10 BEST REASONS TO WEAR YOUR BABY
6 babies and many carriers, wraps, and slings later, my absolute hands down favorite for wearing my babies is my beloved Moby Wrap! It is stretchy and comfortable for both my baby and me and they come in an array of colors and patterns. And if this is your first time trying one out, there are countless video tutorials on YouTube on how to wear your baby/toddler.
Wearing my babies are some of my fondest early motherhood memories. Here is a list of the very best reasons to wear your baby!
1. Babies feel safe. Our little ones spend 9 months growing and bonding with us while in our womb. We rock and sway throughout our days and our babies sleep and grow with our every movement, within the warmth and safety of our bodies. Then, the big day arrives when they are separated from their mother into a cold, too bright and very loud world. Even the most tranquil of births is a traumatic transition from womb to world. Babywearing returns to them a much needed sense of safety and security. Wearing them returns babies to their mother's warmth and her unique rhythms (in her movements, heartbeat, and voice) and that is immensely comforting to a baby and the benefits are invaluable to their well-being.
2. They sleep like a boss. We all know babies sleep a whole lot and their absolute favorite sleep spot is curled up in the warm softness of a mama. Babies grow, heal, and develop while they sleep and they sleep up to 16 hours a day. That doesn't mean you have to wear your baby 16 hours a day! Any amount of babywearing benefits both mother and her baby. Sometimes the art of baby napping can elude us and that's especially hard on a sleep-deprived new mom. Baby wearing is a very organic way of napping a baby. They fall asleep effortlessly and sleep deeply and comfortably when worn in a sling or wrap. The structured carriers, in my opinion, are less comfortable and not as cozy as wraps and slings but they are good for when taking long walks, hikes, and for metro travel.
3. Promotes calm and reduces colic and stress. Fussy and colicky babies often calm within minutes or even seconds of being placed lovingly and securely in a wrap. When a baby is so close to a mother, it automatically makes her more attentive to her baby's needs and that promotes calm and reduces stress in babies that may be colicky, fussy, overtired or just need some extra love and attention.
4. Continues bonding between mother and baby after baby is born and out of the womb. We've all seen and experienced babies that cry the moment their mothers step away from them - it causes babies distress to be apart from their mothers. When a baby is worn, they are being reassured that mom is close and near and that their bond is strong and secure. And research shows that people who start off in life with strong feelings of security and healthy bonding with parents are better equipped to become independent and capable individuals than those who had limited opportunities to bond in the early years.
5. Breastfeed publicly in a very private way. I enjoyed breastfeeding my babies whenever they were hungry or needed comforting and sometimes that meant nursing in a public place. I was okay with that and so were my babies. However, I knew that some people were not comfortable with that and that's okay, too. I wasn't out to change the world, I was just out to be out of the house and running errands... Nursing while wearing my babies afforded me both privacy and convenience when out and about. I could even stroll the mall while nursing and none were the wiser.
6. Reduce the risks of flat-head syndrome. Flat-head syndrome is when a baby is repeatedly placed in a resting position on a hard, flat surface and it causes the baby's head to be misshapen and flattened, usually in the back or on the side. Common causes: car seats, cribs, playmats, bouncers, the floor, etc. Wearing a baby reduces the amount of time that they may spend with their soft heads flattening on a hard, flat surface.
7. Maneuver easily through crowds and urban areas. I grew up in NYC and saw mothers maneuver their baby's in strollers up and down whole flights of stairs at subway stations like city-mom gladiators. But if you want to get around in a big city or big crowds (i.e. sporting events, park festivals, airports, school functions, etc.) baby wearing is a safe and secure and mind-blowing fun way to do it for your little one. They get to be eye-level in all the hustle and bustle of busy life and that can be an eye-opening experience for them or they can blissfully sleep through the whole thing and be supremely happy either way. Plus, the convenience for mom can't be beat.
8. Hands-free 'Momming'. Here are some of the things that I did while my babies hung out in the wrap: cook, read with my older kids and homeschool with them, clean, knit, talk on the phone, do my makeup, pop in contacts, and yup, use the bathroom (TMI, sorry).
My girlfriend used to nurse her son in his Bjorn and after nursing, he would nap comfortably in his carrier while she worked at her computer. He had reflux and so nursing and napping in an upright position was ideal. Also, using the carrier freed up mama's hands so that she could work while he napped. It was a win-win!
8. Babies cry less. And in my case, that meant that I cried less, too. No. 8 alone, is reason enough for me to promote baby wearing to all new moms. I suffered from PPD (postpartum depression) after the birth of each of my six babies and hearing them cry was deeply distressing. They cried less and slept well when being worn close to me and that seemed to lower my anxieties as well as theirs. It was immensely helpful for my well-being as much as theirs.
9. A happier baby. I don't know if there is any scientific research to back up my observation but it's true: babies in slings and wraps always seem happy, confident, curious, and at ease with themselves and their surroundings. Who wouldn't want that for their child?
10. Get to know your baby. When you wear your baby and toddler, you get to know them as not just your 'baby' but you get to know them as an individual person, apart from you. Having them so close allows you many opportunities to talk to them and with them and to make plenty of eye contact and engage with them with smiles and coos. All that interaction and communication enforces positive brain and emotional development.
What more can I say? Wearing your baby is such a gift to both you and your baby and ultimately, to society, as your baby grows up.
10 PARENTING FACTS THAT MAKE YOU GO, HMMM...
1. I crave time for myself but feel guilty when I get it.
2. If newborns sleep up to 16 hours a day, why am I so tired?
3. I am home all day and don't have a job but somedays I can't negotiate a five minute shower.
4. I clean and tidy constantly but my house still looks like main street after the Super Bowl parade.
5. I am bigger, better educated, and make more money. Baby can't feed or change himself, let alone hold down a job, but he is clearly The Boss.
6. Baby barely weighed 8 pounds at birth so how did I gain 60?...
7. My mom as a parent: stern, cheap, and all about consequences. This same woman as a grandma: a big wet noodle with infinite cash to burn on her grandkids.
8. When vacationing, all of my belongings fit in a backpack. Baby's? I have to hitch a trailer to drag B's everything anywhere (car seat, stroller, playpen, diapers, breastpump, accessories, toys, books, stuffy, blanket, ointments, wipes, snacks, sunglasses, his beloved oversized plastic Sesame Street car keys, and an extra everything...)
9. Why do my toddler's tiny shoes cost as much as much as my much bigger shoes?
10. Babies are simple. Parenthood is not.
*I think I'll take that shower now...
MOM GUILT MONDAY #3
"DON'T WORRY. HE'LL BE FINE."
J-Dragon was perched comfortably in the crook of my arm as I handed his diaper bag to the nursery caregiver. On this particular Sunday morning, it was a husband and wife team tasked with happily snuggling and playing with the toddlers. It was the husband who greeted my son, enthusiastically, with a big smile... J-Dragon was not impressed. I felt his chubby little fist tighten on the sleeve of my dress. He made no move to budge from his safe perch. He started patting me gently with his other hand, a clear sign that he is mildly distressed and in need of comforting. I pat him gently on his back and sway slightly, side to side, as I speak with the nursery worker.
I hand over the diaper bag to the caregiver and sign in my little son. Knowing full well that my boy would soon start crying, I mention that there are snacks in his bag, along with his pacifier. And then I reach down into his stroller for his security blanket and hand it to the nursery worker. He seemed to balk at this and just stared at it for a beat, making no effort to reach for it. Instead, he said, "Oh no, don't worry. He'll be fine." and proceeded to reach for J-Dragon. He left me feeling uncertain as I stood there in the doorway, me holding the blanket and him, holding my son. J-Drgaon was not crying (yet) - he was intently assessing this new situation, trying to make sense of it and wondering what it meant for him.
I stood there for a moment, with J-Dragon's blanket in hand, and hesitated on what to do next. This was my second attempt at leaving him at the nursery - the first attempt was a few months earlier and he wasn't quite ready. On this day, I knew the blanket would be a comfort to him and I knew the pacifier would be, too. I had failed to bring both the first time - it had been a spur of the moment decision to try the nursery for the first time so I hadn't brought along his favorite things. This time, I came prepared to make his transition smoother and hopefully, successful - his blankie and binky were at the ready. I knew, without a doubt, that his blanket and pacifier would soothe and comfort him when I left. I also knew that he would only need them for a few minutes while he sat on a warm, soft lap, and got used to his surroundings. I also knew that once he set eyes on the countless colorful balls and mini basketball hoop in the corner of the nursery, he would forget all about his blanket and do away with his binky. I know my little son - I am his mommy and it's my very cool job to know these kinds of things about him and to 'mother' accordingly.
"And then I did something shocking and disappointing..."
It was clear to me that the man thought I was a nervous mom, over-babying my son and decided on the spot to over-ride my parenting decision. He seemed to conclude that my son wouldn't be needing the baby blanket or his binky. Inwardly, I bristled (translation: I was majorly ticked off). Then I did something that both shocked and disappointed me... rather than simply insisting that he take the blanket, "just in case", I turned to put the blanket away, back into the empty stroller, even though I knew full well that my son would desperately want it the moment that I left. I knew that he liked to soothe and comfort himself by touching the smooth blue satin piping, along the edge of the blanket, with the tips of his tiny fingers like a buddhist and his beads. I also knew that being able to comfort, soothe, and identify one's emotions and feel safe were all important for healthy emotional development. And I knew that some parents consider security blankets and binkies harmful 'crutches' that hinder a baby's independence and development. I am NOT that parent or in that camp.
Let's be clear as to which parent camp I plant my flag - pacifiers, security blankets, and stuffed animals do not handicap a baby from learning to be independent or point them towards a future of constant neediness and inability to function independently. They don't fill our society with wimpy adults, sucking on their thumbs. They actually aid in doing the opposite. Having the ability to soothe and calm oneself in a healthy manner creates strong, confident, independent, and secure-minded individuals. We all could use something or someone to support or comfort us in distressing times. For a little one, using soothers acknowledge that very strong, and overwhelming feelings are valid and should be addressed, whether with a hug, or a security blanket, or in some other healthy and comforting way.
"You'll be fine. You don't need that." But you see, he does. Not forever, but for a time, he really, really does need it and that's okay. My baby boy, with each passing day and month, will learn new skills, discover new things, and celebrate victories, both big and small. And with each new discovery and skill learned, he will need his blanket and binky (and mommy) less and less and that is a beautiful thing. Until then, he can have his binky, his blankie, and all the hugs and reassurance that he wants. He doesn't have to be a brave little man at 18 months(!) and prove to anyone that he doesn't need anything or anyone when times are tough. And if he's scared when dropped off in a new place, it's okay to seek out something familiar for reassurance and comfort. Today, he can practice taking care of himself with the help of his trusty blanket and pacifier. I'm proud of him that he can do that for himself.
So why was I about to disregard all of that and leave him unmoored on a stranger's lap, soon to be crying and distressed? This is where mom guilt stepped in - It was because I didn't want the caregiver to think that I was a nervous mother hen, over-babying and smothering my child. Is that what I am? Maybe that's who I am... For a moment, it was more important to me that he thought well of my mothering skills and I was willing to sacrifice meeting my son's needs for that bit of positive acknowledgement. I am not proud of this. The caregiver had already walked away with my J-Dragon and he was carrying him around confidently, like his little buddy. No tears yet but he definitely wasn't warming up to the new arrangement.
I stood there at the doorway until the caregiver saw that I was still there. I gave him the blanket and said again, gently, "Here's his blanket. It'll come in handy when I leave." He took it (begrudgingly) and rather than handing it to my son, he placed it with the diaper bag without saying a word. I then walked around to the one-way-see window and watched my baby boy start to cry and howl as he saw me walk away. The worker immediately handed him over to his very capable and kind looking wife. She sat with my son in her lap and lovingly rubbed his back and mouthed soothing things to him. 'She's a pro,' I thought. She said something to her husband, which I couldn't hear. He turned from her and headed straight for my diaper bag, grabbed the blanket and gave it to my son and went back to the bag to look for his binky. My son clamped onto the blanket immediately and balled it up in his very special way that he always did when he was tired or distressed. I stayed at the window until he stopped crying and it was all of four minutes ( and yes, they were a very loooong 4 minutes for this mama). He sat on her lap for a little while longer, his breath hitching.
I feel guilty that I almost allowed another parent's judgment hinder me from allowing him the opportunity to take care of himself while I was away. The husband playfully ran little toy cars on the ground in front of them and my little guy calmed down. And yes, once he felt safe and a little brave, he slid off her lap, shed his blanket and binky, and headed off to explore, all on his own. He went straight for the balls...
SIMPLE & EASY FRUIT DIP
Okay, I can't believe this 2 ingredient fruit dip is a whole blog post, either, but let's face it - we moms always need simple and easy recipes for potlucks, unexpected pop-in visitors and bring-a-dish gatherings. Here's a little something for your bring-along-food recipe arsenal. This simple 2 ingredient fruit dip is quick and easy to make last minute and goes great with fruit platters.
My family usually eats fruits nice and naked but if you're looking for some 'bling' to dress up your mid-day snack, this is tasty and fun to make with young kids. Fair warning: it is v-e-r-y sweet. It's a pretty simple recipe that they can follow all by themselves while you prepare the fruit. And if you have some food dye in the pantry... you know what I'm getting at. And if you happen to have some mini-chocolate chips, sprinkle some on top as a garnish.
Simply combine the 8 oz. cream cheese packet and the 7 oz. jar of marshmallow creme in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer. I don't recommend trying to mix by hand - it comes out clumpy and tastes uneven, the electric mixer is key.
*Optional: add food coloring.
Yup. That's it. My recipe page ain't called "Simple Recipes" for nothin...
SUPER SIMPLE PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL BITES
Here is a super simple, tasty, and nutritious snack recipe - peanut butter oatmeal bites. My kids refer to it as "bird food". They're easy to make and pack for day trips (tip: taste best cold so keep them cool when traveling) or mid-day snacking during study days. No baking involved and a fun 'cooking' activity to do with little ones. It requires minimal prep and clean-up (YAY!) If you're very busy and want to just get it done, you can make them yourself in under 15 minutes (not counting the chill time) and store in the fridge overnight, ready for the next day. Large Family Tip: you can double/triple the recipe and store any extras in an airtight tupperware and chill - will stay fresh and tasty for days! I don't recommend freezing them - my kids say the peanut butter gets too hard to bite down on and the oatmeal bits taste yucky when frozen.
2/3 cup of peanut butter
1 cup of old-fashion oats
1 1/2 Tbsp of honey
1/4 cup of chocolate chips (the mini chips work best)
1/4 cup of flax seed
Set aside a 1/8 cup of the old-fashion oats and a small handful of the chocolate chips.
Mom Confession: I don't use exact measurements for this recipe. I just "eyeball" whatever I want more or less of in the mix and add the ingredients accordingly.
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together and then cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Take the chilled mixture and scoop spoonfuls and roll them each into a bite-size ball. Take the set aside oats and chips and sprinkle onto a large plate or wax paper on the counter and then roll the sticky PB Oatmeal bites until they are lightly covered with oats and mini-chips.
I know, right?! Super easy!
SUPER EASY SHRIMP TEMPURA RECIPE
Here is another simple dinner recipe that requires just 2 ingredients! All you need is shrimp (this recipe is for 50 medium sized shrimp) and tempura or panko (absorbs less oil) batter mix. If you like shrimp with a little more 'zing', mix into your batter some finely chopped jalapeno peppers or go simpler and milder with a couple of dashes of black pepper.
Heat up the cooking oil in a pan or pot on medium-high.
In a bowl, pour 1 cup of dry tempura mix.
In another bowl, combine 2 cups of tempura mix with 3 cups of water.
*The thinner the batter, the crispier and lighter the readied shrimp tempura. If you like a thicker batter, like fish and chips style, add less water until the batter has more of a pancake batter consistency.
Gently pat dry the prepared shrimp and toss them lightly in the dry mix until they are completely covered. Then transfer them into the prepared batter and cover thoroughly. Place them, one at a time, into the oil and gently tease them apart while cooking so as not to let them stick together in the pan. Transfer them onto a large plate. Tip: line the serving plate with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. That's it! Done!
If you have soy sauce, it makes a great dipping sauce. If you want to add some spice to it, mix a little wasabi into the soy sauce for an amazing explosion of tasty spice. Soooo good...
Variations on a Tempura Theme:
If you're not a fan of shrimp, vegetables and white fish also make yummy tempura. Sliced zucchini sticks tempura, sliced potato tempura, and baby carrot tempura are my favorites. I've never tried onions but the thought of it is appealing - let me know if you try this!
We eat this tasty shrimp alongside rice, and vegetables of the day. Simple and tasty.
Pro Mom Tip: prepare and pre-cook shrimp and freeze for future meal preps, When you know you'll need it for dinner that night, simply sit the frozen shrimp on the counter in the morning to thaw or zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds to defrost. Then, when it's time to cook dinner, no lengthy shrimp prep, just batter and cook, right away.
I hope you enjoy this simple meal hack as much as my family does!
SIMPLE AND EASY CROCKPOT CURRY RECIPE
my absolute favorite. We like to eat a bowlful (or two) for lunch and then finish off the rest of the pot for dinner. You can keep it vegan-friendly by using tofu (so tasty!) or you can add meats and shrimp.
*When the kids want to cook this with me, I say a little prayer (I know y'all feel me) and I opt to use a large pot, instead of the crockpot, and we have an impromptu cooking lesson. It's messier, louder, takes longer, and I am plenty tired by the end of it but I never regret it.
Large Family Portions for the Ingredients. Halve the recipe for a family of 4.
2 cups of chopped carrots
2 cups of chopped potatoes
1 cup of frozen chopped spinach
2 cups of chopped onions
1 block of firm tofu
2 cups of baby shrimp unchopped or you can use larger shrimp, chopped
*When I am running low on shrimp, I use a classic Korean meal ingredient: Spam. Chopped chicken, pork and beef are also good add-ins. Cut the meats into small pieces, otherwise they can cook a little on the "tough" side.
Chop everything up the night before and place in the fridge (spinach stays in the freezer). Soak the tofu and potatoes in water overnight so they don't dry out or brown.
In the morning, toss everything into an extra-large crockpot along with plenty of water and the entire box of curry bars (*reminder: halve the recipe if you're feeding fewer bellies). Set the crockpot to high setting at 7:00 am and you've got lunch and dinner set for the day! You are now free to run errands, do school, play with the baby, clean the house, and carry on all the other countless tasks we mamas do every day!
THIS SEA VEGETABLE'S GOT ME LIKE...
This sea vegetable is super low calorie, tasty, and chock full of good minerals. Roasted seaweed is a great stand-alone snack for anytime. If you like chips, pretzels, or anything salty and crispy, roasted seaweed (aka laver or "gim", in Korean) is an awesome substitute - no preservatives, fully organic, vegan, and gluten-free). It is waaaay healthier than many of the salty foods you find in the snack aisle and it's only 5 calories per sheet! It's also a great side for meals served with rice. Growing up, I had this every day as part of dinner and often with breakfast and lunch, too. My kids love it!
The health benefits are undeniable (keep reading for a listing). And you don't have to make it from scratch! (although you can - when I was little, my mom and I used to roast our own on the weekends). My Simple Recipes blog page is all about simplicity and ease, not about reinventing the cooking wheel... You can get them fully prepared and roasted in large sheets (about 6"x8") and cut them down to small squares or you can buy them pre-cut in snack size packs. Pack them in the diaper bag for an easy on-the-road snack or use them to wrap rice in during meals - fair warning, they can be crumbly... A simple Korean meal for my family would include rice wrapped in roasted seaweed squares, a side vegetable (or kim-chee) and fish or chicken. Simple. Nutritious. Filling. Delicious.
Top health benefits of roasted seaweed:
1. High in potassium - helps to lower blood pressure, and lowers risk of stroke and heart disease.
2. Vitamin B12 - supports healthy nervous system and brain function.
3. Iodine - this mineral is essential for proper thyroid function and good metabolism.
4. Low-calorie and low fat food to support healthy weight and lifestyle.
You can find it in the international foods aisle in many supermarkets or on amazon.
This post contains an affiliate link. Click on the pic if you'd like to learn more.
MOM GUILT MONDAY #2
MOM GUILT, MY FRENEMY
MOM GUILT MONDAY #2
Soooo.... out of all the unfinished blog drafts sitting in my bin covering various topics, half of them fit under the category "Mom Guilt". Yeah.
My relationship with Mom Guilt is prickly and complicated. Some days, it is a dear friend dishing out some tough love and on other days it is an enemy ready to pounce. If I allow it to, Mom Guilt will set up camp in my thoughts and defeat me daily, sabotaging the good work I am trying to do. On the other hand, it can also convict me and spur me to make real changes for the better. I experience both types of guilt quite regularly. I welcome it because the flip side of the guilt coin is shiny with resolve and hope, and 'hope' leads to positivity, growth, greater focus, and action in the right direction. The tricky part is knowing when and how to swing that mighty mom guilt hammer to help build up a better MomMe, instead of to tear myself down.
For better or for worse, in my tired mommy brain, all of my mommy transgressions (of which there are m-a-n-y) are tabbed under each child's name, catalogued by subject, archived by year, and notarized by a Certified Mom Guilt Notary Public (aka my mother). My Mom Guilt is vast, expansive and comprehensive in scope. And much like a persistent tic, any number of my past Mom Guilt infractions will creep up on me when I am otherwise having a winning day, to ruinous consequences.
Mom Guilt has a way of distorting my good judgment and turning a perfectly reasonable and harmless activity such as making a solo run to Starbucks into an exercise in mom anxiety as I try to tear myself away from my crying baby and kids who beg to go with me or ask me to stay home. Sometimes I ease my guilt by bringing home treats or skip the Starbucks run altogether.
You may be nodding your head, knowingly, as you read this post. I have read articles written by moms who declare freedom from mom guilt and wonder how they do it. I think it helps to have a good friend, therapist, or parenting blog who can put a fresh and healthy perspective on things. We all need to get out of our own heads sometimes, especially if we're harboring negative thoughts. Mom Guilt Monday posts are my way of working through some of the guilt and to reflect on the significance or silliness of some of the stuff I feel guilty about as a mom.
How are you, today? Is your Mom Guilt being a friend nudging you in the right direction or is Mom Guilt being a mean girl getting all up in your grill, trying to tear you down? A good way to tell the difference: If the guilt makes you hang your head, crank at your family, and drive you to throw your hands up in defeat, it's not your friend. If the guilt drives you to think up a solution or action plan to solve or erase whatever's troubling you, then that's the good kind. Use that one to better yourself and share some tips with this mama through the comments below! Have an awesome guilt-free day, mama!
13 HONEST THINGS I WANT TO TELL NEW MOMS
When new moms-to-be learn that I am a mother of 6, they inevitably ask me if I have any tips or advice for them. In my head, I answer, "YES! LOTS!" But rather than share what I really think may be helpful, I chicken out. I just smile, congratulate them and ask the universally scripted questions and give the always-given answers about pregnancy, genders, and nursery decor. My justification for chickening out is that I don't know if they are truly sincere about wanting advice or are they simply wanting to have a light conversation about their impending joyful event. The truth is, 20+ years into my marriage and 6 kids on, I have a lot to share but I don't know how to go about it so I'm writing this post. If you are pregnant for the first time or recently joined the motherhood journey, this is for you, sweet mama.
1. TAKE THE EPIDURAL. Technically, this would be sound advice for a new 'mom-to-be' and apply to a hospital delivery, if that's your plan. "Take the epidural." Those wereDr. Mom's very first words when I dropped by the hospital to visit her and her sweet new baby boy. Our due dates were three weeks apart and throughout our pregnancies we shared, in great detail, everything about birthing that we could divine from the countless parenting books we poured over. In the end, we both opted for the epidural and we've never regretted it. As a mother of six, after baby #1, I went into the delivery room a little wiser, a little busier, and a whole lot more tired. Are my babies at home doing okay with the sitter? Did I leave good instructions? What important things did I forget to do in my sleep deprived, mom-brain state? Did I pack my newborn's going-home outfit and the car seat? Oh no, I forgot to fold the laundry! I haven't had a good night's sleep in months... The epidural allowed me to rest, relax, and reset for the big game coming up in the labor and delivery room and was invaluable in my birthing experience and recovery. Trust me, it still hurts and you get the full birthing experience in spades, from the contractions, birthing, and to the recovery. In addition, my babies came into the world healthy and were not negatively impacted by the epidural. Ain't no shame in your birthing game whichever way you get that baby out, mama. The birthing books suggested scented candles, lotions and oils, light reading materials, a journal, easy-listening playlist, dry crackers, and a birthing ball as essentials for the big day. I prescribed to this and stuffed many of those items in my first hospital "go-bag". I used none of them. Just sayin...
2. YOU NEED MORE SLEEP. No amount of pre-baby prep, research or rest can prepare a new mom for the insanely small amount of sleep she is going to have to survive on for the next 6 to 18 months. You know you're tired and should nap but there's a hundred more important things that need your attention when the baby's asleep. Sorry, but no. Make sleep a priority on your to-do list and watch everything else fall into place a whole lot faster and with more ease. I often hear people say, "get rested up now because once the baby arrives..." That is useless advice because sleep, like food, is something you need daily. It's not like we could stockpile hours of sleep today and use those extra hours months from now. The chronic lack of sleep is going to hurt, and make you feel out of sorts. Symptoms of chronic lack of sleep include: forgetfulness, poor judgment, exhaustion, chronic crankiness, depression, impatience, and over-eating, to name a few. The negative effects that stem from chronic lack of sleep will create a multitude of problems in your marriage, self-image, work, and even caring for your precious new little one. However, good sleep has the potential to solve or avoid many of those problems and create greater levels of happiness and productivity within yourself and your home. Try to catch a nap when the baby naps. And when your husband is spending time with the baby, drop that full laundry basket like a bad habit and take a nap, instead. And if possible, when a friend or relative drops by to help, actually let them help while you take a nap - don't play hostess or attempt to be superwoman. There is time for all of that later, girlfriend. Sleep - it's one of the very best activities you can do as a new mom.
3. IT'S OK TO SUPPLEMENT. Breast milk, formula, breast/bottle, or a combination are all excellent ways to feed a baby. Too often, we moms shame one another or even punish ourselves(!) for the choices we make on how we feed and nourish our babies. I was a bottle fed baby and I turned out kinda amazing and so did countless other adults walking around on the planet. The same can be said for people who were breastfed. Formula is not fast food or arsenic in a can, so get a grip and stop shaming other moms (or yourself) for trying to feed their babies. Let's not find reasons to divide this sacred sisterhood of ours but rather celebrate the worthy work we are all doing as mothers by feeding our babies to the best of our abilities with a common goal - to grow our babies into healthy, vibrant, happy little humans.
4. LOSE THE WEIGHT. As a mom of 6, I don't say those three words flippantly. I am not advocating self-unaccpetance or trying to put pressure on a new mom to attain impossible standards. You don't have to drop the 25 or 90 pounds in the first three months but have a plan and set small doable goals to gradually move towards freedom from the excess weight and obtain a fit and healthy you. I am going to be very honest here - people will tell you that you look great (and new moms always do so they are absolutely right) but once the months pass and the glow of new motherhood fades, if you don't drop those pounds, you are going to feel bad about yourself and a day will come when you wonder, "what happened to me?" When that day comes, have a good answer for yourself: "self-care is not a selfish pursuit nor a frivolous one. It is worthy and so is your health." The hard journey back to a lighter, fitter, healthier version of yourself helps to erase sluggishness, low self-esteem, and other negative effects perpetuated by keeping the extra pounds. Just remember, it's called "baby weight", not "forever weight." There's no reason to carry all that around and feel bad about yourself. Pro Mom Tip: when my little ones were around 6 months old, I would strap them onto my back, and walk (gently, of course) on the treadmill while my older kids did schoolwork or played in the yard. Sometimes we'd go for walks as a family but that took more work and scheduling on my part and that didn't fit in well with our daily lessons. The treadmill was convenient and I could do it most days. Planks, push-ups and leg-lifts take only minutes but are very effective and you don't have to spend time out of your busy schedule changing into and out of workout clothes.
5. BREASTFEEDING HURTS. It does, girlfriend. I have read countless articles by professionals that say breastfeeding NEVER HURTS if you do it right. Take it from a homeschooling mom of 6 and her many girlfriends who nursed their babies - breastfeeding in the beginning stages hurts. The first few days, no pain. But once your baby gets stronger and you nurse more frequently and for longer periods, you will run into the "ow factor". The good news is that it's only for a short time and there are simple and easy things you can do to minimize the pain and discomfort. A good latch (a wide open mouth like a suction around the areola instead of pursed lips clamped onto the base of the nipple - if your baby is attached onto the nipple like it's a straw, then that's gonna hurt badly and reap poor feeding results so gently break the suction with your finger and try again for a wider mouth opening. Think "chug", not "sip".) Also, there are many creams and ointments available for new nursing moms. You won't need them for the entire time that you nurse your baby, only in the beginning until your breasts adjust. After a short transition period, you'll ease into a beautiful nursing experience with your little one. Sometimes, a baby has a physical impediment in their mouth that may prevent proper nursing - check with your pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant if your baby seems to be struggling to latch naturally.
6. STOP CRITICIZING DAD. He's not your assistant or an employee. It's not his job to hit parenting goals and meet parental performance standards set by you. He's going to do things very differently, not necessarily 'worse' than you or 'inferior' to your ways. Just 'different'. He's dad. Let him Dad. Let him do his awesome dad thing. Be generous with your gratitude and compliments when he's doing great in his new parenting role and be very frugal with the criticism. Take a deep breath, sister, and bite that sharp tongue and use it sparingly when criticizing the love of your life. He's probably doing better than you think he is - let him keep going. Don't harsh on his dad flow.
7. YOU REALLY DON'T NEED ALL THAT STUFF IN YOUR DIAPER BAG. Here's a general rule to follow when packing for a typical day out: *If your diaper bag weighs more than your baby, it's time to re-assess the essentials* When Baby #2 arrived, I admittedly panicked at the prospect of being a mother of 2. I felt that I had not quite gotten the hang of one baby and now I was in charge of 2... my overly compensated diaper bag reflected my anxieties as I packed less for a day at the park and more for a total catastrophic zombie apocalypse. Less is more when it comes to packing your diaper bag. Pro Mom Tip: get the travel size everything; toss the wet bag (unless you're actually going somewhere "wet" - unless you like to have an extra thing to have to wash, dry, and have to remember to place back into the diaper bag, later... too many steps) and instead, use large ziplock baggies or recycle plastic shopping bags - "toss it" and "forget it"; limit the toys (too much bulk) and pack a lip gloss for yourself that stays in the bag at all times (you are still a hottie, after all.)
Pro Mom Tip: I use these bag organizers for my diaper bags as well as my regular bags to keep organized. Click this affiliate link to amazon if you want to learn more.
8. YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE ARE GOING TO FIGHT MORE. It's going to happen so just remember to fight fair. Keep your words clean, and don't hit below the belt by saying or doing something you can't take back when all the dust settles. When a baby enters a relationship for the very first time, he's not the only one who has to grow up. Mom and dad are going to be forced to grow, stretch, and learn to forgive all sorts of new stuff that never came up before the arrival of a precious little one. The couples with a faster learning curve will stay together longer and share greater joy and prosperity within their family.
9. BABIES AREN'T GALLONS OF MILK, THEY DON'T SPOIL - LOVE THEM HARD. You can never love on a baby "too much" but sadly, it's possible to love on them too little. If anyone tells you not to spoil your baby, smile, and tell them to back the hella up while you love on your baby.
10. BABIES ARE SIMPLE. MOTHERHOOD IS NOT. Before I had babies and kids of my own, I loved everyone else's little ones with ease. It was so effortlessly fun and easy to love on them and play with them and see their quirks as adorable. Then, I had my first baby and things became complicated as I took my place in the motherhood journey. I instantly felt a vulnerability and huge responsibility as a new mom in charge of protecting and raising my own child. I would often overthink every decision and plan until it all became unfun and purely exercises in efficiency and safety. Don't complicate things or second guess all your moves because there are many excellent ways to be a good mom and you're probably making many good choices every single day for your baby. Overthink less and enjoy yourself more.
11. YOU WILL FEEL LIKE A FAILURE. All the good moms do. Keep going, mama. You are doing amazing and your fails yesterday have no place in your mom game today. Keep a clear head and remember that if you learn from your failures, they will contribute towards your successes. Don't beat yourself up over it - take away something valuable that you can pass along to your future self, like, tomorrow.
12. SEX WILL TAKE EFFORT. Easing back into the swing of things in the sex department will take time for a new mom as you heal and recover physically. That's totally normal. But also, juggling many new responsibilities such as breastfeeding, caring for your new baby, significant sleep loss, and returning to work as a working mom, can be overwhelming mentally and emotionally and kinda suck the fun out of sex for a while. Don't worry, once you start getting better sleep and start feeling more like yourself, everything gets easier and familiar again, including sex.
13. WELCOME TO THE SISTERHOOD. If you haven't heard it yet today, let me be the first to say it, "Welcome to the sisterhood. You are doing amazing and your little one is lucky to have you for a mom. Keep swimming and thanks for taking precious time out of your day to read this. I hope it helps you."