Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything¬† thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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Baby’s First Year: Surviving the Boring, Busy, Magical Days

On Thursday Haines will be a year old. No really, a whole 12 months will have passed since his tiny peanut self entered the world. It’s insane! I see this quote on a lot of parenting sites, “The days are long but the years are short.”

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Babies are boring. Really boring at first. Yes, they’re incredible to look at and completely adorable but also, they can’t do anything. They can’t really lift their heads, eat without assistance or put themselves to bed. I spent all my first days in a fog of wonder (Who made this baby? Did I make this baby? Oh, how neat…), fatigue (Who will teach this baby to sleep? Anyone? I’ll pay you.), and boredom (Hey baby, do you have any hobbies?).

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It gets better of course. Haines walks, babbles and plays now. He doesn’t just cute yawn or stretch anymore. He plays all over the house. Sure, it doesn’t entertain me as long as it entertains him but I laugh and watch all the same.

Even in the most boring of moments, baby life also feels incredibly busy. Not that long ago I was breastfeeding every 60 minutes. So on one hand maintaining a tiny life, and on the other hand sitting and watching back to back episodes of A Chef’s Life. Now I often feel as though I only leave the house for work but I’m also chasing Haines constantly around. We play peek-a-boo, read the same book, play with toys, walk around the yard, run an errand, fix meals and snacks and so on. The only down time is those few precious naps where I typically catch up on some aspect of life. Nothing stops and yet nothing really happens either.

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A very cute baby being as exciting as he can muster. 

I’ve been surprised at how small our world has become. Our living room rug has become the center of all things. It’s where Haines turned over, crawled and walked for the first time. All the while, both of us impatiently waiting for the next move, cameras at the ready. Now I pile his toys along the edge in baskets and he drags them out all over the floor.

At times our small world has felt claustrophobic. I have felt less connected to my friends and family but also can’t remember to reach out. I can’t remember to call anyone very often. Sometimes I don’t remember to leave the house.

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In other ways our world has opened up. While I have always had sympathy for others I have not always had empathy. This is growing rapidly in me, every day as I experience life both as a parent and through Haines. The way I view things, the way I register information… I’m not a different person but I’m also not the same.

I knew I would love Haines but I really didn’t understand what that would be like. When I was pregnant I felt affection for the little fish swimming around in my belly but my love had not yet developed. When he was born even I didn’t have that immediate love at first sight moment that so many mothers describe. I wasn’t in awe of him. I was scared and overwhelmed. It sometime on day three or four when I realized I was in love with Haines and it was when he went into the hospital that I felt the place in my body where we are connected. It’s deep in my chest and when he hurts in big or small ways I can feel it contort and tug and yank me to him. I imagine it will remain forever, no matter how far away he goes from me one day (an idea that I love and hate all at the same time).

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Happy 7 months baby!

So yes, the days are unbelievably long, boring and busy. And yet despite all that I’m not looking for anything else. I’m not wishing for a new life. I’m not perfectly content but I’m glad to be here. I wish it was easier to go see a movie or get basic life chores done. I wish running errands was less a project management task and a little more spontaneous, but that’s okay.

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I refuse to apologize for needing a break or wanting to leave the house alone. Nothing less should be expected. I will not pretend this year has been all joys. It has made clearer my weaknesses. It has made clearer my strengths. It has tested and improved my patience. It has pushed my marriage in ways I both did and did not expect. But I choose to have a baby with a good person and a good partner. I feel lucky and grateful to be in this place. Above all else I have a healthy child which is the luckiest thing of all.

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Photo credit: Kathryn Falconer

 

So, we made it! We survived. This year old little guy is starting the next year of his life and I can’t wait for (most) every moment of it.