I received product and compensation from Mead Johnson Nutrition to create this post written by me. All experiences and opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of Mead Johnson Nutrition. You can contact Mead Johnson Nutrition with product related questions or comments toll-free at 1-800-BABY-123 (1-800-222-9123).
In the first few weeks after Miles’s birth, everything felt new and different. My body, for sure. Kristie’s and my relationship? Definitely. Our house? Yup; we even rearranged the furniture in our living room so that for the first six weeks of his life, we could take shifts sleeping on the couch next to the bassinet while the other wife got uninterrupted rest upstairs.
And then, of course, there was the baby.
All of a sudden this amazing, new, small, confusing human was living with us – and dependent on Kristie and me for everything. (No pressure, right?) But we all made it through the newborn days – I even caught myself missing those middle-of-the-night feedings recently!
In addition to the living room sleeping arrangement (somewhat unconventional I think, but it worked for us until he was sleeping longer stretches, and until we all missed each other too much!), here are a few more things that helped make those newborn days – and nights – a little easier.
These are tips that worked for me – make sure you try different things, and see what works best for your baby and for you. Then, DO THAT THING! Soon, it won’t feel like you’re just surviving – you’ll be thriving.
Visit https://www.enfamil.com/enrollment/neur1 or call 1-800-BABY-123 for more information and to request a free sample.
This is sponsored by Enfamil® Gentlease Infant Formula.
Like all beautiful plans, this one started with a spreadsheet.
My sister and I populated the cells of a Google Sheet back and forth, adding links, amenities, checkboxes. And soon our parents had booked a last-minute deal for an Airbnb on Martha's Vineyard – in Tisbury, to be exact.
The trip was so last-minute, in fact, that all of us couldn't be there the entire time. My siblings' stays overlapped with the beginning and end of ours, our parents and their dog Chance being the common denominators. (Plans are already in the works for next summer with the goal of having all of us together for the vacation's entirety.)
Kristie, Miles, and I arrived two days into their stay. Miles's mother and I were feeling...let's say, apprehensive, about our first longer trip with the baby – primarily because we three had worked so hard on the baby's sleep. But from our favorite sleep-training book [affiliate link], Facebook group, and everything we'd read on the internet, we were planning to stick to the prevailing advice for traveling families: throw all sleep rules out the window. Get sleep for your baby and yourselves however that makes sense.
THAT beautiful rule (or lack thereof, really) was a big part of what made this vacation so lovely and perfect for our little family. Miles slept in bed between Kristie and me, and I nursed him to sleep at night and for naps. It was dreamy. I felt tipsy on the closeness and freedom and sweetness of those moments. We all relaxed. Child wanted to be held while drifting off, though, so it meant Kristie and I didn't eat dinner together at all, but rather took shifts around the table with the rest of my family eating and playing Bananagrams [affiliate link] – I don't want to brag (or maybe I do?) but I won every round.
Another aspect of the trip that inspired tension was the travel it would take to get there. Two and a half hours in the car, 15 minutes in a shuttle bus, 45 minutes on a ferry (baby's first boat ride! and glimpse of the ocean!), five more minutes in a car. I was so proud of our babe. He transitioned, wide-eyed, from car to bus to boat to car with such flexibility and ease (well, aside from hearing the horn of the ferry which scared the bejeezus out of all of us), I thought, why don't we do this all the time? (A thought that was quickly repaired by a drive home colored by high emotions from a certain someone. But let's promise to remember only the trip there.)
The house my parents rented was a five-minute stroll from a small public beach that was rocky, but quiet, safe, and lovely. (PS – that's not the house we stayed in, nor is that our car, sadly.) We drove to visit bigger beaches (South Beach and Lake Tashmoo Town Beach). At each one, Miles carefully selected large pebbles that he then tried, unsuccessfully, to eat – I highly recommend, if you can, traveling with five babysitters, each of whom readily swoops in to pry rocks from pudgy fingers, provides an arm to catch a new sitter who sometimes still slowly tips backwards, or cheerily changes a diaper when two mothers who won't be mentioned have just about had enough.
I thought perhaps the baby would feel cautious or even fearful around the crashing waves, cold sea water, or crowds of people, but my child thrived. We dug a shallow hole in the sand and deposited him there with a small bucket clenched in each hand, and there he merrily sat, sneaking a mouthful or two of sand and crowing happily to his grandparents, aunt, and uncles. At Lake Tashmoo, the waves were gentler, and I planted him where they could lick his toes, thinking he'd soon be complaining about the frigid water. To my surprise (again!), there he sat as the ocean visited and retreated – simply issuing a sharp intake of breath each time it lapped around his legs – wholly content.
We continually dodged a marauding family of wild turkeys that lived in our neighborhood as my dad shuttled us all downtown, or to Oak Bluffs. Kristie and I stole away for an afternoon screening of Jaws (the Capawock Theatre plays it every Friday at 2); our group sampled as many different ice cream shops as we could find; my sister Phoebe and her boyfriend Alec took Miles on the Flying Horses Carousel.
Have you been? It's a private collection of rare lilacs that's open to the public when in bloom.
PS – Our wedding photos
Two weeks after Miles was born, I tucked, wrapped, and buckled my new newborn into his carseat and drove 20 minutes back to the hospital where I'd delivered him. It was the first time we'd ever driven anywhere together, just the two of us. In my memory, it was snowing a little. We arrived early to the support group for new mothers. I was so tired, anxious, and distracted by the baby (who stayed sweetly asleep in his carseat the whole time) that I could barely pay attention during the meeting. I left not sure if I would go back for the next one.
To make a long, challenging, and beautiful story shorter, I did go back, again and again. The other mothers I met there helped usher me into new parenthood with grace, humor, and friendship – and I grew to treasure our weekly visits in the hospital's conference room.
I had to forfeit my attendance once February began and my maternity leave ended. But my mom friends and I text each other, message, leave comments on Facebook. And when daycare is closed and I know I'll be home with Miles on a weekday, I reach out and see who's going to be around. We usually meet up at parks – we have our favorites – and everyone unfurls her own blanket onto grass or wood chips. The blankets overlap a little so our babies can crawl or lean into or be passed from lap to lap, and as more of our friends arrive (tardiness always understood and immediately forgiven) our space grows, a flotilla of connected blankets brimming with sunscreen and stuffed animals and snacks. I'm so grateful for the afternoon hours I can still spend with them and their children.
SO! Last time Miles and I visited with them, one of our stroller blankets (which has a sort of sherpa fleece-y side) was dragged home clogged with wood chips. It was a pain to clean and wash, and I decided to sew a picnic blanket to use for the next visit. It's already proven perfect for use in our dewy backyard because...one side is waterproof!
You will need:
A few notes before we begin: When you're cutting the shower curtain liner to match the size of the fabric and batting, I recommend discarding the edges that have holes for the curtain rod and/or weights to help the curtain hang. You won't need these.
Also, if you'd like your picnic blanket to be machine washable, choose a machine washable shower curtain liner, and wash and dry it, the fabric, and the batting before you start. (Our blanket has survived so far with just wiping to clean.)
Lay out the three big pieces like this: fabric right side up; shower curtain; then batting.
Can you tell in these pictures that the thread is turquoise? I thought about using neon green, but decided to choose from what I had on hand instead of driving back to the store.
Lately, after I get home most afternoons, we head outside. I spread out this blanket and deposit Miles with a few toys while I water the garden (which, by the way, is really floundering, I'm sorry to say). I can't wait to see my mom friends and their babies again, for so many reasons – least of which is to use this blanket, but at least next time we won't bring half the playground home with us!
My favorite breastfeeding shirt is from Target [affiliate link], which should surprise approximately none of you.
It's a basic, soft, lovely short-sleeved tee that's essentially a flap in the front, and one in the back. I wear it over a nursing tank. The front flap can be lifted from one side to the other as needed and tossed over one's shoulder or used as a breastfeeding cover if desired while nursing.
It's marketed as a "sleeping shirt," but I caution against wearing it to bed – I got tangled up while tossing and turning.
$15 for the tee; $18 for long sleeves [affiliate link]. I ordered a size smaller in each since they're designed for bed, and got a perfect fit.
(One last word: if you use SnuggleMe swaddles, be aware that the velcro will snag this soft cotton and cause pulls the first time you wear it, which along with hormones may cause you to cry about how you can't have anything nice anymore.)
Our son Miles is having a moment with tags, so I decided to sew a soft tag toy for him to play with. I used scrap fabric and leftover ribbon (plus a very crinkly piece of plastic that came with one package delivery or other), and sort of just winged it – didn't measure a thing!
Here're the basics, though, if you want to make one too.
You will need:
Layer it like this: fabric square #1 right side facing up; fabric square #2 right side facing down; batting.
Fold a ribbon piece in half and tuck it in between the two fabric squares. Pin in place. Repeat to add the rest of your ribbon. (You won't be able to see any of the ribbon yet.) Pin around the rest of the square, leaving a 2-3" opening.
Stitch around the square (except for the opening).
Use the opening to turn the square inside out. Tuck the crinkly plastic in, if you're using it.
Turn the raw edges of the opening in, and pin in place. Top-stitch around the whole square.
(There's a video tutorial on Facebook if you'd rather check that out, plus you get to see even more of Miles's chubby hands!)
I love finding projects I don't need to buy a thing for (we got lucky with that plastic!). All told this took about 45 minutes to make and was a fun little task to work on. The baby is already enjoying it! I think I'd like to try making one or two more, maybe with a tactilely interesting fabric like velvet.
PS – How to turn any object into a stuffed toy!
Miles squawks awake at 5:55. He's supposed to wake at 7, but the number of times that has happened can be counted on one hand. Kristie and I toss and turn while listening to the baby toss and turn, hoping he'll settle back down for 20 more minutes. We don't last more than 10; one of us wanders sleepily into the nursery to scoop him up, full of praise. You slept in your crib, and for such a long time! We knew you could do it. We are so proud of you.
I stumble down the stairs (more carefully, when I'm toting him), turning on lights, opening window shades, and greeting everything out loud for his benefit. Good morning, living room. Good morning, Samson. Good morning, outside. I arrange all the necessary pillows, and the baby and I assume our favorite breastfeeding position on the couch (it's such a favorite, in fact, we're starting to wear a groove in the sofa cushion, oops). I instruct Alexa to stream New England Public Radio as we settle in and Miles's hungry whining tapers off. I time our breastfeeding sessions – still; maybe always – on an app, and listen hopefully to the morning news for any mention of the word "impeachment." (Maybe tomorrow.)
Kristie eats cereal in the kitchen. She used to eat breakfast perched on the couch next to us, but the baby is so enamored with her, he forgets to nurse whenever she's in his eyeline, preferring instead to smile and blink heavily in her direction, asking for play. So she's been banished.
When Miles is finished nursing, Kristie frees him from his sleepsack and changes his diaper, chooses his clothes, wipes the sleep from the corners of his eyes (we discuss his ever-clogged tear ducts in low tones) as he calls out to her in shrieks and gurgles. He's so happy to be awake. Samson watches us all from a pile of blankets on his bed. I take my turn eating breakfast, and start the coffee maker if I remember early enough.
Three out of five weekday mornings, we get ready for daycare. Kristie and I spar gently over who gets to record his morning in the red notebook that travels back and forth with him. This many minutes spent nursing; the time his diaper was changed; how many times he woke up in the night (today: one). I make a note about his newfound joy in squealing, shouting, talking.
Kristie and the baby read books out loud (I hear her add extra "pleases" to one about a construction site), or play with his stuffed fox (a girl, we've decided, creatively named "Foxy"), or swap the news for Dolly Parton and dance around the house. I dress, add product to my hair, remember I made coffee, put on makeup, pack a lunch, add stored bags of breastmilk and an ice pack to his daycare bag, toss clean breast pump parts into my purse, remember the coffee again. By the time I've brought our things out to the car and started the engine to help get everything warmed up, Miles is ready for his first nap. We settle him in to the car seat, adding blankets and toys and maybe a pair of sunglasses. Kristie and I kiss each other goodbye (almost always a shock passing from one of us to the other – her fleece bathrobe is the culprit, don't let her tell you different).
I turn on music in the car, shuffling between local top hits stations. Miles is asleep before we reach the bridge. I remember the coffee; still warm. I love watching the baby from the rearview mirror, his eyelids drifting closed, one hand clamped on a chest strap. It looks like he's pretending to sleep, his face is so perfect. We drive over the gray river and past foggy fields. I forget about the construction until it's almost too late, but the car is trapped in traffic for only a few minutes.
After dropping him off (hello to his little friends, to our bigger ones who run the daycare, thank you, yes his ear infection is feeling much better, we're so glad, thank you, I hope he keeps sleeping, thank you), I'm alone in the car. Alone for the first and probably only time today. I trade the music for a podcast – true crime – and pick my way back through the fog. I take the highway and get to work in 20 minutes. It's still early, which means a decent parking spot. I unlock and wake up my office (good morning desk, good morning space heater, good morning computer), and remember the coffee again.
"BREAK, break it open, let the knocker rust;
Consider no ‘shalt not,’ and no man's ‘must.’
And, being entered, boldly take the lead,
Setting aside tradition, custom, creed;
Nor weigh the balance of the huckster's beam,
Declare your hardiest thought, your proudest dream.
Await no summons, laugh at all rebuff,
High hearts and youth are destiny enough.
The mystery and power enshrined in you
Are old as time and as the moment new,
And none but you can know what part you play;
Nor can you tell until you make assay,
For this alone, this always, will succeed:
The miracle and magic of the deed."
"To the Generation Knocking at the Door"
By John Davidson (reprinted in The Suffragist in March 1918)
We're starting Miles early with protests, marches, conversations about consent and kindness and how our white, male, heterosexual (presumably for those last two, but what do we care if otherwise) child can use his privilege to be a good ally. Those conversations are pretty one-sided so far, but it's a start. Miles can learn so much from the student organizers involved in Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives. I hope he grows up seeing them as heroes.
Special thanks to my friend Caroline for posting the above poem on Facebook this week.
My original plan was to make the list of favorite products during my third trimester as long as my lists for the first and second – but then I had a baby and immediately forgot all the other things I'd meant to include in this post.
So here are the four that stand out in my memory – four of the most important things I relied on for comfort, and well, more comfort during the last three months of my pregnancy. Sexy they are not. Crucial? In my experience, absolutely!
Not pictured: Netflix; someone to tie your shoes; an exercise ball to bounce on.
*This post contains affiliate links
All photos not otherwise credited are copyrighted Hannah Clay Wareham 2012-2018 and may not be used without permission.