There are countless blogs on The Top Things You Need For A Baby, The Top Things You Need To Know When Having a Baby, and Things No One Tells You About Having a Baby. But for some reason, I did not see tips like these ANYWHERE else and had to learn the hard way. Yes, I am making a big claim here, but seriously – I read a lot of new mom blogs in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and they were basically all about how hard breastfeeding is and what types of freezer meals you should make (which, by the way, is completely unnecessary if you live in a major city like NYC – hello, Seamless).
So let me save you some time and energy here – in no particular order…
1. Skip the snaps.
Why does NO ONE tell you that snaps are a nightmare for a new baby? Or an older baby? Or a baby of any age? Just don’t do it! I don’t care how cute those little terry footies with the giraffe are. And you won’t care either at 3am when you’re fumbling with 8 million snaps that don’t seem to line up no matter how many times you re-snap them. So trust me on this one: only buy footies with a zipper. I even made this mistake again recently with a kimono-style onesie, even though I KNEW snaps were terrible. Turns out it doesn’t get any easier with an older baby – in fact, it gets even harder, because you’re trying to snap a million snaps as they’re trying to crawl away from you at a million miles per hour. Those went promptly in the Goodwill bag.
2. Don’t bother with real clothes.
People love to get and receive tiny little outfits for a newborn. Oh my gosh, just look at it, that little dress with the matching cardigan and booties. Awww, I can’t wait to put her in this. Wrong. You will be able to wait. You may try and realize you can’t get the tiny arms in the tiny dress without the risk of breaking something (most likely your sanity). And if you finally do get the outfit on, just to take a photo and send it to the person who gave you said outfit, you will then regret having ever put it on because you now have to take it off. So skip the real clothes and stick to onesies and footies until they’re at least 3 months old. No 4-week-old baby needs to be wearing a sweater dress, no matter how cute it is.
3. Buy the velcro swaddles.
We live in a modern day and age, and guess what – someone has already done the work for you when it comes to swaddles. There is no need to ever learn how to properly swaddle a baby using a large rectangular piece of fabric. Hallelujah! Even the nurses in the hospital couldn’t keep our Houdini baby contained in a swaddle blanket. (That sounds like a funny thing to say, but literally every single mom I know talks about their Houdini baby with some kind of pride. Babies just break out of swaddles. Period.) The very night she was born, at a mere 6 pounds 5 ounces, she broke her arms out of the swaddle. As you will soon learn, babies have the strength of ten men. There was only ONE nurse at the entire hospital who managed to do the swaddle tight enough so that she could not break out. And trust me, few new mothers are going to pull a swaddle that tight for fear of their baby not being able to breathe properly. If you have a tiny newborn, they make some magical zippered bean pod pouches; and for larger babies, there are swaddles where you just have to match up the pieces of velcro and voila. Yes, they cost more than a swaddle blanket. No, you will not care.
4. Don’t make your husband get up in the middle of the night out of solidarity.
This sounds like something that should happen. If I have to get up, OF COURSE my husband should too. Even though I am the one who has to be up to nurse the baby, he could at least hand her to me, or change a diaper, saving me from having to get out of bed. Some marriages may rely on this show of solidarity, but we quickly realized that it wasn’t worth both of us being exhausted during the day…and all the time…for months. Instead, divide and conquer – a skill and mindset that will no doubt serve you well throughout the many years of parenting to follow. If you’re breastfeeding, just get up in the night to change the diaper and nurse the baby, while your husband sleeps blissfully next to you (and resist the urge to hit him). THEN, when the baby is ready to get up for the day at 6am, you have permission to hit him until he wakes up and takes the baby into the other room, while you go back to sleep for a solid 2-3 hours. This was the secret ingredient to all of us staying alive and functioning during the first few months of parenting.
5. Invest in a good pair of high-waisted leggings.
Or three. You will LIVE in these for the first few months. And that’s ok! The beauty of a new mother comes from within. Why high-waisted, you ask? It’s not to tuck in your tummy like a pair of Spanx so you’re going-out ready – it just feels good to “contain” things in that area (you’ll know what I mean).
6. Don’t register for anything more than 3 months out.
Two friends actually did tell me this, but I didn’t listen. I mean, what if some generous benefactor wanted to buy me the $300 high chair I had my sights set on right this moment and it wasn’t on my registry? No, I’d better have anything and everything I’d ever need for a baby on my registry before sharing it out, just in case. Also, it’s just fun to add things to a registry – especially when you’re doing it at 4am because you can’t sleep. But trust me on this one: you will never even get half the things you really need for the immediate future from your registry. So fewer choices are better. And even then, many people will insist on going “off registry” because their taste and judgment is better than yours and they absolutely MUST get you this frilly ruffle butt outfit with matching frilly ruffle socks and frilly ruffle headband instead of the rock and play you really need to save your sanity. I’ve gotten lost on a ruffle tangent. Ok we’re back – besides having to find places to store all of those items you won’t use for 6 months (no small feat in a New York City apartment), you also may change your mind by then. I had no reason to doubt my ability to choose the perfect play mat or travel crib when I was 6 months pregnant…until I learned about the pros and cons from fellow moms and started to realize what I’d actually want and need once I had an actual baby to care for. Suddenly, the $300 travel crib that I had balked at in favor of the $120 one seemed so very worth it. There were a lot of trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond to return items I’d registered for – time that could have been spent showering.
7. Do register at a place where you can physically return items.
Amazon seems like a convenient option…until you want to return something months later and it’s either too late or you’ve already thrown out the box and will never again find a box large enough to fit a jumperoo. Instead, make your main registry a physical store near you, like Buy Buy Baby (pro tip: you can use Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons there too).
8. Save receipts and don’t wash ALL the baby clothes ahead of time.
People will give you SO many clothes for newborn through 6 months. And you may also buy SO many clothes because it’s 3am and you can’t sleep and you’re excited and Carter’s is having an amazing sale (pro tip: they’re always having an amazing sale so there really is no need to stock up months in advance on items you may later forget you bought or that may not even be seasonally appropriate for your baby once he/she fits into them). And then after you’ve purchased or acquired all of these brand new items – and only after – a friend will send you boxes of hand-me-down that could have saved you hundreds of dollars. So keep the tags on those new items, save the receipts, and don’t be afraid to return stuff. I thought I’d better wash all of the clothes ahead of time for at least the first six months, because what if I couldn’t find the time to do a wash after the baby was born? Well, news flash: there will always be laundry to do, and you will find a way to do it because you’ll have to. Only wash some of those newborn items (and maybe some 0-3 month as well in case you have a big baby) – and keep it to onesies, footies and swaddles(see tip #2 above).
9. Ask for extra hospital hats for the baby.
People will tell you to stock up on whatever you possibly can at the hospital after giving birth – diapers and wipes for the baby, pads and ice packs for you, Dermoplast spray, etc. etc. Nothing is off limits! Ok maybe some things are – and you probably don’t want a hospital pillow anyway. No one said anything about baby hats – we went home with the one she was wearing and a bonus hat they were giving away as some kind of hospital souvenir. These were the ONLY hats that would stay on her head when she slept. Baby hats are so weird – most of them are this beanie style hat that fits (read: rests loosely) on the very top of their head – that would be hard for even a person with excellent balance to keep on, much less a baby that squiggles and squirms constantly. As soon as I realized this, I purchased a 5-pack of hospital hats from Amazon so we would never be without, and these are all we used for at least the first two months.
10. Don’t Be freaked out when you wake up in a pool of your own sweat.
TMI, Ladies – but isn’t it all? I can’t remember exactly when it was, but sometime within the first week or two, I woke up literally dripping. It was disgusting. I actually had to lay a towel down to sleep on for the rest of the night. I googled it when I got up in the morning to make sure I wasn’t dying and found out that it’s a natural phenomenon. All the hormones or your body purging excess liquid or something like that? Don’t worry, it’s natural and it will pass. Just in time to start losing all your hair (spoiler alert).
Got more tips for first-time moms that you wish you’d known? Share them in the comments below!