8 Habits I Wish I Knew During My First Few Weeks With a New Baby
I welcomed my first baby, a son named Julian, to the world on January 18, and since then, life has been a complete blur of washing bottles and wrapping swaddles, early-morning feedings, occasional showers, and learning to navigate the world as a new parent, often oscillating between feelings of joy, terror, exhaustion, and love. (Sometimes all at once!)
Since adding Julian to our family, my husband and I have learned some extremely important lessons about life with a newborn, and we learned them fast. If you’re expecting or thinking about becoming a parent, here’s my best advice for this new chapter of life.
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When it comes to new baby gear, prioritize finding what actually works over what looks cutest.
The baby market is flooded with everything you could possibly need, and I quickly learned that the cute and fancy options aren’t always best, especially when it comes to items that come in contact with poop. (So, everything.) Skip the cute printed changing pad sheets in favor of wipeable rubber; you’ll appreciate it when your baby pees on themselves and their surroundings mid-change, not that I know anything about that. The expensive baby wipes that everyone claims are so amazing? I thought they were too wet and messy and much prefer the generic Target kind, and the same goes for diapers.
Every baby is different, of course, but you may find that you don’t actually need all the fancy stuff influencers and the internet tell you you do; in the early days, your baby really only needs a safe and warm place to sleep, something to eat, a clean diaper, and lots of love. (Oh, and maybe a sound machine. The Hatch is life-changing for baby and me.)
You will do so much laundry — more than you ever thought possible.
It’s not uncommon to change baby’s ‘fit four or five times a day, thanks to spit-up, blowouts, and stains. I ordered a handful of zip-up sleepers the minute we got home from the hospital and realized that our sweet little baby was going to pee on everything he owned within hours.
In the first few weeks, it helps to keep baby in basic white onesies for easy laundering and bleaching until you get into a laundry routine and can keep up with the near-constant flow of dirty clothes. (For us, twice a week is a good balance.) This is the time to invest in the bulk laundry detergent, because you’re gonna use it.
Being tidy is nice… but the first few weeks are all about convenience.
My once-uncluttered kitchen counter is now a bottle haven, complete with the cute (but large!) Boon grass bottle dryer. Pump parts may as well be a part of the decor at this point. The sweetly-arranged changing table is now a jumble of Aquaphor, petroleum jelly, diaper cream, and other daily essentials, as unphotogenic as they may be. There are burp cloths everywhere. Yes, I had to give up on keeping my home picture-perfect, but when the baby just spit up in my hair or is screaming for a bottle, I’m glad I have what I need close by.
Make every spot in your home a multi-tasking station.
If you’re nursing, you’ll be stuck under a baby a lot. One of the best tips I got from fellow moms was to create little nursing stations all over the house to make these feeding marathons more comfortable for both of you, from lots of water and snacks for mom to comfy pillows to prop baby on. (Get a few 48 oz. Bubba water cups with straws and place them everywhere you could possibly nurse, because it turns your body into the Sahara. Thank me later.) Keep a phone charger, tablet, or Kindle handy so you can occupy yourself as your little one gets their nutrients.
Sometimes the healthiest habit is taking a deep breath and reminding yourself there are more important things than dealing with clutter.
It’s inescapable. Even if you use every nap time to clean, babies come with a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff comes out of babies. A few things I know to be true:
- The Diaper Genie is worth every cent.
- It’s OK not to fold the baby clothes every time.
- Baby socks end up all over the house, despite your best intentions.
- The dog will chew a WubbaNub pacifier, putting you out $13 and your baby’s favorite soother (so invest in backups if you can).
I try not to stress out about clutter and do a quick pick-up session before bed, but some days you just have to call it a day and wash the kitchen floor tomorrow.
Take the hand-me-downs and shop secondhand.
Yes, it’s tempting to buy a brand new stroller, bassinet, or bouncer, especially if it’s your first baby, but if friends and family members are offering their used baby gear and it’s still safe to use, take it! Baby stuff is expensive, and you’ll want to save your money where you can, so if your cousin is offering her mamaRoo or car seat, give it a try before shopping.
You can also take advantage of Facebook Marketplace, especially for big-ticket items like bassinets and strollers. There are fabulous deals on barely-used items to trick out your nursery without spending a ton of cash. Just make sure things like car seats are still within their safety guidelines, as many expire after a certain number of years.
Connecting with other new parents is essential.
I would be lost without my “baby club” group chat of three friends who also have newborns. We talk about everything from sleep schedules to shots to the best anti-gas remedies, and are there to encourage and soothe one another when we need it. If you don’t have friends with kids to connect with, see if there are new parent groups in your area or reach out to friends of friends or neighbors.
It takes a village — so let your loved ones help you when they offer.
My personal “village” includes grandparents, doctors, nurses, Shipt shoppers, friends who drop off freezer meals with no small talk required, long-distance pals who text to check in, Instagram parenting accounts… The list is endless, but community is so important when you have a newborn to care for. I could have kissed the friend who brought over Italian wedding soup, complete with a pre-sliced block of parmesan to shave and a bottle of wine, when we were tired of eating carb-heavy casseroles (though those are amazing, too).
While it’s easy as a new parent to want to figure out everything for yourself, your village wants to help you in this new stage of life, so let them. And if you’re a friend of a new parent, bring them a meal, drop off their favorite coffee and pastries, send a gift card, or offer to babysit post-pandemic. They’ll appreciate it more than words can say, and they’ll return the favor whenever your own big life moments come barreling through.