Approximately 16 years ago, I was a brand-spanking new mom. My precious bundle of joy was a bright-eyed little fellow with baby acne and an incessant wail. He seemed impossible to please and I was a tired, frazzled mess.
To make matters worse, my husband was on the other side of the country at Officer Candidate School for the Navy. For our baby’s first four months of life I flew solo.
Three more babies and many “aha” moments later, I have gained some understanding of how not to care for a newborn.
1. Don’t starve the poor thing!
I am, by nature, a to-the-T direction follower. When my firstborn’s pediatrician instructed me to feed my baby every four hours, I looked at my watch and our feeding schedule was born. Thing is, my milk production was skimpy because of the infrequent feedings and my little guy was always ravenous. When I finally learned that newborns should be fed on demand and I started to supplement his diet with formula, he gained weight and his moods improved. I felt horrified for having starved him. No wonder that to this day he eats whatever he can lay his hands on.
2. Just because you love to [insert hobby], don’t neglect holding baby
I’m hanging my head in shame and deserve a public flogging for this one. When my firstborn came on the scene, the art of scrapbooking was just taking off. I buried myself in cutesy stickers, die cuts, scissors and photos. When my baby would squall I’d sometimes dawdle in setting my hobby aside to pick him up. The baby swing helped, but I was beastly to let my baby wail while I indulged in my hobby.
3. Don’t be a Nervous Nellie
It was a vicious cycle — my tense, frazzled nerves and my young baby’s distress didn’t exactly complement each other. I realized that I needed to take control of the situation and calm myself down. “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” as the saying goes. Your baby will pick up on your moods and emotions and react. Let dad take over while you unwind. He needs to bond with baby, too.
4. Don’t over schedule
Whether you have a date picked for delivery or know the general window of baby’s arrival, clear your calendar. If you’re on maternity leave from work, dedicate every minute to your baby, yourself and your family. If and when you’re feeling up to it and it’s safe to take baby out, then schedule lunch with a friend or a hair appointment. Otherwise, take it easy and take advantage of your down time to snuggle with your newborn.
5. Don’t turn down help, ever!
If your mother-in-law’s best friend offers to bring dinner, don’t demurely decline. Embrace whatever offers come your way, be it scrubbing your kitchen floor or babysitting your other children. People like to help. Turning down offers of help is not only disappointing to the giver, but a valuable missed opportunity for you. Now is not the time to play the nonchalant independent woman — you have a new baby, for crying out loud!
6. Don’t leave your newborn unsupervised with your toddler
One morning about a month after the birth of my second son, I left baby laying on a blanket in the family room. When I returned a few minutes later, his 2-year-old brother was dragging him around the room by his feet. He was playing with his new brother and thought giving baby a ride was a nice gesture. I freaked out. Fortunately, son number 2 escaped unscathed and son number 1 got away with a gentle berating from Mommy.
For new mothers, lots of things can and will go wrong, but so many more things will go right. I was naïve and dumb about many aspects of new motherhood. I have learned that as you sacrifice your time, job and interests to love and nurture your newborn, you will reap the rewards of a more satisfied, secure baby and your bonds will strengthen. And the scrapbook will get done sooner or later.