Last week, my dear friend Palmer gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Though I’m many miles away, I wanted to do something to help her in her new role as a mother. I’ve had such fun compiling this list for her! Perhaps it will be a help for you, too.
Hints for the New Mom by Ellen Balducci
Dedicated to Palmer Pope
I recommend swaddling the infant every night, beginning at birth. Research shows this is very helpful for an infant to help them feel secure and “organized” (that is the exact word our nurse practitioner used) when they sleep. I have really enjoyed the “Miracle Blanket” with both of my girls. It is worth the expense! It is like a straight jacket and keeps them very snug and tight. Swaddling babies helps keep their arms from startling and waking them up. Both of my babies have enjoyed napping in their swing or bouncy seat, so I haven’t swaddled as much during the day. Once Etta Catherine was about 6 months old, she began rolling over in her crib, so I stopped swaddling and began putting her in a sleep sack at night.
(Another very helpful sleep tip is to put the baby in his/her bed when they are drowsy, but not yet asleep. This will help her learn to fall asleep on her own. Also, you won’t startle and wake her when you lay her down, and have to repeat the process of getting her to sleep.)
Both of my girls (and me) LOVE Aden and Anais muslin blankets. They are nice and thin and have so many uses: Swaddler, burp cloth, nursing cover, etc.
Bathing the baby:
First of all, bathing an infant has stressed me out, so I want to emphasize, babies do not get very dirty, so do not put a guilt trip on yourself if it’s been a few days since you’ve bathed your baby. When my girls were tiny, I would bathe them in the sink. I would begin with her clothes on, hold her down my arm, and wash her hair using Johnson’s that the hospital gave us. I would use a soft baby brush and brush backwards on the scalp on the shampooed head, in an effort to eliminate cradle cap. (If your baby needs it, baby oil on his/her head after the bath is helpful to get rid of this, too.) After I rinsed out the shampoo, I would dry her head and put a hat on her, to keep heat from escaping through her head while I bathed her body. I would then take her clothes off and bathe her body in a little bucket the NICU gave us with Olivia, or a little bath sling seat. Have ready a towel, diaper and clothes to immediately dry and dress the baby. (My girls don’t have dry skin so I never use lotion). Then, swaddle the baby so she/he can warm up. My goal is still to bathe my girls every other day. However, this does not always happen, so don’t worry if it’s been 3 or 4 days. When babies are young, I recommend checking their necks 2 or 3 times a day, as milk easily gets in their fatty neck rolls and can begin to cause a little rash. I am still doing this with Olivia, and she’s 5 months old.
Bath toys: We’ve enjoyed the ABC’s, but make sure to let them dry to prevent mold. Now, Etta Kate is really into her bath crayons. She wants us to draw various people each night during her bath. (Of course Aunt Kate and Brant, Christie, Cash, Lefty and Austin, Carmen Rae and Ian, the Reed family, etc)
When babies are tiny, they seem to always tee tee as soon as you remove the diaper. Try to have a clean diaper under the wet diaper before you remove the tabs. With a boy, you will want to cover his penis during the diaper change. Also, Corrie recommends you point his penis down when you put his diaper on so that he doesn’t wet out the top of his diaper. When my girls were in size newborn, 1 and 2, I really enjoyed the Pampers Swaddlers. They are super soft, thin, absorbent, and they have a line on them that indicates when they get wet. I buy Pampers at Publix on sale, or with a coupon. If I don’t have a coupon, or once they reach size 3, I buy Luvs. I have been very pleased with Luvs! They are about the same price as store brand diapers and I like them a lot more. They are absorbent and fairly soft. I have always used and highly recommend Huggies wipes and wipe dispensers. I only wipe if they have pooped. (You don’t want to add unneeded moisture down there, and the disposable diapers are very absorbent.) Be careful not to wipe too hard, as this can cause a rash. If (and only if) her bottom is red, I apply Boudreaux Butt Paste. This has always cleared up any diaper rash very quickly. With infants, I change the diaper before every feeding (almost). With Etta Kate now, I only change her diaper about 5 times a day. FYI, breastfed infants sometimes go days, or even a couple of weeks without a bowel movement. This is normal. Just make sure he/she is eating well and still having lots of wet diapers.
I ended up exclusively breastfeeding Etta Catherine. It is normal for breastfeeding to be very uncomfortable, even painful, for up to 8 weeks. But press on! It’s worth it! I recommend seeing a lactation consultant as often as possible in the hospital, and if necessary, again later on. Olivia drank bottles almost exclusively until she weighed over six pounds, which was around 8 weeks of age (I bought a Medela Pump in Style with a coupon at Babies R Us). I have both a boppy and a “My Breast Friend” nursing pillow. I prefer the boppy. When the girls were very little, Andrew enjoyed using the boppy to support his arms while he held them. He and my mom both use it when they give Olivia a bottle. (We use Dr. Brown’s bottles). My goal is to breastfeed my children until they are one, and then to go from there. I slowly weaned Etta Catherine when she was 15 months old. By the time I stopped, I was only nursing her at night. When I stopped, she never “mentioned” it again. (She never pulled up my shirt, etc…I was pleasantly surprised!)
I didn’t really start giving Etta Catherine rice cereal until she was six months old. I attempted earlier, but feeding her with the spoon was stressful, so I advise you to just try it, relax, and take your time. Eventually, he/she will get the hang of it. When Etta Catherine was around 8 months old, she started feeding herself with her fingers. Gerber Puff’s were our favorite!
My girls both love Mam pacifiers! My friend Mary Mills used those with her baby, so those are the ones I went with. And they have cute, simple designs. I am a mom who will give a baby a passy from birth. Both of my girls have been very comforted by sucking. As soon as you start using or trying a passy, I recommend using a passy clip on his/her clothes, to prevent the passy from falling on the ground. (For Olivia, I ordered a gingham monogrammed one on Etsy for $7) You can also buy clips wherever pacifiers are sold. From an orthodontic standpoint, a passy is better that fingers/thumb.
Etta Catherine has had a special “lovey” since she was about seven months old. Now, along with her pacifier, she calls them her “soothers”. (Since she turned one, when she wakes up, I ask her to drop her soothers in the crib before she can get out.) She only has ONE lovey, but with Olivia, I’m planning to rotate a couple, in hopes that we will be okay if we ever loose one.
When Etta Catherine started sitting in high chairs at restaurants, I bought a high chair/ shopping cart cover that we have gotten LOTS of use out of. Also, on Amazon, I got a plastic place mat (made by “Summer Infant”) that I’ve enjoyed having.
Whenever you leave the house, I recommend having a change of clothes for the baby, and a change of clothes for yourself. Several times, Etta Catherine (when she was younger) pooped through her clothes unto mine. Yuck, I know!
If they babies clothes get REALLY soiled, I have actually rinsed the clothes out in a clean toilet before washing in the machine. I couldn’t stand to rinse off that much poop in a sink or bathtub! Gross!
Only dress your baby in outfits you really like! They grow so fast! There are things I dressed Etta Kate in that were gifts that I never really liked. I’m not doing that with Olivia, because she can only wear these little clothes for a few short months! I want to see her in clothes I love.
I didn’t put shoes on Etta Catherine until she was walking.
I prefer fragrance free detergent at first (as opposed to Dreft). Now, I just use whatever, as neither of my girls have sensitive skin. You will use LOTS of stain remover! I’ve definitely used a couple of gallons since I had Etta Kate! I try to examine each piece of clothing to before I wash it, to treat any stains.
Don’t take tags off of toys or blankets. Babies LOVE to play with tags. Even now, Etta Kate loves to rub the tag on her lovey.
I recommend using a hands-free phone device when you talk on the phone during a busy day. This helps me so much! I can put my phone in my pocket and use my Bluetooth or iPhone headphones (that come with all iPhones) and get so much done! Cleaning, sweeping, cooking, organizing, etc.
Let him help! Let him do things with the baby his way, and try not to correct him unless necessary. You want to empower him to feel useful, as new dads can sometimes feel inadequate or left out. Think of ways to make him feel special, especially during the early days. You want your husband to know he’s still number one to you! Babies don’t respond and play all that much until they are around 5 or 6 months old. Therefore, dads tend to enjoy babies more and more as they develop and become less fragile.
My biggest advice to new moms is DON’T FEEL GUILTY.
It is so easy to feel guilt about every little thing you fail to do, or do too much, or don’t do at all, etc. But just relax! God is in control, and he loves you and your little one more than we can even imagine. Some things I’ve been prone to feel guilty about:
- I let the baby go HOURS in the same diaper.
- It’s been DAYS since I bathed her, changed her clothes, took her picture, read her a book, took her outside, etc.
- I failed to get her picture with Grandmom, on Easter!!
- I forgot XYZ in the diaper bag! (Diapers, wipes, burp clothes, change of clothes, hand sanitizer, etc.)
- I forgot the diaper bag!
- I forgot my purse/wallet!
- I let her sleep in the swing/car seat all night!
- She’s not on a schedule
- I’m still feeding her at night (enjoy those special times!)
- It’s cold out, and I forgot her socks/hat/blanket/coat
In conclusion, remember God has specifically knit together your specific family. Your husband and baby are gifts directly from His loving hand!
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
And behold, I AM WITH YOU always, to the end of the age.
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.