This post was originally written for weeSpring-- a great new website for advice on baby products and gear.
During the first few weeks after I had my baby girl, I kept wondering when life would ever feel “normal” again. Like all new parents, my world got turned upside down. Gone were lazy Sunday TV marathons, dinners out, nights of uninterrupted sleep, and feeling like I had some control of my life. Instead, I was shushing and swaddling, constantly checking to make sure she was breathing, and breastfeeding around the clock. My husband and I were smitten with this tiny person, but we were exhausted and overwhelmed.
All of my friends with older babies seemed so calm, knowing, and well rested. My sheer panic was a distant memory to them. So how did they get there? Would I ever be on the other side?
The good news is, YES. My baby is three months old and I’ve emerged from the fog. All the gadgets and gear I had no clue how to use are a no-brainer. I can change a diaper while cleaning spit up out of my hair with a wipe. And most importantly, I know my baby. I know the sounds she makes when she’s tired, her feeding patterns, and that she’s not nearly as excited about her jeggings as I am. But this is what I had to learn to get here…
Go with “The Gray Area”
At the beginning, I just wanted someone to tell me what to do and have it work. But, there’s no one-size fits all solution for babies. Get tips from your friends, try them, but don’t stress if it’s not in the cards. It takes trial and error to figure out what’s right for your little one.
Little things are big victories
Today I made egg salad when my baby was napping and I wanted to shout about it from the rooftops. (Then I got it all over the baby monitor.) You will feel like you deserve a medal for accomplishing an everyday task. So give yourself a pat on the back for doing pretty much … everything.
Try things that scare you
Fun activities are petrifying when you do them for the first time with a baby. Labor was hard. But going to Baby and Me Yoga was a close second. My little gal pal was not interested in infant massage or letting me do a downward dog. I essentially spent 20 bucks to feed and change her while sitting on a yoga mat. But I was proud of us for trying. I’ve learned to go and let go – and throw my plan out the window first.
Build a new mom support network
Find people to turn to that are in the trenches with you. You don’t feel so alone when you have friends who can’t seem to get out of the house before noon either.
Do what you need to do to get through the day
Mobiles, swings, holding her while bouncing up and down on an exercise ball… whatever makes a crying baby chill out, do it. The Fisher-Price Rainforest Bouncer Chair is probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to my child. And she’s BFF with the animals dangling from her activity mat, especially the zebra. You are not failing as a mother if you have to play “shhhh sounds” at bedtime on YouTube because doing it yourself for 45 minutes hurts your lip muscles.
Help them get their zzzz’s
I didn’t know what kind of sleep schedule, if any; I should get my baby on. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child provides guidelines for every age. Dr. Weissbluth explains that babies less than four months old need to sleep 1-2 hours after the last time they woke up. That little gem of info helped me create some structure. So be mindful of the time and you’ll beat the overtired-induced fussiness that can make any new mom join their baby in a crying session.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
You will feel like a hot mess. Your boobs will leak. You’ll forget the last time you washed your hair. And you can’t envision ever fitting into your skinny jeans because you can barely fit into your fat jeans. There will be tears – of the happy and holy-$hit-this-is-overwhelming variety. But for every moment that’s hard, there are a million others that make you forget ‘em. There’s nothing like having a tiny newborn sleep on your chest. Or seeing your husband read her The Belly Button book. Or feeling your heart melt when she flashes you that precious little smile.
So embrace the no rules, no boundaries, and sometimes no shower life of a new mom. Focus on getting your bearings as a parent, and then the other things that make you feel like you again will follow. You will blow dry your hair, stop living in yoga pants, and go to happy hour with your friends, I promise. Be kind to yourself. As long as your baby is loved and cared for, you’re doing everything right. Just take it one day at a time and your “new normal” will be here before you know it.