09 May 7 Steps to Surviving Early Motherhood
The first few weeks of motherhood can be daunting and throw even the most confident, successful woman for a loop. Here are 7 tips aimed to help make this transition a little smoother.
Get out of the house.
Unless there is inclement weather, you and your new best pal- your baby- need to get out of the apartment! being cooped up in your home can make even the most stable mom crazy. Even if it is just a short walk, do it! See other faces besides those who live in your home or the baby nurse you are paying to be there. Don’t be afraid to get on the subway. I had a friend who eventually moved to the suburbs because she was so overwhelmed by getting on the subway; she stayed within walking distance of her apartment for months. In the beginning, wearing your baby is a viable option and for many it is makes hopping on the subway or bus a breeze. If you prefer the stroller, get to know which train stations have an elevator, and you are good to go!
Meet people and make friends. Some of these women may end up being life-long friends. Find women with whom you can relate, chat and enjoy each other’s company. Join a group of moms whose babies are roughly the same age. Within this group you can compare notes and get reassurance about surviving the bumps of early motherhood.
All bad moments pass.
This too shall pass became my mantra during the first several weeks of first time motherhood. I clearly remember a hot Wednesday afternoon when the day’s events unraveled, as did I. My son, Shay, was about 3 weeks old, my husband was back at work, our postpartum doula completed her time with us and all family already packed up and went home. Shay had missed two naps and was completely melting down despite all efforts. I pulled out all the tricks I had learned in those three short weeks; swaddling, bouncing on the ball, walking with him, feeding him, SHHHHing him. Nothing worked. Finally, I called my husband and said, “You have to come home!” Within an hour he was home. At which point, he just took the baby, gave me a kiss and said to go rest. During the hour in which it took him to get home, I kept repeating to myself “This too shall pass.” These 4 simple words remind me that no matter how ugly things get or how out of control I feel, the uncomfortable moment will pass and a better one will reveal itself. My son eventually stopped crying that afternoon and took a much needed nap, as did I.
A little bit of germs are fine for your baby.
Ok- yeah, perhaps I am a bit fast and loose about germs. Our household rule has always been to wash your hands upon coming home and when our kids were newborns, all those who held the baby had to be healthy, with clean hands. And that was about it. I did not douse my hands with sanitizer every time I reached for the baby. If a pacifier fell on the floor, a quick rinse was sufficient. That said- those are my rules. However, these rules are also supported by the scientists at the John Hopkins Center for Children. They say:
Newborns exposed to household germs, pet and rodent dander and roach allergens during their first year of life appear to have lower risk of developing asthma and allergies.
The researchers note, however, that the protective effects of these exposures disappear when infants encounter these substances after their first year.
The findings are consistent with the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which states that children who grow up in too-clean environments may develop hypersensitive immune systems that make them prone to allergies
So- there you have it. I am not saying, live like a slob, but perhaps being a little more relaxed about germs may actually benefit your baby.
Don’t waste your money on crazy gadgets.
Years ago, one of our former students, Pamela Paul author of Parenting Inc, presented a lecture about what you really need for your new baby and what to leave in the store. I was not a parent at the time, but I always kept her words of wisdom tucked away for when I would need them. She explained, don’t bother with the wipes warmer the bottle heater. What are you going to do if your baby has gotten used to only warm wipes and you need to change the precious little one away from home? Instead of getting a special baby food maker, an all purpose blender will be just fine. Think minimal, this will reduce the amount of clutter around your home.
Remember you are still you- not just “Mommy”.
All of a sudden, you are no longer being called by your first name by anyone! Even the guy at the deli is remarking on how cute your new baby is and calling you, “Mommy”. Yes, you have birthed a baby, you have a new role and responsibilities in your life, but you are still you. It can be easy to forget that and lose your personal identity. When the dust settles and you have found some sort of routine, work some of your pre-baby interests back into your life. Even just taking a walk to your local coffee joint by yourself can allow you to shed the “mommy-role” and offer you a glimpse back to who you are. You do not want to lose your sense of self. It that essence of who you are, your values, beliefs and sense of humor that you will rely on to influence the choices you make as a mother and how your children view you.
Learn to breastfeed outside the house
In the beginning, I had a ridiculous breastfeeding setup. It involved a My Breast Friend, a water bottle, my back pillows propped a certain way, and a place to put my feet up. Given my intricate arrangement of props, you can imagine my complete freak out when I left it all behind and ventured out into the world and had to breastfeed my baby. It turned out, I really didn’t need all that baggage after all. And once I realized it, I felt so liberated and free!