Since I’ve raised a herd of kids already and many of my friends are just starting their own families, this is my way of passing on the important lessons (without having to read a 600 page book). I wrote this assuming a mom (primary caregiver) / dad (secondary caregiver) pairing here (to make the writing simpler), but it applies equally to any combination of parent/s of any genders / caregiver roles.
Baby Golden Rules
- Accept the Chaos
- Sleep when the baby sleeps
- Let sleeping babies lie
#1 & #2:
Most moms struggle with these more than dads. When the baby sleeps, they think “Well, now I can go get stuff done”. Don’t do it. Just go to sleep. Accept that things are going to be chaos and a crazy mess for a while (first month or two, minimum), and take care of your bodies and minds before worrying about the house and stuff everywhere and unorganized baby clothes and piles of laundry.
Long-Term Sleep Deprivation is your biggest enemy in the first year. Eric is now 11 months old and it is still an issue because he wakes up at night to nurse, even when eating solids. Anyone can deal with sleep deprivation for a few days/weeks, but you’re in this for the long haul and you need to keep from letting the sleep deficit accumulate as much as possible. The less you sleep now, the more it will haunt you for the rest of the year going forward.
Sleep every chance you get, even if it’s only for a few hours at a time. If the baby sleeps, either:
- you both lie down and sleep or
- mom lies down and sleeps and you (dad/other caregiver) do anything needed around the house. Then you sleep after baby and mom wake up.
Assuming she’s nursing or otherwise in charge of feeding, doing tag-team sleeping can work well. But either way, make sure SHE sleeps when the baby does. And if you don’t, make sure to get your sleep afterwards so you minimize your deficit.
If you have family/friends that want to help out (beyond the initial ‘meet the baby’ visits), let them watch/hold the baby while either/both of you get some sleep. ACCEPT HELP! Ask people who offer to bring you pre-cooked meals, help straighten up the house, do dishes, do laundry. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did, and they’ll feel they have contributed and helped.
Sleep is your biggest challenge to remaining sane and enjoying the baby experience. If you don’t keep up on sleep, it quickly becomes icky with short tempers, frustration and possible increases in risk of post-partum depression (common) or psychosis (rare, but more common than you’d think).
Did I mention sleep? 😉
Let Sleeping Babies Lie
#3: If the baby is sleeping, let it.
- Don’t wake it up to see if it’s still alive (just look if it’s chest is moving – this is a far more common fear than people expect 🙂 )
- Don’t wake it up because somebody came over to visit (tell people to call before coming over, this lets you sleep if the baby sleeps)
- Don’t wake it up because you think it might look uncomfortable (if it’s uncomfortable, it will wake up. There bones are made of silly putty and they can be in all kinds of weird floppy-headed positions and be fine)
- Don’t wake it up because you want it to sleep in it’s crib instead of in whatever it happens to be in. Leave it alone and go sleep yourself.
THINGS YOU NEED
Get these things
- Wireless Baby monitor. If you want a camera, go for it. We never used the cameras because the wifi security typically sucks and I didn’t want strangers watching our room.
- Fisher-Price Deluxe Cradle ‘n Swing – Whatever color/pattern you like. This will save your sanity and babies love it.
- Baby seat that clicks into stroller: (best stroller ever, light, opens/closes to small size easily with one hand, enough storage for baby stuff):
- Stroller: $90 http://www.amazon.com/Graco-Snugrider-Elite-Stroller-Carrier/dp/B00UVW3WHK
- Car Seat + Base: $120 http://www.amazon.com/Graco-SnugRide-Connect-Infant-Gotham/dp/B00H8MQ4US
- Extra base (if you have more than 1 car): $45 http://www.amazon.com/Graco-SnugRide-Click-Connect-Infant/dp/B00BNQEZXS
For the cradle and car sears, I recommend those specific products. I’ve used lots of these things, those are by far the best.
Those things are required for future sanity. Everything else is optional.
WHEN BABY CRIES
Here’s the checklist that I literally put up on the fridge (because you go crazy and can’t remember things when you are sleep deprived and a baby won’t stop crying):
- Hungry? Feed it. (Try feeding)
- Gas? Burp it. (Especially during/after feeding)
- Wet/Dirty? Change it. (Diapers are cheaper than therapy)
- Hurt? Fix it. (Make sure clothes/diapers not pinching/too tight)
- Tired? Bed it. (if rubbing eyes, it’s tired)
- Cold? Warm it. (if hands/feed are blotchy or white, it’s cold. Pink is good. Red is hot)
- Scared/Lonely/Bored? Hold it. (They’re high-maintenance)
This will take care of 90% of crying issues for most babies. If these don’t help, try:
- The Hold: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2C8MkY7Co8
- Bicycle Legs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQWpTl9Lmk4
If he gets colicky (cries for long periods, often around late afternoon or night):
- Burping – often it’s just gas
- Has the baby pooped lately (in the last day)? They get stopped up easily. These are great for occasionally un-backing-up baby. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002ZCXUZ8
- If not, try this colic tonic: https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Bliss-Liquid-4-Ounce-Bottles/dp/B00E3Y0N5G
There’s my 4 kids worth of experience reduced down to useful bullet points.
If you have suggestions, questions or concerns, feel free to comment!