Quick Tips for New Moms
Once you start venturing out as a new mom, friends, family, and the occasional stranger will shower you with words of wisdom. The advice may catch you off guard and put you on the defensive, but bear in mind that this unsolicited team of advisors usually speaks with your baby’s best interest at heart. While you may choose to ignore much of what you hear, you may also be surprised to find some very helpful tips—such as those that follow—mixed in with the questionable ones, which can make it worth graciously nodding your head through the storm of opinions. Read on for some simple-to-swallow advice I received that’s great for anyone entering the realm of new parenthood.
New parents experience a wide range of emotions, from an unusual and perhaps unexpected joy to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and even nervous—all of which can be difficult to explain and to commemorate. Journaling feelings and experiences from pregnancy through the toddler years is one way to preserve these days. But what if writing isn’t your forte? Try this tip: Purchase or make a holiday card (or make!) for your baby for each holiday and jot down a quick note sharing what amazing things are going on between you, baby, and the rest of the family; also, enclose a special child photo or memento marking those times. The cards can be saved and passed on to your child when she moves out on her own—a beautiful gesture that is bound to be appreciated.
A favorite word of advice that I’ve followed was to chronicle baby’s ever-changing appearance by photographing him next to a favorite stuffed animal (similar in height) during that first week home, and then again every month or two during the first year. It’s amazing how much a child’s face alone changes—first thinning out, then bursting into smiles, and eventually gaining little baby teeth one or two at a time. And babies’ bodies can do as much as triple in size the first year, quickly dwarfing that stuffed animal! For maximum impact, exhibit the photos in one big collage or by taping them into a large mat with multiple openings and dating each photo.
The busiest of moms may want to use a baby’s frequent pediatrician check-ups as red flag events. After each visit, make some notes in your scrapbook, journal, or photo album on baby’s length, weight, funny new habits, and developmental milestones reached. This will help convey the great joy she brought to you as a baby by composing these little “snapshots” of information.
Once your baby can roll, sit, or stand, diaper changes can become a game of wills. This “game” can be scary if your baby lunges towards the edge of the changing table. A local nurse advised me to distract my baby with books or small toys while diapering her. I now keep board books, teethers, or rattles within reach of the changing table; it was a little tip that makes a big impact everyday.
The next great tip involves a trip to the incontinence aisle of the supermarket where you can find protective bed under pads in extra large that work amazingly well on top of the changing table. For a reasonable price, these pads will make cleaning messes easy. When disaster strikes, just throw out the pad and grab a new one.
Store-bought baby food can become expensive—one jar a day rapidly turns into five or six. A stranger in the grocery store shared this one with me: Make a quick visit to the website of your chosen baby food brand(s) and search for the latest deals. Participating in rebates and promotions can yield coupons or free stuff like bibs, bowls, or DVDs; it may be worth saving the labels from the baby food packages and getting involved. Some supermarkets have a cash-back deal for baby purchases also. You will ring up more money than you can imagine during that first year, and every little bit of extra cash helps.
Toy companies are competitive and want to understand their customers. If you ever have a toy that breaks under normal usage, contact the manufacturer directly—your phone call may result in a new replacement toy being mailed directly to you. Manufacturers also want to know if a toy is defective, and if you alert them to a problem you may be compensated. If nothing else, you are passing along information that will likely reach the company’s research and development department, potentially resulting in a better, safer product for other children.
A first birthday party can result in piles of toys cluttering the home (as can a baptism or any major gift-giving holiday). I scoffed at the advice I was given to put some of the new toys aside and rewrap them for the next holiday . . . at first. In the end, I wrapped a few of the birthday toys and put them under the Christmas tree, and it worked out great! I also hid some of the other toys away in the garage/basement to be rotated back into the play area at a later date.
Too many toys to choose from can overwhelm a baby, and playing with the same toys over and over becomes boring, so rotating toys works well. Besides, taking into consideration the relatively short-term memory of a baby, a toy that comes out of storage after a couple of weeks is greeted like a brand new one from the store—and you’re the hero who gets to give this gift over and over.
What Not to Wear . . .
People love to shower pregnant women with cute, little newborn clothes, and who can resist those soft, cuddly outfits? The guidance that most pregnant women need, to save them from a mad nesting frenzy mistake, is to only cut off the tags of a few outfits from the gift pile before the birth of your baby. You may use fewer of the fancy outfits during the first months postpartum, since you will spend a lot of time at home—and sleep-deprived parents will appreciate easy-on/easy-off clothes when it comes to changing a fussy or messy baby.
Additionally, until your baby is actually put onto a scale, you will not know what sizes will fit during what seasons. Why get stuck with clothes that you can’t use? Keeping most of the clothes at bay with tags intact is an insurance policy allowing you to swap sizes later. My doctor anticipated a six-pound baby during my last sonogram, but my son came crashing into the world at an unbelievable 11 pounds, two ounces! I was indebted to the mom who warned me to keep the little stuff ready to return. He never wore zero-to-three month clothes or newborn diapers—not even in the hospital.
It just goes to show, a lot of motherhood will surprise even the most informed women. Be open and tolerate the extra advice—you never know when it may come in handy.
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