Tips to Make Life Easier with a New Baby? Do they exist? We know from experience that everyone is different. Every baby is different. What works for some may not work for others. So take this advice for what it’s worth and do what is comfortable for you and your baby.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
If someone says to you, “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know” then they have literally asked for it. Let them help. Get into the habit of taking people at their word and accept their offers of assistance. If they meant it, they will be glad to give you a hand. If they didn’t then they will learn a valuable lesson about offering! Things that seem impossible to you, like just nipping to the shop for some essentials, are not a huge hassle for someone coming to visit. Equally, when someone visits and wants to hold your new-born, take the opportunity to get something done. Chat while you fold laundry or even better, escape for a half-hour snooze while they gaze adoringly at the little one. Chances are, they won’t even notice.
You really don’t have to have the ironing done. Your home doesn’t have to look like a show-house. Clothes can have some baby sick on them. Your hair doesn’t have to be straightened or curled or even washed every day. When things threaten to overwhelm you, cut things down so that the priorities are covered – baby is healthy and happy, you are healthy and happy and there is enough clean laundry and food to keep you clothed and fed. Everything else is a bonus.
On the days when you manage to get lots done, celebrate it but don’t use it as a stick to beat yourself with when you have a day when nothing constructive gets done. Every day comes with new challenges. Just because you look around you at the end of it and the house looks the same or you get to midnight and realise you still haven’t had your shower, remember the things you did get done, even if the only thing you can think of is the fact that you kept both yourself and the baby alive. Some days, that is enough.
If there is an easier way to do things, then take that shortcut! Make things simpler wherever you can. This might mean doing things differently for a while. Making a few sacrifices in order to keep your sanity just makes sense. Stop doing unnecessary chores. Organise your nappy changing area for maximum efficiency. Keep a stash of essential baby clothes in the living room to save running upstairs for things Shop online. Download baby apps that tell you when you last fed or changed. Find shortcuts and then use them!
Buy in Bulk.
Buy in bulk – especially when it comes to baby essentials. Those giant packs of nappies and boxes of baby wipes? Those aren’t just for people with triplets and those who live miles from the nearest shop; once you actually get them through the checkout and wrestle them into the boot of the car; they are actually incredibly handy and often better value than buying multiple small packs.
Even better, as long as you meet the minimum charge for delivery, place a supermarket order for delivery that consists of everything you will need for a month or two; nappies, wipes, nappy cream, toiletries, cotton wool, cotton buds, colic drops, chocolate and nice soft drinks for middle of the night feeds. Knowing you have an impressive stash of bum cream, a stack of nappies that the local day-care nursery would be proud of and enough wet wipes to last until baby is 18 feels really great.
Sleep When They Do
I know from experience that this is clearly not always possible, but it’s worth trying.
It’s one of those things that people say and you don’t really pay any attention to but honestly, this is the one crucial piece of advice that new parents should follow. If you sleep, you can handle everything else. If you don’t sleep, you might get the dishwasher loaded but you will find it harder to remember things, harder to enjoy things, harder to cope with the unexpected.
The early days pass so quickly; when baby goes down for a nap, curl up on the sofa or go to bed for a while. You might not sleep your best sleep and it might not last long, but making a deposit in your sleep bank prepares you for life in a way that nothing else can quite match.
Don’t forget to eat, and make cooking and eating as easy as possible. If you cook, make enough for double portions and freeze it for another day. Batch cooking is an easy and effective way to have homemade meals without the fuss and you will be so glad that you stowed away a healthy dinner when you have had a long, draining day. The best way to eat is to keep it simple – buy a selection of salads from a local deli and nibble throughout the day, have your groceries delivered, ask your family or friends to bring you food instead of flowers and endless bay clothes. Search out healthy option takeaways and allow yourself the occasional not-so-healthy takeaway. Food should not be stressful; during the new-born phase, you simply need to eat regularly, so don’t sweat the details.
Warmth and Security
Ok, this is an actual baby-care tip but a lot of it will apply to tired, anxious parents as well. We all want to feel warm and secure. Swaddling your baby (special swaddling blankets are available and always ask for advice from your health visitor or midwife on swaddling) can make them feel the security and warmth they enjoyed before birth.
If you have one of those little ones that is happy and gorgeous when held but turns into a screaming, wriggling nightmare as soon as you put them down, then using a swaddling blanket, baby sleeping bag (if your baby is big enough – always check the labels) or warming up the Moses basket, cradle or cot before putting them down, can all make a huge difference.
A warm water bottle placed into the cot and removed just before you put baby down can save you hours of frustration. On a side note, lack of sleep, hormone changes and stress can all make you feel chilly – wrap yourself up too and enjoy some comfort.
“I’m tired, my baby is unsettled, my house is a mess, I need a shower and I need to eat… my friend wants to visit… how do I say no?” This is a question that plagues many parents of new-born babies in those early days (and sometimes they’re 3 and you’re still trying to fob off visitors). The answer is devastatingly simple. Say… no. You don’t have to explain yourself.
No-one is entitled to visit you or spend time with your baby unless it suits you. You will soon find that your list of friends, family and acquaintances divides itself up into 3 groups – those you actually reach out to and call to come and help when everything is a total mess, those you don’t mind seeing you when you aren’t at your best (but you clear the pile of laundry off the sofa for them and wash your hair before they arrive) and those you need a few hours (or days) to prepare for.
That’s ok, unless they migrate into one of the other two groups, they are going to have to wait. Don’t feel guilty. Your baby, your home; your rules.