Getting Through First Year of Parenting with Some Sanity
Well, maybe just a little...
The first year of parenting is a beast. It’s like a battle for life or death and you are taking a tiny human attached to your boob. Constantly afraid that it’s not breathing or has some sort of terminal illness. This is a scary and exciting time for every new mom or dad, and it’s the slowest fast year you will ever live. All those nights without sleep, being excited that you had a 3 hour stretch lying awake in bed… it’s a wonder anyone wants to go through this. Yet it’s so worth it, people all over the world long for the opportunity to have children, to love on a tiny being with everything inside of them. And because so many of us do it, here are my top 13 tips for getting through the first year with some sanity:
1 - Placenta Pills
I hate to start off with this, but it really is the very first thing on this list to happen when you have the baby. It sounds really gross, and I’m sorry if you have a queasy stomach, but I can tell you now that it is so worth it! I got placenta pills with both my babies and called them my Happy Pills, as a matter of fact, I am saving the ones I have left over in the freezer for menopause. The concept is that we store up a ton of hormones in our body while pregnant, this causes everything from moodiness to thicker hair. When we deliver the baby all those hormones drain out with the placenta and lochia leaving us feeling very sad and confused, it’s like reverse puberty on steroids, plus we have a baby to care for and no sleep. There are specialists all over the country that will encapsulate your placenta for you and give you directions on how to use them. The pills help to reintroduce the lacking hormones back into your body so that you can feel a bit more emotionally even. If you need more, take more! The idea is to slow down the loss of hormones rather than having it shock the body. Basically, it’s tapering the loss. You can find certified encapsulation specialist near you here.
2 - Baby Language
Oh My goodness!! This was a lifesaver for me and I suggest it to everyone! Priscilla Dunstan has figured out the fact that Babies all over the world are born making a combination of 5 different sounds, or words. These words tell us exactly what baby needs. I tried so hard to memorize them, but instead I just wrote them down on sticky notes and put them everywhere! Baby isn’t just crying, they’re trying to communicate needs with us, and these words allow us to take a better guess at what. This is seriously so important right off the bat because if you don’t respond to the words within the first 3 months then they stop using them leaving us lost for good. You can get the book here or watch the video here for the short version.
3 - The Five S’s
Newborn babies have a very short to do list: Eat, Sleep, Poop, and CRY. This last bit is so nerve wracking you might even start crying too. Even if you know baby language, sometime we just can’t tell what’s going on. Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby On The Block, has 5 methods that will calm just about any baby: Swaddling, Side/Stomach position, Shushing, Swinging, and Sucking. You can read this book or just watch the video for the basics like I did.
4 - Wonder Weeks
Imagine waking up and not knowing where you are, you thought you had this living thing down, but just like that, it’s all different. This is what babies go through on a regular basis. Not only are they learning to use their muscles and communicate with their parents, but their entire world is changing over and over again. Wonder Weeks is an amazing resource to help us understand why baby isn’t sleeping or seems to be regressing at certain times. In the book you will find in-depth information about how and why baby is growing right now. Here is an Introduction Video that tells you more about the studies. I highly recommend having a copy of the book because you will need it every month or 2 for the first few years. Now there is even an App to help you track and get bite size information about upcoming leaps!
5 - Depression
Picture this, I was depressed for years and didn’t even know it. I had friends mention it now and then, asking if I might be depressed, and I would say no. See, I thought depression was suicidal thoughts, I didn’t have those, so I was not depressed. HA! One night I read an article about being a stay at home mom on the verge of depression. It was all about me, I was ecstatic! For years I had been trying to figure out where my joy went, why I wanted to do things but never did them, trying to remember who I was before I met my husband and had children. I had lost me, my muchness was more like muchless. Check out this article to see if you are experiencing depression or normal stress, it’s definitely worth at least knowing how to handle your situation.
6 - Get Out of the House
If there is anything that will make you lonely and depressed, it’s staying home all day every day. I know, I know, it’s hard!! Between finding things to do and simply getting the baby dressed and in the car or stroller, it’s never going to seem easy. But we need to get some fresh air, and a new perspective. I suggest finding story times around town where you can meet other new moms, enjoy a free get together and introduce your baby to books! But you can easily go to the coffee shop or park and just people watch if you can’t find anyone to meet up with.
7 - Allow or Make others help you
One minute I’m wishing someone would help me with all this, and the next I am shooing someone away saying “I got this”, only to wish that I had been brave enough to say yes. Parents, we need help, we want help, we are offered help, we just have to accept it when it’s offered. This may mean calling someone who once offered and asking if they are available, this may mean calling in a babysitter or maid so you can have a moment of peace. If we try to go it alone, we will be overwhelmed, stressed out, and simply not our best selves. Give yourself a break, you can’t do it all, let others help you!
8 - Know that you are enough
The first few weeks are tough. You have just met an entirely new person and think you should know everything about them and what they need at every moment, but you don’t, and you can’t. You have nothing in common with their world, except that you are attached, and you don’t even speak the same language!! Yet, you are enough, you are perfect, you are exactly what baby needs. Please don’t criticize yourself thinking that you don’t have what it takes. As a matter of fact, you are probably holding yourself to too high of standards. You will be told this a million times, maybe you can put it on a sticky note and tack them everywhere with the baby language, YOU ARE ENOUGH!
9 - Ignore advice
People love giving advice, oh geez do they love it!! And by the way that some people talk, it’s as though they think their opinion is the only correct one. But it’s not, it can’t be. Every parent is different, every family is different, and every child in that family is different!! What worked with my first born did not work with my second. Shoot, what my husband did with our colicky second born didn’t work when I did it! We never know what will and will not work for us unless we choose to try it, and for some things that is an absolute no. You have permission to not take the advice of everyone who meets you, here are some ways to kindly disregard the unwanted advice.
10 - Don’t freak out about everything
Some people are just high anxiety, I get it. But, if we freak out about every little thing, so will Baby. They follow our every move and reaction, so if you jump and run to them every time they are trying something new, they will become afraid to try anything new. Every time that we protect them from hitting their head on the corner of a table, we are actually keeping them from learning and growing in self-confidence. It’s hard, but we can allow our babies to get hurt sometimes, it’s makes them tough! As a matter of fact, if we cheer them on when they fall or get hurt, then they will learn that it is just part of life. When we get scared, they learn to cry at the drop of a hat. I personally spent much more time training adults not to freak out than I did soothing a baby who just fell. The result is a adventurous child and a less stressed out mama.
11 - Baby Sign Language
Baby is trying to communicate with you constantly, only problem is, if you haven’t learned the baby language, mentioned above, then you don’t know what they need. As the babies get to 5-6 months old, you can begin teaching them sign language for the words they need to tell you what they want. “Infants who learn baby sign language also are thought to gain psychological benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem. Feelings of anger due to an inability to communicate may not occur as often. Having the ability to sign could be a lifesaver when a child is too distraught to speak clearly.” - Jane Collingwood
12 - Love and Logic
This doesn’t kick in until about 10 months old, but it will be a life changer in the long run. I use Love and Logic with my kids and am constantly complimented on how well behaved and polite they are. As with any parenting, it’s all about us. We have to do the work, but with Love and Logic, the work is more fun and the results are amazing. When my kids start acting up, I have to check myself, I’ve been slacking and need to get back to the book. This is highly recommended and those who actually use it are in love with the results and the responsible, kind, independent adults that they raise through it.
13 - Reading to Babies
Last, but certainly not least, is reading to your baby. It doesn’t matter if you are reading Facebook out loud or a book of First Words while pointing at pictures. Reading to babies, even in the womb, creates a bonding with Baby and the book, education, and learning in general. “But perhaps the most important reason to read aloud is that it makes a connection between the things your baby loves the most — your voice and closeness to you — and books.” - Kidshealth
Most babies will start off with Cloth Books to chew on and cuddle with, some even come with rattles attached to amuse the baby. Next, most babies move on to Board Books, many get read often, but are mostly for gnawing on, to be honest. Some publishers are perfectly aware of this and have an exchange policy on the books like Usborne Books and More, which has a 50% off replacement policy. Usborne Books and More has an amazing series of Texture Books called the “That’s Not My…” series, with 41 different character titles, repetitive words, touchy feely, sparkles and more! And for the busy baby on the go, there are of course, Stroller Books which can also be used on car seats. And by the way, if you would like to buy any of these books, just use this link and I will reimburse your shipping.
I hope you now have a few more tools to get you through that tough first year. As difficult as it is, remember that all of us parents have been through it, and it does get better (at least in the sleep and pace of stress aspects). Keep reaching out for new ideas to try and see what works for you and baby. Also don’t forget how to find this information in case you need it again for the next baby. Now that you have my favorite tips on getting through the first year after having a baby, let me know what works best for you personally, on or off this list. I love to hear other people’s opinions and magic formulas. This is just what worked for me and many others that I know, but like I said above, no one is the same and nothing works for everyone!