Our little Peanut is two months old. It is amazing how fast time flies when you are caring for a newborn, even though there are moments in the middle of the night when it may seem like the baby never falls back asleep. Here are a few tips to help new parents not just survive the first two months, but thrive!
1. Babies cry for a reason
Babies cry for a reason, but the trick is to figure out what the reason is. I have found that with our son, he tends to cry if he is hungry, has a dirty diaper, or wants held. Each cry is a little different, but the hunger cry, if not taken care of quickly, will escalate into a screaming cry.
Sometimes you will find that you do everything — feed the baby, change the baby, hold and rock the baby — and he or she still cries whenever you try to put him or her down. Both our little peanut and pickle were very needy. They wanted to be held all the time! I love the cuddles, too, but sometimes I needed to eat or get to a few things done around the house.
During Weeks Two, Three, and Four when the sleep deprivation is at its worst, you may find your patience wearing thin as you are trying to comfort a screaming baby in the middle of the night, and it is during these periods of frustration that the danger of shaking the baby is at its greatest.
If you ever feel this, and it can happen to even the most gentle and loving parents if you are lacking sleep and already stressed out, put the baby down and walk away.
Put the baby in a safe place, like his or her bassinet or crib, and leave the room. It is okay to go get a glass of cool, refreshing water to drink or take a quick but relaxing shower. Even if the baby is still crying, take five or ten minutes to calm down and get rid of your built-up frustration, that way you can return to your baby with a clear mind, renewed patience, and tons of cuddles.
That said, there will be times when you do everything you can think of and the baby does not seem to stop crying. This could be because of colic (gas) or increased hunger due to growth spurts or even teething. If you cannot seem to console your crying baby, see your pediatrician. They can help.
2. Prepare for growth spurts
Many babies, and our little boys were no exception, experience growth spurts around Week Three and Week Six. Be prepared for the first one, because it hits when you are at your most sleep deprived. As a mom who also had to pump, I was very aware of how much milk my little ones were eating. When our older son Pickle began crying hysterically at night even after eating, burping, diaper change, rocking, etc, it still took me a few times to realize he was hungry due to the growth spurt and to up the amount of milk he was getting. Breastfeeding moms do not necessarily have to worry about that, but they may find that the baby wants to always nurse during this time.
Our older son’s first growth spurt was hard because, no matter how frequently I was pumping, I was unable to keep with his ravenous appetite. We ended up having to supplement my milk supply a few times, especially at night (which is when our son ate the most). I was already an emotional wreck from the lack of sleep and repeated failures at nursing, so having to supplement again was like a dagger to the heart. But growth spurts do not last forever, and after a few days, he settled back into a normal eating regiment that I could keep up with.
I was far better prepared for his Week Six growth spurt, and I was able to find an herbal tea that helps with milk production.
3. Increase your milk supply with tea
I love herbal teas, and one of my absolute favorite tea is Peppermint. Did you know that Peppermint can negatively affect your milk supply? Don’t drink peppermint tea if you are breastfeeding! And, for that matter, maybe cut back on the peppermint ice cream and candy. While a small amount of peppermint now and then should not hurt, a large amount has been known to help stop milk production.
Just as certain herbs may decrease your milk supply, other herbs can help you increase your supply. A few days before our little one’s Week Six growth spurt, my husband found Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics Milkmaid Tea at our local Target. This tea is a special blend of herbs that are known to help your milk production.
Each woman’s body is different and the tea may increase your supply a little or a lot. I drank it twice a day for two weeks, and it doubled my milk supply so that I was able to not only keep up with my son’s increased appetite but also start freezing milk for when I return to work. I now pump 2-4 bags extra bags of milk per day so I don’t need to drink any right now but I keep the tea around.
4. Don’t forget to take care of yourself
The majority of your focus is now on your little bundle of joy, but as much as he or she needs you, you cannot neglect taking care of yourself. New parents are often told: “Sleep when baby sleeps”, and this is important during the first few weeks when you will most likely not be getting deep, refreshing sleep at night due to waking up with the baby every 2-3 hours. If you pump exclusively like I do, those night time feedings are often twice as long because after you care for the baby, you have to go pump for another 15-20 minutes.
There were times during the first month when I would be up for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night as baby would not go back to sleep immediately. To be completely honest, it was beyond exhausting but it was worth it so I could provide my milk for my little peanut. To keep my sanity, I would nap during the day when he was napping. They were not long naps, sometimes as short as twenty minutes, but it helped me to keep going.
Make the time to eat and shower, even if you have to let your little one cry for a few minutes while you prepare a quick meal for yourself or hop in the shower to wash up. Do your best not to skip either one on a regular basis. Sure, there may be the occasional skipped meal or the occasional skipped shower, but do try to do both daily.
5. Recruit some help if you need it
If you find you cannot sleep, eat, or shower, recruit someone close to you to come over and watch your baby while you catch up on your sleep or take a nice, long shower. I was fortunate that my husband was able to take three weeks of Family Leave after our son was born, so we often tag-teamed. He’d watch the baby while I showered, vice versa, and we would alternate who fed him during the nighttime sessions. If your husband is unavailable, see if your mother, mother-in-law, sister, cousin, or best friend can come over for a little while to help with household chores, bring or cook a meal, or watch the baby. Sometimes you just need a break.
If you are someone who has a family member or friend who is about to give birth or just had a little one, one of the best things you can offer is not always a physical gift but the gift of your time.
I hope that these five tips will help other new parents as you care for your precious little one. Most of all, trust your instincts and when in doubt, ask for advice or help.
What tip or piece of advice do you have for new parents to help them get through the first few months?