As I was preparing for the birth of my daughter some years ago, I mistakenly thought that all I needed to do was to clean my home and stock her closet with clothing.
However, what I failed to realize is how baby gear can simplify my life with a baby at home.
As a new mom, I was also unprepared for the routine and emotional toll I would feel those first weeks. Arming myself and my home with the right essentials would have lessened the load. Knowing the basics of what you and your baby need well before he or she arrives will help you to survive and thrive as a mom.
TIP 1: Boost Your Knowledge Before Baby Arrives
Although I was ecstatic about the journey of motherhood, I have to admit that I was pretty unprepared. Even the best how-to books about parenting can’t prepare you for the surprises of the newborn challenge.
According to Deena Blumenfeld, certified childbirth educator with Shining Light Prenatal Education, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your child is take a prenatal or infant care class.
“Even if you’ve been babysitting forever and you have experience with older babies, a newborn is a different breed,” said Blumenfeld.
“Setting realistic expectations is key because every baby is different. For example, some babies sleep long stretches from one week to the next while others may not sleep long increments until they are 9 months old.”
Infant care and prenatal classes commonly cover the following topics to help you begin parenting well informed:
- Signs and stages of labor
- Birthing techniques
- Basics of breastfeeding
- Proper diet and exercise during and after pregnancy
- Diapering, feeding and bathing your baby
Although there is no wrong or right way to approach caring for a newborn, infant care classes can provide you with strategies and alternatives you may not have considered.
Remember that your baby is unique, said Blumenfeld, so arming yourself with options is important when it’s time to adjust your caring plan.
Equipping your home with the latest baby gear can also help prepare you for this bundle of joy. Choose a healthy and cozy baby crib mattress, try on various baby carriers to find a good fit and stock up on supplies to keep your house safe and clean for your newborn, such as carpet cleaners and baby detergent.
TIP 2: Pick Up Only Must-Have Supplies
Although you don’t have to go overboard and buy your newborn every possible baby gadget on the market, you do need to have the essentials on hand from the moment you bring her home.
Manon Chevallerau, Postpartum Doula, Baby Expert and Workshop Host in NYC for over 18 years, recommends having the following items on hand:
- Bath Supplies: Invest in a baby bath tub, hooded towels, wash cloths, shampoo and grooming materials that are miniature sized to fit your newborn.
- Changing Accessories: Although having diapers on hand is a given, don’t forget to stock up on wipes, diaper creams, changing pads and a changing table.
- Breastfeeding Essentials: If you plan to nurse your newborn, purchase a nursing pillow to maximize your comfort as well as nursing bras and nursing sanitary pads. You may also need a breast pump if you plan to be away from your baby while nursing or when returning to the workforce.
- Electronics: Keep a careful eye on your little one while he is snoozing with a baby monitor. You can also enhance your baby’s sleep with a white noise sound machine and a humidifier.
- Daily Supplies: Plan to stock up on burp cloths, receiving blankets and swaddle blankets that you will use on a regular basis to keep your baby comfortable and clean.
- Feeding Utensils: Although it may be awhile before you begin spoon feeding your baby, you will need bottles, a bottle brush and a drying rack right away.
- Clothing: Ensure your newborn is fully clothed with plenty of onesies on hand. Try not to get to over zealous when purchasing newborn clothing, though, because it is difficult to determine how fast he will grow. Depending on the season, supply his closet and dresser with socks, full-body suits and a lightweight hat, too. Add a bottle of baby detergent that is specially made for sensitive skin to keep his clothing clean.
- Baby Furniture: One of the most important elements of caring for your baby is making sure he has a place to sleep and relax. Before he arrives, purchase a crib and/or bassinet, a sling or carrier, a stroller, car seat and a bouncy chair or swing to offer him additional comfort.
As your newborn quickly grows into a toddler, equip your home with safety equipment such as outlet covers, drawer latches and toilet seat locks.
Childproofing your home is not necessary for the first few weeks, but before you know it, your infant will be crawling and exploring his new abode.
TIP 3: Learn How Infants Operate
Knowing what to expect during the first few weeks helps to eliminate any surprises that can catch you off guard and rattle you to the point that you become emotional or insecure about your parenting.
- Interaction: Bonding with your baby is as simple as picking him or her up and holding on, said Blumenfeld. In fact, you don’t need any special skills to help you bond.
When you are caring for a little one – whether feeding, diapering or bathing – you are creating a close bond through normal interactions.
- Feeding: An infant feeds approximately eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period. If you plan to breastfeed, it’s best to work with a lactation consultant to ensure your baby latches on correctly and is getting enough nourishment.
- Diapering: Your newborn should have at least eight to 10 wet diapers each day and at least one bowel movement. Babies who are breastfed often have a bowel movement during feedings, so it may be necessary to change him or her before switching breasts.
- Sleeping: While how much or little your baby will sleep often varies, on average newborns sleep in short stretches for the first four months.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 14 to 17 hours of rest for your newborn from birth to 3 months, but it is common for infants to only sleep for two or four hours at a time to allow for feedings. Most newborns also have their days and nights mixed up for the first few months.
- Bathing: Plan to bathe your baby every two to three days, suggests Blumenfeld. “Remember, this newborn isn’t playing in the mud or mashing bananas in her hair,” she said. Bathing too often can lead to dry skin or skin irritation. Keep in mind, too, that you should only sponge bathe your infant until the umbilical cord completely falls off.
Many moms are also faced with a few situations with a newborn that they never expected.
For example, breastfeeding can be more difficult than some anticipate. Despite what you may have heard from other moms, know that all newborns adjust in their own way.
Simplify your life with gadgets and gear that ease the transition into breastfeeding. A breast pump for those moments when your baby prefers to bottle feed is essential to have on hand, for instance.
You may also be surprised to learn that you will not always be in tune with what your baby wants or needs. Sometimes, babies cry for just that reason – to cry. Spend time assessing whether or not she is hungry, needs changed or just needs a little TLC from mom when trying to soothe her cries.
Some babies also cry when they are overtired, so rocking her to sleep may pose a solution. Consider adding a vibrating chair, a swing or a stroller to your wish list of newborn essentials so you can help soothe your little one instantly.
TIP 4: Develop Consistent Routines To Smooth the Transition
Believe it or not, babies crave structure, so establishing a consistent routine from the moment you bring newborn home is crucial to surviving the first few weeks.
Since sleep deprivation is a challenge – mentally and physically – to endure, limit your risk by putting a few household changes into effect.
- Establish a Bedtime Routine: From the moment your infant is born, it’s important to establish a sleep routine that benefits baby and you, as a new mom. Babies quickly learn routines, so begin each night by feeding her, rocking her and then putting her in her crib or bassinet. Although it may take weeks, months or even a year, your little one will adapt to a routine and a schedule, which ultimately helps your entire family adjust.
- Place Your Baby In Your Room: Anticipate that most nights your baby will wake up every two to three hours. Make life just a bit easier on yourself by establishing a co-sleeping arrangement with a bassinet or small crib placed in your bedroom. Especially when breastfeeding, putting the baby in your bed while feeding helps keep her accustomed to nighttime to help with a routine.
- Transition Between Day and Night: Newborns often mix up day and night for the first few weeks, so it is important to make the two drastically different.Expose your baby to sunlight for brief moments during the day as well as the noisy sounds of a daytime routine. At night, keep the home dark and quiet so she picks up on cues that it is time to sleep.
- Always Choose Comfort: It is common for new moms to over bundle their babies, putting blankets on them at every waking moment. However, your baby’s body temperature is similar to yours. If you are wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts, avoid bundling your little one in a long-sleeved flannel sleeper. Keep her comfortable in a lightweight onesie and swaddle her in a light blanket. In fact, loose-fitting clothing is ideal, according to Chevallerau.
“The baby should wear loose tops for easy diaper access, and depending on the temperature and season, layered clothes for outside trips,” he said.
“A swaddle will keep the baby warm and he will sleep deeper with his arms inside because he can still startle himself awake.”
- Eliminate Perfection: The days of having your home spotless and sparkling are over for a few years. Although it is important to maintain a clean environment for your child, know that you don’t have to spend countless hours cleaning and picking up to achieve perfection. Your newborn will dictate your schedule for at least a few months, so avoid stressing yourself out over the small things when you can focus on the big picture – you and your baby.
TIP 5: Focus on Self-Care
Your primary concern is obviously your new bundle of joy, but moms who don’t take care of themselves could develop mental and physical issues down the road.
Adjusting to an entirely different lifestyle isn’t easy and you need to be able to admit when you need help or support.
Make “me” time a priority when time allows and seek out gadgets that allow for some time alone, such as a video monitor when your baby is sleeping or a white noise machine to encourage sleep. Even though it may be tempting to wash the dishes or put in a load of laundry when your newborn naps, you need some down time, too.
Put your baby down for a few hours and allow yourself to get some sweet slumber.
Extra Tip: Recognize when you are emotionally spent and ask for help.
Many times, mothers envision themselves as the supermom or all star when in reality, you don’t have to be perfect to be a mom.
Instead of saying “I’m fine,” admit that you need a moment to breathe or time to take a brief walk to clear your head. As a result, you may find that just a breather from being mom helps you to become a better mom while feeling refreshed.
Know, too, that baby blues or postpartum depression affect many new moms. If you find yourself jumping onto an emotional rollercoaster, seek assistance from a professional.
Know that you need as many extra sets of hands as possible. Enlist the help of your village. If you need a short nap, ask a friend or neighbor to come over for a few hours so you are still within earshot of your newborn but also able to relax. Family members are often eager to help as well, so send them to the grocery store for food and supplies and ask for assistance with drop offs and pick ups for older children.
In Summary: Enjoy Your Motherhood
Although it is often difficult to enjoy your bundle of joy when you are exhausted, it’s essential for your well-being that you achieve a balance with your new schedule and routine while stocking your home with the gadgets and gear you and your baby need.
I remember clearly just how excited I was to have a baby, only to learn that I felt overwhelmed from the start. My family was the primary reason I survived and thrived and I’m eternally grateful for their willingness to recognize when I needed help. However, daily products such as strollers, all-in-one car seats and baby movement monitors provided the safety my child needed and the convenience I craved.
You, too, can survive and thrive this new adventure. Arm yourself with the information and supplies you need to make motherhood a success, especially within the first few weeks.
1) Deena Blumenfeld, Certified Childbirth Educator, (interviewed personally), http://shininglightprenatal.com
2) The National Sleep Foundation, https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
3) Manon Chevallerau, Postpartum Doula, www.newparentsjourney.com