Common New Mom Challenges And How To Cope
Written by Aja Lake
Photography by Photographed by James Kicinski-McCoy
Life with a new baby oftentimes blends into a certain blur. Dappled with intermittent sleep, crying, and poop, the demands of caring for a tiny person, plus yourself and your home can be, well, a lot. So, how can you make it through the fog? Here we tackle the most common challenges new moms face along with a few basic tips for survival. Whether you are a first-time mom or a mother of many, these common-sense pointers will remind you to simply cherish this special time and focus on what is important.
Feeding: Establishing regular feedings may be the single most important component of bringing up a baby. Making the choice to breast feed is a great one, but often times can cause frustration with new moms. Start by nursing as soon as possible after delivery—ideally, within the first hour. Encourage a good latch by rubbing your baby’s nose and mouth with your nipple, then cupping and compressing your breast before inserting the nipple and areola into the baby’s wide-open mouth. Nursing on demand is major for the first six weeks. A breastfed infant will eat eight to twelve times per day, but don’t let the uncertainty of how much your baby is getting at each feeding discourage you. At birth, a baby’s stomach is the size of a cherry. By one month, it’s still only the size of an egg. In the first few days, when your body produces colostrum, you may get only drops. This is totally normal and okay. Your milk generally comes around day three and as long as you are nursing regularly, your supply will build to match the needs of your child. Consult with your doctor or midwife for breastfeeding support. If you are bottle feeding, speak with your pediatrician about formula options.
Sleeping: A calm approach is the best approach when it comes to good baby sleeping habits. Newborns tend to sleep 16 or more hours per day. For the first couple of months, it’s rare for your baby to stay awake much longer than two hours at a time during the day. At nighttime, provide a simple and consistent bedtime routine—turning down the lights, a warm bath, fresh diaper, pajamas, and a feeding to allow your baby to separate day from night. Don’t be afraid to use a baby swing/bouncer/rocker to help lull your baby to sleep. Use liberally, if necessary. Keep infants close by, as babies who sleep near their parents are said to have more regular heart rhythms, stable temperatures, and fewer pauses in breathing than babies who sleep alone. Having the baby close allows you to reach him or her sooner for night feedings and encourages your sleep cycle to be in concert with theirs. Keeping the room quiet and as dark as possible will help avoid rousing him or her. Another great tip—get some zip-up pajamas (when it’s 2:00 a.m. and you’re fumbling with tiny buttons, you’ll know why!). Lastly, wait a few months before trying to begin any type of sleep schedule or training.
Crying: In the early days, babies cry to communicate a few simple things: hunger, sleepiness, and discomfort. To sidestep the stress of an infant fit, watch for feeding cues (bringing hands to mouth, turning head to the side), change diapers often, provide a peaceful environment, allow plenty of time for rest, burp after each feeding, and hold your sweet baby often.
Diapering: During the first week of life, a baby’s poop will change from blackish-green meconium to greenish-yellow. By one-week-old, expect three-to-four dirty diapers and six-to-eight wet diapers per day. Prevent diaper rash or other irritation by changing your baby often and using warm washcloths or alcohol-free wipes.
Homekeeping: When tending closely to your baby, it is next to impossible to juggle the preparing of meals, tidying the house, or otherwise managing a home. Minimize your concern with a few simple strategies. Before the baby arrives, stock up on easy-to-prepare meals—pastas and grains, frozen vegetables, and things you can toss in the slow-cooker. If you’re able, arrange to have your house deep-cleaned before your due date. Have a family member or friend coordinate meal delivery for the first week or so—you’ll be so grateful. Ask for help with laundry or send it out. Don’t let your home be bogged down with baby gear. You really need very little during those first few months. Enlist grandparents to spend some extra time with your older children to make sure they are getting plenty of needed attention. Have your partner handle the grocery shopping and other errands and don’t feel obligated to take visitors until you are ready. Finally, give way to your home being slightly less kempt and relax in knowing that this phase is only temporary.
Taking care of yourself: After carrying a baby for nearly ten months and then enduring the stresses of labor and delivery, your body and mind will be exhausted. Take good care of yourself by knowing ahead of time that the beginning will be an adjustment—research has shown it takes new moms nearly five months to adapt. While it may seem daunting, new motherhood is also immensely rewarding. Accept this phase by paring life down to the essentials and ask for help. Allow yourself a moment every day to take a shower, drink some tea, or just lay down. Keep yourself healthy by drinking lots of water and eating a variety of healthy foods. For the first couple of months, don’t subject yourself or your baby to the stresses of the outside world; try to stay close to home and enjoy the coziness of your new family. Keep the flow of your household as easygoing as possible. If you like to follow a routine, keep it loose and know that every day with a baby is a new day—they are continually changing. And if you are able, try to sleep when he or she sleeps. You need the rest just as much as baby does.
Ultimately, remember that every baby is different. Let go of preconceptions and outside pressures. Cut yourself some slack. Incorporate a few guiding principles, trust your instinct, and use common-sense. Then surrender to the beautiful blur.
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