Now before y'all thing I'm crazy for attempting to give advice when I'm only 6 weeks in to this whole mommy role, these tips are all things that I have learned through friends, read, or acquired through trial and error. I am FAR from ready to write a book (or a blog post) on how to be a parent. ;)
I wanted to compile a list of what's working for us for two reasons: one, blogging for me has always been first and foremost an online journal and I want to remember what's working this go around so that we can at least have a starting point for our future kids (Lord willing!); and two, as I've said before, if anyone else can benefit from what I'm learning along the way, that will be a bonus. :)
1. Don't force a schedule. If a schedule works for you and works for your baby, go for it, but don't drive yourself crazy trying to follow what someone else says is best for your baby. YOU know your baby best! One book I read encouraged feeding every three hours and doing a bath at night as part of the "bedtime routine." I liked this idea in theory, but I quickly learned that Ryan is a hungry boy who likes to eat closer to every two hours- making him wait almost an hour to eat when he wakes up hungry would not work for either one of us! And as far as the bath goes, I learned that I like him smelling fresh all day rather than bathing him at night. Morning bath time is one of my favorite parts of our day and leaves more time for Matt and I to have together at night since there are less "routines" to go through with Ryan before he goes to sleep (and it leaves more time for Matt to just snuggle him when he gets home). :)
2. Follow the "eat wake sleep" routine. Since we haven't been strict schedule followers, the "eat, wake, sleep" routine has been our guideline for getting Ryan used to a general flow for the day. After he eats, we play for a bit (stare at the fan, flail arms, do tummy time... you know all those fun activities ;)), then he naps and wakes up 2-3 hours from the last feed to eat again. If on the rare occasion he's still asleep at that three hour mark, I wake him up to eat so that his long sleep stretches are reserved for nighttime.
3. Sleep everywhere. For the first month especially, Ryan slept all over the place: the nap nanny, the carrier, the pack-n-play, the couch or our bed (with us right there), and on us. Who knows whether it will actually make a difference long-term, but I didn't want him to be a "crib-only" sleeper. Again, it could make absolutely no difference and two months from now he may in fact be a "crib only" sleeper, but I figured I would at least make an attempt at getting him comfortable in various places.
4. Talk normally and don't be afraid to be loud. This goes along with number 3. Who knows if it will really help, but our house is not huge, so I wanted to get Ryan used to sleeping through noises. I'll let you know in a year how well this experiment went over. ;)
5. Sometimes babies just need to exercising their lungs. Matt and I read this about a week before Ryan arrived and boy am I glad we did! Newborn babies can't intentionally exercise their muscles, so sometimes crying is the only way they can release energy. Even if they're full and clean, sometimes they just gotta cry.
6. A timer is your friend. So for me, number 5 is way easier understood in theory than in actuality. I hate when Ryan cries, regardless of whether he's just getting a little exercise or not. For me, looking at the clock when he starts crying helps me keep in perspective how long it actually lasts. Because three minutes can feel like thirty when you think your baby is upset! This also helped me a lot in the first two weeks when I was trying so hard to figure out his every noise and action. If he strayed from his typical routine (as typical as a routine was in those early days) even in the slightest way, I found that I would freak out on the inside thinking things like, "Oh no, we're entering a new stage. His days of going to sleep happily are over." This is when people like my sister or mom would step in and kindly mention that this was only the first time he had trouble falling asleep, or remind me that five minutes of crying does not mean that he's no longer a consolable baby. Which brings me to my next point...
7. Get yourself a sounding board, and a positive one. Maybe I'm the only person in the world who has to talk through what I'm thinking to makes sense of it, but having an experienced mama help me reason through different things I was thinking or ideas I was wanting to try with Ryan was (and is) SO helpful for me. Whether it's a family member, friend, or a nurse on the phone, find someone who is positive who will help you filter your thoughts and encourage you when you're tired and emotional and unsure of what step to take next.
8. Ask for help and SLEEP! A rested mama is a better mama so ask for help when you need it and sleep when you can. The house will just get dirty again after you clean it. ;) (Can you believe I just wrote that?! I'm trying really hard to embrace that truth, haha)
9. Diapers- just get 'er done. I hated when Ryan would cry early on when I would change his diaper so I would spend time trying to soothe him while I was changing his diaper, which naturally just made the diaper changing process that much longer. My sister told me to just get 'er done (we're not redneck by the way, I swear). The faster it's over, the happier he'll be. The same goes for changing clothes. And three other quick points I've learned about diapers: if you have a boy, remember to point south, Desitin is your friend, and so is the diaper genie.
10. Change the diaper mid-feed during the nighttime feeding. This has been one of the BEST pieces of advice I've been given! Ryan was getting so used to his "eat, wake, sleep" routine during the day that he was carrying it over into the night and having trouble falling back asleep after he ate. So a friend of mine suggested that I change him and re-swaddle him mid-feed so that he could go right back to bed after he finished. Worked like a charm!
Got any other tips for me?! Do share. I'm six weeks in and have a lot of days ahead of me. I love hearing what works for other people. We mamas gotta stick together and help each other out!
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