With James’s first birthday rapidly approaching, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past year, and specifically on what I would do differently.
I couldn’t come up with too much, not because I’ve done such an awesome job (lol), but because it’s still so close to it all – I’ll probably have a better idea of what I would change in a decade or so when the results of all of my mistakes are more obvious 🙂
There are a few things I would try to do differently though.
1. Remove the pressure!
James was not gaining weight quickly enough the first few weeks and I felt SO MUCH pressure to make breastfeeding work, and it was 100% from myself.
I have mixed feelings about this, because it did work out in the end and has been easy and wonderful for months, and I know this is in part because I worked really hard to increase my supply. Still, I was pretty miserable for a while and felt like such a failure whenever my husband gave James a bottle of supplemental formula, and that is just ridiculous.
I was convinced that if he had any bottles at all in the first few weeks, he would refuse to breastfeed, and this was not the case at all. He needed supplemental formula for a few weeks while we figured things out, and then he didn’t need it anymore and everything was fine. He hasn’t had a bottle since he was probably three months old (not that there is anything wrong with bottles, just to say he did not show a preference for them like I read he might).
More importantly, even if breastfeeding hadn’t worked out, there are millions of happy, healthy formula fed babies out there thriving. I know in my heart that what matters most is that I’m here for him, showing him I love him and that he is safe, not what he’s eating.
I’m not entiredly sure where this pressure came from, but I suspect that it was my way of dealing with fear. I was so scared of SIDS and so scared something would happen to him, and I think I dealt with that by trying to control this one thing.
While I’m so happy breastfeeding worked out for us, I know everything would be totally okay if it had not. I really hope that if we have another baby, I can be a little more relaxed about this.
2. Read about baby sleep
I read so many parenting books and blogs when I was pregnant, but apparently I failed to read up on the basics of baby sleep.
I did not realize how incredibly frequently newborns need to nap. Because of this, I kept James awake too long and he fell asleep on me while I was feeding him. All of the time. This was no big deal at first because he was a sleepy newborn and I could just put him down after he fell asleep and go about my day. As the weeks went by though and he became more alert, he would wake up whenever I put him down. It got to where he would basically only nap on me.
I was so focused on making sure he got enough to eat, it took me a while to deal with this. Once I realized it was a problem, I started transitioning him to napping in his bed (I started with the morning nap, as it was the easiest for him to fall asleep, and went from there). It turned out okay, but I know it would have been a lot less stressful if I had started putting him in his bed to nap from the beginning.
Then again, those baby snuggles….
3. Make more freezer meals
I stopped working a few weeks before James was born, so had lots of time at home. I read up on freezer meals and found many great looking recipes. And then I made one of them. Yep, just the one. We survived (largely off of bagel sandwiches and eggs), but I would definitely take more time to stock the freezer next time.
4. Join a group
I got about ten times happier once I started getting out more and meeting other new moms. It goes 100% against my shy and introverted nature, but I wish I had joined some sort of pregnant ladies group (do these exist?) before I had James so that I had other sleep deprived crazy people to talk to in the newborn days. I had so much support from my husband, family, and friends, but there is something about connecting with people going through the same thing. Plus, who else will answer your texts at 3 AM?
5. Sleep in our own bed!
James refused to sleep in his bassinet. No matter what we tried, he started screaming whenever we put him in there. He loved his floor bed right away though, and slept in there just fine. So while we had planned to have him sleep in our room for the first few months (to reduce SIDS), he transitioned to his own room within a few days. But I was so worried about the SIDS thing, that we transitioned with him. We took turns sleeping on a camping mattress in his room for SIX MONTHS. There is not enough coffee in all the world….
The thing is, our room is literally across the hall from his. We could have opened both doors and it would practically be the same thing. And I probably would have been functioning during the day, at least somewhat.
I’m not sure if I could actually change this, because SIDS is so scary and I was so paranoid, but I would definitely work harder to find a safe and functional sleep situation.
While I would do some things differently, there is one thing I am proud of – I really truly feel like I soaked up every minute of James’s first year. I spent time staring at him, cuddling him, and just being present and it was everything. Time does indeed pass quickly, but I know I did everything I could to slow it down, just a little bit, and that is worth the sleepless nights and hours spent googling and then some.
If you have multiple kids, did you do things differently the second time?