Before having a baby, I got advice from every woman who had ever bounced a baby on her knee – and most of it was well-meant but not necessarily useful for my situation. But there were some pieces of advice that I wish I had before I had my son, advice that never seemed to make it to my ears. Here are the 10 pieces of advice that I wish I had heard before I had my son.
- Flip the Lip
At my son’s 2-month appointment, I realized something had to be wrong. My baby, born in the 90th percentile, was now down in the 40th percentile. The pediatrician didn’t seem very concerned as his diaper output was normal and his weight gain was still moving upwards, but something in me knew that he wasn’t gaining weight as he should be and that there was a reason behind it. So I reached out to a lactation consultant (the 5th that I had seen since his birth) and set up a virtual meeting. And it was only then, over two months after his birth, that someone finally caught his lip tie. My son was not staying on his growth curve because he simply wasn’t getting sufficient milk. His mouth was unable to tell my body to make enough because of the tie. After that meeting I started pumping like a madwoman and nursing him different ways to try to do as much as I could to mitigate any loss he had, but those next two months were rough ones. We managed to get him back up much closer to his original growth curve, and before his 4-month appointment we had his lip tie (and undiagnosed tongue tie) clipped. I immediately noticed a difference. I could tell that he was emptying my breasts better and more efficiently, and my supply went up as a result. Breastfeeding finally got fun. If only I had had the advice to flip the lip to check for a lip tie or tongue tie in the hospital, we would have had a much more relaxed first few months together. It didn’t ruin those months by any means, but it did add a lot of unnecessary misery to my life and loads of guilt about him getting enough each day. Why no one at the hospital did this is beyond me. I’m still a little shocked that it isn’t the standard of care everywhere. Because it isn’t. I hear all the time about kids with tongue ties who are 2 or 3 years old that just got diagnosed because they had speech delays. How much easier would it be for everyone if all hospitals flipped the lip? So please take my first piece of advice that I wish I had before my son was born and flip your baby’s lip!
- Pump Early & Often
This obviously ties back into the story on the previous piece of advice, but I really wish someone had stressed to me the importance of pumping early and often. Some people said to not worry about it much if it wasn’t necessary, to just build up a little back up supply just in case, so I just used a Haakaa breast pump most mornings to save a little milk, but I rarely broke out my big pump until my son’s lip tie diagnosis. It felt weird, and if it wasn’t needed – why bother? If I had started pumping earlier, my milk production would have been higher, and maybe we wouldn’t have struggled so much with his weight gain or my stress. At least I would have had a bigger stash to use for supplemental bottles or mixing with solids. At about 5.5 months, we started adding in a formula bottle to make sure he was getting enough (which is not the end of the world no matter what anyone tells you), but I of course wish it was all just breast milk tailor made to my little guy. In our case, formula serves its purpose. It mixes well with solids and gives me a little pumping break, but I can’t help but wonder if I had pumped more earlier on if I would have had a bigger stash to use for those supplemental bottles as he approached the 6-month mark.
- Don’t worry about stretching time between feedings, not even during the night.
They can sort of let go of that on their own after a while. It seemed like from the beginning I was reading about parents bragging how their 3-week old was already sleeping long stretches at night. And I couldn’t figure out why that wasn’t me, why that wasn’t my baby (because of point one…again). The books gave so much conflicting information: feed on demand but don’t let them go over 3 hours without nursing but also let them sleep during the night as much as possible because they don’t have the circadian rhythm yet. Who are you supposed to listen to? It took me a while but I finally realized that the sleep experts are focused more on sleep and the lactation consultants are more worried about nursing, so in the end you just have to listen to you and your baby. I was frustrated early on that the night stretches weren’t very long between feeds because I needed sleep, when I should have just seen that I was giving my baby what he needed when he needed it.
- Sleep is more important than you realize.
For both parents. This point might seem a little contrary to the previous point, but you must sleep when you can. And let your partner sleep. In those first few months, I found that my husband and I were really struggling to get on the same page. Part of it was, you know, the new human we were caring for, but a big part of it was sleep. I needed more of it, and he did too. Neither one of us does very well on little sleep, so it really started to hurt our relationship. I started to dread the night time hours because I felt like I was preparing for a momentous feat of strength each and every time. And I was the one who had the baby, right? Why was he so tired? (Because he was working and then coming home to Momzilla and a newborn, that’s why.) Once we worked out a decent schedule and gave each other time to rest, we were all better off because of it.
- Respect the hormones.
Acknowledge them and move on. In the moment, I felt totally normal. Looking back, I’m not sure how my husband put up with me for those first 6-8 weeks. I still remember the day I woke up and didn’t feel like the world was trying to attack me. The hormones are there raging and doing their job. Yours might make you feel crazy or you may be lucky and they don’t at all. Whatever is your experience, you will be a little different postpartum, so just do all you can to manage with what you have on those days and ask for forgiveness when you feel like yourself again. That’s what I did. Of course, if you are dealing with postpartum depression, you should get help from your doctor.
- Find baby music that you like because you will listen to it on repeat.
This tip is coming from my husband, because he is by far the more musical of the two of us. He had a blast picking out a playlist for our son’s arrival and has added to it since then. This music is important because you will listen to it a lot. On repeat! Babies like repetition and routine because it helps them learn. My son falls asleep to the same music every night, and I think it really helps signal to his brain that it is time to sleep. When I am struggling to get him down for a nap, I pull out that same music, and he is snoozing before the first song ends. We’ve found that we really like music from Rockabye Baby on Spotify – a group who turns rock songs into lullabies. My husband also found some really cool Nordic music that sets a good mood. You find what works for you and your baby – and make sure it is something you really like.
- Bottle nipples change levels
I didn’t realize this until just a few months ago. I have a nine month old, and I had no idea that nipple levels graduated every three months based on flow speeds. I just happened upon an ad for larger nipple level for bottles while I was looking at some bottle options for the Bear Cub. Again, I spent no time around babies before having my own, but I really wish I someone had mentioned this to me before now.
- Save the dumb stuff you don’t think you need – the medicine droppers, wipe tops, scoops from protein shakes, etc.
These will become “fine motor skill activities” when they become toddlers. I didn’t realize how much a baby’s life resembles that of a body builder until I had my own. (And it makes sense as they are growing so quickly at this stage – they are, in fact, building a body.) They eat, they “work out,” and they rest. They work from the bigger muscle groups to the smaller ones, and they spend most of their toddler years working on those fine motor skills so that they are ready to conquer the world around age 6. That means they are working on scooping, pinching, opening, closing, moving, shaking – anything they can to develop those little muscles in their arms for the dexterity they need as an older child. So instead of throwing away the top of your packets of wipes, store them away for a year or so and use it to create a sorting activity. The more you have, the more creative you can get, so it never hurts to start saving early!
- Care more about car safety
I hadn’t given it much thought, because it seemed pretty straightforward to me. I figured my husband could handle all of that. Then the day came when we took our baby home from the hospital, and suddenly car safety seemed like a bigger deal when a tiny human was in the seat next to me. Thankfully, one day soon after I stumbled upon the Instagram account @safeintheseat, (website linked here) and I realized how ignorant I was about car safety, and why that was wrong. It is my responsibility to protect my child in any way I can right now, and car safety is a major part of that in this day and age. She instructs not just on car seat safety, but how to make your car safer for everyone in a crash by eliminating projectiles and includes activities that are car seat safe.
- Find what works for you
Just because something is highly recommended doesn’t mean it will work for your family. The beauty of the internet is that if someone is recommending one thing, you will probably be able to find someone else with the opposite experience or something altogether different of which you hadn’t dreamed. No one knows your situation like you do, so you will have to find what works for you, especially in the cacophony of advice that surrounds new parents.
I hope the tips I have shared with you might spark something for you that is useful. What tips did you find useful with your children? Let me know in the comments!