There is a point in time at the end of just about every pregnancy and the first few weeks after your child’s birth that I have affectionately dubbed the “Uncertainty Period.” This is the point in time where almost every mother I know of really starts to realize that you will be the main one responsible for this huge responsibility disguised as cuteness incarnate.
There are a few tips I’ve discovered myself, either through trial and error or from others, that would have been lifesavers if I had known about them from the beginning with my son. I’d like to share the top 12 with you. They say that babies don’t come with instruction manuals and that’s true, but with the advice of mothers like me, who have been there and done that, you may get a leg up during those last and first few weeks.
1. Invest in a velcro swaddling blanket or a sleepsack.
If your baby is anything like mine was as a newborn, there isn’t a receiving blanket or swaddle good enough to keep them securely swaddled for more than an hour or two, tops. It may take a while, but as soon as your baby gains enough weight to fit the swaddle appropriately, you and they will get much better (and maybe slightly longer) rest periods. Let me tell you, velcro swaddles are worth their weight in gold.
2. Snag every last hospital issued receiving blanket you can get your exhausted hands on.
Seriously. No one thought to mention that any receiving blankets that were not hospital issued would be too short length-wise to properly swaddle the average sized newborn. My son was 6 lbs 15 oz and 21 inches long, the average weight and length of newborns. Every single time I’d swaddle him in other receiving blankets, they would always loosen, allowing his arms out and defeating the whole point of swaddling.
3. Eat. Burp. Change their diaper.
Feed them — whether you’re nursing or bottle feeding, burp them thoroughly, and change their diaper, or at the very least check it. This simple formula may help you keep some of your wits about you, especially those first few days when everything is bonkers and you’re adjusting to your new role. It’s very important to get all of the burps you can out your little one so that they don’t wake up a few minutes after they’re settled back in, making their gas bubbles shift, causing discomfort, and rousing them from their (and your) sleep. Sniff and look at their little backside often to be certain they haven’t “sneak pooped.” This will greatly cut down on diaper rash and your baby’s discomfort. Make sure their little bellies are full constantly. They have never felt hunger pains before; it’s scary and uncomfortable for them.
4. They may wake up screeching from a dead sleep.
If they’re sleeping peacefully and then suddenly start screeching like a banshee and scaring the living daylights out of you, they’re most likely hungry. Immediately attempt to soothe and feed them. If that doesn’t seem to do the trick, check their diaper next. If there’s nothing wrong there, burp them. If they’re still very upset, start looking at the inside of their socks for loose threads that could have gotten wrapped around a toe, tags on their clothing, or an uncomfortable position that their head, arms, legs, hands, or feet may be in.
5. Burp cloths are essentially useless.
If your baby has projectile spit-up, those cute little burp cloths you have prepared aren’t good for squat. Keep extra clothing on hand for you and the baby. (Projectile spit-up is considered normal as long as it’s not accompanied by a fever, discomfort because of the force it was expelled, or a dangerous color like red/pink, but if you have any concerns at all, no matter how silly they seem, call your pediatrician.)
6. Portable changing mats are a great investment.
Get a few portable changing mats. There are quite a few out there, so be sure to get a good quality one. They need to be reasonably thick for your baby’s head, with a waterproof surface, and easily folded with a velcro or button closure. This will be one of the best investments you will come across. No bulky table that will take up room in your nursery, they’re so much cheaper, portable, and can attach to or go in the diaper bag. I’d recommend at least three- one for your bedroom, one for your main living area, and one that stays in the car to go with your diaper bag.
7. A big diaper bag will double as a purse.
I’d recommend a larger diaper bag for a newborn; chances are you’ll think your little one will need everything under the sun to go anywhere, so it’s good to have enough space. With your brand new baby taking up all of your brain power, be sure to cut yourself some slack and reserve a few pockets of the diaper bag for your things, as well. Your wallet, keys, phone, lip balm, lanolin, breast pads, feminine pads, and an extra shirt are a few of the things you’d want to keep with you at all times.
8. A waterproof mattress protector will be a huge time saver.
Our mattress protector has been amazing! Anytime my son has slept a little longer than normal and missed a feeding, I’ve woken up in a puddle. With the mattress protector, I just changed the sheet and wiped the cover off a little and I have a dry bed again! And since we co-sleep, it comes in handy for when he pees out of his diaper when he needs to go to the next bigger size.
9. For your bassinet or crib, try the “lasagna method.”
Layer your baby’s bassinet with a mattress cover, then sheet, then another mattress cover, then another sheet. This will save you sleep and a trip to the laundry room at night if your baby pees out of his/her diaper. Simply take one set of bedding off and lay your cleaned, changed, and dry baby back in the dry bed. Keep an extra clean, dry onesie and swaddle by the bassinet for this purpose as well.
10. Keep a receiving blanket by your bedside.
If you’re a nursing mother and your “let-down” is strong, keep a clean receiving blanket on your nightstand and in your main living area or wherever you nurse your baby most often to shield your baby from an impromptu milk shower. It’ll save you having to change their onesie and/or swaddle.
11. Oversized receiving blankets can be used as baby towels.
The little hooded bath towels are adorable, but when your baby has his/her first few baths, they’re not going to care about the cute little ducky or whale on the hood. They’re going to care that the towel is thin and rather rough on fresh newborn skin further softened by a bath. Instead, get a few oversized receiving blankets! They’re super soft, very absorbent, and thicker than most hooded towels. Overall just better to wrap your little bundle in after they’re squeaky clean and wonderful smelling!
12. Don’t freak out over nail clipping.
This is a big thing for almost all new parents. How to clip their ridiculously sharp, fast growing little nails? First, make sure you have baby nail clippers; adult nail clippers are too big and bulky to work safely. Get several, too — keep one set in the diaper bag, one set stashed in your car, one set in your bedroom, and one set in your main living area, at the very least. They’ll get misplaced constantly. The biggest part of the whole ordeal is making sure they aren’t moving and you accidentally clip their little finger instead of the nail. My husband did that when our son was about a week old, and he is still hesitant to do it at 10 months old. Save yourself the worry and clip their nails when they nap! We started doing this shortly after and haven’t had an incident since!
I hope this helps someone out there who really just needs some good advice to make the transition from “uncertain” to “been there and done that” … or at least help them feel prepared to better handle a few important areas. Lord knows I could have used it! Best of luck to you mamas (and daddies)!