If you’re looking for newborn baby care tips, you’ve come to the right place!
When my husband and I first brought our daughter home from the hospital, we weren’t even remotely prepared for how tired and useless parenthood would make the 2 of us feel. Neither of us had a clue what we were doing, and while I spent a small fortune on a beautiful crib, stroller, car seat, and lots of cute little outfits prior to our little one’s birth, I soon learned how unprepared we really were. I spent countless hours researching and testing out different newborn hacks and products to help make our lives easier, and I’m FINALLY getting around to sharing my best parenting tips to make taking care of a new baby easier.
9 Newborn Sleep Tips for Tired Moms
Whenever I think about newborn baby care, SLEEP is the first thing that comes to mind, which is probably because I didn’t sleep for the first 11 months of my daughter’s life. LOL! I became obsessed with sleep and tried every tip and trick in the book, and I’m so excited to share the things that helps us most.
Use a swaddle. Swaddling helps mimic the feeling of the womb, which will not only help your baby feel safe and secure, but will also enable him or her to stay asleep when something startles him or her. I made sure to ask a nurse to teach me how to swaddle my daughter before we headed home the day after she was born, but no matter how many times I tried, I could never get the blanket snug enough. I didn’t realize what a huge difference proper swaddling can have on baby sleep until someone recommended the Miracle Blanket. I’d already tried at least 5 other swaddling blankets and didn’t have any high expectations when ours arrived, but the first time we gave the Miracle Blanket a go, our daughter slept for 6 straight hours. It really was a miracle, and I highly recommend this product to all new moms.
NOTE: Remember that your baby should be able to flex her hips and breathe comfortably while swaddled, and that you should stop swaddling altogether once your baby can roll over.
Help your baby distinguish days from nights. If you find your baby sleeps more during the day and is awake a lot more in the middle of the night, it’s quite possible he or she has his or her days and nights confused. This is completely normal, but can feel extremely overwhelming to new moms. Here are some ideas to help regulate your newborn’s circadian rhythm:
- Keep your baby’s days bright and nights dark
- Ensure your baby is awake for daytime feedings
- Engage in an eat-play-sleep schedule during daytime hours only
- Keep the lights low during nighttime feeds and avoid talking, singing, etc.
Establish a predictable schedule. While most babies aren’t able to follow a by-the-clock schedule until they’re 6 months or older, there are things you can do in the first few months to create a healthy sleep environment for your child. We talk more about baby schedules HERE, but in the first few months of your little one’s life, I would focus less on adhering to a strict sleep-wake routine for your baby and more on teaching self-soothing skills and ensuring you don’t create any sleep associations that will be hard to maintain over time (more on this below!).
Create a regular sleep routine. Babies and children thrive on consistency and routine, and the sooner you establish (and maintain) a routine before naps and at bedtime, the better. Your baby will learn to associate certain activities (getting into her pajamas, reading books, singing certain songs, etc.) with sleep, which will help her body prepare itself to wind down and snooze.
Avoid sleep associations and teach self-soothing. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice during those first few, sleep-deprived months of motherhood, it would be to listen to all of the well-intentioned women who told me to stop nursing my daughter to sleep. As she was a very colicky baby and nursing was one of the only things that soothed her, I spent most of my days and nights with one of my boobs in her mouth, and I didn’t realize what a mistake I’d made until it was too late. It took me months and months to break the habit, and since my daughter associated nursing with sleeping, she relied on me to help her get back to sleep every single time she woke up at night (spoiler alert: she woke up a lot during the night). Make sure to put your baby into his or her crib drowsy but awake at naps and bedtime so he or she not only learns how to fall asleep on his or her own, but can also go back to sleep when he or she wakes up at night.
Remember: ‘Sleep begets sleep’. If you haven’t read Marc Weissbluth’s book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, I highly recommend it. The book introduces and explains a lot of great baby sleep tips, and while I didn’t necessarily agree with or follow all of the ideas, one of the most important pieces of advice I learned is that allowing your baby/child to become overtired can not only result in an early wakeup time, but also lead to more night wake-ups. I realize this sounds counterintuitive, but if your little one is waking up extra early and/or waking up multiple times a night, try moving bedtime 30-60 minutes earlier for a few nights to see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Invest in a sound machine. While some children can sleep through virtually anything without waking up, others aren’t as lucky. Something as simple as the door bell ringing or a motorcycle zooming by can cut naptime short, resulting in an overtired child and a cranky mom. Sound familiar? I thought it might! We had a lot of luck using a sound machine for the first couple of years of our daughter’s life to drown out background noises that would otherwise wake her up, and since we were living in fairly small apartment at the time, I loved that my husband and I could still watch TV and speak in normal voices while she was sleeping.
Trade off with your spouse/partner. I realize this advice sounds great in theory but isn’t always practical in reality when one parent is home on maternity leave and the other has to function in an office from 9 am to 5 pm, but hear me out. Even if you can’t trade off for night wake-ups with your significant other, there are creative ways you can divide and conquer to ensure both of you are getting ample shut eye. For example, a guy I used to work with had a deal with his wife during the first few years of their children’s lives where he was on dad duty from dinnertime until midnight, at which time his wife took over. This ensured she got a few hours of rest after a long day at home with the kids while still allowing him 6+ hours of sleep before heading to the office. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.
Hire a sleep coach. As indulgent as it may sound, a sleep coach is one of the best gifts I’ve ever given my family. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner! I invested so much time, money, effort, and tears into reading and testing different sleep training methods during the first 11 months of my daughter’s life, and when I finally took the plunge and bought a sleep training package with Nicole Johnson from The Baby Sleep Site, my daughter was sleeping through the night in less than 3 days. And I didn’t have to use the cry-it-out method! Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and results will obviously vary based on the needs of you and your child, but I highly recommend Nicole and her services as she completely changed our lives. You can learn more about Nicole’s own experience with a child who refused to sleep as well as the different packages she offers HERE.
8 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
If you’re looking for newborn baby care tips to make breastfeeding easier, here are the things I wish someone had told me when we first brought our sweet girl home from the hospital.
Find the name of a good lactation consultant. If you intend on breastfeeding your child, I recommended researching and connecting with a lactation consultant before your contractions even begin. If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to connect with this person again, but if you find yourself struggling and worrying your baby isn’t getting enough to eat, you will have already done the groundwork and can rest assured you’ll have someone you can call for help ASAP.
It can be painful. While my friends all had some pretty strong opinions about breastfeeding while I was pregnant with my daughter, no one EVER told me it would be painful. Not one of my friends warned me how sore and swollen my breasts would become when my milk came in, what it would feel like when my nipples cracked, and how often I would have to nurse my daughter in those first few weeks despite the pain I was feeling.
It’s not easy. And not everyone can do it. The trick is to remember that FED is best, and to ignore the opinions of everyone around you.
A proper latch is key. If your baby doesn’t automatically have the rooting reflex (when they’re puckering their lips for food) you’ll first need to brush your nipple along their mouth. Once their mouth is open, bring the top part of their mouth over the top of your nipple. Keeping their mouth as wide and open as possible will help prevent painful fissures in your nipples. If you suspect your baby isn’t latched on properly, wet your pinky finger in sterile water, break the latch and try again.
Establish a feeding schedule. The best thing you can do when you first start nursing your baby is to establish a feeding schedule that works for the both of you. Many women use the on-demand feeding method and nurse their baby 8-12 times during a 24-hour period, for 10-45 minutes per feeding. Others feel more comfortable using scheduled feeding. Do your research and find a technique that works best for you.
Take care of yourself. As exhausted and drained as you may be, it’s important to find some time to take care of yourself during the breastfeeding process. Many women experience health issues while breastfeeding, some of which can be quite simple to treat. Here are some tips for common breastfeeding challenges most moms face:
- Cracked or bleeding nipples. Over-the-counter lanolin creams can work great for these. Also, try feeding your baby when she’s not at her hungriest – she won’t suckle as quickly or as forcefully, saving your nipples! You can also squeeze a bit of extra breast milk onto your nipples and allow it to air dry for relief.
- Breast Engorgement. If your breasts have become too large for your baby to latch onto, try releasing some milk using your hands before feeding to ensure a steady flow and softer breast for the baby to nurse comfortably.
- Mastitis. This painful bacterial infection is caused by clogged milk ducts, engorgement, and/or cracked skin. If you suspect you have mastitis, my advice is to see your doctor for antibiotics, use hot compresses on your breasts, and continue with hands-on pumping to soften your breasts.
- Overall discomfort. As I mentioned earlier, breastfeeding can be extremely painful at first, and a good tip someone gave to me that I’m happy to pass along to others is to pour a bit of water over a fresh newborn diaper and pop it in the freezer. Once frozen, it makes a fabulous ice pack that is the right shape for all-over breast relief.
Stretching your back out, keeping a nutritious diet, and staying hydrated can also work wonders when it comes to overall health during nursing!
Learn to Read your Baby. Is your baby distracted while nursing? How do you know if she’s sucking for nutrition or comfort? In these cases, you’ll need to learn how to distinguish between the sounds your baby makes when swallowing milk or just suckling your nipple like a pacifier. If you suspect the latter, break the suction using a wet finger, burp your baby, and bring him or her back to your breast. If your baby seems disinterested and/or slides off your breast, you’ll know he or she is full until the next feeding about 2-3 hours later.
8 Feeding Tips for Formula Feeding Moms
If you’re looking for newborn baby care tips to make bottle feeding easier, here are some great ideas and suggestions to try.
Own it! Whether you chose to formula feed your child right from the beginning, or made the transition begrudgingly due to challenges with breastfeeding, remember to own your decision. Family, friends, and complete strangers will be quick to give you their opinions about bottle- versus breastfed babies, and my advice is to ignore them. Do what is right for you and your child and remember that FED is best. Full stop.
Choose the right formula. While I wish I could tell you which formula is best for newborns, the truth is that there are so many different types of formulas, each with their own pros and cons. This can be extremely overwhelming for new moms, and my best advice is to speak to your pediatrician for his or her top recommendations and go from there. Do your research, see how your newborn reacts, and speak to a naturopath if you sense your child doesn’t tolerate formula well.
Research the right bottle. The first time I ever tried giving my daughter a bottle, I used the one that came with my breast pump, and it was one of the worst decisions I’ve made in my adult life – LOL – as it took a full 36 hours for my daughter to pass all of the gas that it caused her. I didn’t realize there were so many different types of bottles on the market, each designed for different purposes, and spent a lot of time researching and testing different types of bottles to ensure we had a good set on hand to use in the future. For reference, we had the most luck with Philips Avent Anti-colic Baby Bottles, and many of my friends swore by them as well.
Invest in a bottle warmer. While microwaving bottles can cause dangerous hot spots that can harm babies, experience taught me that warming a bottle of breast milk and/or formula by running it under hot water can take a really long time, making it a completely impractical alternative. My advice? Invest in a good bottle warmer, making sure to test the temperature of the liquid on the back of your hand before giving it to your baby. We had the Philips Avent Fast Baby Bottle Warmer and it did not disappoint.
Get in position. One of the disadvantages of bottle feeding a baby is that it can cause more gas, which is why you see so many articles online about the best bottle-feeding positions. There’s lots of advice on this topic, the most important of which is to find a position whereby there’s a steady stream of milk flowing through the nipple of the bottle your baby is drinking from. When the nipple is only partially filled with liquid, your baby will end up gulping more air while swallowing, leading to painful gas. So, whether you prefer to cradle your baby in your arms, feed him or her in an upright position, or use a pillow during your feeding sessions, just make sure you are keeping the amount of air your little one is ingesting to an absolute minimum.
Perfect the burp. Whether you use the over-the-shoulder technique or prefer to burp your baby while he or she is sitting upright in your lap, a great rule of thumb is to try to burp your baby every 3-5 minutes throughout each feed. You should also ensure your baby is kept in an upright position for 20-30 minutes after a feed to help avoid painful gas.
Learn to read your baby’s cues. One of the advantages of bottle feeding is that you can physically measure how much your baby is taking in at each feed. With that said, you should still pay attention to your little one’s cues. There will be times when he or she wants more, and unless your pediatrician says otherwise, I see no reason why you wouldn’t oblige!
Prep before bed. Middle-of-the-night feedings can really take a toll on sleep deprived parents, so do yourself a favor and have everything prepped and ready to go ahead of time. Have a prepared bottle in the fridge, put the bottle warmer on your kitchen counter so it’s accessible, and have whatever else you need on hand so you aren’t scrambling.
11 Newborn Baby Care Products to Invest In
If you’re reading this post for newborn baby care tips and hacks, chances are you already have the essentials – a stroller, a car seat, a crib, a bunch of adorable clothes, a breast pump and/or bottles, and Sophie the Giraffe – but want to know what else you need to make life easier with a newborn. Here are 11 products that helped save my sanity!
Swaddle. When it comes to newborn baby care products, the number one thing I recommend buying outside of the essential gear is a swaddle blanket. Unless you’re a pro at swaddling with a receiving blanket – and my hat goes off to you if you are – this will be a game-changer in helping you calm your baby and increase the length of his or her naps and nighttime sleep. I tried several with my daughter and had the most luck with the Miracle Blanket. It was one of the best purchases I made in the first 6 months of her life!
Baby monitor. Unless you live in a one-room apartment, chances are you’re going to want a baby monitor of some sort so you can hear your baby in his or her crib while you’re in another room. I was a big fan of the Angelcare Monitor as it gave me peace of mind given my intense fear of SIDS. We opted for the basic version, which did what it was supposed to do, but if I could go back in time, I would’ve splurged on a video monitor as there were so many times I wished I could see inside my daughter’s room so I could check on her without waking her up. I held off until she reached the 2-year mark and I caught her trying to climb out of her crib, at which point I went straight to Amazon to buy one, and it ended up being one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
Bottle warmer. Even if you’re breastfeeding and are determined you will NEVER use a bottle, there may still come a time when you have to either pump or supplement with formula. Life happens when we’re busy making plans, and having some bottle feeding basics on hand – including this inexpensive bottle warmer – will help.
Baby Carrier. A baby carrier can be a huge lifesaver to moms (and dads) as it allows you to keep your little one close to your body while freeing up your hands to do other things, like fold laundry, wash dishes, apply makeup, or hold a coffee while you’re out getting some vitamin D. A lot of my friends loved the Moby Wrap, but I was way too anxiety ridden and sleep deprived to figure out how to use one and preferred the Baby Bjorn as it was easy to use, compact, and looked good. I ended up switching to an Ergo when my daughter was about 2-years-old as I found it hurt my back to hold her in the Bjorn by that point. I didn’t feel the Ergo looked as nice, but it was much more comfortable than the Bjorn. My advice? Try a bunch of different options to see what works for you.
Sound machine. My daughter was a light sleeper as a baby, and since we lived in a one-floor condo at the time, a sound machine saved our lives. It allowed my husband and me to speak at a normal volume, cook, clean, and watch TV while our sweet girl was sleeping. I was fearful we would create a lifelong habit of her needing background noise to sleep, but she naturally grew out of it on her own without any interference needed from us.
Portable changing pad. Like many parents, my husband and I invested in a dresser that doubled as a change table as we naively assumed we would always be changing her in her bedroom and would need access to a million different products and wipes, which were conveniently stored in the top drawer of said dresser. I quickly learned that it was easier – and safer – to change diapers on the floor as I didn’t need to worry about my wiggly little monkey falling off the dresser while I was reaching for wipes, etc. I really loved this foldable changing pad and this Skip Hop Diaper Caddy was a huge help too.
Portable bassinet. One of the biggest mistakes I made with my daughter was insisting she ONLY sleep in her crib. I was so worried about SIDS and since the Angle Care Monitor doesn’t work in a bassinet, the crib was the only option in my mind. I’ve since learned so much about baby sleep and wish I could go back in time and tell my postpartum self that all of us would’ve slept a heck of a lot more if we had a small bassinet next to our bed for easy middle-of-the-night feeds.
Lovey. I was first introduced to the term ‘lovey’ when I was attempting to sleep train our daughter. Also referred to as a comfort item, the intention behind introducing a lovey to your child is to provide him or her with a tangible item they can use to self-soothe at naps, bedtime, and beyond. When choosing a lovey, make sure to avoid items that can be a choking hazard and that increase the risk of SIDS, and once you find an item your little one takes to, make sure to buy at least 2 more so you have a back-up if/when your child’s comfort item gets lost or needs to be washed. My daughter’s lovey was a Taggies Triangle. I removed the plastic hanger from it, and she would loop her left ring finger through one of the tags to help her feel secure while sleeping.
Baby gym. A basic activity playset is a great item to have on hand to keep your little one occupied while you’re folding laundry, cooking dinner, applying makeup, etc. I found the really elaborate ones caused sensory overload to my daughter when she was really young, and opted for something more basic like this Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Playset.
Car mirror. If your little one isn’t a fan of car rides, a car mirror may be the answer to your prayers! It will allow you to check your baby in your rearview mirror while you’re driving, and will also capture his or her attention, making your travels less stressful for the whole family.
Stroller toys. If your little one gets antsy while in his or her stroller for prolonged periods of time, this Tiny Love Stroller Arch was a lifesaver to me. I kept ours in the bottom basket of our stroller at all times so I always had a tool on hand to keep my daughter occupied when she got fed up, and recommend this product to all moms and dads!
5 Self-Care Tips for New Moms
When we think about newborn baby care, self-care is the last thing to come to mind, and I really wish that wasn’t the case. An imbalance in our emotional health can lead to physical issues such as chest pains, ulcers, and high blood sugar, as well as emotional issues like stress and depression. Our emotional health impacts how we feel about ourselves. It also enhances the quality of our relationships, and effects how we deal with our feelings and handle difficulties. Self care is key to our emotional health because it helps us manage stress and handle things, both positive or negative, in a healthy way.
Here are 5 simple self-care tips for new moms!
Remember that SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. Many of us associate self-care with yoga classes, massages, facials, and long walks outside, and while I’m a big believer in all of these things, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll find time for any of these activities with a newborn to care for. My advice is to find one thing you can do each day that’s 100% for you. Some days this will be nothing more than taking a 5-minute uninterrupted shower or driving to the drugstore to buy diapers on your own, but as your baby grows and starts sleeping for longer stretches, your options will increase.
Schedule it. Self-care is one of the first things to slip when life gets busy, which is kind of silly given the positive impacts it has on both our physical and emotional well-being. A great way to prioritize self care is to schedule it into your calendar, and to protect that time like a newborn child (LOL). Don’t allow other, less important tasks take precedence, and when you do have to cancel a trip to the gym, nail appointment, or lunch date with a friend due to something completely out of your control (i.e. your child getting sick), make sure to reschedule instead of cancelling.
Maintain proper nutrition. Nutrition plays a major role in your emotional health. What you eat affects you both physically and mentally, and bad eating habits can lead to more stress. Of course, finding the time to prepare nutritious foods can be challenging when you have a newborn to care for, but even small changes – like cutting out soda or sugar – can go a long way in making you feel better, which will motivate you to make more changes over time.
Manage your time effectively. If you constantly feel overwhelmed and unable to take good care of yourself, make sure you’re prioritizing your time for the things that really matter rather than wasting time on the things that don’t.
Take Up a Hobby. Whether it’s crochet, DIY projects, cooking, gardening, or blogging, finding a hobby you love provides a great emotional release and can help you cope with your new life as a mom. Hobbies offer a positive challenge and will do wonders for your soul. Find something that interests you and MAKE TIME FOR IT.
PHEW! That was A LOT of information, but I hope these newborn baby care tips and hacks help you as much as they helped me. Remember to take each day as it comes, to prioritize self-care, and to remember that being a parent is OVERWHELMING. There will be days/weeks/months where it feels like you accomplish absolutely nothing, and that’s completely okay. You will eventually find your way back to some semblance of normalcy! In the meantime, take a deep breath and remember: you got this.