Diapers and Caffeine aside, I've put together 10 things that helped me survive the first 3 months of mama hood.
The First 3 Months
For 9 months I got tons of input, advice, and encouragement for the much anticipated labor of my first child. With so much focus on making it to, and through, the labor, I totally failed to consider the challenges that postpartum would bring. Don't misunderstand me. The birth of my child was also the most miraculous and spectacular experience of my entire life. Not only was my son born that day, but I gave birth to a new version of myself. I was a mother, and there was no turning back. It is a beautiful and wonderfully messy role.
All that said, after the insanely emotional and physical experience of the birthing experience, and coming face to face with my new identity, there was little to no sleep - an essential piece of any kind of recovery or healing.
I don't remember anyone telling me about the messy, and challenging, realities of postpartum. There are so many joyous, and beautiful moments, but I could not have imagined how hard it would be, and that left me feeling very alone in it all.
Did you know that there are countries where women go on rest for MONTHS following the birth of their children? I can now totally understand WHY that is completely necessary.
In some parts of the world, getting daily massages, staying in bed with your baby for weeks, and having live-in help are not only a NORM, but are seen as COMPLETELY necessary to FULLY recover from the birthing experience. This is not just for the healing benefits to the body after birth, but as a preventive measure of the health (both physical and emotional) issues that can develop when you DON'T allow your body to adequately REST and RECOVER...which, honestly, I have not been able to do well.
We are at month 3 now, and I continue to feel the daily toll of sleep deprivation. As much as family has tried to help, or I've tried to FORCE sleep sporadically throughout the day, I have not been successful at getting the sleep that I've SO desperately needed.
Everyone keeps telling me, "sleep when your baby sleeps", and I DESPERATELY want that to work for me...but, it just hasn't. My body has not adjusted to sync with the random sleep of my child, and I am therefore left severely sleep deprived. There must be another way, another SOLUTION!
So, instead of telling you to try to get sleep, because chances are you won't get much (I'm sorry and I feel your pain), I thought I'd just share a few things that helped me get through, and to somewhat keep my sanity amidst the crazy venture of keeping a baby alive, while running on little to no sleep.
Here it is - My survival kit for the first 3 months of mama hood...
1. Marc Polo
This is the app that saved my life!...or at least my sanity. No one quite prepares you for the isolation that is staying at home alone, and caring for your beautiful baby who unfortunately can't talk to you. Staying at home is SUCH a blessing, but when you are used to adult interaction all day, it's a BIG shift!
Getting out of the house was near impossible in those early weeks and months, but that doesn't mean mamas don't need socialization. We as HUMAN BEINGS need community. No matter how much of a introvert you are, I fully believe that community is essential to our survival...especially as new moms!
Marco Polo is a video chat app without the razzle dazzle of filters. It's raw, it's real, and it's wonderful!
For the days when you need to have some adult interaction, to vent, or just a little camaraderie to keep yourself going - this app will be your saving grace. I can't tell you how many days I felt like I wasn't going to make it through, and then had a friend send me a video about how horrible her day was going, and it somehow gave me the lift I needed to push through, and even make me laugh.
If you don't have (or want) this app, at least have a couple friends in place who are willing to text with or be on call for you.
You are NOT alone in this season, and you shouldn't have to feel like you are.
Find some people to share your mama wins & woes with!
And if you don't have someone, you can always reach out to me : )
2. Herbal & Detox Baths
I was in labor for 17 hours, and pushing for 4 hours. The aches and pains that followed for the next several days, and even weeks after, was not something that I could have prepared myself for. I was straight up SUPER uncomfortable for the first 3-4 weeks.
That being said, I was VERY scared to take a bath. I honestly wasn't even sure that I could get myself down INTO the bath! To be honest, I actually did end up needing help to get in and out of my first bath, but OH MY GOSH...it was SO worth it!
I found baths to be one of the BEST aides in my healing process. I was fortunate enough to have a healing herbal mix that my mother-in-law made me, but if you don't get a chance to make that before labor, epsom salts are very helpful as well. You can add sea salt, baking soda, and lavender essential oil for detoxing and EXTRA relaxation.
No one tells you this, but your womb, and body, are actually in a process of restoration and detoxing after birth. It is so important that your body (ESPECIALLY the lady parts that carry babies) heal properly.
Baths are also fantastic when you are struggling to sleep. I found my mind would be on overdrive, or worrying about baby, or just plain OVER TIRED.
In summary, baths are a great way to rest your body SANS sleep.
3. Bedside Baby Kit
If you are co-sleeping, or having your baby sleep at your bedside for those early months (which I HIGHLY recommend), it's a great idea to have all your babies necessities close by - think of this like a baby first aid kit.
Here is what I keep in mine
-Change of clothes
-Baby Saline and Snot sucker
-bottle (for formula or bottle feeders)
-OH, and this is more for mama, but have a few extra tops/clothes for yourself...moming is messy...I've said it.
Pretty much anything you could potentially need in the night should be in this kit, because majority of the time getting OUT of bed feels near IMPOSSIBLE.
I make sure I repack my bedside baby kit EVERY NIGHT.
Save those extra bits of energy Mama!
4. Sleep Sack Onsies
Remember all of those ADORABLE outfits you planned to dress up your baby in?! Get ready to probably never use those.
I got a couple of these sleep sacks, not even knowing what they were - because I didn't register for them, but, THANK GOD I received them!
Unless we are actually going out of the house, which has been rare up until more recently (because it's REALLY hard), these sleep sacks are ALL my child wears. Why!? Because they are the fastest and EASIEST thing to zip on and off when you are doing the multitude of changings that your child requires throughout the day, ESPECIALLY at night!
There have been nights where my child wakes up, after sleeping for only 1 hour, at 3AM, and I struggle to even lift my head from the pillow, let alone PICK-UP a child. By the time I get up and pull baby into my bed, there is little to no chance that I am going all the way to the changing table. I change that baby right in my bed. Messy, but REAL LIFE "moming". And there is NO WAY that I am unbuttoning 15 little snaps, which would in-turn fully wake up my baby, and fully frustrate this overly-tired mama right here.
These sleep sacks are fast and efficient at getting the changing done so that you can feed and go back to sleep - ESSENTIAL.
5. Lactation cookies
Because sometimes you just need a little motivation to keep going...lactation cookies.
Let's face it, waking up 3-5 times a night is no walk in the park. When you are sleep deprived, and still need to be waking to feed and care for your babe, you sometimes need...no, DESERVE, a little reward. Also, mama-ing and breastfeeding make you super hungry!
I have officially stopped whipping up batches of the peanut buttery deliciousness that is lactation cookies, but for the first 3 months I always kept a stash of about 5 cookies in my fridge. So when you wake to feed baby, and he/she isn't going back to bed...or heck, YOU can't fall back asleep, this fridge stash really comes in handy! It also really helped in giving me the extra push I needed to get my butt going the day following a sleepless night.
I have a killer recipe made with Almond flour if you're interested.
6. Water, Kombucha, and Healthy Eating
This is kind of a given, but hydration is ESSENTIAL to surviving mama hood. You are cleaning your body, restoring it for proper healing, and keeping it running. I struggled to keep up with this, but I urge you to do better than I did. I found Kombucha to be very helpful in keeping up my energy level, in addition to the hydration, without having to resort to caffeine.
Healthy eating is also essential, but can be hard to pull off. Cooking as a new mama can be near impossible, but if you have a good community around you providing you food, that is such an amazing help. You can go the extra step to request that you get vegetables and lean proteins in those meals. You might not have a baby in that tummy to worry about anymore, but your mama body needs the same loving care postpartum that you gave it during pregnancy.
7. Baby Wearing Gear
It's so true what they say about baby wearing. Everyone has to find what works best for them and their baby. For me, I loved the Solly Wrap. I found the other wraps I tried to be too heavy, and because my baby was tiny, he wasn't quite ready for some of the more intricate baby wearing gear.
Baby wearing has been so helpful to not only my bond with my babe, but to getting ANYTHING done. Obviously the first few weeks you really should have your feet up and be resting as much as possible, but once you start feeling more physically able this will keep you from feeling stir crazy.
I also found baby wearing to be a helpful tool in getting my babe to sleep when nothing else seemed to be working.
8. A-list comfy clothes
This might be a predictable one too. Everyone told me, but not until everything that touched my body hurt, did I realize HOW TRUE it was. Comfy clothes are a necessity. So here are the things that I thing every postpartum mama should have.
1. Soft Baggy pants. And I mean BAGGY. Like get a size or two bigger than what you normally would. Make sure the WAIST band has little to no restrictions on YOURS.
2. Soft loose tank that is easy to remove. Believe me, I TRIED the nursing tanks, no cigar. I alway opt for my loose tanks that are gentle on my skin, and have easy to pull down straps. I had that awesome side affect of sweating through all of my clothes for the first two weeks. It's good to have extra clothes on hand.
3. The Bra "sitch". Similar to the tanks, I did NOT like nursing bras. Especially in those early weeks when your milk is coming in. What I opted for was a good collection of soft, wireless bras that were easy to pull on and off, and that I could afford to buy enough of to change.
9. Baby Cloths & Cotton Swaddle Blankets
This is pretty self-explanatory, and I'm sure you will find your own list of ways to use these items. I want to expand a little on WHY these are SO essential though.
Baby Cloths: They may seem innocent, but these are killer - SUPER useful. Honestly, when I first received them as a gift, I was thinking "never gonna use these" - boy was I wrong! I ALWAYS have a few of these on hand (in my diaper bag, in my bedside kit, at the changing table, near my nursing station). Like I said, mama hood is messy, and these little suckers are the softest, most amazing way to keep things clean while still be gentle for mama and baby's sensitive skin.
Cotton Swaddles/Blankets: I found the cotton ones to be softer than the muslin, but honestly you could use any kind. I like the ones pictured below because, besides being super soft, they are bigger than most other blankets/swaddles.
Now, I didn't use these to swaddle. My babe actually HATES being swaddled. I did however use them for ever other use your mama mind could imagine. Here is the SHORT list.
1. on the go (express) changing pad
2. super milk and spit up cleaner upper
3. spit-up guard for mama or any other surface you might want to protect.
4. Pretty much any other use you could think of.
Make sure both of these are in your bedside kit to help you make it through the night.
Target gift cards are great and all, but AMAZON gift cards are life saving in the first few weeks and months of your chid's life. Pretty much, my advice is to ask for Amazon gift cards if and when people ask you, "what do you need?"
Reasons amazon is so great?!
Let's face it, it's near impossible to get out the first 3 month. It's not only hard because you have a little babe to tote around, but also when you are exhausted and straight-up sore, going to the store feels like a marathon.
Amazon Fresh is a fantastic grocery alternative, but expensive to upkeep. There are tons of grocery stores that now have online/app based shopping with curbside pick-up.
*BONUS: Find someone who can HELP YOU, and don't be afraid to ASK for it ; )
Live-in help might not be an option, but having someone who you feel comfortable enough to ask to help you, to help with the babe, is IRREPLACEABLE. I have a hard time asking for help, so it was important I had someone I could be completely vulnerable and honest with. And, even though my husband is super wonderful, I needed as much as help as I could get. Especially after my hubby went back to work.
For me, it was my mom. She has come over at least 1-3 times a week, since my son was born, to do everything that has felt impossible, including letting me TRY to nap. You will need, and should let yourself RECEIVE help with laundry, dishes, changing the baby, giving you an opportunity to get out of the house baby free, to shower, and most important to REST.
So whether it's your mom, your best-friend, or just an awesome woman from church - GET YOURSELF A HELPER!
Be well Mamas