You’ve got the nursery decked out and you’re prepared with seven different types of pacifiers and bottles and more onesies and swaddling cloths than you know what to do with. But there are a lot of things new parents need that go way beyond a baby registry.
These essentials don’t cost a cent but are worth their weight in gold.
How many times have friends or neighbors offered to lend a hand, only for you to never actually accept their help?
Instead of trying to juggle everything on your own, the next time someone offers to help, assign them a task. “When someone says ‘Let me know how I can help’ be ready with a list of things that they could do that would actually be helpful,” says Melissa Cohen, LCSW, a therapist in Westfield, New Jersey and founder of the Mommy Bond, an online support group for parents.
“Most mothers of newborns are surprised by how stuck and isolated they feel being home with a baby,” says Cohen. She advises keeping a list of tasks and people you can call for help in moments that you need a hand. And don’t apologize or assume you’re being a burden – just do it.
“Imagine that you want to get the laundry done while the baby naps only to find out that you’re out of detergent. If someone has offered to help, reach out to them. They can either bring you some of theirs or pick some up for you,” says Cohen.
Or rather, fill your well.
“In early motherhood, we’re often exhausted and think that self-care automatically means sleep or rest,” says Cohen. While that seems like an easy (but improbable) solution, laying down isn’t necessarily what’s going to keep you going. Instead, Cohen says to focus on things that bring your energy up.
“Whether that’s chatting with a friend, doing 15 minutes of exercise, or listening to your favorite songs and singing every word, it’s these types of positive boosts that will energize you even when you’re sleep deprived,” says Cohen.
Ok, ok, but you also need to get in sleep.
A mom to twins and acquaintance of mine coordinates with her husband to sleep in one morning a week. If that doesn’t pan out, she dips into her stock of ear plugs (which she buys in pairs of 200 on Amazon) and tries to set aside a 15-minute block of complete, sanity-restoring silence a few times a week.
You know the saying, “It takes a village”? Well, it’s time to call on your village—whether that is extended family members, trusted friends, or carefully vetted caregivers.
“Shared infant care, also called alloparenting or cooperative breeding, is totally normal,” says David F. Lancy, author of Raising Children: Surprising Insights from Other Cultures. “Think of shared care as a safety net—people who can step up and give you a break when you need it,” he says.
Infants even benefit from multiple caregivers, according to Lancy. “Children learn early to be a social being, attuned to others’ personalities and needs,” he explains. So lose the guilt and call a sitter, stat.
Accept all the casseroles and lasagnas from your neighbors and freeze some for the future. And stock up on frozen, pre-made dinners that are easy to heat and serve.
“When you’re a new parent, the grocery store can seem like it’s on another continent,” says Melanie Pleva, mom to one, who often cooks in bulk on the weekend and stocks her freezer for weeknight meals. “There’s no way you have the concentration to focus on menu planning.”
You’re a parent now.
There is no better time to get your financial house in order.
“We know we need to set up financial and legal plans but it is easy to put it on the back burner because there’s no immediate need or consequence of waiting,” says Cohen.
She recommends making all the big decisions — creating a will that names your chosen guardians and buying a life insurance policy — while you’re in your third trimester. Then, open a 529 and start saving for your child within the first six months of the birth and you won’t have to think about it again.
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Even the worst day—full of diapers, unrelenting crying, exhaustion and a million things that you didn’t get done—is only 24 hours.
“Keep in mind that this stage or behavior that is driving you nuts is not permanent,” says Cohen. “So often, moms come to me at their wits end,” she says. “I remind them that everything —teething, sleep regressions, you name it — is temporary.”
Cari Wira Dineen is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Health and Real Simple among others, and more recently she was an editor at John Brown Media. A former senior editor at Redbook and Woman’s Day, she loves writing about parenting, health and wellness, and hanging out with her two kids.
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