After three newborns and countless compliments on “how well I’m doing,” (who knew!?) I figure I must be doing something right and my newfound knowledge is probably worth sharing. Obviously these tips are what I did and what worked for me so they may not all work for you, but they’re certainly worth a try since we have a three for three batting average. And of course there are a thousand other things I could talk about (like… WTF to do with the cord stump, circumcisions, baths, etc.), but these six are the big ones so I’ll start here.
1. Reposition Constantly
If your baby’s crying and you’ve checked all the boxes (diaper, hunger, gas, sleep), they may just need to be repositioned. It might sound weird or morbid, but I think of babies like the bed-bound patients I worked with in nursing homes for a decade; we can’t just leave them sitting in the same position in the same chair for 12 hours, they need to be turned like a rotisserie all day long or they WILL get flat heads — and will probably be really cranky, too. I listed repositioning first because it’s worked really well for us and I think it’s something a lot of people miss amongst all the other “more urgent” needs a newborn has.
I see it this way: If I were in their shoes, what would I want me to do. I know I wouldn’t want to be strapped in a car seat for two hours with mittens on and bumpers on each side of my head so I couldn’t move. And then my caregiver shoves a piece of rubber in my mouth to stop me from crying when really I just have a butt itch. See what I mean? I realize newborns are scary and complicated and needy, but they’re just people like you and me who need the same things we need, only they can’t communicate them.
Here’s what I do:
- I wear them pretty much all day (see #4).
- I don’t put them in swings. Sure it might keep them quiet for a bit, but they can easily get too comfortable, doze and end up in the same position for hours.
- I don’t use those caddy things for my car seats. I time my outings immediately following a snooze and a feeding and then I wear them when we get to our destination. I’m hands-free and they get to switch things up… everyone wins.
- I don’t go on long car drives. I keep travel to a minimum in the beginning and when I do hit the road, I let their heads flop side to side in their seat. Obviously if they look really uncomfortable or like they could suffocate, I’ll prop their heads but in general we’re pro-head flopping.
- If I’m with them (aka not at bed time or nap) I’ll lay them on their side for a quick snooze or on their bellies propped with a blanket or Boppy to keep their heads elevated. Yes, they should be on their backs when they sleep, but that doesn’t mean they have to be on their backs the rest of the day, too; move them around.
2. Nurse on Demand
When my babies cry, the first thing I check is their diaper. If it’s clean, I feed them. Every time. I never make them wait or try to time their feedings especially when they’re brand new. Ex: my girls would eat every two hours for about a half hour and my boy ate every 90 minutes for at least a half hour. It’s constant. One pediatrician suggested perhaps my son was “using me as a pacifier” but I completely disagreed and didn’t change a thing with his feedings. Nursing isn’t just for food, it’s also for bonding and comfort so if this tiny human wants to bond and be comforted well after his meal is done then that’s exactly what I’m going to do for him. My number one priority is this baby; laundry and dishes can wait.
Tip: it’s much easier to nurse on demand with the first baby, but it’s 100% doable with multiple if you make it a priority — and occupy the older kids while you’re busy.
3. Send it Deep
Your nipple, that is. My second baby destroyed my nipples. I had scabs by the time she was three days old. In a panic, I reached out to my lactation pro/RD friend who gave me the best advice ever: open their mouth as wide as you can and shove your boob in there as far as you can. Within a day I was already starting to heal. (Thanks JJ!!!) Her reasoning was that the roof of our mouths towards the back of our mouths are smooth so that’s where we want our nipples to be when someone’s sucking on them 23 hours a day. I did end up having to have Violet’s tongue tie corrected, but I was able to nurse through her poor latch and breastfed with no trouble after that.
Tip: If your baby’s not latching well, check their tongues and upper lips; they could be tied! If babe is latching but it hurts like hell, maybe your nipple needs to be deeper in her mouth.
4. Wear Them
This one was a no-brainer for me. When Decky was born we lived in New York City and it was easier to strap him on and walk out the door than to gear up a whole stroller (although I did/still do love my stroller). I later learned that baby-wearing is actually SO good for them and for us. I forget where I read it, but apparently babies in regions where they’re worn most of the day don’t get colic. That alone was worth it to me. My second and third babies lived in my Bjorn because it’s how I survived three under three. Wearing them is also great for making them feel like an actual human… seeing, touching and experiencing things as you do vs. being strapped into a stroller or car seat. Another pro: wearing them = automatic repositioning and natural head-bobbing.
Tip: Get a Bjorn with lumbar support! It’s so comfortable and easy to wear; I’ve lived in mine for the last four years so I feel pretty confident in this recommendation 😉
5. Sleep Train ASAP
I don’t mean letting them “cry it out” from day one; I mean it’s a process and it’s important to get that process started from day one. All three of our babes slept through the night by four months while still nursing on demand and with zero pre-bed supplementation to fill their bellies. It’s a lot of work and a lot of consistency, but it works. For us it felt like 10 hours of sleep was just never going to happen and then all of a sudden it happened… and then it kept happening and all of our diligence paid off.
Here’s what we do:
- We don’t worry about a daytime feeding schedule at all. I nurse on demand (see #2) and just really focus on getting the bedtime/sleep-all-night schedule in place ASAP.
- We set the mood. At nap and bed time we turn off the lights except what we absolutely NEED to have on, pull the shades down and lower our voices. Everyone in the house knows it’s time to wind down and the new baby picks up on it pretty quickly.
- We’re consistent with set nap and bed times. I had all three babies on the same nap schedule by the time Poppy (#3) was a week old (toot toot… yep, that’s my horn). Sure, we missed our targets here and there in the beginning, but we always aimed to hit them and every day we got better at it.
- When it’s getting close to bed time we try to keep them awake however we can. If they start to doze at 5 P.M. I’ll put them in a bath to stimulate them for a bit to get as close to our 6:30 P.M. goal as possible. (Bed time is now 8 P.M. FYI but in the beginning 6:30 seemed to work best.)
6. Accept Zero Downtime
The first three months with a new baby is non-stop. I expect to be glued to the couch for 16 hours a day and to wear a baby while I poop. It’s what I signed up for. The only time they’re not on me or nursing is when they’re sleeping. My “constant” approach has worked like a charm for us and I hope it helps you navigate this crazy thing called “motherhood” a little easier, too!