When people think about the first year of motherhood, they often think about the loveliness of it. The new baby smell. The utter squishability of those cheeks. The look of contentment on Baby’s face as he quietly nurses himself to sleep.
And all that is there. But what people tend not to think about is the crap. I mean that literally. The actual volume of crap and vomit and mucous and other bodily fluids that you find yourself sometimes literally elbow deep in.
In the spirit of being prepared, let me tell you some of the things I’ve learned after going through Baby’s first year with my three children. May you learn from my mistakes, and not be forced to deal with these little natural disasters.
1. When changing a diaper, always take off the socks
Like many moms in the first year, I dressed my baby well. (At number three, we are lucky if he is dressed beyond his diaper.) Not only would the baby be wearing a onesie, but he would often be wearing matching pants and even socks. Socks! Back in the days of socks, I would occasionally ponder to myself during the diaper change — do I really need to take the socks off? The answer is yes. Every time. For babies, kicking themselves in the butt is not a metaphor. It is a poop-smeared reality. Take off the socks.
2. If the baby doesn’t seem to like something, don’t make him eat it
When we were transitioning my first to solids I, trying to be supermom, decided to make my own baby food by pureeing peas. Yet, not being supermom, I apparently didn’t puree them long enough, leaving them with a gag-worthy texture. I know this because after finally succeeding in getting the peas into my son’s mouth, he gagged semi-pureed peas all over his matching onesie.
3. When in doubt, wear nursing pads
You know how the sound of your baby crying can make your milk letdown? And how babies tend to cry when given their vaccines? You didn’t think you would need to wear the pads because you had just fed the baby right before the appointment? Yeah, just wear the pads. So much less awkward for everyone.
4. There’s no right way to deal with a baby pooping in the tub
Do you leave him in until he’s done? Do you take him out, inevitably leaving a trail of poop from the bathtub to the toilet? Seriously, you can’t win. This is just one of those parenting milestones that you have to learn to embrace. Or, if not embrace, clean.
5. Those nose aspirators suck
Or more accurately, don’t suck. After five minutes of struggling to get that thing into my baby’s nose, the best I ever got was a sound like stuff should be coming out, a writhing child, and no snot.
6. Put a wipe over Baby’s front parts when changing his diaper
Nothing says “time to pee!” like the moment a baby boy’s diaper comes off. Something about that bite of cool air, that sense of freedom — it just gets things flowing for babies. You could use one of the pee teepees, but save yourself some money (and the disappointment of never thinking to have one of those things out until it’s too late) and just use a wipe. It works just as well.
7. Be prepared to ugly cry over spilt milk
If you make the decision to breastfeed, chances are there will be at least a few occasions — more if you work away from home — when you have to pump. I am yet to meet a woman who enjoys the pumping process. Being fettered to a machine like a cow, making up words to the unrelenting sound of the breast pump (and I know I’m not the only one doing this), is not most people’s idea of a good time. The worst is when you’re attached to the machine for 30 minutes and get like three ounces of milk. Scratch that, the worst is when you, in your sleep-deprived, distorted nipple delirium, spill that milk. One time, after spilling a half ounce or so, I, in a panic, tried to brush it back into the container. After realizing the counter was so not clean, I had to toss the whole bunch. Tears. So many tears. The best advice here is to put the cap on the container as soon as you’re done, but even then accidents are sure to happen. You will get through it. So will your baby.
8. Apply the 30-minute rule
You know that old rule about waiting 30 minutes after eating before swimming? It’s basically the same for little babies, except wait 30 minutes before having them do anything. Post-feeding is not the time to practice tummy time, especially if you’re lying right next to them encouragingly. It is certainly not the time to do that thing where you hold the baby over your head and look up open-mouthed into his smiling face. Wait did I say smiling? I meant milk-spewing. Just wait. Then play.
Let’s see, have we covered the big ones? Milk? Check. Throw up? Uh huh. Snot? You betcha! Pee? Yup. Poop? Oh yes. Got that one twice. That should do it. Consider yourself prepared for the worst. And enjoy that first year. Despite the grossness of it, there’s nothing more beautiful.More On