Practical tips for new moms
I hope this advice for new mom will serve as a guide out there.
If you are reading this post, you are probably a new mom or are pregnant with your first child. Congratulations!
And I bet you have probably scoured the internet and read a lot of books on pregnancy and are now researching motherhood.
If your research has brought you this far, here’s a pat on the back on your hard work.
And if this is just your beginning, I’m glad you have stumbled upon this post.
My daughter just turned 1 last week and I am still trying to sink in to me that she is now a toddler.
We did it, we survived the first year! But man it was hard.
I wished I had looked up practical advice every new mom needs to know.
Even though I was prepared for my pregnancy, I have to admit I wasn’t adequately prepared for being a new mom.
Because being a new mom is like taking a deep dive, without your diving gear.
You learn the ropes while being a new mom, scrambling to get the gear you need to survive this dive.
There’s no transition from pregnancy to motherhood.
So I have crafted this post to shed some light on the challenges I learned as a new mom.
I have split my many lessons into two main categories, baby-related and personal-related categories.
This is going to be a really long post.
So if you feel overwhelmed by the information, I urge you to bookmark this post and revisit it when the right situation presents itself.
IMPORTANT: And just a heads up that I’ve placed a FREEBIE journal at the end of this post. Don’t forget to grab your own copy before you leave.
Surviving the challenges with the baby: A guide for new mom
Breastfeeding advice for the new mom
Breastfeeding is a marathon broken into mini-marathons
You will need to breastfeed your newborn about 12-14 times a day. And each feed lasts from 30- 45 minutes.
And by the time your last feed is over, your baby is probably getting hungry for the next feed. Sometimes, it almost feels like your baby is just constantly feeding off of you.
I’m sorry if I scared you, but this is the fact and we can’t escape.
But what you CAN do, is to make your breastfeeding experience a little more comfortable for you.
I regret not doing this and had to makeshift one along the way.
My advice for new mom?
Is to prepare, curate, or create your breastfeeding station, throne, or space.
What you need is:
- A comfortable armchair that supports your neck, back, and arms. (legs would be a bonus)
- A side table for breastfeeding tools to keep things handy
- Your iPad, laptop or phone to do research on the spot, take photos of your baby, take notes, make a schedule for the day or keep you entertained ( applicable when your baby is a latch pro)
- A water bottle to keep you hydrated
- A pillow to prop your lumbar
- A blanket to keep you warm
- A spit-up cloth
- And whatever you think you need
Basically, the idea here is to prepare the space comfortable just for you, and have whatever you need around you for the long ride.
No one should move or remove any of your things. It’s your throne.
Give it time
Breastfeeding is very difficult… But there is a bright side, yay!
Breastfeeding is most difficult at the beginning of the first 3 months (in my experience).
Why do I say that? This is because:
- The baby could not support his/her own weight yet
- The baby needs to learn how to latch
One of the reasons why breastfeeding is so difficult is because your newborn cannot hold her own weight yet.
That means, you will be supporting the baby’s weight throughout the breastfeeding session, and adjusting her head to your areola to make her latch.
And this is all going to go away the moment your baby is sufficient enough to support her own neck, which takes approximately 3 months.
So preparing that your throne well is going to help give you that support.
Breastfeeding takes practice
What’s funny is, it never occurred to me that my baby and I need to practice latching.
It is a skill both my baby and I need to learn to make breastfeeding work.
It is like a rhythm both of us need to get the hang of, and it’ll only get better when we constantly try to match each other’s rhythm.
I did not realize this sooner and focused on how difficult it was for her to latch and for me to soothe her.
And how stressful it was on every breastfeeding session.
I eventually became hesitant and pumped my milk into a bottle and bottle-fed her my breastmilk.
I made it worse and created nipple confusion. (more details in my next post)
I also had engorged breasts.
It was a nightmare.
Had I looked at each breastfeeding time as a practice session, I would have handled it differently. Advice for a new mom to take note!
Do your research on breastfeeding basics
So I mentioned that I was inadequately prepared as a new mom.
Not having a handful of knowledge on breastfeeding is one of them.
I understand that you can never be fully prepared from all the reading unless you are actually going through it.
I took it literally and skipped out on reading up on breastfeeding.
And I bear the brunt of it. I make it up by reading up on breastfeeding during my breaks between breastfeeding.
Not how I’d like to spend the little free time I have.
Here’s my advice on what to read up for a new mom:
- Breastfeeding positions. (You won’t fully know how to do it until you have the baby. But knowing the positions gives you an idea of how you can change it up if you have an unsuccessful latch.)
- What to do if my baby is too cranky to latch
- Breastfeeding frequency by age
- What are the signs of newborn hunger
- Storing breastmilk
- What is breast engorgement and what to do when you have it
- How to latch my baby
- What does a correct latch look like or feel
- How do I know if my baby is drinking or drinking enough
- What do I do if I have nipple crack
These are the main challenges for a new mom when it comes to breastfeeding. These should cover the basics.
Baby Wearing Advice for the new mom
Babywearing is a workout
There are plenty of benefits to wearing a baby. One of the main benefits is to have your hands free while carrying your baby for long periods.
But despite having a baby carrier, it does not make your baby carrying experience better if you do not have the right baby carrier.
In fact, it might actually add to your problem of muscle soreness or back injury (which I recently had when wearing a ring sling).
Hence it is important to find a baby carrier that meets the criteria below to support your shoulders, back, and your baby’s hip health.
The criteria include:
- Carrier has many adjustable points to fit the baby snuggly near your chest
- Carriers have a firm base or seat that supports your baby’s hip, and legs.
- Carrier has 2 comfortable shoulder straps
- Carrier has a back clip near the shoulder that allows the weight to be distributed across the back of your shoulders instead of pulling your shoulders forward.
- Bonus: Carriers have a hip strap that allows baby weight to also be supported on your hips, elevating the baby’s weight from your shoulders.
- Material suits your country’s climate
Getting the baby carrier according to your country’s climate
This may not be a big deal to many, but it is a big deal to me.
This is because I love taking a walk in the park with my baby in the afternoon.
And since I live in a tropical country, I would look into getting something breathable and airy for both my baby and me.
But the downside here is, breathable and airy types of carriers are usually light and convenient.
As much as it is comfortable and airy, I still get weighed down by my baby’s weight after a 40-minute walk.
So I still need a second carrier if I want to wear my baby for longer without feeling exhausted too quickly.
Hence my next advice for the new mom.
Depending on your lifestyle, this may not apply to you. The two types of carriers I have, meet 2 different occasions.
One is for convenience, light-weight, portability, and easy to put on and take out.
I usually use this type of carrier when the baby needs to be carried frequently at home. This is especially useful when your baby is going through the needy phases in her development.
This is also useful when I want to take a quick walk with the baby outdoors, say a 30minute walk.
Or in days where when you go out, you’d be packing a million things and one of the things you need is a baby carrier. Having a portable lightweight carrier reduces the number of baggage and space when you are traveling.
The second carrier is a heavy-duty carrier, that provides great support for mom and baby. And is comfortable to walk for hours.
Carriers that can do all these are usually structured or semi-structured carriers, which are not portable at all. It requires another bag to carry it all.
This carrier is useful if you decide to take a long trek. Or if you want to replace the stroller for a baby carrier for the day.
My husband and I enjoy outdoor and hiking, so we have the two types of carriers above to suit our lifestyle.
Baby Sleep Advice for the new mom
I did not know babies need to LEARN to fall asleep
The idea of falling asleep is so basic that we took it for granted.
When I first breastfed my newborn, she’d fall asleep quickly as I’m breastfeeding. And it always happens at the breast, even when she’s not full.
This is great at the beginning because it doesn’t take me much effort to put my newborn back to sleep. But it changes when she’s 3 months old onwards.
Somehow when she’s older, her naps begin to seem erratic, and sometimes, even breastfeeding her to sleep did not work.
And what’s more, when she did fall asleep in my arms, she’d wake up and wail again the moment I transition her to the crib. It’s impossible!
After doing some reading, I realize that she has been falling asleep with my assistance. And therein lies the problem.
Here’s my simple way of explaining what I learned about baby’s sleep.
Baby’s cannot fall asleep on their own. That’s why they always fall asleep in our arms, and whilst breastfeeding.
These are soothing elements that put them to sleep. And when your baby wakes up from a sleep cycle, they do not have these elements to put them back to sleep.
They cry because they are still tired, but could not go back to sleep without the ‘sleep crutches’.
After 6 weeks of having very bad sleep through the night AND day. I finally decided I needed to do something about this.
I needed to sleep-train my baby as a permanent solution. This is another important advice a new mom must take note.
(Note: you can only sleep train your baby 4 months onwards. Do consult your pediatrician if it’s right for your baby)
Check out my Journal series for women:
You will need to train the baby again when your baby reaches a certain developmental stage
Here is the next thing I learned. After you successfully sleep-train your baby, it is normal that your baby will relapse when it hits her next developmental leap.
So it is usually every 3 months after she is 3 months old. For example, you will want to take note when the baby is approaching 6, 9, or 12 months old. This is when you’ll need to re-train your baby again.
This may sound discouraging because you might be wondering, “If it can relapse, what’s the point of sleep training in the first place?”
There’s a difference when it relapses:
- It takes lesser time than before to sleep-train
- The relapse will only last from a few days to 2 weeks (depending on the developmental leap)
- Her sleep and nap is not as erratic as before she was sleep-trained
These are what I noticed in my baby girl during her relapse phases. And all I did was stick to my guns in the things that I did in my first sleep-training and she eventually fell back to sleep on her own.
Understanding the idea of baby sleep-training
If you research baby sleep-training, there are extreme crying-it-out methods, and there are the extreme gentle methods.
After attempting both extremities, I realized I could not follow through either of them.
So I did a mix and made up a lot along the way.
Once you understand what it means to sleep-train a baby, you can use any method that suits you to help get your baby there.
What’s the idea here?
The main goal of sleep training a baby is to have your baby learn to fall asleep on their own without having to rely on another person to put them to sleep.
What does that mean?
- It means, so long as the baby falls asleep away from your body, you have taken a huge step forward.
- It also means, it is okay to use whatever tools necessary that can help the baby to fall asleep on their own. (like a sound machine, an essential oil diffuser, a swaddle)
- It also means you are encouraged to create the right environment for your baby to help her fall asleep on her own.
Here’s some advice on what to keep in mind for the new mom while sleep-training:
- To avoid ‘cold-turkey’ your baby to sleep (it gets difficult, but not impossible) you will need to gradually reduce the ‘sleep crutch’ one by one in stages.
- Sleep-training is called training for a reason. You need to be prepared to dedicate at least 3 days to sleep-train your baby consistently, throughout all naps and night sleeps. This is how they learn to fall asleep on their own. (This is probably the hardest for most parents)
- You need to keep an eye on your baby at all sleep-training sessions and make your own judgment call on how much assistance to give, and how much to pull back.
- Some babies may take longer than others, it does not mean it is not working.
- Take notes of the smallest progress to keep you motivated, and to check if you’re on track.
(*Note: I’m working on a detailed sleep training post. Please subscribe to stay tuned if you want to know exactly how I do it.)
Baby Feeding Advice for the new mom (a mix of Baby Led Weaning and not)
Take whatever that works for you
I did baby-led weaning, but not exclusively.
Because all babies are not the same, I had to mix my methods to work for my baby and me.
So everything I write about baby-feeding is a mix of traditional and modern methods (BLW). But my practices are more inclined towards BLW.
The traditional method of feeding a baby is to puree the food and feed the baby with a spoon when the baby is anytime around 4 – 6months.
Baby-led weaning on the other hand puts the control on the baby (with adult monitoring of course).
When the baby begins to show interest in food, you will introduce strips of cut up solids to your baby and let your baby eat on her own. (once again with monitoring)
I like this idea because one of the benefits of BLW is that your baby will be independent in eating (eventually).
But I also notice she had a hard time eating rice on her own (we’re Asian).
The rice is just too small and scatters the moment she grasps them.
So this is where I will pitch in and feed her with a spoon when it comes to runny, small, soupy things.
There’s no way around mess-free meals
This unfortunately is a truth that I had to sink in when I first started solids with my baby.
I know BLW encourages mess, you do not stop your baby from making a mess (that is unintentional).
So I devised a plan where I would lay a waterproof mat under the high chair to reduce the amount I needed to clean.
But after keeping that up for a month, I realized it was more work.
Because the mess did not just land on the mat, it also would land outside of the mat, and all over her table and body.
So I ended up washing more things than before.
I decided to ditch the mat and find solutions on cleaning efficiently and quickly rather than reducing the mess.
My shock when I started Baby Led Weaning (BLW)
If you were to start BLW, one of the things you are advised to learn as a new mom is “how to distinguish between a gag and a choke” and “what to do if my baby chokes”.
That was a little scary.
And true enough, my first few sessions of BLW was scary.
My poor girl was coughing and gagging so much I wonder if we were doing the right thing.
But after a continuous routine of BLW, we noticed improvements.
There were fewer coughs and gags. And she starts to break down the food from bigger chunks to smaller chunks.
Now at 1 year old, she no longer coughs or gags and would even point at what food she wanted from the main table. (*wide-eyed)
Baby Diapering advice for the new mom
It is not easy to be environmentally friendly, but it is not impossible
Why I bring this up is because I realize that many moms who are using disposable diapers full time would make the transition to cloth diapers, if they have the time to figure it all out.
But the unfortunate thing as a new mom is, we usually don’t have that time nor brain capacity to do so.
No doubt doing cloth diapering will definitely require more work than just discarding a disposable diaper.
But if you have a system in place, it becomes doable and will run like clockwork.
You don’t necessarily have to go all cloth diaper and not touch disposable at all.
We can still use disposable in some situations.
What I’m saying here is that it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”.
I use a cloth diaper majority of the time, but I stick to disposable for bedtime because a disposable can just hold so much more pee than a cloth diaper when my baby sleeps through the night.
So do whatever we can for the environment, that’s what I’m getting at.
(Note: I’ll be working on a detailed post about systemizing cloth diapering. Do subscribe to stay tuned for the post if you’d like to know how I do it.)
A brief guide on the system
The system will require:
- Buying enough cloth diapers for 2 days ( assuming 6 per day x 2 = 12 cloth diapers), round it up to 15 or 20 diapers. These should work as buffer diapers.
- Buy the cloth diapers with clips that grow with the baby
- Buy extra insert for when the baby’s bladder is larger
- Get a bucket that can be filled up with water for poopy diapers
- Have another bucket to contain scrubbed diapers (optional)
- Get a dispenser and fill it up with baby wash detergent to use with the bucket of poopy diapers
- Have a washing board
- Get a laundry brush
- Put all scrubbed diapers and soiled baby clothes into the washing machine every 2 days. (you may adjust the frequency according to your needs)
How it works:
1- When a baby does a pee, you may just put the diaper with her used cloth pile( but if you’re uncomfortable, you may choose to soak it with soap water)
2- The major item to be handled is the poopy diaper.
3- When baby poop, remove poop with the lining and pop the content into the toilet bowl and flush it.
4- Then soak the poopy diaper in a bucket with soap and water.
5- Do the same with another poopy diaper for the day.
6- When a baby goes to sleep or you are free at night, briefly scrub all the poopy diapers either in the toilet when you are showering or the free time of your choice.
7- Once scrubbed, you may leave the diaper (still wet), in the bucket until the next baby laundry wash. (mine is usually every 2 days)
8- This is why I suggest 2 buckets because one will hold the scrubbed wet diapers while the other is to hold soiled diapers.
The invention of bamboo linings
Newborn baby poo is bearable. But solid eating baby poo is not so.
They’re much smellier, thicker, and harder to clean.
Hence I love the idea of the bamboo lining.
Basically is a lining you put over the diaper. When the baby poops on the diaper, you can remove the poop easily.
You may do so by popping the contents out of the liner and into the toilet bowl and then toss the liner into a bin.
Diaper rash is as bad as teething
Diaper rash sucks, this is because it could really turn your happy baby into a really grumpy one for the whole day or two.
And of course, seeing their red and sensitive private parts hurts the mama. The slightest touch would set her off.
I notice that somehow baby poo would start a baby rash faster than baby pee.
I’ve had times when my little girl’s wet diaper would soak through her clothes and she is fine. (This happens when neither of the parents know when was her last change.)
But leaving a poopy diaper for more than 30 minutes would likely kickstart a rash.
And of course, whatever wet pee diaper is left with the baby after the rash has kick-started will further aggravate the rash.
So my advice for the new mom?
Is to catch and change the poopy diaper immediately. It will significantly lower the chances of diaper rash.
But of course, the diaper rash is avoidable all together, if we change all soiled diapers immediately and frequently.
The diaper rash solution
I’ve had my countless experiences of baby diaper rash and mark my words, it sucks.
I feel horrible. I can’t help but feel like a neglectful mom. Causing my little girl so much pain. And of course, I can’t help but feel people silently judging me while I was doing the best I can.
And all it took was me not detecting one poopy diaper because we were out.
So of course I looked for a solution to alleviate my baby’s pain as best as I can.
And I found the combination of Aquaphor and Mustela cream to be the best combo. And of course, accompanied by frequent changing of soiled diapers.
The change of diapers needs to be more frequent than usual because your baby’s pee and friction against the diaper would wipe off the cream that was applied to her skin.
So you will need to also re-apply the combo more frequently within the same day or two.
6. Baby development advice for the new mom
Underestimating and overestimating your baby’s abilities
So my baby is 1 year old now and it was a delight to watch her grow, gaining more abilities and improving on skills week by week.
I was grateful to witness it all. And I was also trying to take advantage of her absorbent brain.
Since she’s my first baby, I really don’t know what to expect, what she can do, and what she can’t.
I learned that I underestimate how capable she can be.
If you could just hold yourself back just a little, you will be able to see what she can do before swooping in to ‘safe’ her.
I learned that I also overestimated my baby girl’s abilities when she first started acquiring a new skill.
That even after being able to get on and off the couch by herself for 2 months, she would sometimes still fall and cry.
I also always overestimate what she can do the moment she picks up a new skill.
I would go off and get a bunch of things that may be related to that skill, but to come home and find that it was too advanced for her at the moment.
But whatever it is, it was fun to make things up as we go and connect her current abilities to the next level.
The journey of Trial and error
This leads to my next advice for the new mom, which is to continue to trial and error whatever that may work for your little one in enhancing their developmental growth.
So I bought a bunch of toys that were a little advanced for her.
So I looked at what was too advanced, what she could do at the moment, and devised something out of recyclable materials to offer stimulating materials (toys) of similar developmental skills.
I don’t get it right all the time, there are hits and misses. But it was definitely a delight when she does take and interact with what you’ve just made.
Taking note of the smallest thing your baby does
It is so easy to overlook the smallest little improvement someone has made.
It is especially hard when it is something as mundane and routine as picking up a spoon.
I think one of the most beautiful things about having a baby is that their journey in picking up all these basic skills just reminded us how far we’ve come. But how much we have taken it for granted.
My little girl would smile and grin in pure joy when she discovered a new way of doing something herself. Even she knew what feat she had achieved.
She reminded me of pure innocence, happiness. Something hard to attain for the adult, and easily neglected.
She reminded me to focus on the now and the good around us.
Be it small, they are all worth taking note of.
7. Advice on keeping the house in order for the new mom
Motherhood/parenthood in the modern-day
I have been pondering what it means to be a new stay at home mom in the modern times.
And I realize one thing, we are not our parents. Meaning the times we live today is different from when we were raised.
So as much as my mom raves about what she used to do to raise me, I decided to pick and choose her approaches.
When my parents raise me, they never have to worry about phone or computer control.
It was so new back then cyberbullying didn’t even exist when I was in high school.
My baby girl is born into a world where cyberbullying can start as early as when she has access to her own phone.
Motherhood / Parenthood comes with 3 job descriptions
Motherhood/Parenthood has 3 main job descriptions:
1- Taking care of our baby/children
2- Keeping the house in order
3- Having food on the table
These are all 3 very different things, and nonetheless takes up a lot of time on its own.
I tried to do all three on my own. And I learned that it is impossible to do well in all 3 without help.
For the mommies and parents who did manage it all alone, my hats off to you. I’d like to hear from you and ultimately wonder how you do it all and still be sane!
So on top of figuring out a system in your house so things would move like clockwork, getting help to integrate into that system is crucial in making time for yourself.
Get whatever help you can afford
How I managed to pull it off in my first year of being a new mom and retain my sanity is by enlisting help.
Mind you, this is on top of systemizing the house and sleep-training the baby. There’s a difference in systemizing the house and enlisting help from outside.
Systemising the house streamlines what needs to get done in the house when you are on your own.
It creates pockets of free time which is great, but not enough because being a parent / new mom never gets a day off.
So getting outside help is where you can get that sort of ‘day-off’.
Getting outside help:
- I got a part-time cleaner who does the vacuuming, mopping, wiping, ironing, cleaning the toilets, etc. It’s a 3-hour help and comes in weekly. This takes care of the cleanliness of the house.
- I got another part-time helper. She comes for 8 hours. She’s great for cooking, caring for my baby on top of the general cleaning and folding of clothes. This allows me to travel out of the house without bringing my baby along for chores, or grocery shopping (which I used to do). It also allows me to do whatever I want at this time, be it a casual meet up with a friend, a pampering session for myself, or work on my blog.
- I got help from my Mother-in-law. Or she wants to spend time with her granddaughter. Whatever it is, it is a win-win situation because I get some time off and she gets to spend time with her granddaughter. Once again with the open 8 hours all to myself. I get to do whatever needs to get done or whatever I want.
This help has given me back more time to myself and I am much saner than my previous months.
Easing life with appliances you can afford
I know this might sound weird, but discovering useful home appliances is my go-to in my first year as a new mom.
And even though the list in the bottom may contain one of the most common household appliances everyone has, I am ultimately grateful for their invention.
Appliances I rely heavily on and are grateful for:
- Washing machine
It is not a big deal of washing my husband and my clothes, we probably only do our laundry once a week.
But having a baby is a different story. They change out of their diaper 6 times a day, and clothes 3 times a day (from their mealtime) and another 2 times a day (from their playtime if it’s sand, water, or paint-related).
You’d have a full load by the end of 2 days!
And not to mention you need a set of clean diapers soon, so having to wash and dry baby’s clothes within 3 hours just shows how great technology can ease our lives.
- double boiler
I’m not sure about other cultures, but as an Asian, I am used to having a variety of cooking styles in a meal. For example, it is common for me to have a stir-fried dish, steamed dish, and or stew/soup in a meal.
But of course, it is a luxury to meet all the above every single meal.
So I got the help from cooking appliances to help speed up and ease the process on my cooking end.
I would stir-fry my vege on the stove, steam my herbal chicken in the steamer and have my radish soup cooking in the double-boiler.
I do all the above within the 1.5hours since that’s how long my baby naps.
Now I’m not saying I use all the above every day, but I definitely use them every week.
- UV Steriliser
- Bottle warmer
I love my UV sterilizer. It does 3 things, it dries your washed bottles, it sterilizes anything, and it can hold your item sterile for however long you want.
I already love it. And now due to COVID, I also use my machine to sterilize my phone, keys etc.
The boiling sterilizer would not work on our sensitive home items. So I’m really glad I could have multiple uses for it.
So in simple, the advice to the new mom here is to look into systemizing the house and enlisting help however you can.
(*Note: I’m working on a more detailed post on how I systemize my house. Please subscribe if you’d like to be updated on the said post.)
Surviving the challenges within yourself as a new mom
8. Me-time advice
Understanding the meaning of self-care
I have grossly underestimated the need for self-care. I used to think that so long as I’m not injured, I can still walk I am good to go.
But I have totally neglected my physical and mental health.
I took advantage of the fact that so long as I’m not ill, I’m well.
But that is not the case. How I finally feel the difference in health was during my confinement month.
For those of you who may not know, Asian confinement month requires the new mom to stay home and not leave the house for the whole month. This is to avoid wind from ‘entering’ our weak body.
We are also fed with plenty of herbal drinks and ginger related food to dispel ‘air’ in the body and eat plenty of nutrients to recover from labor / c-section.
My husband and I were very well fed that month. I drank herbal drinks, and chicken essence frequently.
He was feeling energetic and healthy while my skin glowed.
I was very delighted because I used to need to get a facial for such a glowing result.
Just that one experience made me rethink how I perceive and treat my care towards my body.
I had to relook at my approach to diet, exercise and emotional health.
Right now I am far from practicing the best self-care regime.
But a change of my perspective, having a new understanding is a start.
You have to actively carve out me-time
I always have issues with spending time just for myself even before I was pregnant.
I worked really hard. On top of clocking in 47 hours a week, I also had plenty of overtime unaccounted for.
And at that time it just seemed natural to me to never have enough time for myself.
Then after I gave birth to my little girl and became a new mom, the 24/7 job began.
And it seems that my current situation is worse than before. Do bear in mind this is the first 3 months of being a new mom.
What finally hit me was when a movement control order was issued in my country on the 18th March.
My perspective on free-time changed.
Because I realize that everybody in the country was forced to stay at home for 2 weeks (at that time).
I realize what luxury it was to not have to wake up early to commute to work or stay in the office for long hours. That we could work at home with more freedom.
But it dawned on me that this did not apply to me. Instead, I am not able to leave the house at all.
And no help or cleaner is coming to the house! I was dumbfounded.
This was when I made a decision that I needed to make a change in my ways at home to change my circumstance.
I can no longer wait for a free-time to come because it will never happen to a stay-at-home-mom.
I needed to take charge of my time and make it happen.
Since then, I have created, schedule for myself, routine for the baby, enlist help in advance and systemizing the food, laundry, and etc.)
(*Note: I’m working on a more detailed post on how I carve out my free time. Please subscribe if you’d like to be updated on the said post.)
The problem about me-time
Now that you’ve managed to carve out your free time, you should be able to enjoy it right?
Think about it, have you ever allotted a time for yourself, but ended up using that time to do grocery shopping, or tending to your baby’s last-minute needs?
That’s fine if that’s what you want to do as your me-time, no judgment here.
I’m talking about the tasks that do get replaced not because you want to do it, but because you have to.
Funny isn’t it? How often we let something take over and replace that precious time of ours.
I realized I was doing that. When something comes up or needs to be addressed, this free time is overwritten and never to appear again, till the next opportunity comes. Which I never know when.
I realize why this happens, it is because we do not prioritize in OURSELVES.
You need to be disciplined in taking your me-time
I know the statement above sounds a little scary, hear me out.
The idea here is to firmly take that free time you carved out and spend it on yourself.
Look at time as a currency, if you keep giving it away, you have none left for yourself. So do yourself a favor and take some of that time currency and spend it on yourself.
Invest the time in yourself. XD
If something does crop up that may need your attention, ask yourself these questions:
“Can it wait?”, “Is someone else able to do it?”, “Can it be done later?”.
If it is a yes to any of them, then go ahead and spend that time on yourself and deal with whatever it is later.
If it is a no. No problem. Get to addressing that task or issue.
It’s okay to do this so long as you remember to practice what I’m about to tell you.
And that is to schedule your free time somewhere in your calendar by switching out a task within the day or week.
This way, your free time still exists, it just exists later in the day or on a different day in the calendar.
Why do I say ‘switch out’? Unless you have the power to create time, I bet all your time is filled with things to do, even when you didn’t plan it.
So creating time or finding one is probably impossible.
So we need to change our way of thinking here. Instead of creating time or finding time, you switch out a task (that is not so urgent) to take your me-time.
(*Note: I’m working on a more detailed post on changing your perspective on time and how to make the fullest out of it. Please subscribe if you’d like to be updated on the said post.)
Happy wife = comforted baby = happy wife = happy husband
This may not apply to all households. But I know it is definitely happening to me.
This is a simple equation I believe in when it comes to family happiness in my first-year experience.
What this means is, when a baby is happy, the mommy will naturally be more relaxed and cheerful too.
And when that happens the wife is less snappish or impatient towards the husband.
When a baby is going through a difficult developmental leap or a teething phase.
Nothing the new mom can do will turn the grumpy-fussy-needy baby into a happy one.
Therefore it takes a lot of energy and patience to comfort the baby, and therefore may not have energy or patience left for the husband.
See the connection so far? That’s pretty much my drama at home in the first 6 months.
Happy wife = comforted baby = happy wife = happy husband
Whether we like it or not, I realize a woman’s presence does turn a house into a home. Even if it wasn’t intentional, it happens.
And so if the wife is well taken care of, I believe everything else in the house will be sorted.
Please bear in mind this may not apply to all households. It is merely my simple observation about my life.
9. Personal growth advice
Take life one day at a time
So it sucks that it finally sinks into me that this (motherhood/parenthood) will never end.
And while you are holding an inconsolable baby, wailing in your arms, you wonder how you are going to handle this tremendously difficult task for the next 17 years.
When I think about that, it scares me even more cause it seems like an impossible task.
So how to handle this?
In my experience, I found that worrying about the future has brought me nothing but anxiety. And it was crippling my ability to function in the present.
So what worked for me thus far is to focus on the now. Focus on the baby at hand, the food for my husband and me, and my rest for the day.
All we can do is do the best we can for the day. And when we wake up the next day, we repeat what works, and trial and error on what’s not.
Allow the learning process to flow
What I mean here, is when you are experiencing an obstacle, a challenge, or are stuck.
Do not resist the challenge, let it take its course and see where the challenge leads you.
This way, it’ll allow you to be open to solutions you previously would not have thought of.
This is all very vague. I know.
Let me try to illustrate my own experience as an example of when the learning process is resisted.
One of my biggest challenges in the first 5 months was baby sleep. My baby was not sleeping well.
She would take a very long time to fall asleep. She would always need me to rock and swing and sing to sleep.
And after all that effort, she would wake up in 30 minutes in a grumpy state. She was clearly tired, so what did I do?
I would coax her to sleep all over again but to no avail.
This is also during the time when nighttime feeding is frequent, one every 3 hours.
So with little sleep at night, and in the day time for both the baby and me, it was excruciating.
I did this for 6 weeks! It took me 6 weeks to finally realize that what I’m doing is not working and require a different approach.
It took me 6 weeks to learn that I needed to learn from my mistakes and find a permanent solution.
I was resisting my learning process. Heck! My brain wasn’t processing at all.
Hence my realization above.
Check out my Journal series for women:
You learned to become a real-life superhero
Being pushed beyond boundaries like never before will definitely allow you to learn about what you are capable of.
It is even more interesting to be proven wrong on what you thought you were incapable of.
Superhero skill no.1: Energy Overdrive
I didn’t realize how much I can still function with very little sleep.
I was surprised at how early I could get up, stay up, and go about doing whatever needs to be done during the night feeding phase. Albeit it was excruciating, but it was not impossible.
Superhero skill no.2: Super Hearing
When you have a newborn, you’d start to pick up sounds of baby cry wherever you go. I live in a condo, so I suddenly noticed how many babies were in the vicinity.
Nextly, you could also distinguish your baby cry from others. I’m not sure if this applies to all. Maybe it’s the direction it’s coming from, but I could tell if a baby’s cry is mine or not.
Superhero skill no. 3: Multitasking Brain/ Task-Switching Greymatter
I believe when we have a young dependent, this skill sharpens on its own. I know there are articles around no such thing as ‘multitasking’, but a matter of ‘task switching’.
Whatever it’s called, we could switch between tasks damn fast. And that’s because we have to.
So rest assured, new skills will pop up. Just make sure to take note of what they are and relish in them.
10. The struggle with baby and my confidence
Learn to NOT take failure personally
I know this is easier said than done, but it is something we must learn to do.
When we’re in the first 3 months, our body surges with hormones.
And as much as we think what we’re feeling is natural, in reality, it is not.
I remember crying in the car on our way home when we were discharged. And I couldn’t explain why I was crying, the emotion was overwhelming.
Later I could put into words on how I feel. I was feeling inadequately prepared for my newborn.
And I was feeling very guilty for not knowing how to handle her better.
But how could I? She is my firstborn, of course I am unprepared no matter how many books I read.
In hindsight, I realize I could not see the bigger picture or detach myself from my irrational feelings.
I was so attached to my reality and took every failure personally.
She could not latch, it’s my fault.
She could not sleep, it’s my fault.
She’s crying, it’s my fault.
There was no end to it!
And you cannot get out of this on your own. You need people around you to snap you out of it.
I had my husband, mom, my confinement lady, and lactation specialist to do that.
The lactation specialist gave me a lot of comfort because she’s experienced in breastfeeding.
I believe her words because she knows about breastfeeding and she’s probably seen enough to evaluate my situation.
So talk to someone about this. Get them to read this article if they don’t understand your concerns.
Discuss how they can help you in a situation of need or remind you how well you’re doing or what is naturally difficult at this stage.
This is because everything is naturally difficult at the newborn stage, even to an experienced mom.
It is the rite of passage for any new baby, and of course the rite of passage for the new mom.
Learning to adjust expectations in everything
Unrealistic expectations are the enemy for new mothers.
One of the biggest things I had to learn to adjust was my expectations, and how unrealistic they were at the beginning.
Did you know that being able to walk around the house in the first month of birth is already an achievement in itself?
I mean your body has gone through a major trauma from labor or c-section.
It is now the time for your body to repair itself by taking as much needed rest as possible.
I used to feel bad for lying in bed and would start tidying the house in my first month of confinement.
Did you know that you are doing three jobs as a stay-at-home mom? Caring for your baby, cooking and cleaning are three separate jobs.
So if you did one thing better than the other for now, that is something to acknowledge.
Did you know that the expectation of a modern stay-at-home mom today is higher than before?
If you’re a mom who is also working from home (on top of the 3 jobs above), I salute you and would like to learn your approach.
Because on top of keeping the baby cared for, and the house in order, you also are bringing the bacon home.
This is not a normal expectation for a stay-at-home-mom many decades ago and yet it is necessary in some households.
This has definitely set the bar higher for SAHM’s.
It is not a bad thing to achieve.
We just need to keep in mind what we’re capable of handling at the moment and state that we’re in.
Set small realistic goals to get whatever it is that we would like to achieve as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) or a stay-at-home-working-mom (SAHWM).
Know that we’ve done our best in the circumstance we’re in
So on top of not taking things personally, adjusting our expectations, what’s next?
It is to acknowledge that we’ve done our best in the knowledge that we have and the circumstance that we’re in.
Mind you that doesn’t mean we stop researching, finding alternative solutions, or improving on our skills in parenthood.
This step is about comforting and giving ourselves credit internally.
Acknowledging our efforts and patting ourselves on the back.
This step is important because you learn to appreciate your own efforts and notice the slightest improvement you might notice in the baby’s sleep (for example) or your skills.
In simple words, it is to focus on the positivity in and around you in the times of ‘darkness’.
And of course, note it down somewhere that you can refer to in the future.
When you look at these annotations in the future, (say 6 months later) you’d realize how much you’ve been through and hurdled.
This will be a great boost of confidence and motivation in your later months when you’re feeling down again.
(Note: If you’re interested in feeling unstuck when you’re down (motherhood), do subscribe for an alert when the post is published.)
The challenge in my relationship with my husband
I’d be lying if I say that our relationship is unaffected ever since the baby arrived.
In fact, it unearths unaddressed issues or amplifies what’s already a deep-seated issue in the relationship.
Whatever it is, it challenged our relationship to the core.
Ever since my newborn, (in this 1 year) we cumulatively had more difficult discussions than we ever had in the 9 years that we’re together.
Mind you I’m not saying ‘having a baby is a problem to our relationship.’
I’m saying having a baby catalyst the discussions we need to have in our relationship.
It sped up the process of addressing our issues and forced us to look for alternatives and solutions, fast.
Of course, there are also many times where it seems like it might not work out.
It was scary and the world seemed like it was going to end.
I do not want to sound cheesy, but whenever this happens, I imagine my life without my husband and I would realize how important he is in my life.
I would realize how much I’d rather overcome this problem with him than without him.
That perspective has led me to see the problem more bearable to handle.
So our relationship changed overnight. Here are some highlights of the changes.
How much our relationship has changed
We take turns to do something outside to buy some free time.
Time spent together now is a luxury, not a norm.
We reduced tv time and game time.
Quiet time is a blessing, and hard to come by.
We’re partners in raising our baby, not solo artists.
Most of our time and energy is devoted to our little baby girl.
We watch what we say and what we do.
We started eating at the dining table together.
Countless of difficult conversations have been had in 1 year.
We appreciate date nights now more than ever.
How quickly I prioritize the baby and neglect my husband
This is something I tried to be mindful of a few months ago. Which is to be patient and gentle towards my husband.
I knew when my baby was born, that I will spend most of my energy, patience, and time on her.
I knew I would have little to spare for my husband.
And unfortunately, my default is quick to anger when my energy is low.
If you’ve played Sims you will know that each Sim has a gauge to show their bodily needs or capacities.
Well my energy, me-time, and patience used to always run very low by the end of the day.
And when there’s a slightest mistake or question from my husband about any day-to-day activity, I would get easily annoyed and frustrated.
And of course, I would reply impatiently or harshly.
I recognized it and it was starting to take a toll on my husband. It was heartbreaking.
And so I realize that I have not been fair to my husband.
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Conclusion on tips for new moms
Ultimately, the main lesson I learned is to constantly be open to changes and find permanent solutions that suit us.
Looking back at how long I lingered on a problem that seemed unsolvable, I did not know how I put up with the never-ending cycle of struggles.
But nonetheless, I did. And you are probably going to do the same too.
I hope these will be helpful in what’s about to come for you.
And if you are an experienced mom, what other tips and advice would you impart to the unsuspecting moms that worked well for you.