A friend recently asked me if I had any advice to share with her friend who is pregnant and expecting her first child. I thought about what I would tell five-months-younger me. Here is what I came up with.
1. Take all the help you can get. Friends or family members offer to drop off food or hold the babies for a bit while you take a shower? Let them. Those help in the early days were a godsend. My husband and I initially lamented not having a "village" nearby to raise our baby because our parents live far away. It turns out, our village is the friends who gave us diapers, formula, and care packages when Billable Baby was discharged from the NICU earlier than expected. Our village is the friends who collected treasured books for Billable Baby with handwritten notes in each one. Our village is the friends who dropped off meals, mailed adorable, thoughtful gifts for Billable Baby, sent me pages of tips on everything from pumping to sleep training, checked in on me when I was in the hospital, and made plans to see me. I am so, so grateful for our village.
2. Find your group of new mom friends. Text them all your questions and rants in the middle of the night because they will respond and commiserate with you. I reconnected with old friends who have babies my daughter’s age and they have been a wonderful source of support.
3. Take shifts. You and your partner do not both need to be up for a feed. In the early weeks, my husband fed at 9:30 pm while I got ready for bed. I did the midnight and 3 am feeds, then he did the 6 am feed. That guaranteed each of us 3-5 hours of sleep. We took Billable Baby out of the bedroom for the middle of the night feeds so as to not interrupt the other person.
4. If you and your partner are snippy with each other, go to bed, it is probably sleep deprivation. Hopefully you will both feel better in the morning.
5. Your parents and in-laws mean well, but you do not have to listen to everything they say. When they give you advice with which you disagree, say thanks and keep doing your own thing.
6. Find a way to record the memories. We enjoyed keeping a journal for to-do lists and notable events. It’s fun to look back at it now four months later. We also use a baby tracking app religiously.
7. Breastfeeding is hard. Many women find breastfeeding to be very challenging. Lactation consultant sessions can be really helpful. We triple fed for a while (nurse for anywhere from 5 to 25 min, pump for 15 min, then feed pumped milk from a bottle for anywhere from 5 to 10 min). As you can see with this timeline, by the time you finish the full cycle and wash all the pump parts, this very little time to sleep before the whole thing starts again.
8. Your partner needs support, too. I registered my partner for a new dad support group through the Breastfeeding Center of DC. We were lucky that it was offered as a trial run for free. My husband's initial skepticism gave way to an appreciation for the tremendous value of having a guided space to discuss this major life transition. He loved it and became buddies with all of the other new dads!