Infancy is tough. And it's also wonderful. The first year of Ryan's life was both tougher and more wonderful than I could have ever thought possible. As we approach Ryan's first birthday next week and, gulp, toddlerhood (omg I seriously cannot wrap my head around having a toddler), I thought it would be fun to put together my top five necessities for surviving your child's first year.
Now, I totally understand that these may not be YOUR top 5 necessities. Every baby is different, believe me, I know this because my friends baby naps for multiple hours during the day while mine takes 30 minute catnaps. :) However, I'm sure there will be some other mamas out there in agreement with at least one or all of my top five.
1. Invest in a great nursing chair.
Seriously, this will save your life at your 1am feedings. And at your 3am and 4am and 5am feedings. Oh and at the 6-8 other hour long feedings you have throughout your day when your baby is a newborn. You will spend a RIDICULOUS amount of time feeding your child when they are a newborn and if it's not feeding, it's burping, or holding them upright so they don't puke out half of what you just spent over an hour giving them. Or maybe just holding them because they fell asleep while feeding them and God forbid you get up and wake them up so you decide it's best just to sit tight and maybe snooze for a minute while they snooze. And while doing all of this, where are you? Hopefully in the nice, comfy nursing chair that you invested in because if you are going to spend so much time sitting, it may as well be an a super comfortable chair.
2. Get a breast pump (if breastfeeding) and introduce a bottle.
Moms, I get it. You are breastfeeding and you want your baby to want to breastfeed. You hesitate to introduce a bottle because you've heard of that terrible thing called "nipple confusion." Well guess what, there's also this terrible thing called "my baby won't take a bottle and I can't leave my child for more than an hour because no one else can feed her." Yes, it happens. I introduced a bottle around the 5 week mark and Ryan has gotten one bottle a day at bedtime since then. Introducing a bottle and keeping it as a regular fixture in her daily routine allowed me the freedom to leave the house on occasion knowing that she could be fed by someone else. It also has allowed Josh and I to go out in the evening for a date because someone else is capable of feeding her and putting her down for the night. You cannot put a price on that kind of freedom as a new Mom. Which brings me to this....
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Sometimes, we as Mamas want to pretend that we are not just Moms. We want to believe we are Super Woman. We attempt to do it all. Do the housework, grocery shop, make dinner, do laundry, keep our husbands happy, pay bills, perhaps work from home, and keep a newborn alive all while functioning on little to no sleep with hormones that are running a-freakin-muck. Here's the problem with trying to fly like Super Woman. Eventually, you will crash and burn. My advice, is ask for help. Call your Mom, call your best friend, hell, call your best friend's Mom. Seriously, whatever you need. Get someone to come over to hold your screaming child so you can walk aimlessly around Target (that's where I like to go!) Or if you are afraid to leave your little one, get someone to come over and be with you while you hold your screaming child! You have to take breaks and just because you need some time away from your baby does not make you a bad Mom. In fact, it probably makes you a better one because you can come back refreshed and re-energized and ready to deal with the fussing and crying and stress of being a caregiver to your sweet baby.
4. Make friends with people who have babies.
It can be a really isolating life when you have a baby. Suddenly, you spend all your time at home and even when your friends visit, you are distracted by the child that you have to care for. Then, when you do get the courage to leave the house, your baby has a meltdown in aisle five of the grocery store, or has a major blowout at the middle of lunch with a friend, or pukes all down your shirt at the mall and you decide it's just not worth it and it's easier to stay at home. Here's the thing. It IS easier, but it's also going to make you go insane. We are wired to crave interaction with other people. There's nothing that will make you resent your child more than feeling like you've completely lost the life you used to live (the life before baby). But, if you put yourself out there and make friends with other women who have children, suddenly, that meltdown is just considered background noise, the poop blowout is no big deal, and the puke down your shirt, well that's just "normal" Mom smell because those Mom's that you hang with, they are dealing with the EXACT SAME STUFF! They are tired like you, they understand your frustration when your 10 month old suddenly isn't sleeping through the night anymore, and they feel your pain when you are dealing with a sick child. And making friends with Moms is actually quite easy because most Moms want to make friends with other Moms. Join a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, go to your local library's story time, or frequent your neighborhood park. Make friends with Moms because these women will become your life support.
5. Love on your baby the best you can because infancy doesn't last long.
If there's anything I've learned this past year, it's that I may not do everything "right." I may get frustrated and lose my patience at times. I may send Ryan to bed smelling like a hot dog because we ran out of time for an evening bath. She may have eaten some dirt or dust or dog food because I took my eye off of her for one minute. I didn't hand make all of her baby food and I may or may not allow her to watch TV because it entertains her while I drink my morning (and afternoon) coffee. :) But, I love my daughter to the moon and back and I truly believe at only one year old, that she knows that. I tell her every day, multiple times a day. I play with her and read to her and rock her to sleep and kiss her and hug her and I know that she knows that I love her. And honestly, I'm sure that that is what's most important. Love is the most important necessity of all.