What did you do to make the first months of parenthood less overwhelming?

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baby's clothes What were the three things (or more!) you did that made those first few months with baby less overwhelming? Or what do you wish you had done? I mean concrete things like organizing the onesies, stocking up on energy bars, hiring a cleaning person, etc.

I’m due in around seven weeks with our first, and trying to be as prepared as I can. One request: please don’t tell me how I’ll never be prepared enough — I get that. I’m just trying to take care of what I can now when I have the time. — Holly

What did you guys do before you had your child(ren) that made those first few months a little easier?

Comments on What did you do to make the first months of parenthood less overwhelming?

  1. 1. Find a group of mothers (internet friends or IRL) that you can use as your support group. Fellow bloggers, twitter friends, local mom groups, LLL groups if you’re breastfeeding – any source of support will be great.

    2. Trust your instincts over “expert advice”. This is one I wish I would have known in those first few months.

    3. Make a “minimum maintenance” schedule for your house work and get used to it before baby arrives.

    4. Make some prep-ahead freezer meals. And use your crock pot.

    • Great list! Also: Have a real, written-down list of things that need doing, so when someone says, “hey, can I help?” or “do you need anything?” you can say YES! and tell them exactly what you need. It’ll make them feel good to help, and be one less thing you need to worry with.

    • Yes to all of this, but especially #2. Before baby I thought we needed to do hyper-scheduling, ala Babywise, in order to cope. When it came time to put baby on the schedule (at two weeks), I couldn’t do it. It felt wrong to me. So I started reading attachment parenting books, and parts of that didn’t feel right to me either. (We didn’t cosleep in bed together except on rare occasions, among other things). After a couple of months I calmed down with all the labels and just parented the way I felt comfortable. Son is an awesome happy toddler now, so I think it worked! 🙂

    • “Minimum maintenance” has saved my sanity. I divided the house into seven sections (two bathrooms, living room, office, kitchen, bedroom, and floors) and assigned days to them. I only end up spending about half an hour a day on cleaning.

  2. -Stocked up on hearty freezer meals in large quantities. I made some and we had friends make some too.

    -Set up a station next to my bed with food, breastfeeding supplies, water, my phone, the nursing pillow, etc. so I didn’t have to get up when I felt shitty.

    -My partner wore the baby in the wrap carrier a lot when she wasn’t nursing that way I could get a nap or take a bath.

    • Ooooh, yes – setting up a little “sitting on the couch all day with a baby that just wants to be held/eat” kit is great. Stock it with food, water, a book/e-reader, burp cloths etc etc.

    • I completely agree about the stations! We had a diaper changing/nursing station in the living room downstairs, in my room on my nightstand, and in the baby’s room (where she didn’t even go until she was almost a year old!).

      I had various wicker baskets and plastic bins to hold my nursing pads, an extra nursing bra, bibs (my baby ate like a pig!), bottles of water, diapers, wipes, an extra outfit, nursing pillow, and a book. I only had one pump, so I moved it from station to station. It saved my sanity to have everything set up!

      I tried to do a lot of shopping before my baby was born. She arrived in June, where it was 100 degrees in my city. I was NOT in the mood to go out much. I stockpiled food, toiletries, and baby necessities.

      Keep an extra diaper bag (with outfit, bib, snack, empty cup/bottle or nursing supplies, diapers, wipes) in the car just in case you lose or forget your main one.

      • Good idea with the shopping. My sister-in-law didn’t have any grooming supplies for the baby before he arrived and his nails grew fast and sharp. So I’d say, make sure you have some basic grooming supplies.

  3. If baby wouldn’t settle in basket, then in bed was best.

    Happily accepted people offering to come over for a meal that they bought with them.

    Got outside for a walk ASAP, and tried to make sure I did so every day.

  4. 1. Do what works for YOUR family. There are so many invisible “lines” out there among mommies- breast vs bottle, crib vs co-sleep, cloth diaper vs disposable. Our motto was always to do what worked best for OUR family at that moment in time. And it may change. But don’t worry about what others may think and don’t feel like a failure if your plans didn’t go as expected (for me, it was breastfeeding).

    2. Never refuse a helping hand! I had several friends offer to help me with laundry, to hold the baby so I could shower, or to bring meals over. I always said YES! and it made those first weeks easier. Maybe even schedule the helpful visitors for once baby arrives BEFORE hand, so they are already lined up.

    3. Don’t worry about the mess. If it does become frustrating for you, as you mentioned, I would definitely hire/ask someone to help you clean so that you can be as stress free as possible.

    Best of luck to you! God bless 🙂

  5. 1. make a lot of freezer meals, stock up on easy/healthy snacks

    2. arrange for HELP ahead of time either from friends/family or hire someone. You wont feel like cleaning or cooking, but you’ll feel so good if it’s all taken care of by someone else!

    3. Arrange for help w/ the baby – friends/family or hired help. You NEED rest and alone time, even if it’s just for an hour.

    Good luck!!! xoxoxo

  6. Get out of the house. With baby or without, get out of the house, cabin fever often makes the mommy blues even harder, getting out of the house and just enjoying the weather can do wonders.

    Phone a friend. You don’t think about it, but especially after your partner has gone back to work and all the wonderful helpers have left, it gets quiet. Really quiet. You’re with a little person who can’t speak to you and you can find yourself in your head a lot. See if you have some friends who are open to phone calls during the day. When you go on walks call them and chat about anything but especially about non-baby stuff if you can. It gives you the opportunity to have some adult conversation in your day.

  7. Amazon Mom subscription. You get free 2-day shipping for 3+ months. It’s great if you find you need something and can’t get it locally or if you can get out of the house.

    • I love Amazon Mom. Now instead of stressing on when I will be able to get to the store (which is always, like, 5 days away) I just click and it comes in 2 days.

      • i don’t know about Amazon Mom but i did become an Amazon Prime member. i had many things shipped (free once you’re a member) and they have a subscription plan for the formula we use. no, i didn’t predict ahead of time we’d need formula or that i’d have such a tough time recovering and would really need having stuff delivered to our door!

        (formula is Earth’s Best organic — with the subscription, they bring it to you every month, and it costs less that way.)

  8. here are the things we did ahead of time that I think really helped.

    1. we prepped stations. pumping supplies fully stocked and placed in bedside table drawers. breast feeding pillow, music, nightlight placed around the rocking chair. ect. We knew our babies were going to come home from the NICU on O2 and have apnea monitors so we prepped our house to make it as easy as possible to get around lugging babies and equipment.

    2. we had a freezer stocked full of easy meals (burritos, casseroles, ect). our shelves were lined with pita chips, peanut butter and other easy snacks.

    3. my husband and I had the “game plan” conversation. how were we going to do night feeds (bottle or boob), what household responsibilities were we each going to be responsible for.

    4. we made a phone list of all the people who had offered to help/ had been helping us in case we need to call for support or backup.

    5. we decided our mantra was going to be “we’ll do what ever is best for our family and adjust accordingly”. A therapist gave us that advice while in the NICU. It has served us very well.

  9. Never refuse help from others, they genuinly want to help when they offer!! And when they don’t know what to do but want to help, tell them what you need!

    I made about 40 individual meals that I froze it zipploc bags or plastic containers. They were sooo handy!

    Have your family, friends and inlaws come over but stay calm and not invasive. Showing off my new baby and having people around all the time made me feel great and proud.

    I organized my girl’s clothes by size and type: short sleeve onesies, long sleeve onesies, pyjamas, pants, etc. I have a drawer with a sock bin, a hat bin and a stockings/diaper cover bin.

    If you plan on breastfeeding, I recommend you get a book about it ahead of time. My first week and a half was horrible and it’s when everything was better that I saw one at a store I wish I would have had. I also recommend getting a cape if you want to breastfeed in public places and are not confortable baring some skin. Have a minimum of 2 bras and some nursing tank tops to sleep, noting else is confortable for me. Also, I need to wear nursing pads to bed.

    Don’t be too worried. I had my baby july 12th and expected the worst from everyone’s warnings but all went and is still fine. Of course nights are short and patience is short when the baby cries, but really take each day one at a time and make sure you keep a smile. If anything takes that smile off your face, make sure you talk with your partner and anyone around you to make sure it comes right back on.

    Have fun and congratulations!!

  10. I think all the above comments are awesome.

    I really struggled with nights not being for bedtime. Around 10pm I would get us ready for bed and it would be incredibly frustrating when the baby had other ideas. A friend gave me the advice to “make your home like vegas”. Put the lights on.

    Personally, I watched a lot of tv on the couch in the middle of the night while nursing or soothing. A lot.

    Also, really communicate with your partner. This will be a challenging time for both of you. Be a great team.

  11. 1) Stocked up on diapers so I didn’t have to make an emergency run to the store.

    2) Made and froze several different dinners, and made a list of easy stuff that I had on hand so I didn’t have to think too hard.

    3) Get some magazines and queue up some interesting tv shows in Netflix. If you are breastfeeding, babies nurse up to six hours a day. Some moms may be able to cuddle and talk to their babies for that amount of time. I, myself, could not. (There wasn’t much back and forth interaction, you know.) So you need something to do during that time, but not something too taxing, because you’re working on four hours of sleep if you’re lucky.

    • ZOMG NETFLIX! I watched all of Buffy on my maternity leave… now I’m working my way through Dr. Who and Torchwood.

      If it weren’t for Netflix I’d have pulled my hair out… there is NOTHING on during that 3am feeding…

      • Seconded! Dr Who got me thru six weeks of exclusive pumping post NICU. Im sure the sound of the theremin will always be strangely comforting to my little one…

      • Mindless fiction is great too. I got tired of watching TV, so my mom picked up a bunch of Star Trek: the Next Generation books (*blush*) for me at Half Priced Books. Make sure the books you choose, if not so dorky, are a small paperbacks so you can read with one hand. A kindle is great too.

        • i read sooo much. it was awesome. i watched a few movies early on, but my son really wanted to focus his eyes on the screen (tv, computer, iphone) after a couple months. current research on screen-watching by little ones is pretty damning. messes up the development of their brains. so anyway, books were great for me.

          recommended babyish ones: Louise Erdrich’s Blue Jay’s Dance, Erin Bow’s Mongoose Diaries, and of course Anne Lamott’s baby memoir, whatever it’s called. i actually read those toward end of pregnancy. during the first 8-9 months, before he could grab and shred my books, i guess i read everything — LOVED the Hunger Games especially, and Scott Westerfeld’s trilogies Leviathan and Pretties. blush not over Star Trek!

    • Ha! six hours! Two weeks in, my baby was nursing constantly! I thought he was colicky for awhile, but in retrospect I think a lot of it was just hunger, and I was trying to go by the “feed every 1 1/2 to 3 hours” rule. I agree about getting a book. Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding is just as amazing as her Guide to Childbirth. Got me successfully through latching issues, a biting baby boy, and clogged ducts.

  12. 1 – Make boundaries about visitors and family, we had a lot just ‘show up’ between 9am-9pm (?!) and expect us to wake up our son for a cuddle in the first few weeks. We slept when the baby did… and he didn’t like to sleep at night.

    2 – Have a group of mums to chat to. I had my online forum ‘due in’ group… and 2 and a half years later we are all still supporting each other and chatting from all over the country. 🙂

    3 – SNACKS. I forgot to eat the first week much, I was sore, tired, leaking milk, I didn’t know when to wee… I had muesli bars, mini muffins and little crackers handy just to keep up my energy.

    4 – Expect to maybe have expenses you didnt plan on. My son was smaller than we thought and he needed a few clothes sizes we didnt have… he also refused the breast so we found ourselves with a bottle baby and no breast pump,formula, bottles, teats, bottle warmer. We also got takeaway alot… and bought those little bits and pieces we didn’t realise we needed until he was here!

    Goodluck!

  13. I’m pregnant too and still have 3 months to go but I’m also reading around for information on this topic. I really liked the info in this blog post:

    http://www.feedingthesoil.com/2011/03/week-one-post-partum-advice.html

    I would also add the advice of my acupuncturist and traditional chinese medicine specialist: stay horizontal and rest as much as possible for the first 2-3 weeks. Birth is a major event on your body and the hormonal changes and blood loss can have longer term health impacts if you try to do too much too fast when your body is in such a drastic transition and exhaustion.

    A practical tip: my friends who are moms also swear by a shaper or stomach support girdle for the first few weeks to help your organs which have been squished by your baby and uterus have some support as they settle back into place. They also said it was more comfortable to walk around with this support.

    • Another +1 for this! We watched “Planet Earth” a lot when I was breasfeeding, and now that Tavi’s starting to get interested in videos, they make for great, toddler-friendly watching.

      • We did toooo. We just bought Human Planet and it’s equally amazing. Jasper’s getting into it. 🙂

  14. Nap! Make sure to nap whenever you baby does in the first week or two, and then try to nap every other nap. This made a world of difference to me in terms of coping skills, happiness level, and happy bonding with the baby.

    Don’t worry about clutter/dishes/laundry. This is hard if you’re like me, who gets bummed out by having a messy home. Ask your partner, friends, or family to help with tidying if you can.

    Also, if friends want to bring you food, by all means let them! We were lucky enough to have friends deliver meals to us almost every night for the first few weeks, in part because we requested meals as part of our baby shower gifts. It makes a world of difference to have hot food ready for you when you need it.

    Good luck and enjoy these early sweet times with your babe!

  15. 1) Meals in the freezer are great. In supermarkets in the UK you can buy stuffed pasta that cooks in 2-3 minutes. Chuck some olive oil and parmesan on it and you have a meal for two.

    2) Also, don’t be afraid to press your friends into service when they visit. In the first 6 weeks or so, everyone who came to visit the new baby was given a choice: do some housework for us or hold the baby while we do some housework. People really didn’t mind. People who brought a meal for the freezer were invited back.

    3) If you have a partner, trust them. If they suck at changing nappies, let them do it badly until they get good. Let your partner learn with you, which is hard if they go out to work most of the day, but if you’re the only one who can change a nappy, then you’ll be changing all the nappies.

    4) If you get the opportunity, leave the baby with your partner for a long stretch of time, maybe an afternoon, or a whole day, even overnight. This will give you time and space to be a real person, and it’ll also give your partner a sense of just how difficult it is when you’re on your own taking care of feeding, sleeping, playing and pooping.

    My wife has been good enough to trust me with these last two on several occasions, and it’s been brilliant for both of us. She does baby stuff every day while I’m out at work, and having had a taste of it while she’s out with the girls or shopping for a Mum-grade handbag, my respect for her is now immense.

    James

    • I’m nowhere near being a mom, but this is just excellent advice in general – let your partner do something that they’re crappy at until they get good at it. Tips are fine, but no one likes a back-seat driver.

      Perhaps this will change if I do have children, but I’m of the firm belief that no one you trust would do anything to harm a child, and that pretty much everyone has a little mothering instinct (including males) so try to step back and chill and let someone else be responsible for a bit. I think this was the hardest thing for my friends with babies, but once they got over that hurdle, they became much happier.

      • This is even hard for me with our pets – for some reason I have this awful “I know everything and I know best!” thing, even though I really don’t! I’m lucky my dude has been patient with me, and tells me when I do this, but this really is great advice. And even if he really isn’t great at things, if I don’t act all “La la la, I know it and you don’t”, then he’ll often ask for advice and we’ll both learn from each other and get better at whatever it is (even for simple things like lining a litter pan or picking up a dog’s poo).

  16. 1. When my annoying MIL would come over, I would have Have my kiddos laundry clean and in a basket for her to fold and put away. I didn’t care how she did it, but it gave me the control I needed, and gave her something to help with. This can apply to anyone annoying.

    • DEFINITELY keeping this one in mind for when the time comes that my hubby and I have kids … no popping round for a coffee and snarky, sly remarks about my housekeeping, when she can DO some housekeeping instead 😛

  17. Ahead of time, I made a “tiered list of support” of family and friends I could call on for help. The top tier were my sisters, whom I could ask to do the real nitty gritty stuff like help cook and clean. The next tier was the handful of family and close friends I didn’t mind calling on to run an errand or help me unpack (we moved into a new home a week before the baby was born), and the last tier was all the others who offered to help but I didn’t know as well – those people I would assign tasks or an errand as they visited.
    I didn’t call on everyone on my list, but seeing all those names and the help I could get if I needed it was very reassuring.

  18. What a great list!!! So much good real advice.

    Read up some but when you’ve had enough, stop. I didn’t have much experience with pregnancy or infants when I was expecting our first. I read books that had a good tone and that I enjoyed. This mostly turned out to be “daddy” books. It definitely made me feel more prepared.

    When your bundle of joy arrives follow your instincts. Know that things you bought may not work for your family and it’s ok to just let them go! We bought a crib for our son second hand and he never really used it. People, ridiculous people, will try to give you advice. Just smile and continue on. If it’s good advice, great! If it’s not say ‘thanks” and leave it be, trust me, everybody knows best.

    People want to help. Let them. We put a note on the door asking people to keep the visits short and sweet. And to please walk our dogs if they wanted to help us out.

    Finally the MOST important thing to help me feel relaxed was a group of other new moms. While you are pregnant make an effort to befriend anyone who seems like they would be cool to hang out with. Prenatal Yoga and swim classes in addition to birth class are great places to meet other new moms and usually their babies will be born close enough to yours for the kids to play as they grow. In our small area a lot of us new friends knew each other making a group. So we would meet once a week for a walk/hike. It was the best. It was so casual and we could just talk about our babies and get to know each other more all while out getting fresh air. So don’t be shy! Make an effort to meet these other families around you sharing the experience!

    Have fun!

  19. This is a bit different, but…
    1) make sure all your paper work, especially maternity leave and insurance payment stuff is in order well ahead of baby arriving so that you don’t have to worry about getting paid or missing bills or other key payments in those first few weeks/months. I even wrote post-dated cheques and pre-addressed envelopes for the whole year off (in Canada) so I could just mail what was needed when, and not have to figure it out when I was sleep deprived.

    2) stations all over the house: we had bed and/or diaper changing stations on each floor with changes of clothes, wipes etc in each. It means you can camp out wherever is comfortable without having to run around for supplies.

    3)start exploring mom and baby groups and activities; be prepared to visit a few before settling into the ones you like best. I found I needed an outing every day and if I wasn’t careful, I would end up just shopping or something – got expensive until I found the free stuff like baby story time at the library, breastfeeding drop ins etc.

    • I have to second the paper work suggestion. My twins came so early that I hadn’t even thought about all the paper work (FMLA, short term disability, bills, ect). I spent my first week recovering from multiple incision c-section, had babies in the NICU and had to navigate through piles and piles of paperwork. Most of which could have been done before hand.

    • Yes to paperwork! Our son came early and my husband hadn’t turned in his paternity leaave paperwork. He stayed home with us that first week anyway. Good, I needed him to, but we spent the whole time unsure if he would be getting paid for that time (at a time when we really needed to not be losing income). It all worked out fine, but we could have done with out the extra stress.

  20. love all of these suggestions. Wish I’d had them when baby Lotus was born. Oh-didn’t read extremely closely but if you are feeling any anxiety or depression talk to your provider. There are many western drugs you can take even temporarily that are safe for nursing-at least my one year old is perfectly fine and I REALLY needed some help with my hormones-not until about 3 or 4 months into it-as I started freaking out about the future and tripping out about not getting enough sleep-but up till then I was soaring on love. Good LucK!

  21. Do you taxes. Ok, this might now help you, but my baby was due in January, so I pre-filled out everything I could (we use turbo tax) and then when my W-2 came in the mail, just plugged in all the right numbers and send it electronically. I think I got it done a few days before the baby was born.

    For the baby’s dresser, I put current clothes in the top drawer (use the top of the dresser as a changing table). In the middle drawer, I keep clothes for the next size up. In the bottom drawer, I keep miscellaneous stuff, extra diaper inserts, baby toys, bag of disposable diapers (for when you forget to wash diapers in time or that yucky mec poo), formula samples that some company mailed me, etc.

    I saved one of the gift bags I was given and it sits on the floor next to the dresser. Then, when he outgrows clothes, I just put them in the bag.

    After the bag, I have two rubber boxes in the garage for: 1) stuff he’s outgrown and 2) stuff he’s not fitting yet. Just out of one box and into the other. This will probably work for the first year in rotation with the drawers, and then you’ll need another box. I tend to shop sales and a year in advance, so I needed a place to put things and a rotation so that I don’t forget what I’ve bought when he’s the right size to wear it. Although, before it goes into the box of ‘stuff he’s outgrown’, I decide if it’s an item that I loved enough to save for the next child, in good enough condition to sell or give away (goes in a box to Goodwill), or trash (those white shirts that end up with more stains that stubbornly won’t come out- you know- your clothes, not the baby’s). Although, those stained shirts make good cloth wipes. If they are that t-shirt material, you won’t even have to hem the edges. (I hate sewing.)

    Above the changing area, I hung one of those command hooks (use these so you can re-decorate easily) and hung a toy chain from it. He loves it and now, he’ll pull it down to play with it.

    Find a TV series that you like. I re-watched Friends during that first month. Each episode was about the length of each breastfeeding session. It was good to be distracted from the pain.

  22. If you can afford to, hire cleaners and/or a post partum doula. And if you have a good support group, ask a friend or family member to arrange a meal delivery system for the first week, where your friends/family will each take a night delivering lunch or dinner to you.

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