constantly running up and down the stairs with it. Ira seems to really like it too. Tip: Use the flat side of the pillow – this is not the way it’s designed to be used, but a Lactation Consultant told me it was actually better for the baby’s positioning and I’ve definitely noticed a difference.
Stay entertained, fed, and hydrated
If you have Netflix, make a list of shows you want to catch up on. If you don’t have Netflix, get it. I’ve caught up on 4 seasons of Grace & Frankie over the last 2 weeks while Ira fed!
You’ll also want to make sure you have lots of water nearby because breastfeeding makes you extremely thirsty. I’ve been using Nalgene water bottles since you can open and close them with one hand. And you’ll find that you’re completely ravenous at all times throughout the day & night. I’ve been leaving bowls of trail mix around the house so no matter where I am, I am always in arms reach of some nibbles. FYI, breastfeeding can burn up to an additional 500 calories!
Survival Tip #3: Get Out (not the movie…literally, get out of your house)
Newborns have no schedule so take advantage of the first three months and get out! Try to go for lunch, dinner, date night, whatever and whenever you and your partner can. This flexibility doesn’t last once baby gets on a schedule.
Take back to your social life (to whatever extent possible)
In my past life, I was always running around which is why it was very important for me and my sanity to continue to make plans and get myself up and out with the baby. I started off slowly with some walks here and there (even short walks were tiring at first!). By week 2, I was already comfortable taking Ira out on excursions to restaurants, malls, and friends’ houses, etc. I think it made both of us feel better to get back into the swing of things.
Sign up for classes
What also helped was signing up for mom and baby classes. It’s so nice to be able to meet other moms who are in the same position as you and to feel comfortable to talk about your frustrations or ask questions. Developmental classes, music classes, and even classes geared towards you as a new mom are all great places to start, and help you get out of the house and meet new people.
Buy the right gear and accessories
We invested in a great stroller – the UPPAbaby Vista. It comes with a bassinet as well that we’ve been using for Ira’s naps. The stroller has a huge storage compartment so I never have to worry about not having enough space to hold all of Ira’s things. It also folds up incredibly well and we store it in the trunk of our car for easy access.
Remember, stroller accessories are your friend. I bought the UPPAbaby Cup Holder and the Skip Hop Stroller Organizer for even more storage and ease when I’m out on long walks. The best thing about the UPPAbaby is that it can hold a bucket seat (a bucket seat is a car seat for babies). We bought the Maxi-Cosi Bucket Seat and with the help of 2 trusty adapters that click right into the stroller, we can transport baby Ira from the car to the stroller and vice versa without waking him or taking him out of the bucket. I repeat, we do not have to wake him! I highly recommend going this route instead of the traditional car seat that doesn’t come out of the car.
For shorter trips, I’ve been putting Ira in the Ergobaby 360 Carrier. It’s so easy to put on so it works well for a quick run to Starbucks. Since its winter now, I’ve been using my Make My Belly Fit Jacket Extender to protect the baby while he’s in the carrier. The carrier and the baby both fit under my winter coat with the insert, allowing Ira to stay warm on those cold mornings.
Survival Tip # 4: Why won’t you just go to sleep?
I’ll start off by saying we have by no means mastered the art of sleeping with a newborn, but I can say that we have already figured out that some things work and some things don’t. All babies are different so what works for us might not work for you, but hopefully something in here will resonate with your baby and then you’ll thank me.
First, we’re trying to use the UPPAbaby bassinet from his stroller as much as we can as Ira’s “bed” – we’ve set it up in our bedroom next to the bed. When he’s not fussy, we’ll put him in it and hopefully get a few hours uninterrupted at the beginning of the night. We make sure to dim the lights around 8pm to start his bedtime and we don’t raise the lights until 8am the next morning. I’ve downloaded multiple white noise albums from Apple Music and we play that throughout the night, or you could try a white noise machine. It’s so strange but I actually enjoy the sound now!
We’ve invested in a couple of sleep sacks for him. We’ve found that the Halo SleepSack with Velcro works well since Ira likes to keep his arms out but still wants to feel tightly snuggled, and this sack allows for both. We keep the Avent baby pacifier on hand to help Ira settle in case he needs some additional soothing. We also purchased the Gro-egg temperature monitor which gives us piece of mind that our room is a good environment for baby to sleep (tip: your house should always be between 16C-20C).
When Ira is being fussy and just won’t settle which, to be honest, is most nights, then anything goes. Literally ANYTHING. He’s slept on me, on my husband, beside me in the bed, in the swing, in the car seat, in the carrier…you get it, the list goes on and on. Moral of the story is that as long as your baby is safe, anything goes when the sun goes down for those first few weeks and months. Oh, and nap during the day when your baby naps. I know you’ve heard this before, but actually, DO IT!
Survival Tip #5: Who will play with me?
We started doing tummy time with Ira the first week we brought him home. It’s super important for babies not to lose their back and neck strength that they are all actually born with. Unfortunately, their strength usually deteriorates quickly because people wait too long to start putting their babies on their tummies. I recommend playing with them after a feed – although this “play” usually lasts only 10-15 minutes before they cry or fall asleep.
Upstairs, we use a gorgeous Play with Pieces Mat in our nursery for play time. The mats are so easy to clean, are very cushy, and come double sided so you have options based on your decor. Ira can roll around on it, spit up on it, whatever – and it still looks good as new.
Downstairs, we use the Skip Hop Activity Gym to play with him. Ira can practise rolling over and he’s already started focusing on the different animals and sounds the mat has. These short play times are some of the most fun times we have interacting with Ira during the day. He’s the most alert and happy, and we can see him developing before our eyes. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Wrapping it all up:
Being a parent is hard at any age but being a first-time parent of a newborn baby is probably the hardest it gets (until I experience the next hardest thing…). I’ve learned to ask for help from my family and friends because it’s true what they say and it does take a village – a village and many tip and tricks from other moms. So that’s what I hope I’m providing here – maybe one or all of these ideas will help make your life just a little bit easier with your baby.
Some days will be harder than others. On those tough days – stay positive and soak it all in because this too shall pass. And finally, when nothing seems to work, remember that you’re not alone. Reach out to your friends, family, or even an online community of fellow moms. And then pour yourself that glass of wine you were thinking of and drink up. Cheers!
Feel free to share your experience below! Moms are the best resources for helping each other through the journey.
Written by Lindsay Winograd