Henry will be 6 weeks old in two days… which is bananas. In many ways I feel like we brought him home yesterday, and in so many I feel like we’re lightyears ahead of that first week back from the hospital in terms of our comfort and familiarity with our boy and confidence as parents.
He’s been a cute little delight since we met him on May 8. He was tiny and still is but eats ferociously (like his mama). And often smiles after a meal (again like his mama). He makes the best faces (my favorite is his pursed lips face), he LOVES being outside (when he fusses sometimes I just step outside onto our front stoop and it immediately calms him), he makes a thinking face with his eyebrows just like I do.
He looks SO much like his dad (has his mouth and chin for sure), but sometimes looks like me (the nose and maybe eyes). He’s a snuggle bug and loves sleeping on us in the morning. In fact, he’s sleeping on me now in our baby carrier as I type.
Our dog Tucker LOVES him… Tuck wasn’t sure the first few days… very curious. But now he’s obsessed and loves licking him and gets SO upset if Henry is crying. Sometimes even when I burp him Tucker doesn’t like it because he thinks I’m hurting him. Bless his heart. Fiona is a bit indifferent but totally calm. ALL of this is extremely surprising as both of our dogs have some anxiety and territorial issues so this is truly a blessing.
The best piece of advice I got before he was born wasn’t even directed at me… but Liz Adams wrote something along the lines of “I remember wishing the newborn days away with [my first born] because they seemed so hard, but now [with my second born], I realize how quickly they go and I’m cherishing them.” I shared that with Dan before Henry was born and said this is what we need to remember, and I think it’s made all the difference. Just cherishing every moment, even when we’re sleep deprived, or waking up in the middle of the night, or it seems hard… it’s going to be over so so fast and we’ll never get Henry like this again.
Dan… oh my wonderful Dan. First, I should say, Happy First Father’s Day to my wonderful husband. Dan is a natural. I know a lot of people say that, but the man is a family man through and through (he’s the middle of 5 and comes from a huge family), and he was SERIOUSLY born to be a dad. I’ve seen him hold babies before and to be honest, he was a teeny bit stiff. But the moment he was handed Henry, he was a natural! A doting father who would do ANYTHING for his family. He looked like he’d be doing it for years.
I can’t imagine getting through those first two weeks with anyone else… he helped me during my recovery in ways that were so humbling… I’m talking helping me in the bathroom, get dressed, get in and out of bed, breastfeed, etc. He went above and beyond to take care of our home, our dogs, our son, and me when I could barely move around. Whenever I need a nap, still, Dan insists I take it – he loves spending time with the babe. And they are so darn cute together – like a little mini with his big.
So the two questions I’ve been asked repeatedly by just about anyone we see…
1. Sooo… how’s it going? Are you getting any sleep?
2. Are you breastfeeding? / How’s breastfeeding going?
To the first question I say something along the lines of… “It’s going great!”
At which point the person looks at me incredulously. So I continue, “No really – this might sound crazy, but it’s honestly easier than I thought it would be.”
Hear me out.
A month or so before having Henry, I remember saying to Dan several times, “Danny, how do we take care of a newborn?” To which he’d reply, “Oh ya know, we just need to love him. We feed him, we change his diapers. That’s all.” And I’d be like, “A ha ha no but REALLY. HOW DO WE CARE FOR A NEWBORN?! 24/7?! I don’t know what I’m doing.” I babysat for three kids for 10+ years when I was 14. I have nieces and nephews I care for. But not on a 24/7 loop! So pre-baby, my brain would quickly run through how difficult it would be and all the possible worst-case scenarios we would have to deal with on a daily loop – pretty much none of which has happened.
Going into this, everyone just made it sound SO hard. And kind of miserable. Even my young, female DENTIST and mother-of-two told me, unsolicited, to “get in all the ‘me time’ now since I’ll never have it again…” And yea, I’m not saying it’s super easy, but it all definitely came more naturally than I expected I think because the bar was clearly set SO low by other people.
I think we ALSO have a relatively easy baby – again basing that on what I’ve heard. But he fusses. He spits up – a few times all over us. NBD. And there have been some rough nights with almost no sleep. But we always make up for it the following night or take turns the following evening so one of us can nap at a time. And sure there have been many a meal time where Dan and I realize we have nothing to eat… thank you Postmates/Grubhub/Doordash (but most importantly thank you to family who meal prepped for us the first two weeks so that wasn’t an issue).
We really, Henry is pretty great! He’s an amazing eater. Relatively calm and content. And sleeps well! Not picky about bottles/nipples/pacifiers… he loves his pacifier and it calms him on the reg. He loves car rides – already clocked in his first road trip to and from Grand Rapids (around a 3 hr drive each way). He lets anyone hold him.
We both shower pretty much every day or every other day. I healed rather quickly from my c–section (which I largely attribute to exercising during my pregnancy – but more on that later). The dogs have adjusted alarmingly well – thank GOD! And we’re loving life with baby Henry.
So I’m always happy to report that yes – everything really is going well!
I should note we have the amazing factor that Dan works from home, and I’ve been off work these past six weeks – he didn’t get paternity leave, so aside from taking off work the days we were in the hospital, he was back on full-time our first Monday back. But having him around still has been amazing.
If I was home alone with Henry all day it would be 100x harder.
If Henry was very colicky, it would be 1000x harder.
If I was a single parent it would be 10000000x harder.
If I was exclusively breastfeeding it would be much more difficult and stressful. But more on that below.
But a few tricks we’ve learned that I think have helped:
The nighttime schedule. The first week at home, Dan and I were both up EVERY time we heard Henry rustle at night. I’d be pumping. Dan would be feeding bottles. Or I’d be breastfeeding. And it was all made 10x more difficult by the fact that I could barely get out of bed yet alone move easily because of my c-section pain.
Since then, we’ve implemented a nighttime baby feeding system that is equal parts sleep schedule for us that was a game changer. Basically one of us goes to sleep around 9:30-11pm… the other stays awake downstairs and does the “first shift” or “last feeding” before putting Henry in his bassinet for the night while the other one gets “a long stretch” of sleep. Then Henry goes down… whoever went to bed first then wakes up for the 2am-ish feeding. Which technically happens any time from 2-4am depending on when his “last” meal was before bed. The other meanwhile, is getting to sleep from the time they put Henry down to the next time he’s up… which then is usually 5-7am. So we’re each getting one long stint of sleep, coupled with another hour or two… totaling anywhere from 5-8 hours in a given night. Which if I’m being honest, is MUCH more than I thought we’d be getting. We also take turns letting one another take nice long naps in the early evening when needed. Or we all take a long nap around 5/6pm if Henry is napping.
Which brings me to the second question and my second “trick” we’ve figured out.
2. I am not exclusively breastfeeding.
And I’m truly amazed how everyone assumes I am.
I did the first couple of weeks with the exception of maybe 2-3 formula bottles when desperate times called for it (including our first night in the hospital). My original goal was to breastfeed three months. And after week one, I made my goal six weeks. And now that we’re almost at 6 weeks, he’s on the fast track to being only formula-fed.
Henry latched immediately. That wasn’t the issue. But when we came back from the hospital, we had to give him formula for two days because he did some serious damage at the hospital when he “fed” for an hour and a half on one boob, and 45 minutes on the other. It wasn’t until my brother and sister-in-law visited the next night, that they told me, “Alaina – he wasn’t feeding that long. He was using you as a pacifier.” But the damage was done. My nips were cracking, And they seriously needed time to recover or the little guy would be getting blood in his milk. Awful, right?
After 2-3 weeks, Henry started requiring a lot more food than I was able to provide – so we had to start supplementing meals with formula – then introducing entire meals of formula. I’d pump a few times a day to make sure he had enough bottles of breast milk. At least with a bottle of breast milk I knew he was getting enough opposed to him breastfeeding which we quickly saw needed to be supplemented with 20-30mL of formula 20 minutes after he had what should have been a full feeding.
But I also learned very quickly that pumping is a huge time suck – time away from my son. Because of the pumping mechanism, I literally can’t hold or tend to Henry while I’m pumping which is anywhere from 25-30 minutes. So unless he’s sound asleep or Dan can be holding him – which remember, Dan is working all day – I don’t have a window of time in which to pump. And Henry’s sound-asleep naps are my only times to get ANYTHING done… shower, cook/eat, clean, laundry, sleep. So it quickly became that I was only fitting in 2 pumping sessions a day.
Also, I quickly started to hate pumping. But it was required to up my milk supply. It became super stressful very quickly and a stressed or unhappy mom is much worse for baby than quality formula.
I don’t know why I’m explaining all of this… simply saying, breastfeeding isn’t working for me should suffice. But it’s amazing the guilt I feel because of it – especially at first. Dan’s always been supportive of me stopping whenever. And I never in one million years thought I’d care about breast over bottle… I never had, and I never thought twice about a mama who was choosing bottle. You do you, girl. But this innate guilt came out of NOWHERE. And then when people ask and clearly assume I should be breastfeeding, it doesn’t help.
But let me tell you – the past week since we took our first little road trip to Michigan last weekend, (keep in mind this is week 5/6, not the first month), Henry’s been almost 100% on formula. And MAN is it less stressful! Anyone can help feed him! We are on a much better schedule with his feeding / sleeping. I am no longer in pain which is a huge plus. So many things. And that is ok.
So if you’re in the same boat, please don’t feel guilty. Women go through SO much during pregnancy, labor, post-partum, SURGERY… and we give so much love and so much of ourselves to care for our little ones. If your baby is fed and healthy, it’s crazy we should feel bad about this.
I will say I am going to be trying this other breast pump – the Willow – which is a brand-new tube-free pump that simply inserts into your bra and you can move about freely – or hold baby! So I’ll let you know how that goes.
The formula we’re using is often reviewed as one of the best in the world. No really! It’s from Germany… it’s the Holle Pre and available here.
3. Ok so the third big thing that helped me this first month was making a conscious effort to change my mindset when Henry was fussy.
The first few weeks, he basically ate and slept and never fussed. Seriously – unless he was waking up for a bottle, he literally never cried. Then one day… he did. And it totally caught me off guard and stressed me out and I didn’t know what to do and I was just walking around our bedroom rocking him back and forth for 3o minutes, and I thought “oh my god is this our life now?!” Eventually he calmed down and all was well… but when it happened the next day, I shifted my thinking during the fuss. This wasn’t about me and how it made me feel. At all. Obviously. (Only it wasn’t so obvious in that first moment. It was stressful.) But I realized what was actually happening… something was wrong for this tiny little human who couldn’t communicate in any other way, but was CLEARLY telling me something is wrong, and it was my job to figure it out and comfort him and make him feel better. That was it. Make Henry feel better.
Comfort him. Make him feel better. Henry’s sad or in pain and needs me.
That was it.
And now when he fusses, I remember that and try to get to the bottom of what’s bothering him as quickly as possible… it’s only ever a few things: Hungry. Gas/needs to burp. Tired or overtired. Dirty diaper. Or the most recent one we discovered – overstimulated (which also just meant get to a quiet place, he’s tired).
That last moment was a big one for us… we were at Dan’s sister’s house (she had just had a baby!), and everyone was helping hold him so Dan and I could eat, which was amazing. But Henry REALLY started fussing. And no one could get him to calm. Experienced parents who didn’t mind holding a crying baby couldn’t get him to calm and none of us could figure out what was wrong. I eventually took him thinking maybe I’ll change his diaper. He was calm for a couple minutes then started again. I tried rocking and singing. Same thing. Eventually, I just took him upstairs where it was quiet and dark and he fell asleep in my arms immediately. Ah hah! Overstimulated by all the noise and people and sound. This was a new problem but I figured it out!
What was amazing was that was my first time since he’d been born where I REALLY felt like his mom. In a large group of people, not just the comfort of our home, I was the person he needed and I was the one who figured out how to make him feel better. It didn’t matter if I finished my dinner or got to socialize with everyone – it was my job, my only priority, to make my son feel better. And I did. It was an amazing moment.
4. Sleep training course
The last thing I want to mention is that we are implementing what we learned in an infant sleep course – Taking Cara Babies. And it’s been SO wonderful. Seriously. Take it. It’s technically not sleep training – which doesn’t really start until they hit 3 or 4 months, but it’s a precursor to implement a schedule and good sleep habits (teach an infant how to put themselves back to sleep). We will be taking the more advanced sleep training course from her once he hits 3 months. Cannot recommend it enough and I’ll do a review once Henry hits 3 months! But so far… game changer. Makes your daily schedule SO much easier! You actually GET a schedule. Keep in mind you don’t start until the baby is 4 weeks – so that first month, as Cara says, should just be spent getting to know your baby, bonding, feeding, loving… no pressure.
Use code Henry to get $5 off the class!
So that’s the gist of our first month as parents! Well, I am sure I could write A TON more. It’s honestly been so great. I know watching him grow and develop is going to be such a trip. It’s already crazy seeing him advance… things like how he “holds his body,” seeing his body getting chubbier, him turning to look when he hears sounds or making eye contact with us gets us SO excited, I know we’re going to freak out over the bigger stuff.
I know it’s been a crazy about of baby content – and not much other content at all – the past month. Hoping to get back in the swing of things once we get some help around here! I’ve loved and feel so grateful to have had these six weeks off completely with him, but I definitely miss working. More on that later, as well as my c-section recovery post! Then hoping to mix some house hunting posts in! Boy has THAT been a process. I just realized we actually starting looking back in DECEMBER when we went to see that farmhouse. Man has been a long road since.
Photography by Suzanne Brown –> BIG thanks to Suzy who took these beautiful photos for our family! If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly recommend giving her a call!