Having a kid is weird. Suddenly, your world shifts from how many bottomless mimosas you can drink or how many hours you can scroll Instagram for, to when the last time you showered was, how many diapers are left, and if you’re up for putting on mascara today.
I never, ever thought I’d need a bunch of help or advice once I had a kid. I figured that if idiots could do it, so could I. That’s half true, and it took me a bit of time to lean in and accept help and advice. In an effort to impart a few things I’ve painfully learned these first two months of being a mom, here’s a list of things I wish I’d known before I brought home baby.
1. No Baby Sleeps “Through” The Night
You best go ahead and dispel any myths about a baby sleeping more than six hours at a time. Now go ahead and cut that six hours in half. Now cry if you need to. The reality is that for the first few weeks, your baby will need to eat every two to four hours, sleeping altogether for 14-17 hours per day, but not at one time, according to Sleep.org. That means you’ll be running on very little sleep. It also means that having a partner or someone to help and complain to/with is really important. The biggest thing to remember is that it’s temporary and yes, someday you will sleep for 10+ hours at a clip again. But that time probs isn’t until your kid is in, like, third grade. Lean in, mom.
2. Breastfeeding And Pumping Will Run Your Life
Should you decide to breastfeed and know little to nothing about it/made that choice based on the fact that it’s natural and free, buckle the f*ck up. As someone who went in with the mentality of “how hard could this be?”, prepare yourself for the mindf*ck that is breastfeeding and pumping. Your child may latch beautifully and you may be able to feed with little to no effort. But if you experience searing pain in your nips like I did (and yes, baby was latched correctly), you may only be able to let him or her feed directly from you as often as you can stand it, pumping the other times.
Every time I feed my son from the bottle, it takes about 30 minutes. Every time I pump, it takes about 20 minutes. So, unless I pump at the same time I feed him (which is possible but a little difficult), you’re looking at about an hour of this feeding routine. You may think, “well, I’ll just pump once or twice a day.” Wrong, bitch. Once your milk comes in, you’ll need to either feed or pump every two to four hours or risk a clogged duct or, much worse, mastitis. Clogged ducts feel like knots you’d get in your back, except they’re in your boobs and hurt like a motherf*cker. Mastitis is what happens when you don’t pump, get a clogged duct, and that sh*t gets infected. So, even if your mom or nanny or husband take the baby for the night to feed him from the bottle so you can sleep, you will STILL need to wake up on a schedule to drain the titties.
3. Formula Is OK; Breastmilk Is OK
Do yourself a favor and educate yourself about both formula and breastmilk. There is no shame—NO SHAME—in whichever you choose and, having talked to doctors and NICU personnel about both, you can rest assured that as long as your heart is in the right place, however you choose to feed your child is OK. Don’t feel pressured or shamed into one way or the other. I was a formula baby. I’ve had friends who couldn’t get a kid to latch. I’ve seen people exclusively pump. I’ve seen women go 50/50 formula and breastmilk. Talk to your doctor (lactation consultants are not doctors, by the way) and discuss all of the options.
4. You’ll Cry, A Lot
Having a baby means your emotions are going to be a perfect storm. Picture it like this: It’d be like if you’re PMSing, your favorite jeans don’t fit, your mom won’t answer your texts, and the ASPCA commercial with the sad puppies just came on. Given, about 80% of new moms get “baby blues” which are basically just horrible mood swings, according to WebMD. Baby blues mean you’ll cry, plus you’ll feel exhausted, unable to eat or even comb your hair because of your stress, and just generally really overwhelmed. Those feelings usually subside by around the time baby is two weeks old.
If it goes on for longer, or you have more extreme feelings of despair including being unable to sleep, eat, or focus; being unable to bond with your baby; or feel incredibly alone; you may have postpartum depression. Regardless, know that your emotions running rampant is NORMAL and OK. The best thing you can do is talk to your mom, your friends, your partner, and your doctor.
5. You Will Want Help
I didn’t think I wanted anyone hovering around after I had my son. I wanted it to be just me and my husband, soaking up our baby’s awesomeness. By the time I was ready to head to the hospital, I was so, so glad that my mom had volunteered to stay with us for a few weeks after the baby arrived. Not only did she take care of some basic things like cooking and cleaning, she was also able to gently impart wisdom including, but not limited to: changing diapers 101, why is the baby crying 201, and why am I crying 301.
People will want to visit to help, bring food, and visit the baby. If you’re comfortable, let people come. I can honestly say that having family and friends bring food, wine, hold the baby so I could shower and scroll through Instagram alone for a few hours, and provide conversation that didn’t center around “why does his sh*t smell that way” gave me a much-needed breath of fresh air in the first few weeks of being a mom.
6. Your Body Will Feel Like A War Zone
Whether you go in for a C-section, push that baby out in record time, or sit in agonizing labor for 40 hours, when you come home from the hospital, your body will feel destroyed. Having had a C-section, I can confirm being really f*cking sore, my boobs hurting A LOT from the newness of breastfeeding and pumping, and having a hard time with stairs because of the surgery. The more you mentally prepare for the exhaustion and pain, the better you’ll be. Plus, if it isn’t as bad as you imagined, you’ll be in a better position than if you’re totally blindsided.
7. Your Pets Will Be Jealous
When we brought my son home, my dog was really excited about him. There was heavy sniffing, heavy licking, and a lot of anxious/excited whining. Fast forward a few weeks, and there’s a lot of sulking. Even though we do our best to incorporate him into baby playtime and take walks every day with both baby and doggo, it’s still hard for our fur baby—the only child for five years—to adjust to sharing. Keep that in mind when you bring your kid home, and keep an eye out for lashing out like growling or displays of dominance. There are tons of tips and tricks like bringing home blankets, cutting back a bit on pet time before the baby comes, and just general ways to prepare from places like Web MD. Know that your pet still loves you, he just may sh*t in your shoe out of spite now.
8. Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
This has been the hardest one for me personally to get behind. Because, as we mentioned, your baby will not sleep more than 5 hours at a time until they’re probably at least five months old (you may have a freak 6 hour stretch in there, but it’s EXTREMELY rare), you need to learn to sleep when the baby is asleep. Every time the baby needs to get up or you need to pump, you’re going to lose about an hour. So, if baby is up at 2am, by the time you get your sh*t together, feed them, change them, and get them settled back to sleep, it’s likely going to be close to 3am. Then, you can start the timer on when they’ll be up again and, spoiler alert, it’s probably going to be around 6am.
That being said, if you’re lucky enough to have maternity leave, use it to sleep. Don’t make any grand plans (raises hand slowly) about rewatching Game of Thrones, reading all of the literary classics you ignored in high school, or getting really into fine wine. Sleep and survival are the name of the game for the first few months.
All this being said, there’s going to be a ton of information thrown at you the first few days after your little one arrives. Don’t worry about absorbing it all, doing everything right, or being afraid to make a mistake. Babies are pretty resilient, and so are you. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.
Images: The Honest Company / Unsplash; Giphy (4)