Let me start by saying, I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am simply a mom who loves (and loves hard), and is trying the best I know how.
In my first year of being a mom, I have learned many things – and some things that made me go “DUH!” I’m not promising that this will be a mind-blowing read for YOU, but these are some things that my husband and I did that worked for our first child, so I want to remember them for the next child (and the next really), so here we go! If you have some things that helped YOU, please share in the comments.
This is by no means in any special order.
ONE: PUMP AFTER YOU BREASTFEED
Two words…MORE MILK!
My milk came in and I was NOT ready! However, because God loves me SOOO much, He blessed me with one of my favorite persons, who I call “Ma K”. She blessed me with what I consider to be literally the BEST advice this first time mama could have ever received that first week of bringing my little Isabela home. One was to use a GOOD pump (which she also blessed me with), and the other advice was to pump after every feed – and that is EXACTLY what I did.
Every time after Isa nursed, I would pump. I didn’t always love it, but I’m so grateful for my husband being SO present during each time. He helped me SO much – he would prepare the pumps while Isa nursed, so that I wouldn’t have to get up to get them. And yes, he was up for EVERY feed – overnight feedings included.
Even though I ran into moments where I was almost to tears feeling like all I was doing was nursing and pumping, I was so thankful in the long run. It was sooo worth it in the end, as I had enough milk to store in my freezer, use for milk bathes, bless some other mamas nearby, AND use to make purees. Nursing and pumping definitely takes some discipline. but it is worth it in the end!
TWO: HAVE A SCHEDULE
While I was still pregnant, we were recommended to read the book On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo. We talk/processed as we began to read the book and really liked the principles it shared. Once Isa was born, we began to put into practice some of what we read – of course, we took some of the principles and fit them into OUR family rhythms.
We started with feeding Isa girl every 3 hours – yes, even over night. The over night feedings probably lasted about 10 days before we began to extend her over night feedings to 4-5 hours. During the day, we would make sure she had “wake windows” as well as some good nap sessions :).
By the time our girl was 6 weeks old, she was sleeping 6hrs over night!
THREE: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WAKE WINDOWS
We tried to be very intentional about the wake windows; incorporating tummy time most of the time. Many times we would get on the floor with her as she “read” her little black and white book, or sometimes just to “chat with our girl”. Sometimes tummy time was on one of our chests, or just on the couch where she could see us. We would also read to our girl, had conversations about the day, played “I spy” inside or outside the house to talk about what we saw, or just let her sit in her bouncy chair with her black and white book.
Taking these moments was very important to us, as we thought about ways to help with her development – physical, emotional, as well as mental. And not only her development, but also building a special bond with our little girl.
FOUR: SEEK HELP!
As a first time mom, one thing I lived by is that I do not know everything! Haha, but seriously. Although I have had MANY experiences babysitting and/or nannying other peoples’ babies/children, I have never been a mom before. To prepare for the big day, I read quite a book (one of the books I really appreciated during the pregnancy was What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff. This book was suggested to me by a dear friend/mentor before getting pregnant, and I’m glad I had it available to me when the time came.
Now, once Isabela was born, I went through quite the rollercoaster of emotions, IYKYK, the first week with just breast-feeding alone, and it was my husband that reminded me to ASK FOR HELP. I’m thankful for his reminder, and thankful for that dear friend/mentor, who showed up to help me and brought so much peace to my life haha.
There were many moments after that first week that I found myself just asking for help, whether it was with breast-feeding, pumping, or something to do specifically with the health of my little girl. That was by far one of the best decisions I’ve made, as it helped to keep me a bit more…sane ;).
There is no need to try to do ANY OF THESE THINGS alone. Because I worked really hard to be such an independent person in my past (this is for another time), asking for help is not typically my first response. However, I am very grateful for my husband who has been helping me to knock down that wall, because raising a child truly does take a village.
FIVE: 10 MINUTE RULE
Did I mention how emotional you are after having a baby? Like, those hormones are just THROUGH THE ROOF! I remember having thinking/saying things like, “oh I’d never do that”, or “that won’t be a problem for me” many times before having a baby – hahahahahahahhahahahaha, I had NO idea.
So the 10 minute rule was something Andrew and I talked about having whenever Isa would wake up from a sleep time. Whenever she would wake up, we’d wait 10 minutes before going to go get her or check on her. This was a decision we made after reading together, and talking about how babies, like adults, may wake up in the middle of their but it doesn’t always mean they’re finished with their sleep. As adults, we may typically wake up to switch sides, go to the bathroom, or some other reason and then go back to sleep. A baby, may wake up as well, maybe not be able to do all of the above, but may vocalize that they are awake.
Anyways, MOST times, she didn’t even make it 3 minutes, but for this mama, those 3 minutes felt like an ETERNITY.
SIX: PUT BABY DOWN TO SLEEP, AWAKE
Instead of waiting until Isabela was asleep, to put her down in her bed, or in her “sleep next”, we would put her down when she was “sleepy”, but still awake. By doing this, we saw that Isa would go to sleep without needing to be rocked, or you know the “awkward lay down”.
I remember when I was younger, it scarred me when I would rock a baby to sleep, then try to put down the baby, only for said baby to wake up screaming. Which meant, I would have to start the process over again. It was from that moment I decided that I would do things differently when I became a mom.
Now, I’m not saying there weren’t moments where I would let Isa sleep on me, because there were plenty of those. There was just a balance, because I also wanted to ensure that we both would get good/safe sleep.
As the weeks/months would go by, and Isa was learning and discovering more things, my husband and I really became intentional about trying to help her avoid meltdowns / frustrations / whatever little “not quite one year olds” go through. Whenever I saw something Isa wanted to get into that she shouldn’t get into, I would show her something different – an alternative. Before she would start trying to chew on the corner protector (yes, my girl loved to chew on those things), I would give her one of her rings – just an example.
We would have to get creative with the alternatives, but it was a way to help her also know what was available to her. It helped us to keep from getting “stressed” haha.
EIGHT: INTENTIONAL SCREEN TIME
MS. RACHEL. That’s the intentional screen time..haha.
Alright, but to be real, Ms. Rachel, and other youtube resources, wasn’t just thrown on the screen for mama and papa to have a break. We would use this time to also interact with the video with Isa, so that she could hear and see us saying and doing the actions as well. It also helped us to learn some of the sign languages being used/taught so that we knew what our girl would be communicating with us.
For us, most of the time that we used “screen time”, it was a learning time. And because I’m not perfect, some of the time it was so that mama could just sit and so could baby haha.
NINE: TALK TO YOUR BABY
Babies are always learning and discovering the world around them. They are very curious little beings, and want to know just about EVERYTHING – including language. The first way our babies know how to communicate with us is through crying. That’s all they know, until they begin to experience/hear language.
One of the things my husband and I did from the very beginning was to TALK to our little girl, using actual words…not just silly sounds (you know, the googoo gaagaa). My husband would take our girl outside and talk to her about the trees, leaves, birds, clouds, etc. We both would talk to her about everything we saw – asking her about her day, telling her about our day, etc. It didn’t matter that she maybe didn’t understand us or could not respond to us in a way we would understand, but we were giving her exposure. As the weeks/months went by, the girl began to talk sooo much (whether we understood her or not haha).
TEN: EATING WITH YOUR CHILD
“Where do you think your child is going to learn?”
This was the question presented to me when a pediatrician was talking to me about eating with my child. And it hit me so hard. It’s so true – our children are always learning, because everything is new to them. Why wouldn’t they learn to eat from me.
Before talking with this ped, my husband and I would just feed Isa in her high chair and then later we would eat. However, after that conversation, we began to sit down with her to eat, allowing her to see how mama and papa use the utensils, how we chew and swallow, how we interact with the food on our plate and our drink. It truly changed the way we thought but also how Isa began to use utensils.