With baby Mary Jane closing in on the two week anniversary of that time she was accidentally born in our bathtub, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some photos of her, and a few things I’ve learned NOT to do while parenting my newborns.
1. Change Her Diaper at Night
This is huge you guys. You know how the books tell you that in the middle of the night you’ll feed the baby, she’ll half fall asleep, then she’ll poop, then you have to change her diaper, resulting in a wide-awake baby, and then, you know, you just hang out, until you can start the process all over again in half an hour?
I don’t do that.
|Lulu and Frankie are pretty excited about a new little sister.|
When the baby is sleepy and I am sleepy, I change her diaper, then I lay down with her in bed and nurse her until we both fall asleep and then . . . we get up in the morning. I nurse her, half-awake, as needed, through the night, and she always goes right back to sleep. Even if her pants aren’t clean. And I’ve never had babies get diaper rash from new baby poop. They totally don’t care. They juuuuust go right back to sleep.
I know co-sleeping isn’t for everyone. But it IS for us, and co-sleeping is way better when it involves actual sleeping.
|I cannot believe how GIANT Lulu became as soon as we brought home Mary Jane!|
2. Put Her Down
I just don’t put my babies down any more. I tried with my first, and it was just an unmitigated disaster. So now, they just get held or worn all the time. Mostly by me, sometimes by dad or grandparents or siblings. But, for the first few weeks, I don’t even have a crib or basket or swing or anything for putting babies in even out and available.
|So many girls! At one point we had three boys and a girl, but now we’ve flip-flopped with the second four.|
We do own a swing, someplace, and when she gets a little older, and there aren’t as many grownups around here to help, I’ll get it out and use it as much as the baby will tolerate. But, mostly, if it’s working for her, I’ll still hold or wear her almost all the time.
Not because I hate it and suffer through every second of it, not because I think only terrible mothers ever put their babies down . . . but because I don’t hate it TOO much, and sometimes I even like it, and it’s the way I’ve figured out to have my babies be happy and/or asleep all the time. And I like that.
3. Keep Track of Diapers or Feedings or ANY of That
I half-heartedly made check marks on the diapers and feedings chart they gave me with our first baby. But I soon figured out that my baby and I were both better off just focusing on getting to know each other and figuring out nursing, without any paperwork at all.
These days, I no longer think of nursing as “feeding the baby.” I think of nursing as “the thing the baby does when she is awake.” (“And sometimes also while she is sleeping.” ^see above^)
|Mary Jane’s “that sound makes me hungry” face. This is what she does when she hears my voice. It cracks me up every time.|
Now, in response to all things, I just . . . nurse the baby. Whether the problem is Hungry, or Grumpy, or Tired, or Awake, or Noisy in Church, the solution is always . . . nursing. It works great. I just always. nurse. the baby.
Auntie Leila can tell you all about it.
|Hey, it’s World Breastfeeding Week! Here’s my contribution.|
4. Take Her Back to the Doctor to Get the Clamp Off
Maybe if you stay in the hospital for long enough, they’ll take it off before you leave. But we never do stay in the hospital long enough for that. So we used to go back to the pediatrician to have them cut the plastic clamp off.
But ya know what? It doesn’t require and special skills or tools. If you’ve got some diagonal cutters (like pliers, but sharp), you can clip right through the joint end, and open it up and off it comes. Then you can clip off some of the dried, flattened, scratchy part of the cord that isn’t actually wet or sticky or touching the body, and wait for the rest of it to dry up and fall off.
I’m not saying YOU have to, but that’s what I do.
5. Bathe Her
Once that umbilical cord stump falls off, you’re supposed to start bathing the baby, right? That’s what I used to do. And boy did my babies hate it. Mostly because I was a dummy who thought I should put baby Jack in the bath seat in the sink and just run the faucet on him. Poor thing.
|A little morning sun bathing, a little Lion King.|
Anyway, all my newborns have pretty much hated baths, even once my technique improved. And I really don’t have time for stuff that requires an elaborate set up to upset my baby.
Now, I just sorta wipe them off as needed. Or I take them into the bathtub with me, which they like, but . . . it can end, um, abruptly.
|Thirteen years apart. Just getting a few kick-punching tips from big brother.|
6. Wait to Baptize Her
With our first couple babies, I wanted everything to be perfect for the baptism. I wanted to plan just the right service and reception. I wanted all the family and all our friends to be able to attend.
And all that is perfectly lovely to want. But, for me, wanting that meant I wasn’t focusing on what was most important: the actual sacrament.
Now, we baptize our babies just as quickly as we can. Usually the weekend after they’re born, but certainly within a couple weeks. We have personal relationships with a few priests and we’ve always been able to find one willing and available to do a private baptism within that time period.
|With godmother Micaela.|
We invite everyone, and hope people can make it. But if they can’t, we are content with their prayers. It’s not because I worry that our babies are actually in danger of dying, or that I doubt that a merciful and omnipotent God would accept our intent to baptize our child if the worst did happen. It’s because I believe completely in the importance and efficacy of baptism. I don’t want my perfect little baby girl to live with the burden of original sin for one more moment than she must.
|Centerpieces washi-taped by Betty and Anita.|
I don’t want her to live without the graces that baptism gives her for one more moment than she must.
It just seems like something that I wouldn’t want to put off.
|Duchess of Caimbridge-inspiered . . .|
Unlike all the other parties I throw which *I* think are simple, but probably aren’t, our baptism parties really ARE simple.
For Mary Jane’s baptism last Sunday, we had pink paper plates, a tray of take out deli sandwiches, various juices, a fruit plate, and some donuts. Boom. It’s a party.
|Sundays are for donuts.|
And, more importantly, it’s a new little a Catholic with a squeaky clean soul.
7. Figure I’ve Got it Figured Out
Because while I do have it WAY more figured out than I did with my first couple babies, and I know how things TEND to go, and what TENDS to work for me and for my brand of babies . . . each time is going to be a little bit different.
|Twenty-first century baby. Face Time with Gramma.|
Each pregnancy, each labor, each delivery, each recovery, each baby is going to have its own unique things going on.
I haven’t found it useful to compare myself to other people, or even to my own other babies. What works best is to pay attention to what my body and my baby seem to need this time around, and then do that.
And not fret about it.
|Peas porridge hot. Peas porridge cold. Mary Jane in a pot, nine days old.|
Bonus: I DO . . . Let People Help Me
You guys may have noticed that I like to do stuff. But at least for the first two weeks, I try not to. The husband has awesome paternity leave, my parents are great and come spend a week or two at the house every time we have a baby. Our Catholic community is THE best and our friends deliver meals to us four or five times per week for a couple of weeks.
|These brownies came to my house. It was awesome.|
And, I’m not great at relaxing. I’m not as good as Blythe. I tend to have a pretty easy time of it physically, which means I feel better postpartum than I did when I was huge and pregnant. But even with a pretty easy recovery, I really notice when I overdo it. It is a good thing for me to chill with this sweet new baby. And for me to gratefully accept kind and generous offers of help. And let someone else wrangle Frankie. Rawr.
Re. point #1. I did the same thing. I had envisioned putting our newborn in her crib at four weeks, but instead, I realized that after a week or two (somewhere in there), I had NO sleep deprivation due to sleeping next to her and nurse-sleeping ever so peacefully. It was effortless. We have our second baby on the way in about seven weeks, and I hope it works again that way. It was a dream (literally).
To underscore–we did not put her in her crib. And was totally easy and peaceful. My husband liked her with us, too, which is nice.
Me too! So many people say how sleep deprived they are with a newborn, but I sleep really well with her. Especially compared to all those weeks of getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night!
At 36 weeks with #2, these are really good and timely reminders. Thanks, Kendra! And congrats on MJ's baptism!
yes yes yes yes
I still have no idea "when" my baby nursed last, and she is over six months old. Nursing isn't my default anymore, since she's a bit older, but it's still just… that one thing she does a lot. Without a schedule or measuring or any such thing.
Granted, I have very fat babies so they never need any special fussing over. Nursing whenever they want to, however much they want to, is always PLENTY for them. I know it must be very different if your baby is tiny and struggling to get started!
YEs … Especially to the no bathing thing! Although this time around I was given these Johnson and Johnson bath wipes that I used to clean the cheese out of the neck and make the baby smell a little better than thrown up milk.. And we baptize each kid faster and faster.
Ooh. Those sound nice. Better than kitchen rag.
I found there were so many things I didn't do with my third that I did with my first. When I was miserably pregnant with #3, I could hardly wait for her to be born so I could get some sleep–I said I could nurse in my sleep but I sure couldn't sleep 8-9 mos pregnant. I never did the middle of the night diaper change unless the baby pooped, which was rarely in the middle of the night.
Wait, people don't do all these things? Except for the baptism, I did all these with my first baby… I just figured that she was supposed to be happy, and doing things like sleeping with me and eating all the time and being held all the time made her happy, so that's what we did.
I never saw the point in making brand new babies scream in misery; it's not like they're capable of being disingenuous at that age. I remember a brand new baby that I babysat as a teen: she was only a few weeks old, but her parents were bound and determined to let her "cry it out," so she screamed constantly as she sat in her carrier while they were working in the other room. The irony was that she had terrible gas pains, and they were really concerned about it, and gave her medication all the time for it — and it seemed so obvious to me that she was just swallowing so much air from screaming all the time!
In my opinion, the best thing you can do with a new baby is interact with him/her: feeding, being held (by mom, dad, whoever's around!), sleeping with parents. The most important thing they're learning is how to be a person, and how can they do that if they sit by themselves all the time? 🙂
We post partum the same. 🙂
My Cranky Frankie equivalent, Vivian the Menace, dressed as a tiger while the new baby and I were chillaxin. I cracked up seeing your Frank as a lion. 🙂
They should hang out. That's a great nickname. 🙂
I am totally trying not to change this baby all night. It makes sense that breastmilk only poop won't bother them – I don't even have to do an extra cycle in the wash on the cloth diapers. And the light is the worst. Thanks!
My last couple babies have slept a lot during the day and I've had to wake them to eat, because I do set the baby down, but generally they eat frequently. I too latch 'em on anytime they open their mouths 🙂 I'm supposed to start co-op about my due date and I worry about their food and screen time new baby or not – but I'm going to try and relax with the baby. Really just relax. I'm terrible at it, although I'm not very productive. Just controlling.
This is great to read, and I appreciate the insights! I also love your and Betty's "Duchess of Cambridge" inspired outfits 🙂
I have definitely mellowed on many of these over the years. I never did #3. I just figured that was a day care thing, not something I needed to do as the mom. But on of my BFFs still does this for here third baby. For the love of Pete, I don't know why. She wants me to keep the chart when I babysit. I reluctantly do so, poorly. Who can remember to write it all down when there are so many other little people running around!
I am the same about Baptisms. The longest we have waited is about 2 months and it felt like an eternity. We don't have a lot of Catholic friends or any family, so we do have to wait a bit for Godparents to be available. I know we could do the whole proxy thing, but I would like someone to be at the Baptism other than us.
I love this! Perhaps because my baby was born just a week before yours. With each subsequent baby I get a little more relaxed and have become increasingly ok with doing what seems to be best for my baby and my family. I hold, nurse and sleep with the baby more this time around, and she rarely cries. I also 100% agree with the no diaper changes in the middle of the night philosophy. And oh my gosh, my youngest before the baby seems like a giant now too!
Mom of ten here — and I could have written this post, I so heartily concur. 🙂 This was just exactly where our learning curve brought us! Bless your lovely family and congratulations on your beautiful new daughter!
ditto on alllll the things. Except the holding thing. I do hold/wear most of the time, but I use a swing too…last time I had a baby only one child was old enough to actually hold a baby without close supervision, lol.
These are awesome! And I do them all too with the exception of changing poo at night. No for boys but yes for girls. And only because we had a really horrific UTI experience.
Always sharing your wisdom with us. Thanks Kendra!
I have found it very beneficial and encouraging as a newer mom to have had my baby the same time as you to line up with your newborn / baby-things-on-the-mind posts. Thanks for all you share!!!!!
It's my second time seeing the peas porridge picture, and I still can't believe you put your newborn in a pot 😉 I see a Mary Jane calendar (a la Anne Geddes style but with pots and pans instead of flowers…) in the future… hehe! She's such a cutie! Congratulations, again!
Haha yes! Do it Kendra
yes yes and yes
Fascinating list! We welcomed our second on July 29th and the waking and diaper changes do take their toll. How long do you not change their diapers at night? Also, any tips for how to keep an toddler (20 months) entertained with a newborn? I've been having the hardest time not getting frustrated with my toddler becoming my shadow and whinning all day. I wish he would play on his own a little.
I had a baby in March, he and his brother are also 20 months apart! I was really, really frustrated with the older one for the first couple of weeks. He knew we were distracted, and took advantage by getting into things he knew he wasn't supposed to touch. We made sure to give him some one-on-one time, and husband and I did our very best to at least keep his bedtime routine. We asked him to "help" with the baby, letting him pick out clothes for the baby, letting him gently wipe baby's bottom (he asked to help during a diaper change) asking him to take dirty diaper to the trash, asking him to pick out a toy for the baby to hold, etc. I'm very lucky to have my parents near by, so they would take him out for a fun afternoon about once a week. Our library offers a story/singing/play time for kids his age, so we made a huge effort to get to that. Getting out of the house seemed to help, believe it or not! Hang in there, it got a hundred times easier around three months!
Yes! It gets easier. And it's much easier for us with a three year old for the 20 month old to play with, so more kids definitely helps in that regard.
We try to get Lulu involved as much as possible with getting diapers and things, but discipline-wise, it gets much harder. At least for a couple months, you're stuck in the chair and it's harder to mean what you say. Toddlers are going to pick up on that and act accordingly. So, I try to limit the amount of stuff I say to the minimum, and let them get away with some stuff I otherwise wouldn't, just to not set that precedent of me saying something and not following through.
Having dad or grandparents around to entertain a toddler is really amazing, if possible. And don't be afraid to use TV as you need it. You're in charge. You can use it when you need it and stop using it when you don't!
Yes to all of these. Except the cord clamp one. Those of us who find hospitals relaxing and stay a full 24 hours don't have that issue at all.
And switch out doughnuts for 'cake baked and decorated by my mother' and we could be baptism twins. I love an excuse to buy deli sandwiches and to have every else do the clean up for me. Can't imagine doing it any other way.
Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us. Mary Jane is awesome.
Gdad and Nana will be back up to help rangle Frankie on Sat but will be bringing two more kids and your sister. She'll be a help with the little kids. Mary Jane looks beautiful at 9 days old.
Awesome advice! When my littlest was born, I figured out fast that babies really only need 'spot cleaning' and thought it was strange that so much of the 'expert' advice I was hearing or reading said to bathe the baby every night for routine's sake. I decided to not give myself one more thing to do, plus save a winterborn baby's new skin from getting dried out by just using wipes and slathering on that coconut oil. Never ever had a case of diaper rash. We also do the co-sleep and eat method and started getting a full night's sleep pretty quickly once baby figured out his day and nights.
Mary Jane is looking so sweet! Forwarding this post to a friend who is expecting. I love a good 'baby hack." Sometimes the real answer is "use your common sense, not the latest parenting book."
From personal experience, I had to change my second all the time. He developed a yeast infection and needed medication and air. And yes he was completely breast fed. Some babies may not get diaper rash or other infections, but some babies do. Some babies get yeast infections in their mouths (called thrush) and others in their rears. Some people are lucky that that never happens, but speaking from experience not everyone does. Just something to consider.
I agree with all of them, with the exception of #2. I am now realizing that babies need to be put down on the floor, on their bellies, a lot. Mine weren't and I wish I had done it more from the beginning. They develop important muscles including neck and eye muscles, that won't develop in carriers, swings and seats. My second never even crawled, and it is a problem, and I see the problems it has caused now that he is 5. Very important vestibular sensory input was missing, that we are now trying to regain. I know for certain that if we didn't homeschool, he would be diagnosed with ADD or something similar.
I do also wish that we had baptized sooner. I wasn't practicing when my oldest was born, but we did have him baptized at 6 months.
Thank you for posting this. As always, I learned a lot from your post.
I always wondered how people could co-sleep. I figured it wouldn't work since I would need to get up anyway to change the baby's diaper. Not changing the diaper until morning makes so much sense.
Can you recommend a baby wrap that you use, especially for newborns? We have a carrier, but we've only used it once the babies get bigger. I also don't understand how you can nurse while carrying a baby in a wrap. Are you just wearing a nursing shirt?
I have a soft fabric sling carrier that I really like for tiny babies. There's a link to it in this post: The Essentials Only Guide to Baby Gear: birth to six months
I like it much better than something like the Moby Wrap. I know some moms swear by it, but it seems really unnecessarily complicated to me, and maybe not-nursing friendly? But maybe it is, I only tried it a couple of times and gave up.
I can nurse in the fabric sling, either by wearing a nursing camisole underneath a blousy top, and just lifting the top up to nurse, and then it's kind of self-covering, or by pulling down a top or dress and using a scarf over it.
I wear it over my left shoulder and under my right arm. So I can nurse on the left side by lifting her up a bit to the breast, or on the right side by sliding the sling down until she's under my right arm, like a football hold. Does that make any sense? I feel like it's hard to explain, but really simple to do!
Laura, we cosleep and I do change my babies at night (#3 will be arriving sometime next month). Both boys previously just really hated being poopy, so I would change them (though they quit pooping at night pretty quickly). We have a cosleeper bassinet, but we use it to store diaper supplies instead of putting baby in it (meaning we don't have to get out of bed). We also keep a nightlight on a nightstand so we can have a little bit of light but not too much for changes.
I can nurse in a Moby but it does require a little bit of adjustment and holding with one arm. I found a very helpful YouTube tutorial on it. I really do like the Moby, but I know a lot of moms don't care for it much. I don't find the tying difficult and it makes me feel at least like the baby is more secure than a regular carrier. My husband, though, prefers the regular carrier. Baby has been happy regardless.
Thank you Kendra and Sandra.
I'll have to check out the sling you use Kendra. Your explanation for how you use it makes sense. I have the Moby Wrap, but didn't care for it either.
I feel better now.
I didn't do the overnight diaper changes, excessive bathing, or tracking feeding either. My son was born via c section (so it took some finagling to get up) in the middle of my last semester of college (so I needed a rested, happy newborn). He pretty much just stayed attached to me and nursed for the first month, with plenty of DAYTIME diaper changes in between.
I once mentioned that I didn't bathe my baby that much because it dried out his skin, and I got tons of recommendations about different soaps, which I then ignored.
Even at 18 months, he hops in the shower with us when we notice he needs bathing and that's that.
As a Protestant, the "we NEED to baptize our infants, but we're going to wait a while so we can have a big party" thing always struck me a little odd. It makes so much more sense to me to do it quickly. And donuts? Always better than cake.
I had plans to do these things, too, this time around. I was a mess with the first. But having twins makes it a different story. They were a little early and slept a lot, in the hospital they lost a lot of weight and had low blood sugar while waiting for my milk to come in. So, I was instructed to wake them every 3 hrs, and changing their diaper is a great way to fully wake a baby, so there is more to your point. If you have no reason to wake a baby, probably also dont change their diaper.
Things are going smoothly now. I went back to work FT at 10 weeks 🙁 but we started co-sleeping not long after. I get so much more sleep. If one wakes up, neither of us have to get up, I just roll over and nurse and we both go back to sleep and it is lovely. I don't know how MoM who bottle feed survive!?
FWIW, I've had 9 kids and learned w/ the 4th that BF poop doesn't give my kids diaper rash, so no more middle of the night changes unless they leak. It was wonderful.
Lovely! I am new to your blog and your approach is refreshing. We are expecting #5 and it's funny how things have changed with each one. By the way. Your dresses are beautiful. Where do you shop?
Thank you! I shop mostly at ModCloth, Anthropologie, and Amazon.
I really want to co-sleep with future babies, but I cannot figure out how to do it comfortably! I get nervous that I'm going to cover them up with my blankets or smother them. I ended up sleeping with my 9 month old while camping last month and for the life of me could not figure out where to put my arm. He'd fall asleep nursing and then my arm would fall asleep. Where does my arm go?! I realize this sounds a little bit ridiculous…
With Mary Jane, I sleep with her on her side facing me, in the crook of my arm so that I can easily roll her from side to side when I switch breasts for nursing. It looks like "they" recommend that you keep the baby on her back on the side away from your husband all night, and just alternate whether you offer the top or bottom breast. I don't think I could physically do that, not being particularly busty. But we have a king sized bed, so there is plenty of room between my husband and the baby. Honestly I can't remember how I handle it with older kids, I don't remember having a problem with my arm falling asleep. In most cosleeping photos I saw in a google search, it looks like most moms keeps their arms up, not under baby's head. But I'm pretty sure mine just sleep on my arm, I think?
I think the key to the blanket thing is to dress yourself and baby warmly enough that you don't have any blankets above baby's waist, which is about where your waist is too. I wear long sleeves if the weather is cool, so I don't have to worry about blankets.
I am large busted and still can't figure out the top/bottom thing. Plus I have to switch positions during the night or I would go insane. I just keep my arms up and roll over with baby as necessary. We use a bedrail and there's always plenty of space even when baby is between DH and me. We also go light on blankets, but I and my babies all "run on hot." We are almost always too warm, even in winter.
Is it good or bad that I go down this list and think to myself – yup, yup, yes, very much yes, that one too.
I don't own a baby bath, and that fact seems to horrify people.
Also, when you're a first-time parent, there's about a 4-month window in which you can (mostly) keep up your social life, since everything is solved by nursing and they're not mobile yet.
*love* her little hungry face she makes when she hears your voice. How precious is that!
If you have the time/ feel inclined please give the deats about yours and Betty's baptism outfits, you gals look great!
Thanks Lizzie! Betty's top is from Target and her skirt is from ModCloth, my whole outfit and both of our hats and belts are from Amazon. Lots of great Fascinators on Amazon. 🙂 And my skirt is by Modern Kiwi. I have it in two colors now and really love it.
Fantastic post. I've been behind on my reading.
1) you look great. 2) she's beautiful… and so are your other children.
What brand of baby wrap do you use?
I use an Ergo baby carrier, mostly. I also have a soft, non-ring sling carrier, called a jelly bean sling, that's great to have in my purse and always have along with me. But the Ergo definitely gets the most use.
I just came across your blog and simply love it! I keep coming back to read it between chores like a good book 🙂 I am a new Catholic mama to a 6 month old and am starting my own Catholic mama blog (Spirit Led Life) and I'm so glad I came across this post! I do a lot of these things already and am always a little guilty that I'm not following the mainstream on numbers 3 and 5 especially! I have a couple questions about cosleeping with your little ones: how long do you do that for and (this may be a dumb one but) how do you actually do it? I always feel like I can't get him in a position both where my arm doesn't fall asleep and I am not in danger of suffocating him under the blankets!!
Thanks Emily! I cosleeping with my babies until they get wiggly and we start waking each other up a lot at night. I has varied from five to ten months with different babies. The blanket thing IS a concern. I just make sure I'm wearing sleeves, so I can keep the blankets at my waist and away from baby's head. I lay down with baby's head on my upper arm and haven't had a problem with my arm falling asleep. If it gets uncomfortable or I need to nurse on the other side, I just hug baby to my chest and roll her over me to my other side.