There are details of life as a new parent that you just won’t find in a book, so I want to share with you a few tidbits of information I wish I’d known during my first month as a new mama.
First-time moms spend a lot of time preparing for the birth of their child. There’s an abundance of resources for what to expect when you’re expecting, as well as prenatal classes for teaching you how to change a diaper or swaddle a baby. There isn’t, however, as much information about those first few weeks as a new mom.
In my case, I learned a lot when I was in the thick of it and I wish seasoned mothers I’d spoken to before the birth of my son had been a little more forthcoming with some of the nitty-gritty details. Here are five important lessons I learned:
Newborn babies do not need a lot of stuff. I was armed with things like an activity table, play mat and the cutest baby shoes, but I soon found out I wouldn’t need those things for several months. What you do need is plenty of diapers, sleepers, undershirts, blankets, bottles, wipes, diaper cream, baby wash and towels. Aside from those items, baby just needs somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep. Anything else you’ve been given can be put away for when the baby is a little older.
Sleep deprivation will affect you in ways you never thought. The first month of my son’s life was the most exhausted I’ve ever been.
You will experience exhaustion in a way you never have before. “Get plenty of sleep now because you’re going to be losing a lot of sleep” or “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard this from people when I was pregnant and I thought to myself, “okay, yeah, having a baby will mean I’ll sleep less. I get it.” I really, truly did not get it. Sleep deprivation will affect you in ways you never thought. The first month of my son’s life was the most exhausted I’ve ever been. He was feeding every two hours and the process was a long one (I’ll explain why next). Once he was done feeding I had less than an hour before I had to start all over again. I usually chose to sleep during that time, but then I also needed to eat, so there were times I was actually choosing between sleeping and eating. And even though I desperately wanted a shower, throwing that choice into the mix usually resulted in me turning into a blubbery mess. Most days trying to choose between sleeping, eating and showering were too much for me to handle. Yes, I was that tired.
I have great respect for women who have trouble with breastfeeding and pull through. The struggle is real and I know it all too well.
Breastfeeding is not as easy as it may look. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I have ever tried doing. I honestly thought it would be as simple as placing my nipple in my baby’s mouth and he would start to drink. Boy, was I wrong. My struggle with breastfeeding was emotional hell for me. I can’t describe the guilt I felt when I made the decision to stop breastfeeding my son when he was four weeks old. For that first month, we had so many problems with latching and resorted to nipple shields, feeding tubes and lactation support. There was also the fact that I had a low milk supply, and despite my efforts of taking herbs and pumping, I never had enough milk to feed my son and always had to supplement. As I mentioned in my point about sleep deprivation, the process of feeding my son was a lengthy one; I tried on the breast for 30-45 minutes, then gave formula and then pumped for 30 minutes, only to then realize I had less than an hour before starting all over again. I’m fairly certain the emotional stress, combined with lack of sleep, played a big role in not being able to succeed with breastfeeding. I have great respect for women who have trouble with breastfeeding and pull through. The struggle is real and I know it all too well.
You will feel emotions like you’ve never felt before. Sure, I was told ahead of time to expect my hormones to be all over the place for a little while after giving birth, but I didn’t expect the emotional roller coaster I went through. It’s like having your senses heightened, but with your feelings. The immediate love I felt for my baby was so strong I felt like my heart would burst. Mere seconds after putting my son down I would miss holding him in my arms and resisted the urge to just pick him up while he slept. I would feel joy one minute and then be a weeping mess the next. And let’s not forget all of the worrying. I was constantly wondering if I was doing things right and fretted internally about everything I did. Was I holding him properly? Did I burp him long enough? Is he too warm? Too cold? Did he get enough to eat? Too much? It’s time for him to eat again but he’s still sleeping. Should I wake him? Why won’t he stop crying? Is it gas? It’s an endless list of worries. The important thing to remember, as I’ve now learned, is that you do eventually figure it out, so be patient and gentle with yourself.
I was constantly wondering if I was doing things right and fretted internally about everything I did.
Hair loss. I will never forget the time I was combing my hair one morning and found a clump of hair on my brush. My hair would usually shed a little every day but this was different. I was finding my hair everywhere and it was a lot! After getting some reassurance from my family doctor that this was a normal postpartum symptom and was only temporary I felt much better. Seriously though, a heads up about this beforehand would have been great. Just sayin’.
No matter how challenging your introduction to parenthood might be, you’ll still find that it’s all worth it. Nothing will fill your heart more than the sweet snuggles, adorable smiles, exciting milestones and wonderful memories that await you.
To the seasoned mothers reading this, is there anything you would add to this list? Comment below!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.