Alessandra Marie Santiago was born on 12/12/17, and nothing’s been the same since! This past year has been the BEST, but also one of the most challenging years of my life! My husband Gabriel and I have been parents for almost a year now, and we are definitely still learning how to be better parents every day, but I take comfort in the fact that we now know so much more than we realize.
Over the weekend, we were at our friend’s son’s 1st bday party. Another one of our friends that was there is pregnant with her first baby. She started asking lots of questions, everything from how to sanitize bottles to how to balance life and still manage self-care. It made me realize that while Gabriel and I don’t know everything, we know so much more than we did a year ago! I wanted to create a post for all the new mamas and mamas-to-be out there with some tips and how to’s, of all the things I wish I had known before giving birth, and in the first couple months of raising our daughter. Here are 20 things I learned in my 1st year as a mom!
1. A zen mind.
Let things roll off your shoulders. Whether it be ear piercing shrieks, throwing your homemade baby food on the floor, or tantrums at bedtime, keeping an even disposition will make her calm faster and keep your sanity. Babies are smart and feed off of our energy. So if your temper escalates and you get loud, so will she. The more attention you give to shrieks and tantrums, the more she’ll do it. Instead, try talking to your baby in a gentle tone, or singing to her. Alessandra went through a period where she hated being in the car in her carseat. She would scream and cry for the entire duration of the car ride. All I could do to get her to calm down was sing Wheels on The Bus! It would soothe her, and now being in the car is actually a happy experience for her.
2. Watch Videos!
Learning all the basics from changing diapers, to breast feeding, formula feeding, bathing, sanitizing bottles, teaching first words, etc, can be daunting. Your mother, mother-in-law, and everyone else you know will have their own methods, but what Gabriel and I have found to be the most helpful is watching videos online! You can usually find the most up-to-date methods and you won’t have the pressure of someone watching over your shoulder to make sure you’re doing it right.
3. It’s OK to formula feed.
These days there’s so much stigma and a lot of strong opinions when it comes to this topic. How we feed our children is a personal decision and no one should ever have to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their choices in this regard. If you’ve been following along for some time, you may have read my post about not being able to breastfeed after 3 weeks postpartum due to appendicitis and the strong antibiotics I was on. It was during this time that we began regularly formula feeding our daughter. We started using Enfamil NeuroPro™ and the reason why I’ve been so happy with it is because it has very similar brain building benefits to breast milk. Alessandra loves it and it’s also been amazing to be able to share feedings, especially when I had to return to work full time. Fed is best in my book.
4. Take a break from social media.
Giving your baby undivided attention at every stage is so vital. Even when they’re as young as a few weeks old, it’s so important to be fully present and show them what it feels like to have all of you. In the mornings before I start work, and at night during bath and bedtime, I actually leave my phone out of the room all together so I won’t be tempted to keep peaking at my social media or check emails. These days we are surrounded by technology and I think it’s really important to show our kids what it feels like to be without it so that they understand how to be present in the real world, and communicate face to face.
5. Schedule is key.
This part has been hard for me actually because I am a very fly by the seat type of person and have always really valued my freedom and being able to pick up and go at any point. But babies really do need routine. A morning routine, nighttime routine, feeding routine, napping routine, and bathing routine. This is an entire post in itself which I’ll be discussing more in length, but just so you can have a rough idea of what this should look like, here is our baby’s current schedule. Mind you, babies have different needs at every stage so slightly adjusting your schedule every few months to accommodate these things is a good thing!
7:00am Wake up: We say good morning, have a morning cuddle, and change her diaper
7:15am Breakfast: small bowl of oatmeal + 4oz of milk (we use Enfamil NeuroPro™)
8:00-9:00am Get dressed, playtime, and walk
10:00am Eat solids + 4 oz of Enfamil NeuroPro
Read books, learning toys, exercises, learn numbers and letters, practice up and down, “mama and papa”
12noon: 4oz of Enfamil NeuroPro + naptime
1pm: Feed solids
1-30pm – 3pm: Walk + park + playtime
3pm: 6oz of Enfamil NeuroPro + naptime
4:30pm: Snack time
5-6:30pm Playtime with mom + dad
6:30pm: Feed solids
7:00pm: Bath time
7:30pm: Bedtime: put on pajamas, read story, turn the lights down, turn on sound machine, 4 oz of Enfamil NeuroPro during cuddle time, then to sleep in the crib
6. Be efficient.
Really try to stay on schedule and get all of your work done during the day so that you can have more undivided time to spend with your baby. The last thing you want is to have all of your unfinished work looming in your head so that you feel divided and even guilty about the hours you’re spending dedicated to your child.
I know it seems like a nightmare but just like with everything else, if you can lock in a little travel routine, it’s really quite doable. At takeoff and landing, my husband and I always give Alessandra a bottle. This helps keep her distracted and stay hydrated. The motions from sucking and swallowing may also relieve pressure on the ears. Enfamil NeuroPro makes these great pre-made bottles that are ready to go instantly and ideal for plane rides!
Letting loose and being silly around your child is so good for the both of you and nothing is better than hearing your baby’s first giggles! Sweetest sound in the world!
9. Connect with other mothers.
It’s so important to make friends with other new parents that are going through the same things you’re going through. Having that support system and safe forum to discuss new phases, ask questions, and just chat about all of the small but adorable milestones is so vital!
Always carry baby wipes and pacifier/nipple wipes! Babies are messy and will undoubtedly get dirty, drop their toys/bottles/pacifiers on the ground. Running back and forth to a restroom every time this happens is unrealistic. Wipes save us!
11. Don’t buy expensive toys!
Before Alessandra was born, Gabriel and I tried to prepare by buying her every expensive rocker chair and toy, and she honestly doesn’t love any of them! She’d rather play with the box they came in! She’s literally entertained by the simplest household items, so save your money! Let your baby’s imagination do the work!
12. Don’t compare your baby to others.
Your baby will learn and grow at his/her own pace! It’s hard not to but don’t expect your child to learn to walk, talk, do everything the same or at the same time as his/her baby friends. Each baby is on their own path and whether they learn to walk at 12months or 18months really won’t matter in the grand scheme of life!
13. Prepare to not sleep.
I’d say this is definitely the hardest part of having a newborn. In the first few months, there’s really no way around it. Unless you have a night nurse or really helpful friend or family member, you or your husband will have to get up for feedings, sometimes at two, three, and four in the morning. You will be tired during the day. Just accept it and remember that this part is not forever lol!
14. Cherish every moment – it goes by quickly!
I can’t believe Alessandra is already almost a year old! It truly feels like I just gave birth to her a few months ago and the rate at which she grows, changes, and learns is hard to comprehend. Don’t miss out! Be present, treasure the moments and pause often to take it all in!
15. Get help!!
My husband and I didn’t think we needed help because we work mainly from home. We also didn’t want to feel like someone else was raising our daughter. That was a huge mistake. By the time Alessandra was 6 months old, Gabriel and I were completely burnt out and hadn’t spent much quality time connecting with each other. We were constantly taking turns managing the baby while the other worked or power napped. We were becoming less and less productive, more and more sleep deprived, so we decided to nanny share with our good friends that also have a baby and live close by. Definitely one of the best decisions we’ve made as parents. Not only did we start sleeping more again, we were able to be better and more present parents because we were getting our work done, and even squeezing in a bit of time for self-care whether that be a jog around the block or having time to actually take a shower! Our nanny comes two and half days a week, she is incredibly compassionate and attentive, bilingual (we are really trying to teach Alessandra both English and Spanish), and just such a joy to have around in our home. Don’t feel guilty about asking for help. It really does take a village!
16. Always carry extra clothes for your baby!
I always pack an extra set of clothes or two for Alessandra in her diaper bag because you never know when she will have a bad run in with her peas, or a poop explosion! Stay prepared for anything lol.
17. Don’t get sucked into the drama lol!
The father’s family will insist your baby looks just like him and your family will insist your baby looks just like you! Your baby is perfect, period. LOL
18. Take lots of photos and videos!
As important as it is to be present, you also want to document your little one as much as you can because it’s hard to remember what they were like in this early phase, especially if you’re sleep deprived, life can be a blur!
19. Get out of the house!
As tempting as it is to stay home where everything is baby proofed and you’ve got all of your supplies in order, it’s so good for babies to get out into the world, breathe in some fresh air, see other people and places, and interact with others outside the household.
20. Make time for your relationship!
When you have a baby, all that love and energy you used to put into each other, goes to her. Even though that child is the product of your love, you still need to feed your love in order to maintain a balanced, healthy and happy household. Show your child what love looks like! And maybe a brother, sister or two! ;)