By Donna Ryan, founder of Birth Boot Camp
My first baby will be 25 this summer, but this is a topic I’ve thought about a lot over the years. I did things so differently when we were pregnant with our second because I learned so much between the two. Here’s my top 10 list of things I wish I had known with the 1st baby:
- I wish I had listened to my sister-in-law when she encouraged us to hire a midwife instead of the busy OBGYN. Think about the kind of birth you want to have and talk to lots of people. You’ll hear horror stories from nearly everyone, so learn from them. Don’t go to their OBs and hospitals! Listen to the good stories from people who loved their birth. Do what they do – take a class and put together a great birth team!
- People make the “you’re eating for two” comment all the time. Don’t eat food for two people! You only need 300 extra calories per day (unless you have multiples, of course). When you are breastfeeding, you’ll need an extra 500 calories though. Take good care of yourself, eating a variety of healthy foods and proteins and drinking plenty of water. You’ll likely feel better and have a healthier pregnancy.
- Ditch the nursery. As long as our babies had a crib in a separate room, I felt guilty for not using it. Truthfully, we all slept better when we were in the same room. The Academy of Pediatrics has caught up when it comes to room-sharing, too. “The AAP recommends room sharing because it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% and is much safer than bed sharing. In addition, room sharing will make it easier for you to feed, comfort, and watch your baby.”
- Don’t compare your baby with other babies. If my last baby had been my first, I would have been freaking out! She didn’t crawl until after her first birthday and didn’t walk until she was 16 months. For that matter, she didn’t even eat any solid food until after her first birthday! If your pediatrician is concerned, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion. My 3rd baby didn’t eat solid food till she was 9 months and I ended up switching pediatricians over it. She was obviously very healthy, and the next pediatrician actually said, “Why would you substitute a superior food for an inferior one? She is doing great!” That’s not to say that the “milestones” aren’t helpful, but I do believe in mother’s intuition. Follow your gut, not your sister’s baby.
- Lower your expectations. There is a season for all things, and your baby will be a baby just once. Come up with a good chore chart and have everyone pitch in. Be flexible and change it as needed. I’m not one that can cope well with an unmade bed and dishes in the sink, but I can let the dusting and even vacuuming go. What can you and your family let go and what must be done to keep your sanity?
- Accept help. Now is not the time to be prideful. Let people shop, clean, or cook for you! What comes around goes around. That being said, the helpers that come in after you’ve had a baby (grandma, sister, etc) are there to help with the chores! Your job is to hold and bond with your baby unless you are napping or taking a shower. Set some boundaries and expectations before they arrive.
- If you spend plenty of time with your baby, you will get to know what each sound or movement means. Your baby wants to communicate with you. Talk to him. It’s never too early to sing songs or read books. If you can anticipate his or her needs, you’ll likely find that your baby will be quite content. Check out The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears for a great cover-to-cover read or for your reference library.
- Mom may feel quite emotional, notably around Day 3, when milk comes in. I like to compare “baby blues” with the month of January after the excitement and lights of December. It’s nice to clear away the clutter in January, but then we settle in for the rest of winter… If you feel anything more than that, visit with your care provider. If you experience rage, sadness that makes it hard to get out of bed, or lack of interest in things you normally love (including your new baby), you may need some extra help. Knowing that 70% of women do experience some sadness for a few days following the birth can be helpful for both partners.
- Everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps. I’m going to tweak that just a bit. First, sleep is a biological need. Your baby will spend a lot of time sleeping in the early days. You obviously are not going to sleep 18 hours a day! The mistake I see a lot of new parents make is that when their baby is awake, instead of enjoying their baby, they spend their time trying to make them fall back asleep so they can keep getting things done. It would be pretty funny if it weren’t so sad. I’ve done this myself. I get it. Enjoy the time your baby is awake. Once they are asleep, if you are tired, sleep. If you are excited to get some housework done or work on a project, do that. These phases do pass. I promise.
- That first baby hung the moon, and many parents worry when they start thinking about adding a second baby. Will they love them as much as the first? Will the first baby not feel as loved? I have some good news. You’ll find there is indeed room in your heart for another baby. Even better news is that you won’t experience that worry again if you have more children.
You are the best parent for your child. Trust your instincts. Trust your child to let you know what they need. More than anything, enjoy the journey of parenthood.