When I had my first baby, I was so overwhelmed. I felt like this little 7-pound person consumed my whole life, and in many ways, she did. In the moments, I wasn’t physically tending to her needs or showering her with kisses. Instead, I was worrying and researching her sleep patterns, developmental milestones, and her future.
Fast-forward 5 years. I just had my third baby, and parenting has gotten much easier in many ways. Yes, the days are louder and crazier, with three little people running around, but I am far more content and calm (aside from the occasional mommy meltdown – it happens to all of us!). I’ve learned a few tricks along the way from other mommas, including my needs and how to roll with the punches more easily.
To those who have just had their first baby and feel completely overwhelmed, you are entirely normal, and we are 100% with you. You’re doing a great job, even if you don’t feel like it. I promise it will get easier with time. In the meantime, here are some tricks and tips I’ve picked up along the way. I wish I had known these with the first baby.
1. Put baby down when he’s sleeping.
With my first two babies, I held them through most of their naps. I loved snuggling with them and was worried I would miss something if I put them down. However, they got so used to being held all the time that they refused to sleep any other way. Before I knew it, they expected me to be by their side to help them fall asleep and to stay asleep. The snuggle times were so sweet, but I got overwhelmed with all the other things in life. Things that I could never seem to get on top of. I was always either taking care of an awake baby or snuggling with an asleep baby.
I decided to be (relatively) consistent in putting my third baby down when she slept. At first, I felt like a bad mom because it seemed like I was putting her down all the time (they sleep a LOT at first). But the reality was that she got much better sleep when I put her down, and I felt so much more settled into the flow of life with a newborn when I had a few moments during her naps to take care of anything else that needed my attention, including rest.
2. Your own needs are important too.
I always put my needs last with my first baby, which meant I completely neglected myself. But, over time, I’ve learned that I have to take care of myself to take care of my babies.
So, don’t forget to take care of yourself, momma. If you have not eaten lunch yet and you’re hungry, by all means, put baby down in a safe spot or wear baby so that you can be hands-free and take a few minutes to prepare yourself a healthy meal. Ask someone to help you take care of your little one so that you can go for a walk. Coordinate your schedule with your baby’s schedule so you can shower each day and feel refreshed. The result? You will be much more capable of pouring your love and attention on your baby when you care for yourself well.
3. Breaking the routine is not always bad.
By now, you’ve probably read it a million times – kids thrive on routines. I quickly learned the security and stability that came from having a routine – not only for my kids but also for me.
That said, I’ve concluded that there are times when it is worth breaking the routine. Here’s the thing – I always weigh the cost before I break the routine. If we were to get a sudden opportunity to go to Disneyland (a girl can dream, right?), I would willingly sacrifice naps and routines for the day. Even though we’d all be hyper, crazy, and exhausted by bedtime, we would have the time of our lives. And the next day, we’d return to our routine with happy memories to last a lifetime. My general rule is to stick to the routine 90% of the time and, with the other 10%, break it with enjoyment!
4. Soak up those sweet moments because they pass by so fast.
When I was learning to be a mom for the first time, it was hard to stop and really soak up the moment. Like truly, pause everything and let it soak in. There was too much to think about, too much emotion, and so much unknown.
My five-year-old constantly reminds me of how quickly they grow up. I’ve learned that I can’t soak up every minute as much as I would like to, but I try to consciously pause my mind for a few minutes here and there and soak in that particular moment. What does my child’s voice sound like at this moment? How do I feel reading them their bedtime stories or kissing their cheek as they fall asleep? How does their little hand feel in mine? The days can be long, but the years pass by oh so quickly. So every once in a while, remind yourself to pause and soak it in for a moment.
I’m cheering you on, momma – you’re doing a great job!