Jenna McCarthy is one of our favorite writers, and she has a new book out: Cheers to the New Mom!: Tips and Tricks to Help You Ace the First Months of Parenthood. Here’s some of the best excerpts that aren’t just hilarious—they also offer some real solid tips for new moms.
New mom tip #1: Dreaming of sleep?
If you’re lucky, your baby is a natural-born sleeper. If you’re not, your choices are basically wait it out, cry it out, or constantly go back and forth. These suggestions might help you to get through-the-night more quickly.
Establish a bedtime ritual. One that works for lots of folks is also easy to remember: bath, book, breast or bottle, bed. He’ll soon learn where this sequence of events is leading and may start yawning as soon as he hears the tub filling up.
Resist the urge to always bounce/rock/hold him until he’s fast asleep. You want him to learn the skill of self-soothing, and that can only be accomplished if he’s allowed to fall asleep on his own. Try putting him down when he’s drowsy but not completely out.
Help him learn to differentiate between (short) day and (long) night sleep. There comes a point when babies are waking every two hours all night long not because they’re hungry, but because they just enjoy your company so darned much. Try being “all business” during the night by simply feeding, changing, and returning him to his crib with no lights, chatter, songs, or otherwise engaging activities.
New mom tip #2: For crying out loud!
Your baby is fussy and you’re at the breaking point. Don’t give up hope-try one or more of these
soothing tricks. One of them is bound to work:
Whisper sweet nothings. Hold her close to your body and gently sway back and forth as you murmur “shhhhhh, shhhhhh, shhhhhh” into her ear at a pretty good volume. This goes beyond the power of suggestion; that whooshing sound actually mimics the womb ambience she grew to know and love. Many babies will quiet immediately upon hearing this refrain.
Might as well jump. Again, remember that to date, the only environment she knows intimately is the inside of your body. Rarely was she static in there. Motion is familiar and therefore comforting to her. Sit on the edge of a bed, or purchase a large exercise ball or minitrampoline, and get in a little workout while you’re at it. (When she gets bigger she’ll love playing with either of these, so they’re sound long-term investments.)
Pacify her. Literally. Suckling is naturally soothing to babies (and while you might think you don’t want to go down the synthetic-sucker road, know that she’ll eventually find her thumb or fingers, which are much harder to take away when you’re ready to wean her). Pacifiers come in dozens of shapes and sizes for a reason: all babies prefer different models, typically the one you buy last. Having an assortment on hand is helpful. Newborns also enjoy sucking on their parents’ clean pinkie fingers-something dad can help with, too.
Consider the ambience. Since you likely can’t-or won’t want to-hold and “shhhhhh” her 24/7, smart companies have designed an army of CDs, noise machines, and plush toys that feature all manner of relaxing sounds and melodies. From traditional lullabies to chirping crickets, from windshield wipers to human heartbeats, there’s a sound out there to calm and comfort just about every babe on the block.
Pump up the volume. It may sound counterintuitive, but parents often report their babies find loud music, annoying radio static, or even a rowdy sporting match on TV more soothing than a whispered lullaby. Again, all babies are different, and you won’t know what floats her boat until you try it.
Be a good mummy. In other words, learn how to swaddle. This little trick is probably the most underrated weapon in the parenting arsenal. You see, babies are born with a startle reflex (technically called the “Moro reflex”) that inconveniently seems to rear its ugly head precisely as they start to drift off to sleep. If they didn’t show you how to swaddle in the hospital, Google it, buy a book on it, pick up a designated “swaddle blanket” that comes with instructions, or ask a veteran mom friend to show you the ropes. You’ll probably do it until she is at least four or five months old, so it’s worth learning to swaddle well.
New mom tip #3: A room of one’s own
When you’re ready to transition your baby from your bed or the bassinet into her own crib, a few simple tricks can make the move a lot easier:
If she’s been snoozing in your room, you might consider placing her crib in there, too, until she gets used to it. (Then when you move the entire crib to her room, she’s a lot less likely to protest because it’s already a familiar space-sort of.)
Introduce her to her crib during the day-not at night, when she expects you to be within arm’s reach. Spend some time tickling her belly, smiling at her, or playing peekaboo in there, establishing it as a happy place.
Many a babe has been enthralled by the sight of a strategically placed mobile over the crib-and many a mom has snuck from the nursery unnoticed as a result. (If she’s a big fan of the one over the changing table, use that one or a duplicate for familiarity.)
Place your own unwashed pillowcase, nightgown, or yes, even a nursing pad or bra in her crib. (If she’s mobile, tie it to the crib bars rather than placing anything in the crib itself.) Babies have powerful little noses, and this might trick her into thinking that you’re closer than you actually are.
New mom tip #4: Signs you’ve survived early parenthood
1. You can turn the baby monitor off for five or even ten minutes at a stretch.
2. Sometimes you leave the house with a bag smaller than your microwave oven.
3. You have no idea what they’re hawking on those midnight infomercials anymore.
4. When you go to the hospital to meet your best friend’s newborn, your own baby looks like a moose in comparison.
5. You find yourself offering unsolicited advice to perfect strangers with small babies.
6. You occasionally initiate sex.
7. At any given moment you can extract a crayon, goldfish cracker, or pacifier from the depths of your bag without even looking.
8. You no longer have to consult a checklist before heading out of the house.
9. Clothes shopping sounds appealing again.
10. You start toying with the idea of having . . . another baby.
From comforting a fussy baby to establishing a bedtime routine, we’ve got great advice for every situation.