These are things that I’ve learned over exactly one year of being a parent. Perhaps others parents didn’t need to learn them, or don’t see them as valuable, but I sure did! I would like to remember these things, because already those first few months of G’s life are so hazy 🙂
Also, feel free to add your own in the comments!
1. Pictures pictures pictures: so important! I know that I’m a picture person– it’s part “love language”, and it’s part artistic (even though my picture quality is terrible most of the time!). The best way to jog memories is to look back over pictures and say things to myself like, “wow, was he ever that small?” or “aww, I remember that look he used to give!”. For me, good memories of the past are the best way to get over hard days in the present.
2. Write it all down! You really won’t remember the day that your baby first rolled over or first crawled– unless you write it down! The months start to blur together.
3. Buy Used: Baby Gear isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but, on the flip side, the stuff that works is invaluable. There’s only ONE WAY to know (and it isn’t always by asking others!). Every baby is different, so different things will work with different babies. The best way is to buy used– that way, you don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t work out for you. I bought a floor mat for G for $10 at a resale shop. He used it for a little while, but then moved on to other stuff. I recently sold it for $10. So, what did I lose? I rented something for free! We also got an infant baby bouncer that we only used for a few weeks before he grew out of it. But it only cost me $5, so big deal! I also bought cloth diapers used and tried them out before spending any significant money– it saved me lots of accidents and wasted money (diapers are one of the things you lose tons of resale value on, the moment they go from “brand new” to “slightly used”).
Note: Things I would NEVER buy used: carseats, breast pumps, bath toys (they can harbor mildew and germs)
Things that others say you shouldn’t buy used but you CAN: cribs (yes, even a drop side one! Ours has a latch and rod made of solid metal, instead of cheapo plastic, and NEVER made it onto the recall list because it simply can’t break. That’s what better quality will buy! Just be smart!), toys (google the brand and name to see if it’s been recalled), diapers (they can be stripped).
4. Natural: Before resorting to medicine, try an all natural or homeopathic remedy. I thought that teething necklaces were a bunch of crock– until we paid $14 and tried one. His first few months were a Teething Warzone: screaming, sleeplessness, etc. Once we put on the necklace? All four teeth came in without us noticing. I put away my children’s tylenol 6 months ago and haven’t needed it since! It’s always worth a quick try, especially if you find a shop (Whole Foods, Sunflower Shoppe) that will take it back if it doesn’t work.
5. Sleep: The best piece of advice my mom gave me during the first few weeks was not to idolize sleep, or the days will seem like torture. She said, “just know that sleep will eventually come and that is that! Pour a cup of coffee, smile, and try not to think about it too much!” Sounds simple, but it saved me so many countless times. The moment I stopped to think about all the sleep I wasn’t getting, I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry forever! Shutting my mind off to thinking about it really helped me survive those first few months in one piece.
On the flip side, however, sleep training really is worth all the grueling battles and moment of self doubt. And it can be done without crying it out– we are proof. It just took days and days of perseverance! I’m so glad we established things before 6 months, because they say by then the baby’s sleep habits are solidified, and any changes are going to be twice as hard.
Quick note: I think that sleep training has to start during the day,with predictable naps. G’s internal clock is so wired that I literally lay him down and walk away. Done. Putting G to sleep takes less than 30 seconds, all because of how predictable we fought to make his nap schedule! Which would one rather sacrifice: the ability to go out during certain hours of the day? Or time you could spend hanging out alone with your husband, while the baby is peacefully asleep by 7pm every evening? I sacrificed the first, and I’m so glad I did. We now have the ability to go out any evening, baby free, because he doesn’t need us in order to get 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. And
I we hardly have any cranky meltdowns, all because he is so well rested.
6. Breastfeeding: It was one of the roughest experiences of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. I miss it terribly, mostly because that ability to be so needed and so close with your baby doesn’t ever happen again! If I had just been pumping, I don’t think I would’ve stuck with it– it’s the bonding part that I miss. Future self: enjoy it while you can!
7. Be careful with too much “optimism”: Something I’ve been thinking about of late is the common refrain, “This too shall pass” used so often in motherhood. While the realization that every tough stage only lasts for a short time may be the only thing that gets one through the day, I think that this thought should only be used in times of extreme desperation. For me, at least, it was tempting to start thinking it so often that all of a sudden, life and motherhood just became trials to endure. Instead of having to resort to just biding my time until a stage is over, I want to be able to grow deep enough that I can thrive within a tough situation. I don’t want to just put my life on pause until it’s over. If I spend too much time waiting for stuff to pass, I might find that I’m not actually living. There are now things about those “tough” situations in the first couple months that I miss! I wish I had learned to appreciate them, instead of only hoping for the day when they’d be over.
8.Method-switching: I learned early on that many of the things I “believed” before I had kids were a bunch of baloney. Many of the things I used to despise are now lifesavers. Also, every kid is different, so there is no guarantee that any of the things I learned with G will work for SnowCone! I think the point is that no one should feel tied in to one system or one way of doing things. One of the most helpful things I realized was that flexibility and listening to my gut would accomplish more than reading any theory in a book.
For example: I wanted to try self-fed weaning, where you skip purees and go straight to solids. Many babies do it successfully. Mine? We had too many choking episodes, simply because he is a voracious, throw caution to the wind eater. It’s like he’s way too eager to win the Darwin Award. I can’t leave him with more than a few bites of something at a time, unless I want to get my “Heimlick maneuver” ready.
Also, before G was born I was all gung-ho about getting him every vaccine under the sun. Once he had a reaction, however? It caused me to rethink a lot of things.
Basically, anyone who tries to preach a one-size fits all parenting strategy either has only one kid, or is miserable 98% of the time. IMHO 😀
9. Low-key Mommy= low-key baby: When I stopped going to school full time, I definitely noticed a change in Gregory’s demeanor. He was instantly less cranky, slept better, and needed less from me. I don’t think we realize how much our babies KNOW what’s going on within us. There’s no more hiding behind pretenses and excuses– they see through it all. It’s important to be calm and relaxed about parenting, because an easy baby can quickly be made into a hard baby, just because of the mom’s demeanor. It’s no secret that I think the soul and body are so linked that we often become physically ill when we are spiritually ill in some way. I think that Jesse and I did an excellent job of keeping everything Gregory-related extremely light– we never stressed too much about any one thing, and we tried never to force things (which is why it took us MONTHS to put G on a schedule– it just never felt “right” before then). Even when we were just starting to sleep train, we took it all in such stride that there were days where I felt like it happened almost effortlessly! On the days when G doesn’t get both of his naps, even now, we just try to roll with the punches, knowing that tomorrow can and will be easier!
10. LAUGH! In a few months, it will all seem funny anyways! Why not try to have that perspective even sooner? Because, let’s admit it, getting pooped on is pretty funny. Jesse used to say, “Laugh so that you don’t cry”. I think it’s so true. Laugh laugh laugh at the situation, whenever possible. It’s like pixie dust for what could be a really stressful situation 🙂