Recently I was looking at pictures of my son from when he was a newborn, and it got me thinking about the beautiful, exciting and messy whirlwind that is newborn life.
Having had a few years to reflect on those early days, I thought about what I could have done differently to make things a little easier back then… things that might have given me the chance to soak up the joys of those early days just a little a bit more.
I came up with 5 things I’d do differently in those early days and wanted to share because I’m hoping this list is helpful to any new mamas or soon-to-be mamas out there.
This list mainly focuses on ways I’d take better care of myself postpartum because I think it’s so important as a new mom. During those early weeks and months especially, you are giving so much of yourself to caring for your baby, and it comes from such a beautiful place! Yet, at some point we all run out of steam and can’t do as much as we’d like if we keep putting ourselves on the back burner. It always seems so hard to believe in the moment (and I totally understand and can relate), but it’s so true that taking better care of yourself creates a positive ripple effect on those that you love and take care of.
I hope this list gives you some ideas for how you might be able to take care of yourself a little more during the whirlwind that is newborn life.
Here’s what I would do differently during those early newborn days:
Focus on eating *easily accessible* nutritious foods more often.
I didn’t realize how depleted my body would feel postpartum and how much I’d really need nutritious foods in order to better recover from childbirth. I also breastfed for a short while and during that time it was incredible how much it took out of me – I was so much more thirsty and hungry than usual… which makes sense given that I was helping feed a little human. 😉
It seems obvious now, but in the moment, the impact of eating nutrient-dense foods just didn’t seem as important because I had so many things to do… but I definitely felt the lack of it. I know I could have felt better during those early weeks and months if I’d planned a way to get more nutritious foods easily and frequently.
I’m so lucky that my closest family brought me food in those early days – I just didn’t know how much it would benefit me to ask them to bring the healthier stuff in particular. Also, my husband did an amazing job and cooked a ton of dinners for us during those newborn days … so for me, it was really breakfast and lunch where I could have used some more easy to grab nutritious options.
Here’s what I’d do to try and get some healthier food:
- Ask my mom and closest fam/friends if they could bring a few home-cooked meals that were pretty hearty and healthy. I’d talk with my mom and closest loved ones and ask if they could bring over hearty soups or stews, roasted veggies, maybe a batch of cooked beans, etc. during those first weeks/months… things I could easily reheat for lunch or a snack and things that were on the healthier side.
- Order ready-to-blend smoothies from Daily Harvest (or a similar company) and stock the freezer with about a month’s worth of smoothies. If I were taking care of a newborn today, I’d definitely check out a service like Daily Harvest. They’re a smoothie delivery service that’s built on farm-frozen, organic fruits and vegetables (and they also do soups, bowls, and more). I really love smoothies because I can pack in lots of healthy veggies, some fruit and other healthy things in there – but during the newborn days, it can feel like too much to make a smoothie everyday from scratch. I think having smoothies ingredients prepped and ready to go in my freezer that I could just throw in a blender would be super helpful for breakfast or a snack. I’ve never tried their service, but I’ve heard good things so I’d definitely consider signing up for their delivery service for the first few months if I were caring for a newborn today.
- Pick healthier options from the menu when people offered to bring take-out. At the time I just didn’t know to ask for healthier/heartier options when people offered to bring food because I didn’t realize the big impact it would make for me. Now I know.
GET (A LITTLE) MORE SLEEP
I’m definitely someone who cherishes every minute of her sleep, and to be honest I was pretty scared of what it’d feel like to have so many nights of interrupted sleep as a newborn mom… but the good news is that it’s doable! I promise. 😉 You’ll get through it and one day not far away, you’ll be sleeping all the way through the night and it will feel amazing!
Still, the effects of not sleeping all the way through the night are real – and if I were taking care of a newborn today, this is one of those places where I’d definitely invest some time and money into whatever could give me (and my husband) a chance at extra sleep.
Here’s what I’d try to help me and baby sleep better:
- Rent the SNOO to try for the first few months. The SNOO was just starting to become popular when I had my son, but because it’s so pricey and I wasn’t sure we’d use it, we didn’t end up getting it. Since then, I’ve heard enough good stories and read enough online reviews that I’m willing to try! Here’s their website description: “SNOO is the award-winning, responsive bassinet created by Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the celebrated parent guide, The Happiest Baby on the Block.” It’s basically a bassinet that has an integrated swaddle (which I think would be an awesome feature since I HATED having to swaddle my son when he was little) that basically gently rocks them when it detects them getting fussy/crying, and so it helps them get back to sleep. I’d likely rent versus buy because of the substantial price difference and because I’d rather rent it for just the number of months we used it in case our baby didn’t like it. (Although FYI – if you buy the SNOO it also has a 30-day trial).
- Try the Owlet. – I know there is debate about whether the Owlet is 100% precise and reliable (and of course you want to practice safe sleep practices), but I think that just knowing myself, this would be something that’d be helpful because of the added peace of mind it’d give me. I had a hard time sleeping when our son was asleep just out of sheer worry – and I think the Owlet would give me just a little more peace of mind and therefore make it that much easier for me to fall asleep. To me, that’s worth it!
- Take more naps! Yep, something about being a first time mom and the huge learning curve that comes with having a newborn… I don’t know… I just didn’t always prioritize taking naps as much as I could have. If I had a newborn today, I’d definitely nap more often. I also think this is likely easier the second time around simply because you likely feel more prepared for what’s to come … but still, so worth mentioning!
- Once I felt up to it, move my body a little more during the day to help me sleep better at night. I definitely don’t want anyone to feel like they need to add one more thing to their to-do list during those newborn days, so let me clarify that’s not what I mean here. What I mean is that after the first few weeks went by, I did feel like my body started to crave some type of movement. The days when I was able to go outside for a walk or do something similar, I really felt better – especially when I went to sleep. I noticed I fell asleep a lot quicker and seemed to sleep better. That’s the type of gentle movement I’d try to focus on getting in little spurts if I were taking care of a newborn today.
TRY DRINKING LOW-CAFFEINE COFFEE FROM THE START
When I had my son, I was worried about caffeine interfering with his sleep since I was trying to breastfeed, and I ended up going without any caffeine for the first few months. Once I made the switch to caffeine a few months later (albeit a lower-caffeine coffee), I wish I’d done it sooner!
I know everyone is different when it comes to caffeine and whether they take it in general and during breastfeeding, so I just want to be clear that I’m supportive of whatever works for you and your baby (and whatever your doctor recommends 😉). It just so happens that I do really well with coffee that’s pretty low in caffeine (I tend to be pretty sensitive to caffeine so if I have a regular cup of coffee, I can get pretty jittery) – so for me, I’d definitely try having some low-caffeine coffee from the start.
I mean, there is a definite lack of sleep in those early months, and that little boost of caffeine would have felt great in the early newborn days especially!
So yeah, I’d make that switch day on day 1 postpartum in a heartbeat. And in case anyone is curious, the lower-caffeine coffee that I love and drink every day is Four Sigmatic (and Chaga & Cordyceps is my favorite blend).
TAKE BETTER CARE OF MY BACK
Now that I’m two years out from the newborn days, I can totally feel the difference in how my back feels! Those early weeks and months were pretty tough on my back, and I think there’s a lot of easy things I could do to feel better if I were caring for a newborn today.
Here’s what I’d do:
- Wear supportive shoes as much as possible. Those first few months I definitely wore slippers a lot, and well – they didn’t do my back any favors. I totally understand the desire to wear something comfy like slippers during those early weeks, especially overnight, but if I were taking care of a newborn today I’d definitely buy a pair of shoes or slip-ons that had some good support in them because I’d rather have less back pain! Maybe there are slippers with support, but either way, I’d look for some supportive tennis shoe/slip-on options and leave them next to my bed.
- Try some back strengthening exercises. I’d probably research a few exercises I could easily do most days to help strengthen and stretch my back. There’s so much that our backs do during those early weeks and months, so I’d want to do what I could to help bolster it.
- Consider postpartum yoga classes. I didn’t do these with my son – but I definitely think it’s worth considering. I think there are multiple benefits to doing it – getting out of the house, seeing other moms, stretching and strengthening your back, etc. Sounds nice!
SHOW MYSELF LOTS OF GRACE
Motherhood is such an amazing experience – but it’s simultaneously takes so much of yourself. It can be so easy to overlook everything you are doing to care for your newborn and not give yourself the credit and grace you deserve. It takes a lot to care for a newborn, and if I were taking care of a newborn today, I’d try and remember that more often. 😉
These are the major things that I would do differently if I were taking care of a newborn today.
I hope this list gave you some ideas of what might work for you if you are thinking about or having a baby anytime soon, or just trying to support a new mama in your life.