Living with a newborn

Okay, I haven’t done the newborn care thing for several years, but I’m gearing up and asked several parents of new creatures (plus looked at my old notes and favorite books) to come up with this list for you, dear reader, and new owner/potential owner of one of these new additions to our planet.

The best tips thus far:

To practice living with a newborn: set your alarm to go off every 15 minutes all day. Every day. Forever. Every time it goes off, completely change what you’re doing. If you’re eating, stop and go do jumping jacks. If you’re showering, jump out (shampoo and all) to make a sandwich. If you’re sleeping, pop up and recite concrete poetry. The inability to do anything for more than 15 minutes (and that’s generous) is your new life.

Set a different alarm for every two days. When it rings, change careers. Not just jobs within an industry. Totally change careers. Because whatever you find to soothe or entertain your baby will change every two days. And then you have to start all over again with your proverbial bag of tricks.

Some days, nothing will work. Just keep trying. You can’t solve every problem but you can prove you care just by being there.

Mark your calendar for 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months. All of them are growth spurts, and they’ll sneak up on you with an exhausting 2-3 day of every-hour-on-the-hour nursing. If you’re expecting your babe to feed nonstop for two days at each of these three milestones, it seems less daunting. Because you know that they’re always crying because they really are hungry.

That 3 month marker is even bigger than the other two because it also means your newborn becomes a totally different baby. Completely different. For some reason, all their pain (digestive, reflux, general distaste at being in a cold, air-based environment) dissolve. Even babies with real colic (you poor, poor parents) are different children after the 3 month mark. Schedule a deep sigh of relief at week 14. Because you’ve just won Survivor.

Every single piece of advice you get is optional. You are the boss. Follow your gut. Because there are hundreds of ways to do this. And your mother and pediatrician and friends may all be wrong. You are right because it’s your child. But if something sounds good, try it. All other advice can get “oh, our pediatrician told us to do it this way.” It’s much more polite than what I told people.

If you go back to work, breastfeed. If you have trouble, get professional help. I have seen lactation consultants solve problems nobody thought would resolve, including a friend who wasn’t making enough milk, a friend with terrible plugged ducts, and my own 4 month painful escapade with thrush and Reynaud’s syndrome (nerve damage) from the treatment of the thrush. Forget all the hype about IQ and bonding and stuff—breastfed babies get sick a lot less. And get better much faster. Since day care is the germiest place on the planet, if you don’t nurse you will miss more work days than you can count for a sick child. So though pumping at work is tough, do it. And the good news/bad news is that you don’t need to pump as much as you’d think (usually 3 pumping sessions for every 2 feeding sessions that you’re replacing) because most babies reverse cycle (choose to nurse all night to be near you when you’re home) and don’t eat as often during the day.

Keep snack and water by your bedside because when a small, helpless person cries to eat at 2am, you’ll find yourself ravenous, too (but unwilling to turn on a light).

Get a sling or a wrap of some sort. Otherwise you will never eat. Sure, you can sit down with a newborn to eat. But you need two hands to prepare most foods. And some newborns don’t want to be put down for the whole first 3 months. Three months is a long time to not eat. Or pee. Get a sling or a wrap. (There are tons of reviews online. I’ll tell you my preference if you ask. But this isn’t an advertisement. Just get one. Ideally not the one that puts all the baby’s weight on its tailbone, because those are kind of spinally misguided.)

Any decision benefits from the light of day. Never, ever make an important decision in the middle of the night.

In the middle of the night, when you think you’re the only one out there, the Internet is your friend. There are lists on things to try and videos of how to fix a poor latch and anything else you can think of. Try or or or your own favorite site so you can find to hear that other people have been through the same thing and made it through.

Now, really—mark 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months from the birth date on your calendar. Seriously.

Anyone have more universal tips on having a newborn?