As Phoenix has grown and I've had more conversations than I can count with other moms, we inevitably share one of these sentiments "I'm SO GLAD someone told me such-and-such" or "WHY didn't anyone tell me this?!"
I'm sure this won't cover everything, so PLEASE, if you have something to add, share your wisdom in the comments. Also, this is just advice that has been super helpful to ME. If it doesn't float your boat, no worries. Perhaps you can share what does in the comments.
Here are some seemingly obvious pieces of advice I was given that made a HUGE difference for us.
- Put the baby to sleep in their bedroom. At night, I was taught to put Phoenix to sleep in his bedroom (as opposed to on my chest, in my arms, or somewhere in the rest of the house) at the designated "bedtime." For us that was between 9 and 10 when he was a newborn.
- Go to sleep at the same time. I was instructed to go to bed when he did, which was tough at first, but I got used to it.
- Feed the baby in their room in the dark. When he woke during the night, around 3 hours later, I followed a simple pattern. Without turning any lights on, I would simply pick him up and begin nursing on one side (or if you are bottle feeding, begin with the first few ounces) in the bedroom. The lack of much movement, staying in the bedroom, and keeping the lights out sends the proper signals that this is nighttime and encourages the baby to stay in a sleepy mood.
- Interrupt the feeding to change the baby's diaper. I would nurse on one side, change him right in front of me, and then finish feeding on the other side. If the baby is bottle fed, interrupt in the middle for a change, and then finish. The diaper change in the middle keeps the baby from falling asleep without getting a full feeding, and allows time for burps.
While I nursed, I have plenty of friend and a sister who didn't or only did for a short time. If your baby is bottle-fed, you can skip this. If you are nursing or plan to nurse at some point in the future, know it can be challenging. Here are some life-saving tips I was given:
- Anticipate pain. It fucking hurts! For the first three weeks it was painful every time I nursed. I was told this is normal, so it didn't rattle me.
- Completely empty the breast. This avoids clogged ducts and breast infection.
- Take it easy. I was feeling good after about 3 or 4 days after delivery, so I was entertaining visitors, going on walks, lifting more than I should, and basically just doing too much. As a result, I got mastitis. Breast infections are no joke. When they say take it easy, they mean it.
- Switch starting sides. Every other time I nursed I would start on the same side, and then alternate at the next feeding.
- Nurse on-demand until milk comes in. For the first few days, the baby isn't drinking milk! I'm so glad someone told me this! For the first few days, the baby is drinking a substance called colostrum. Milk usually comes in after a few days. It is triggered by the baby latching regularly, LOTS of skin on skin time, and the uterus shrinking after delivery. Milk coming in feels like pins and needles in the breast.
- Keep the baby awake after nursing. Phoenix wanted to nurse to sleep initially, but by changing his diaper, talking to him, or burping him after he was done eating (and sometimes during), I kept him awake. This way, he learned the eat/play/sleep pattern. The best part about this routine was that he learned to fall asleep without me.
- Change diapers as part of the cycle. I admit, I was bad about this. Eventually, I learned to do it as part of the feeding routine. My sister-in-law does it right when her son wakes up. Some mamas do it right before bed. Whatever works, but make it part of the cycle to stay on top of it, avoid rashes, and to give the baby some stability.
- Start and end the day at consistent times. I didn't do this and paid the price. It makes the biggest difference now. Phoenix can eat and nap sporadically during the day, but he always gets put to bed in the bedroom between 8 and 8:30 pm, and has his first day-time feeding with lights on between 6 and 6:30 am.
Thanks to all the mamas, friends, and Birth Matters classes that taught me some tricks of the trade. Hope you or a mama you love finds some of this helpful. Remember to add your own tips and tricks in the comments!