So there I was, standing in the baby isle at Dis-Chem with four types of breast pads, the boxes balancing precariously in my arms, trying to Google which one I should buy. My mom simply responded to my call saying, “Well we would just push tissues into our bras.”
There’s nothing quite like that first shopping trip to make you realise how absolutely clueless you are as a new mom-to-be. I realised I had no idea how to pick a bum cream, or nipple balm, or a thermometer. Cute outfits, sure. Nasal aspirators? Oh gawd.
A week after my baby was born, a friend asked me whether I’d cried yet. And I thought, pffft, my baby is easy, I’m not going to be one of those hysterical moms. A few days later I was sobbing in the shower. Broken sleep mixed with feelings of immense responsibility and complete ignorance can weigh a person down. And those first three months of motherhood are HARD. Also known as the fourth trimester, it’s a major adjustment period where you and baby need to figure out how to do this thing.
I’ll hardly claim to be an expert in babies, but I do feel a bit more seasoned now that I’ve managed to keep my little one alive for four months. So I thought I’d share a few of my tips on surviving as a new mom.
Getting out of the house
This was my first major hurdle. I remember how terrified I was to step out the front door. You only have a small window of opportunity between naps and the next diaper change, and by the time you figure out how the actual F the stroller straps clip together, you’ve usually missed it. When we did make it out, my baba would wait till we were at the furthest point on our walking route before losing her shit completely. I remember how embarrassed I felt as I frantically sprinted home – as though all around people were staring out their windows, thinking that I wasn’t taking proper care of my child. After a while I actually became too intimidated to go out, and the cabin fever started gnawing away at my sanity.
Eventually we figured it out though. My Noo Noo Pie baby wrap was a saving grace. She fought a bit at first, but eventually she loved being wrapped up close to me. It was also the only way she’d take naps between 6 and 8 weeks old. Later, when she became bigger and stronger, we switched to the Ergo Baby 360 Omni Cool Carrier, which is especially great because the baby can also face forward.
I’d say figure out what works for you, but do try to get out of the house, even if it’s just for a stroll around the block. Cabin fever can drive a person crazy, and you can easily feel incredibly isolated as a new mom. Listening to podcasts while I walked also helped keep my mind active.
I also highly recommend getting a mom crew together. Other moms can offer a fantastic support structure. They know what you’re going through, and when your baby goes ballistic, you can rest assured that they’ve all been there.
If you’re not ready to leave the house, connect with other moms on social media. I found that Instagram has an especially supportive community where you can engage with other moms who are going through the same struggles as you. I love @nyparenting, @notsomumsy, @scarymommy, @mother.ly, @jennakutcher, @parents and locally @mascara_and_mamosas, @caffeineandfairydust and @shante_hutton
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The diaper bag
A diaper bag can make or break an outing. Make sure you’re prepared for the worst – as in full poo-nami up-the-back situations. I recommend getting a diaper bag backpack. You want to have your hands free as much as possible. The Thandana Nappy Bag is fantastic, especially the laminated option which is water resistant and super easy to clean. So what should you have in your diaper bag?
- At least 5 extra diapers. I prefer the Pampers Premium Care Diapers. I love the little blue line indicating when the diaper is full. The diapers are also nice and soft, and the mesh lining prevents the wet nappy from lying against baby’s skin. And I haven’t had a leak with these yet, which is essential when you’re out and about.
- Wet wipes. Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes are the best by far. They are fragrance free, nice and wet, and they come out one by one. Look for the packs with the plastic clip-lid. The sticky openings are super annoying when you only have one free hand, and eventually the packs are always half-open, so the wipes dry out.
- Bum cream. Go for Bepanthen when you spot any signs of nappy rash, or try Yorba Diaper Cream.
- Diaper bags to store dirty nappies – many restaurants don’t have bins.
- Ziplock bags for wet or dirty clothes.
- An entire extra outfit for Baby (and consider packing yourself a clean shirt as well).
- A burping cloth.
- A blanket / muslin cloth (I highly recommend this Kelim Throw from The Cotton Company – it’s lightweight and warm).
- A hat / beanie.
- A toy.
I’m a Type A personality, so before Baby was born I read up on everything I could think of. Sometimes Google can be your worst enemy but I did find a lot of information that really helped me feel as though I at least knew what I was doing. I would highly recommend you read up on the following:
- Overstimulation cues: We couldn’t understand why our baby was losing her shit every night. The old folks simply said, “Oh, colic sets in when the sun goes down.” Then our paediatrician pointed out she was showing signs of overstimulation. When we became more attentive to these cues, she honestly transformed into a much calmer baby.
- Awake times: “Don’t worry about how long she sleeps, worry about how long she is awake,” the nurse told us at our antenatal class. Babies have specific awake times at certain ages and sticking to these as closely as possible will help prevent them from becoming over-tired and fussy.
If you are keen to update your reading list, I can recommend these:
- Baby Sense by Meg Faure. I didn’t follow all their advice, but their information on overstimulation cues was a game changer.
- What To Expect the 1st Year by Heidi Murkoff. It’s a great guide for all the basics from bathing to swaddling, expressing and more.
- The Wonder Weeks by Vanderijt, Plooij and Plas-Plooij. This tracks your baby’s milestones and gives amazing insight into their development. You can prep for fussy periods and look out for signs of growth.
- French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman. I just enjoyed reading this.
- babysleepsite.com is a brilliant resource for everything baby sleep related.
Take time for yourself
This is a tall order, I know. But I remember how frustrated I became when we were in the newborn trenches, unable to do the small things I enjoyed. I couldn’t even take a shower without worrying that my baby would start crying any minute. I found that little moments for myself helped to keep me sane, even if it was just a quiet cup of coffee when my baby finally fell asleep. Those moments when I could pause and breathe carried my through the rougher parts.
You’re doing great!
This mothering business can be incredibly overwhelming. Keep reminding yourself that you’re really doing a fantastic job. You are the very best mother for your baby, and if they’re happy and healthy, you’ve nailed it. People will tell you that it gets better, and I remember how every time I heard that, I felt like pelting my shoe at them. WHEN? WHEN WILL IT GET BETTER? But it does. Really.
Want more? Read about the bare baby essentials as chosen by new moms, and check out how I’m navigating this parenting business. I also did a post on how to set up a nursery on a budget. Anything else you’d like to know? Pop it in the comments below.
GIVEAWAY! Win a Thandana & Yorba hamper worth R2700
9Lives has teamed up with Thandana and Yorba to give you the perfect New Mom Starter Kit. We’re giving away a Thandana Laminated Nappy Backpack of your choice, with a Yorba Baby Wash & Shampoo, Baby Lotion, Diaper Cream, Nipple Cream and Stretch Mark Cream. To enter, share one top tip you’ve received about motherhood. Pop it in the comments section below. One entry per person, competition closes 4 July 2019.