The first few weeks are all about survival. That's what everyone told me, in the hospital days after I gave birth to Forrest... and it was 100% accurate. Each day is just about surviving and getting to the next day. I'm proud to say I've successfully survived for four weeks and I've managed to keep Forrest relatively well-fed and happy during that time too.
The past few weeks have been the hardest of my life, with the least amount of sleep I think I've ever gotten. They've also been some of the most fulfilling days of my life: the highs are high and the lows are in the gutter. I've also found there are a few things that help me keep my sanity during everything. These are them.
Are you expecting a baby? Do you have a Fisher Price Rock'n'Play assembled, plugged in, and ready? If not, please pause reading this, go to Amazon, and order one immediately. Get the fastest shipping. Prepare to cry at least once while assembling it and then rejoice the minute you bring your baby home.
Since day 1 bringing Forrest home from the hospital, he will only sleep in this at night (if he sleeps anywhere other than on me, which is his top preference). He loves his Rock'n'Play... and he's not alone. Google the phrase "my baby will only sleep in his Rock'n'Play, will this kill him?*" and you'll see at lest 200 pages of results of people asking the exact same question. Almost every single mom I know admits to letting their baby sleep in the Rock'n'Play at least part of the time. Forrest has recently transitioned to only wanting to sleep on me after 11pm at night, but during the day and evening, the Rock'n'Play is king.
The best part is that the Rock'n'Play is really affordable and there are tons of cute colors and designs (if you're specific about that kind of thing). The version I linked above is only $51. It's also extremely portable, so you can fold it up to carry to your living room or bedroom, or you can throw it in the car for a trip to Grandma's.
*This isn't actually what I googled, but it's pretty much what I was thinking. According to our pediatrician, as long as babies sleep on their backs and they sleep, it's fine, no matter what you put them in.
Don't get me wrong: The boppy is great for generally holding a newborn. Danny loves our boppy and when Forrest throws a sleep protest, it's what he uses to hold him for several hours. However, I did not have success using the boppy as a nursing pillow: I found it would work off of my waist, leaving a gap where Forrest would slip as he ate. Since both my hands were full, he was just kinda stuck there. Plus, you can't use the boppy to hold the baby until at least 6 weeks, so it just kind of sits around until then.
A fellow mom struggling with nursing her also late preterm baby recommended the My Brest Friend Nursing pillow to me. I ordered one immediately and I'm so glad I did. After I figured out Forrest's earliest feeding cutes, this pillow made nursing so much easier. My favorite feature is the little pillows for the baby's head--so I don't have to hold Forrest's head the entire time I'm nursing him. It makes a huge difference.
3. A Really Good Pump (And Formula Back Up)
I had all kinds of plans about how breastfeeding would go. My number one assumption was that Forrest would be born full term. That obviously didn't happen. Babies born before 38 weeks have an extremely hard time breastfeeding, thanks to a variety of latch and energy issues. I've been working with a lactation consultant to get him back on track, but I've been pumping every 2 or 3 hours (round the clock!) in the mean time. When I got my pump, I thought I would only need a single: a double electric felt unnecessary when obviously my baby would win at breastfeeding from the get-go, right?
Wrong! Let me tell you, spending 30-40 minutes using a single pump, with barely enough energy to pump out more than an ounce, is a total time suck, especially during the middle of the night. I would feed Forrest, get him to sleep (a major undertaking), set him down, and start pumping... only for it to be time to feed Forrest again by the time I was done with only one side. Not super efficient and very stressful. My supply started to dwindle; as Forrest became less jaundiced, he needed more attention and I had less opportunities to pump.
The breaking point came when I had maybe 5 oz of breastmilk in the fridge and no opportunity to pump for hours (thanks to doctors appointments and general Forrest disharmony). My mom offered to buy me a better pump (the Medela Pump in Style). In the mean time, I turned to my massive stash of free formula that I had gotten when I was pregnant. Once I gave myself the freedom to use formula to expand my dwindling breast milk supply, I felt 100x better... and almost immediately, Forrest started latching. We're still working on the whole food thing, but thanks to a few tweaks in my expectations and supplies, I feel way less stress about it.
Long story short: invest in a good pump and sign up with Enfamil and Similac for free formula samples. You never know what you might need!
What could you (and your newborn) not live without in those first hectic weeks?