Whether you’re a mom-to-be or a brand-new mom, becoming a mother can be a very humbling, vulnerable experience where you’re thrown into the deep end and expected to swim – not just for yourself, but for your new baby. The truth is, you’re not alone and you will soon learn the right strategies to navigate the path that is parenthood.
Here’s a few things you need to know now to cope with life post-birth…
How to manage the car seat
It’s a good idea to buy and install your chosen car seat when you’re about 36 weeks pregnant, as you don’t want to be worrying about how to secure it into your car when you’re in labour! From the minute you leave the hospital with your new bundle of joy, you’ll need to have a rear-facing car seat secured and ready to go.
Installing the car seat:
Experts from Arrive Alive SA believe it’s critical to have your car seat fitted correctly, because in the unfortunate event of an accident, the force exerted on your body is excessive and will be even worse on your little one.
In the past, most car seats were installed using the car’s three-point safety belt. However, it’s been proven to be safer to use Isofix anchorage points when you install a car seat. An Isofix base will ensure your car seat stays locked in place. If you’re unsure whether an Isofix base will fit in your car, take it for a test fitting. “All car seats with bases should be test fitted before you buy, to ensure it fits correctly. The interior design of the car can also affect how the car seat is installed and how safe it is,” say Arrive Alive experts.
Once you’re happy with your chosen car seat and you’ve installed it correctly, keep these tips in mind:
- Ensure the seat is rear-facing. This simple position could reduce the likelihood of serious head and neck injuries and even death. Children’s heads are heavier than the rest of their bodies until they’re around 15 to 18 months. With this weight concentration in the head area, the whiplash effect in a forward-facing collision will increase the chance of a serious injury. However, in a rear-facing position, the impact on your little one’s vulnerable head and neck is reduced and spread over the whole back area.
- Keep it simple. Avoid overdressing your baby while travelling in the car seat as this can interfere with the straps. They won’t be tight enough to support or secure your baby in the case of an accident. If you must dress your baby in a jacket or you want to use a blanket, ensure that the car seat has easily adjustable straps, or look for a swaddle blanket with legs such as the cuddlegrow swaddle with legs from babysense.
- Secure loose objects in the car. If you come to a sudden halt, you want to avoid any objects in your car hitting your baby. The space around you and your little one should be totally clear. Keep all bags, toys and groceries in the boot or on the floor next to the driver’s seat.
How to cook and eat with one hand
If you’re still planning on cooking meals every night in the first few weeks, you may need to master prepping, cooking and eating with one hand. Sure, you can practise baby wearing while you cook, but sometimes it doesn’t quite work out the way you planned. Why? Because the time you’d normally cook and eat dinner also coincides with the inevitable “suicide hour” where your little one might be hungry, tired or extra fussy due to sensory overload from the day or digestive issues that are often worse around 5.30pm.
While there’s no specific skill to cooking and eating with one hand, it’s one of those things that inevitably happens, along with drinking copious cups of cold tea. If you really want to cook or eat dinner in peace, you could try:
- Having your meals cooked for you and delivered daily or weekly. Then, time your meals so that you eat just after your little one has had a feed and a bath so that she’s calm.
- Use a baby carrier or sling to keep your little one close while you prep and cook. The rocking motion might just settle her to sleep, which means you’ll be able to eat in peace, too.
- Take turns with your partner so that while you eat, he holds your baby etc. If you’re a single parent, it’s worth investing in a good swing or rocker to have your hands free for a little while. The Tiny Love Close To Me Bouncer, from R2 000, is ideal because it has three modes of use depending on what you need, including bounce – for play; high position mode – to chat to your baby while cooking and soothing mode to lull your baby to sleep. It’s also portable, moveable and compact.
Cleaning and care basics
From wiping up poo and spit-up to caring for your baby’s umbilical cord, you’ll soon be a pro at cleaning and caring for your baby’s little body. Believe it or not, there’s a skill to changing a dirty nappy with minimal fuss and effort. Before removing the dirty nappy, slide a clean one under your baby’s bottom, then simply remove the nappy by unlatching the tabs on either side, while lifting your little one’s ankles with one hand. Use the other hand to take away the dirty nappy. Lastly, use a gentle wipe, flannel cloth or cottonwool pads with warm water to clean your baby’s bum before putting on the clean nappy. Make sure to clean in the creases and folds of your baby’s skin and avoid getting any poo near your baby’s genital area.
Soothing and settling your little one
There’s nothing like a mother’s soothing voice to instantly calm her baby. In fact, studies have shown that babies can recognise their mother’s distinct voice from as early as 35 weeks in-utero. This means that you won’t have to work too hard to get your little one to sleep – especially in the first 6 to 8 weeks. “At this stage, you can expect your baby to sleep most of the time. She isn’t likely to stay awake for longer than 40 to 60 minutes before needing to go back to sleep,” explains Occupational therapist, author and parenting expert, Meg Faure.
However, what you might need to master quite fast is how to resettle your little one if she’s woken too soon from a nap or won’t sleep after a feed. Some moms also struggle to transfer their sleeping babies from the sling or their chest to a cot, says Meg.
To help your baby sleep more soundly, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid overstimulation. A baby that’s been too stimulated will struggle to sleep. While she’s still very little, limit outings, especially to noisy, overcrowded places. Try to keep her at home and in her room, says Meg. It’s also important to only stimulate her in her awake time and try to keep the lights dim, curtains drawn and noise levels down when it’s time to sleep.
- Ensure she’s dry and well fed. Hunger and wetness are both very uncomfortable for little ones and will cause them to wake up.
- Encourage self-soothing and calming techniques. Provided your baby is gaining weight, don’t offer a feed if she’s crying or fussing less than two hours since the last feed, says Meg. Rather encourage self-calming by non-nutritive sucking or calm her with rocking or swaddling.
Pack your nappy bag
When you first prepare to head out with your baby, you might feel like you’re packing everything but the kitchen sink! The truth is, you only need a few essential items, and you’re good to go.
A good tip is to think about what your little one will need from top-to-bottom or head-to-toe.
- A hat or sunblock if you’re going to be in a sunny spot (although it’s advisable to keep newborns out of the sun altogether).
- A bottle (either pre-mixed or with a separate container of formula) if you’re not breastfeeding.
- A pacifier
- Two changes of clothes, plus two to three bibs at most (not five!).
- Two to three diapers, an extra pair of socks if it’s chilly
- A light muslin blanket for nursing, keeping your baby warm or providing shade and cover over the pram.
Then, for you, consider packing some extra snacks and some water (especially if you’re nursing) and keep things even simpler by packing your purse and keys into the nappy bag rather than lugging around a separate handbag. Your shoulders will thank you for it later!
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.