Even though I read the books, there were still somethings that caught me off guard, weren’t what I expected, or that I wasn’t quite sure what to do about.
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1. Learning to Breastfeed Can Be Difficult, for Mama and Baby
Probably the most emotionally draining thing I have had to do in life was learning to nurse with Rachel. She has quite bad reflux (see #4 for more) and she always acted like she was hungry when continuing to feed was actually the problem! There were times when she would be screaming in my ear because she was so frustrated and I would break down and sob. And you know what? That’s ok. It’s NORMAL! There is a big learning curve for both mama and baby. The best thing to do is have someone else take your child to another room, or put them down, so you can collect yourself and try again.
Babies can sense your emotions and pick up when you are upset, so it is best to stop and collect yourself. Trust me, you will learn what your baby needs, but you can only learn these things if you are in the right state of mind. If you are upset or frustrated, you won’t be able to pick up on the little cues your baby gives off.
2. The umbilical cord may rip partway off
Our daughter is very active, even in the womb she would constantly be kicking, my husband would even play with her by pushing my tummy while I was sleeping and she would kick him right back! After birth, she ended up rubbing her tummy against a lot of things, especially us, which caused her umbilical cord to rip part way off and dangle there with a small amount of fresh blood. She cried because of the pain, and I freaked out and had no idea what to do to help my poor crying baby. Of course, this happened right after our pediatrician’s office closed, so I called my parents.
Removing what was left of the cord or even cleaning it can actually lead to an infection, it is best to let it naturally fall off and let the wound heal on its own. Exposing it to air to help it heal, as opposed to covering it up, is just about all you can do, and soothing the baby of course.
3. Run the shower before a sponge bath
Rachel takes after me and gets cold quite easily, which made (sponge) bathtime quite a challenge! To keep the bathroom warm, and a naked baby happy, run hot water in the shower for a few minutes before bringing the baby in. Make sure to close the doors to keep the bathroom warm for as long as possible. Also for a sponge bath, you can leave portions of clothes on since you wash by sections, and cover up the already washed sections with a towel to keep your baby from fussing.
4. Some babies have reflux
Our baby had a lot of difficulties feeding the first few weeks, she even was too upset to eat for 12 straight hours while still in the hospital! I later discovered that this was due to reflux, where she traps a lot of gas in her tummy while eating and needs to be burped and kept upright for at least 20 minutes after each feeding, even a small one.
She also spits up, a lot, and if we put her down too soon, it will keep her from napping well. By trial and error I️ have realized that this mostly happened on days when I️ drank milk, so I️ switched to soy and noticed a big difference! If you experience something similar and think it may have to do with what you consume, try an elimination diet to pinpoint the cause. Life has gotten so much easier for us since the switch to soy.
5. Don’t let a newborn go more than 5 hours without feeding
Our little girl likes to sleep for long periods at night, which is great for us but can be scary when you hear they should eat every two hours the first few weeks of life. At night I would set an alarm for five hours after the start of her last meal. If she was still asleep when it went off, I would wake her up and feed her.
6. They need help learning night and day
At night, I would let her sleep up to five hours straight from the start of her last feeding, but during the day I would wake her up two hours after her last feeding. Now at six weeks, she will sleep a little over 6 hours from her last feeding at night and she goes right back to bed!
7. How to wake a sleeping baby
The first month or so, we would always wrap her in a swaddle to sleep, even just for naps, because it would keep her from startling. It was so simple to wake her up just by unwrapping her! You can also try changing their diaper, picking them up right, stretching their arm above their head, stroking their cheek, or gently pulling on their earlobe.
8. How to keep a baby asleep during feedings at night
We struggled with this a lot at first, but luckily it just took us a few sleepless nights to figure out the following: ditch the night light, only change the diaper if it is SOAKING, only make necessary interactions (of course you need to nurse, but do not talk or stimulate the baby during this time), if the baby fusses at night give them a few minutes to fall back asleep on their own before rushing to their side, help them learn the difference between night and day (see #6), and use a white noise machine.
9. Babies know what they want!
Babies know exactly what they want, they just have trouble communicating it!
Pay attention to the subtle (or not so subtle!) cues your baby gives off and remember what they mean. Rachel spits out her pacifier when she still needs to spit up (even if it only comes after 20 more minutes of burping her), she cries and gets really upset if she has missed a nap, she will start to fall to one side if I am burping her and she wants to be rocked to sleep in my arms with a pacifier, she will act hungry but struggle to latch on if she needs to spit up, the list goes on!
Pay attention to the specific things unique to your baby and remember that you know them best.
10. Trust your instincts
Only you know what is best for your child, and what those subtle little cues mean. It may take a little time to learn what your baby wants and how they communicate, but there is no better feeling than forming that bond and being able to understand your child in the unique way they communicate.
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