What Worked For You During The Early Days Of Parenting?

Mother breastfeeding her newborn on couchWhat do you remember about the early days of parenting? Perhaps it’s the late nights, early mornings, and frequent feedings. Or maybe it’s the cuddles you shared with your newborn as you gazed at those tiny fingers and toes, while at the same time wondering whether you’d be able to shower today. If you have more than one child, you probably wondered how you could give enough attention to your older ones when your newest addition already needed so much of your time and energy.

Of course, these and many other thoughts and concerns likely consumed you during the first days and weeks. If you’ve experienced these early moments, you may be able to look back and think of things you did that helped you and that you’d use again if you had the chance.

When this question was recently posed on social media, it brought many useful and varied responses from parents. If you’d like to read more of the conversation, go to www.facebook.com/LaLecheLeagueUSA/posts/4590973704264473 on the LLL USA Facebook page. You can view additional suggestions as well on the La Leche League Canada Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LaLecheLeagueCanada/posts/4294702110574302.

Sleep is at the top of the list for most new parents. When will I sleep? When will baby sleep? The experienced parents who responded acknowledged how difficult it can be to get enough sleep – broken or unbroken – but also stressed the importance of taking advantage of even short sleep sessions:

Estefania P. wrote, “It’s hard when you have a million other things in mind to do, but I had to really tell myself to sleep when baby sleeps. When I did, I felt so much better.”

Ginnie P. agreed, emphasizing that self-care is important and that there’s no room for feeling guilty about not doing it all: “Nap when they nap. (Take) 30 minutes to myself every day to chill. Take my prenatal (vitamins) and eat well. Refuse to act like I am able to run a household. Refuse to feel guilt for not being perfect.”

And, Eliza B. cautioned, never make rash decisions when you are facing more difficult moments. “Never make a decision on your worst day. If your emotions are taking over, don’t make any decision.”

Self-care – including that previously mentioned, all important shower – has been a necessary part of Kayla B.’s routine: “(I took) a shower every morning and night (I’m usually a night shower only person). It refreshed me for each day and helped to wake me up. I also started watching a new show that I only watched when I nursed/pumped so I’d have something to look forward to for each feed.”

In the early days and weeks of breastfeeding, you’ll spend a large portion of your time sitting (and sometimes reclining or lying down) as you get to know your baby and learn the ins and outs of your unique nursing relationship. While this will look different for everyone, one suggestion stood out: have supplies for your comfort readily available before you sit down because you most likely won’t be able to get back up for a while.

Ashley P. relied on baskets stashed around the house where she was most likely to be when her son nursed. “I had baskets stashed next to my nursing spot in the living room and in my son’s room with water, snacks, wet wipes, burp cloths, paperback novels, nipple cream, hair ties, tissues. And I had a phone charging cable in each spot. That way, I could just sit down to nurse my son and know I had food, water, and entertainment for the next few hours if need be!”

Jennifer R. also relied on the convenience of baskets, emphasizing the importance of a decent container for water to make it easy to stay hydrated. “I had a basket and inside of it I put everything I could possibly need for me and the baby. So, when I was down on the couch or on my bed and exhausted and didn’t want to get up, I didn’t have to because I had everything I needed right next to me. Invest in a really good water bottle. Nothing hinders you drinking enough water like trying to fill up a glass eight times a day. Get an easy-to-use water bottle that holds 24 oz and you’ll be good.”

While you will probably feel tired day or night at the beginning, night feedings may be extra challenging, particularly if you are learning to adjust to broken sleep. And, if you wake up hungry, Rachel B. has an idea that helped her. “Make a midnight snack that you’ll be looking forward to. With my first, I would make a PB&J before bed and set it up in the nursery to eat during the 3/4 a.m. feed. It made those late-night feeds a little more fun.”

Kara C. had another refreshing idea when looking ahead to nighttime parenting. “I kept mints next to my rocker for middle of the night nursing; the flavor was a helpful way to cue my mind to stay awake!”

During the early days of frequent nursing, sometimes you may find yourself feeling a little stiff or sore from being in one position for an extended period of time. Pamela M. offered this reminder: “Plant your feet firmly on the ground. Relax your shoulders. Gently move your neck from side to side, ear-shoulder to ear-shoulder. Remember this phase will be gone in an instant!”

As we welcome our baby, we naturally want to share our excitement and introduce our little one to our loved ones. Looking back, though, Amy W. says she would have altered her approach to company. “I wish I would have limited visitors in those early days. It’s hard enough to learn how to nurse your baby without having an audience, or feeling like you need to entertain.”

It shouldn’t be necessary for a new parent to worry about entertaining company, but it is important to have support – both practical and emotional – from visitors, loved ones, and, as Beth L. shared, health care providers. “Set up a response system for yourself when you reach those exhausting breaking points. It is so much easier when you know who to call and have a plan for crisis moments so you don’t lose hope or give up! Be patient with yourself and don’t get hung up on measurements. This was a huge frustration for me, so I actually found a pediatrician who was a breastfeeding advocate. She knew that since I never used bottles to ask other questions.”

No matter what the early days and weeks look like for you, that support and encouragement, Mae T. reminds us, is something every new parent can appreciate as they are finding their way. “If you have support, rely on them. Allow them to burp, change, bathe your baby. It’s okay to be vulnerable and to admit you need help. Embrace those who are there to love on you and your little one.”


Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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