Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Advice for moms to be

Some words of wisdom for first time mamas

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I originally wrote this post back in April of 2011 when I had only one child who was 1-1/2 at the time. While I did some updating to refresh it, I still feel compelled to give advice for moms to be when I see them out and about. For now, I am still able to resist!

I’ve always been a quiet person. I’ve never had a need to give random advice to others (especially strangers). That is until I became a mother. Now it sort of makes sense to me why mothers dole out advice — both wanted and unwanted — to their kids and random strangers. It is just in you.

When I’m shopping at Target and see a woman with a big belly perusing the baby department with a scan gun for her registry, I want to stop her and chat. Anywhere I go and see a couple who is pregnant with their first child, I feel the urge to tell them things. When I read status updates on Facebook of friends or family who are expecting their first child, I fight the urge to type all sorts of thoughts and advice. And even when childless friends talk to me about wanting to start a family someday, I have to stomp down my urge to overshare.

Advise for moms to be Pinterest image

I do manage to keep my mouth shut with complete strangers. And I try to take it easy on my friends and family. Hopefully, I succeed. But, I want to somehow explain to them that they really don’t know what they’re in for. Having a child is so much harder and so much more wonderful than you can ever expect. Becoming a parent changes your world completely.

Practical advice for moms to be

I definitely have practical advice for moms to be. I would share what to really expect from labor and delivery — the things no one tells you, not even in the birthing class at the hospital. For instance, you will be amazed at how little you care about lack of modesty during the birthing process and even learning to nurse if you go that route.

Moms to be also need to know to buy plenty of feminine hygiene products. Get the largest pads made, and buy twice as many as you think you’ll need. Consider getting at least one package of adult diapers, which are also great for postpartum moms.

I’d share things like which infant tub is best because it will work for newborns to toddlers. We had a few styles and found this one worked best.

Also, I’d tell her which big toys really come in handy and which take up more space than they are worth. A baby play mat is awesome. And my daughter spent a lot of time hanging out in her bouncy seat. It saved my sanity to know she was strapped in somewhere safe.

I’d let her know that big swings aren’t worth it for the cost and space they take up. Not all babies like swings, my daughter didn’t care for the swing so much. If your baby does like to swing, though, having a portable swing takes up less space and lets you move it around the house with you. [I had to add in the portable swing, because my second child loved swinging and the portable swing was a lifesaver!]

I’d tell both parents to be to take time to shower and relax in those first few months whenever they had a chance. I’d tell them to ask for help and let a trusted person (grandparents are ideal) watch the baby for a bit even just so they could nap, run errands or (dare I say it) see a movie.

Emotional advice for moms to be

And there are more abstract tips and ideas I’d share. I’d tell them how the baby will take all of your energy and just when you’ve about had enough he or she will give you a smile for the first time. Suddenly your energy renews and your heart melts, even if it is 3 a.m. and you’re up for the third time since going to bed at 10 p.m.

I’d share that it might take time, but you will eventually adjust to living life completely for someone else. Eventually you will be able to find pieces of your identity again and remember sometimes that you are more than just a mom.

For sure I’d get advice to moms to be to worry less and enjoy more. For the first couple of months, I lived in fear every time I put my daughter down at night to sleep that she wouldn’t wake up in the morning. She’s a happy, healthy almost 19-month-old now. [And now a 13-year-old!]

I worried that if she saw a television show for even one minute she’d have ADD. She couldn’t care less about TV, and she’s as smart as can be. [She’s tested as high ability from kindergarten on.]

So many times I worried that I wouldn’t produce enough milk, and then I ended up with a chest freezer full. All that worrying for nothing. When we’re new moms we can put so much pressure on ourselves and worry about every little thing. Do your best to remind yourself that humans have been surviving for thousands of years. You can do this!

The truth about becoming a mom

You see, all this advice (and more!) bubbles up within me as I encounter new moms. I have lots to say. Instead, I smile. Or I say “Congratulations” if I know them. Internally, I want to warn them. I want to prepare them. But, I also know that no one can prepare you. It just isn’t possible. I thought I was prepared and knew what I was in for. I didn’t and, frankly, I couldn’t have.

Then again, I guess that’s part of the whole parenthood experience. And so you’re left with lots of advice. I’m sure there is untold advice around me from parents of older children about what will be coming my way. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to know, yet. I’m also pretty sure that I won’t really get it until I experience it for myself. That’s just the way life is.

Why breastfeeding in private works best for me

How privately breastfeeding my children is the right choice for us

I wrote these words originally back in April of 2013 when my youngest was a couple of months old and my oldest was 3. This is part of my story of breastfeeding and what worked best for my children and me.

Sometimes I read something that really irks me. This was the case last week when I came across a link to an article titled “If you don’t support breastfeeding in public, you don’t support breastfeeding” on Huffington Post. It made me roll my eyes. And it made my blood pressure rise a notch or two.  Let me explain.

First, I’m proud that nursing is working for my son and me. I had to exclusively pump milk for my now 3-year-old and that left me with many mixed emotions. Forming a working nursing relationship with my son has been precious to me, even during the times when I’m exhausted and seriously doubting my decision to nurse. (I’d wager every nursing mother has had those moments and powered through them.)

Why breastfeeding in private works best for me

However, I don’t feel like I have to nurse my son in front of everyone to be proud that nursing is working for us. It’s our own private journey we’ve taken together. Sure, at home I nurse him in front of my 3-year-old and my husband. I’ve nursed discreetly a couple of times in front of my mom, but that’s where I draw the line. If anyone else is at our house I go to another room with the door closed.

The main reason I breastfeed in private has to do with myself.

Here’s the important message why: I do this for my own comfort. My OWN comfort. I think my extended family would be supportive should I stay near them and nurse my son. However, I’m not comfortable that way, even with a nursing cover. For now, at just over two months in, I find the nursing cover almost creates more trouble than help. I still need to see him and what he’s doing. I would be too uncomfortable to nurse sans cover in front of others for my own modesty reasons and just plain comfort. (Just so you know, my own modesty includes not showing my breasts, cleavage or even bare belly.) And so, my boy and I head off on our own during feeding times.

Not everyone needs to be part of my breastfeeding journey.

Second, random strangers are not invited to be part of my breastfeeding experience. I long ago had to get over the judging looks I’d sometimes get in public when I gave my daughter a bottle. At first I wanted to scream at those people that I was giving her breastmilk. I wanted to scream even louder that they should mind their own business and just be happy I’m feeding my child. Please know that I have no problem with formula-feeding moms. We all do what is best for our babies. Keeping them fed is most important no matter how we do it. I worked through those feelings last time and I refuse to let them they creep up this time. My choice is to either nurse in the car, which I’ve done a couple of times, or to pump and take milk with me.

And I know that pumping and taking a bottle gets some moms in a tizzy. They decry the torture of the breast pump. As someone who has logged hours upon hours upon hours upon hours hooked to a breast pump, I can say I’ve never found it torturous. In fact, the pump has been kinder to me than my baby. It never turns its head away while still attached to me. It never gets mad and bites down. My breast pump just stays attached and keeps a steady rhythm.

They also decry supply issues. These are the same kind of women who would say that you can’t build and maintain a milk supply with a breast pump. They irritated me last time around, too. I have the proof that’s possible since my daughter got breast milk from me via a pump and bottle for her entire first year and just beyond. Yes. It can be done.

I know that right now my milk supply isn’t completely established, so I have to be careful. Supply is established at 12 weeks; I’ll hit 10 weeks tomorrow. I know these things even more so based on my previous experience. Because of that, I’m careful about pumping and making sure that if I miss a feeding from the tap with my little man that I’m pumping enough around that feeding time so my supply doesn’t suffer.

Just last week, for example, my husband and I had a chance to go to dinner and a movie. I took my pump along with the car adapter. We parked behind the movie theater so I could pump before we went in since my son was getting a bottle at home from my mom. This time around I’ve pumped extra milk to have a bit of a stash built up. So I’d daresay that pumping has actually helped me build and increase my supply in conjunction with nursing. And it gives me a bit of a cushion to know I have milk for my son in case something happens and we need it in a pinch.

My baby drinks faster from a bottle.

The other benefit to giving my son a bottle is that feeding him goes faster. He takes a bottle in 10 minutes. With nursing, he takes twice that or more by taking at least 10 minutes per side. Having 20 minutes to sit anywhere in public is often a challenge. So, I’m more comfortable with a bottle. Thus far he’s had a bottle at church, two restaurants and two doctor’s appointments. He’s not minded. He’s had a chance to actually get his fill before we had to switch activities, and I’ve pumped within an hour at most of each of these bottles. We’re both happier.

Most importantly, this makes me most comfortable and at ease so it benefits my baby the most. We’re both more relaxed.  I know how I’d feel nursing in public. The thought of it makes me feel antsy. That’s never a good feeling to associate with nursing. And it’s sure not helpful to my son who picks up on my emotions and reacts to them.

I don’t owe it to society to breastfeed in public. It’s not going to further advance breastfeeding. I only owe it to my baby to make sure he’s fed. And I will choose to do that in a way that feels most comfortable to me.

Breastfeeding in public doesn’t change anyone’s mind.

To say that I don’t support breastfeeding because I don’t nurse in public is offensive and downright incorrect. I have proven that I support breastfeeding by tying myself to a pump for a year to make sure my daughter got breastmilk. I have proven it by allowing my son to latch on and use my breasts for sustenance when, quite frankly, sometimes I’d rather be doing something else — like sleeping. It’s not about me, though. It’s about my children getting breastmilk. I’m happy to provide that for them.

What I support most is feeding babies however works best and is most comfortable for them and their mommies. For some that’s with formula. For some it’s with pumped milk through a bottle. Others nurse directly at the breast. Still others use a combination of methods. For me, I am most comfortable giving a bottle in public or going to the car. If a nursing mama is comfortable nursing in public, she should go for it. I don’t have an issue with anyone else nursing in public. I just know that it’s not for me and I don’t feel I should be chastised for that.

And I am not keeping nursing on the back burner by not nursing in public. Seeing me nurse in the middle of the mall is not going to change anyone’s mind about breastfeeding just as seeing political posts on my Facebook News Feed is not going to change my mind about my own political views. I don’t owe it to society to nurse in public. It’s not going to further advance breastfeeding. I only owe it to my baby to make sure he’s fed. And I will choose to do that in a way that feels most comfortable to me.

Finding myself again after having a baby

Motherhood changes everything, even your identity

I originally wrote these words in May of 2013 when my son was 4 months old and my daughter was 3 years old. Having a baby changes everything and finding myself again after having a baby was challenging. Even now that my kids are 9 and 12, I still have trouble with loses my unique identity in the busyness of motherhood.

When my daughter was born 3-1/2 years ago, I remember once the fog lifted a bit, I wondered when or if I’d ever feel like myself again. In a way, I mourned the Stacey I once was. I didn’t know if I’d ever feel anything like her again. I was both OK with that and sad about that. But I had to wonder whether if finding myself again would ever happen.

I remember the first day I returned to my home office to work for a couple of hours while my mom watched my baby girl. Even though my breast pump came with me and I did a pumping session whilst typing away, I felt for those couple of hours like the me I used to be and it was glorious. 

During her lifetime, I’ve found a way to sort of balance it all out. I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be a journalist. I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be a wife. And I’ve gotten breaks and chances to be more than a mom. Because, if all of us moms are honest, sometimes we need to be someone other than mommy. Sometimes we need to be more than a kleenex, jungle gym, dairy cow, bottom wiper, clothes changer, laundry doer and food maker. Sometimes we need to be a woman. We need moments to just be silent. And we need to have a moment to think in peace.

Losing myself again with a second baby

I knew I’d deal with these feelings again when I had a second baby. And I have. I love my son just as completely as I love my daughter, even when he’s being high maintenance as he sometimes is. I love him even now when he’s kicking me in the arm while I’m trying to type this blog post as my daughter is distracted working on a bracelet (and never you mind that they’re both still in their pajamas and it’s almost 11 a.m.). I’m now getting just enough sleep and have been in this mom-of-a-baby phase long enough that I’ve started on the journey of finding myself again. Or trying to.

Last week I had a chance to be in the car by myself for a few minutes while my children were at my parents’ house before our birthday celebration. It was just a few minutes. I realized I could not only listen to the music of my choosing but I could turn it up. I could sing along at the top of my lungs and not have to try and have an ongoing conversation with a constantly chatting 3-year-old. For those few minutes I realized that I was still me. And I also realized the old, old Stacey is gone. I am now Mom Stacey. Somehow I’m OK with it.

Finding myself in a new way

Though being a mom drains me sometimes. Though it sucks my energy and occasionally makes me want to run away screaming, it also makes me who I am now. And it makes me happy. I’d be lying if I told you I was happy every single moment of motherhood. I’m not. But at my very core, being a mother is now who I am.

Being with my children can also re-energize me. Looking at their faces and meeting their needs sometimes keeps me going and moving on days when I otherwise would want to just crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. When I act strong and calm for them when I’m frustrated, I actually feel stronger and calmer. It turns out that if you fake it long enough, it rubs off on you. I want them to see me smile. So, I keep smiling even when I don’t feel like it. And I end up being happier in the end. It could have to do with their sweet smiles back at me.

This time around, I know there is no going back. I’ll never be the Stacey I was before having children. Being a mom changes you forever. And I will forever be their mother, no matter what. This time around I’m not longing for that old Stacey. I do still sometimes crave alone time. I do still need time alone with my husband. But, I also realize that when we are all together I feel the happiest and most complete. This is my family. We’re continuing the journey my husband and I started when we got married.

Just as I adjusted to the title and role of wife, I have now adjusted to the title and role of mother. It is my identity. It won’t ever be my complete identity, but it’s a big part of me. Right now Mommy is 95 percent of who I am and what I do. But there’s still 5 percent reserved for just Stacey. That percentage will wax and wane in the years to come, I’m sure. I’m sure I’ll have times of finding myself all over again. That’s how life works. For now, I’m fully embracing my role as mother. Now it makes me who I am.

20 Lessons from life with a newborn

Life with a newborn is exhausting, challenging and rewarding

I wrote this back in 2013 when I was just starting to feel a bit human again after having our second baby. I’ve done some slight editing, but left it mostly the same. I share for new mamas who are overwhelmed and exhausted. I promise you will survive this phase! The 12-week-old baby is new a thriving 8-year-old boy and his big sister is now 11.

Just when you think you know everything as a mother, things change around and you realize that you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did to begin with. Having a second baby has reminded me of this. My son is days away from being 12 weeks old. He’s not much like his big sister who is 3-1/2. I’ve learned a few lessons from life with a newborn. I’ve also been reminded of some lessons I learned last time around.

So, I decided to compile a list. It’s far from comprehensive, but it’s a few things that have been floating around in my mind and my life these last nearly 12 weeks.

1. Not all babies are the same. 

I can’t say this enough. I knew this in my head, but having a second baby really taught me this lesson. My daughter loved the bouncy seat; my son doesn’t like it. The swing didn’t interest my daughter; my son loves it. My daughter couldn’t sleep when someone was holding her. Sometimes my son will only sleep when someone is holding him.

2. Just when you think you couldn’t possible be any more exhausted, you realize you can. 

I’ve had plenty of times when I thought if I were any more exhausted I’d be dead. And then the baby spent the night crying and I got only two hours of sleep before preschooler was up and ready for the day to start. Turns out I was wrong. I could be more exhausted.

3. Dealing with reflux in a baby stinks. 

My daughter had other issues, but reflux wasn’t a problem for her. My son has mild reflux and it stinks. I feel a huge compassion for parents who have babies with more severe reflux.

4. Babies require patience. 

Lots and lots and lots of patience. I try to remind myself of this when I want to scream things like, “Stop crying and nurse already!” Or “Go to sleep!” So instead I do things like make shushing noises and sing lullabies. And when I can’t manage that, I just shut my trap.

5. Going anywhere takes a lot of effort. 

Going anywhere on time feels like a major undertaking. I travel with lots of stuff in tow, even with a second baby. While I’d like to say I’ve downsized from the first time around, the truth is I haven’t. In fact, my diaper bag now includes items for my 3-year-old as well. When she was a baby, I didn’t carry coloring books and portable toilet seats with us. 

Getting all of us ready to get out the door to go anywhere is a major undertaking and major accomplishment. If we get there on time, I’m pretty sure I deserve some sort of award.

6. Not sleeping in your bed for three months can really wear on you. 

While my daughter had her own issues in figuring out how to use her tongue to suck, she was a good sleeper. She slept first in her pack-and-play in our room and then in her crib in her room starting at 3 months. 

My son, thanks first to extra congestion after his delivery and then to his reflux, is not a good sleeper. He just starting sleeping in his crib and he’s not sleeping in there nearly as long as he was sleeping in the Boppy on the couch beside me. We’ll get there, I hope, because sleeping in a recliner is far from as comfortable as my bed.

7. Baby cuddles are sweet and should be enjoyed for no other reason than just to cuddle. 

I had trouble getting cuddle time with my daughter. Like I said she wouldn’t fall asleep in our arms. I also had to put her down quite a bit so I could pump milk for her. 

This time around in life with a newborn, I get lots more cuddles because our little dude is cuddly and because I’m nursing him. I really enjoy the snuggles. I just have to remember to cuddle sometimes just because baby cuddles are good for the soul and not just because I’m trying to get him to sleep or feed him.

8. Babies create lots of laundry. 

This is not different this time around. I had lots of laundry last time; I have lots of laundry this time. Before I had kids I always figured the laundry was for the baby. I’ve since realized that my laundry also increases when I get covered in spit-up and diaper blowouts. Fun stuff… 

(And let’s not pretend that I change my shirt every single time I get a teeny bit of spit-up on me, especially if I’m not leaving the house any time soon!)

9. Showers taken when other responsible adults are around are like mini spa days. 

I love my Saturday morning hot shower when my husband is home and making sure that the kiddos are fine. For 20 glorious minutes, I enjoy warm water cascading over me and nobody talking to me, crying for me or needing me to do something. It’s divine.

10. Trips anywhere alone are like mini vacations. 

This includes grocery shopping and doctor’s visits.  I’ve been disappointed when my doctor or dentist got me in fast enough that I didn’t have time to sit in the waiting room and read my book. Times have changed.

11. Toothless baby smiles make your heart melt — even when it’s 2 a.m. and you’ve not been asleep since 7 a.m. the day before.

It’s hard to stay mad, upset or any other negative emotion when you’re getting a toothless baby smile.

12. You can come up with all sorts of systems for how things work best.

For example, we learned pretty quickly that this little dude needs to be held more to go to sleep. My husband tests when our son is ready to be laid down by lifting his arm and seeing if it stays completely limp when he gently drops it. My test in the middle of the night has sometimes been when the sniffing from my exhausted tear-fest no longer makes him jump. Whatever works.

13. You are desperate to hear from other mothers of newborns. 

I have a small network of moms I enjoy talking with who have kiddos the same age as mine. We talk about shots, exhaustion, bottle size, diaper brands and all the stuff that comes in life with a newborn (and older kiddos). It helps me to know I’m not alone in my worries and frustrations.

14. On the flip side, unwanted advice from non-parents or those who haven’t had a baby for decades does not go over well. 

It’s a great way to annoy a new mom. And, honestly, we get tired of hearing how much we should enjoy these days because they go so fast. Having a 3-1/2-year-old, I’ve already learned this lesson a bit. 

However, there are most definitely parts of life with a newborn that I don’t enjoy and won’t miss. There are way more parts I do enjoy and will miss, but I don’t enjoy every single moment and can get tired of the suggestion that I should.

15. Hormones and exhaustion can combine in negative ways. 

I don’t mean to be grumpy, weepy or irritable. It just happens. And for that I’m sorry.

16. Mommy brain is real. 

We fully intend to remember what we were talking about or supposed to be doing and then we just don’t. This happens from being exhausted by life with a newborn and from being interrupted so frequently.

17. Babies smell good. 

I feel like I knew this before, but I almost forgot it. I think of Frank Barone, the grandpa on the old TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He’d come in and smell his grandchildren’s heads and claim to be taking in their youth. I get that. Sometimes I smell my son’s head and just try to suck in that smell. He won’t smell like a new baby forever. It’s a special smell.

18. Mommy guilt is real. 

This isn’t something I had to learn anew. It’s something I’ve had from the moment I became a mom and I continue to struggle with it. I worry that I’m not doing enough for either child at any given time. I worry that I’m not making the baby do tummy time enough or playing enough games with preschooler. I worry if I leave them with their grandparents for a few hours to do something like see a movie with my husband that I shouldn’t be leaving them at all. I am good at mommy guilt.

19. Diaper changing time is sometimes the highlight of my day. 

Some of my favorite times with my daughter were on the changing table. She’d baby talk to me. She’d smile at me and look into my eyes. My son is the same way. Sometimes, in fact, we’ve been in the middle of really rough nights when his reflux is acting up and I’ll go to change his diaper and he’ll settle down and “talk” to me and smile at me. The changing table is sort of a magical place with my babies.

20. The rewards of life with a newborn are worth it. 

Just when I think I can’t possibly have the energy to go on another moment or just when I am so incredibly ready to give up, I look down at my baby’s precious little face and remember he depends on me so very completely for everything right now. He needs me. I’m irreplaceable to him (and to his big sister). 

And I love them both so completely. That love gives me the extra energy I need to press on and take care of their needs. (Some prayer for strength goes a long way, too!) Getting rewarded with baby smiles and coos makes my heart swoon and re-energizes me enough to keep going. 

It’s motherhood: long hours, crummy pay and tremendous rewards.

Looking for more on life with babies? Don’t miss these posts!

35 Gift ideas for new moms

Ideas for how to love on a new mama in your life

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

The birth of a baby is so exciting, overwhelming and exhausting. Whether she’s welcoming her first baby or her fifth, a new mom needs love and support. Often folks think to bring a gift for the new baby or even a meal, but what about the mom? I can think of no other time in my life that I thought less about myself than when I had newborns. But likewise, I can also think of no other time in my life when I appreciated thoughtful gestures.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of gift ideas for new moms. Even better, they’re from Amazon so you can have them shipped straight to her if you want to give her space as she is getting acclimated to her new baby or if you live away from each other. Of course, you can also ship it to you and use it as an excuse to stop by for baby snuggles while mama rests!

Stainless steel tumbler
I LOVE these to the moon and back! I wish I had known about them when I had babies. But my son was a toddler before I discovered their joy. However, when a friend had a new baby shortly thereafter, I had to get her one. Keeping water (or even soda!) cold makes it easier to stay hydrated, which is incredibly important for new mamas, especially if they’re nursing.

I first got this Mossy Oak 30-ounce tumbler for my husband. We liked it so much that I later got one for myself as well. The lid has a swivel so that it closes, which is always a good plan. It’s not totally spill proof, but even with a straw in it, you can mostly close it which helps keep spills to a minimum. Plus it’s only $11!

If you want to spend a few dollars more, you can spring for this Pandaria stainless tumbler that comes in a variety of patterns and designs to brighten up the new mama’s day.

Another option is this Contigo Autoseal Travel Mug. Not only is it a double-insulated stainless steel tumbler that will keep beverages hot or cold, it is also spill and leak proof, which is a great idea for a mom who wants to toss it into her diaper bag or has a toddler prone to knocking over her cup. It comes in 16-, 20- and 24-ounce sizes.

Mom jewelry
I love jewelry and have since I was a toddler (according to my mom). I was incredibly excited to get jewelry celebrating becoming a mother. While you can certainly get expensive motherhood jewelry, there are some inexpensive options that I love and make for a great friend gift! I have this Mama Bear bar necklace that I got after my son was born and really love. It comes in silver or rose gold for only $11 or $12 depending on what you pick. For $14, you can opt for other mama bear jewelry. There is a round pendant as well as bracelets and bear cut-outs in the bar style.

For only $8, this mama bird necklace is another great option for mother jewelry. So cute!

If bracelets are more her style, these Infinity Collection motherhood bracelets have a charm that says “A Mother’s Love is Forever” and come in versions for both boys and girls.

Baby girl
Baby boy

Coffee mug
Whether or not your new mom friend drinks coffee, mom coffee mugs are always fun. I love them and I don’t drink coffee! They can work for coffee, tea, hot chocolate (my favorite!) or even just to hold pens or change. I love this simple coffee mug for first-time moms commemorating the year she was established as a mom.

If you’re friend isn’t a new mom, this adorable mama bear mug is a great option.

This #momlife mug is another cute mug that any mama would love.

Then, of course, what new mom couldn’t use a giggle? This mug makes an awesome and fun gift proclaiming: “I grew a tiny human and all I got was this lousy mug!”

And if you decide to gift a mug, you could pair it with your friend’s warm beverage of choice like specialty coffee, fun tea flavors or, my personal favorite, dark hot chocolate!

Photo frames
Moms adore their babies and having nice picture frames reminds them to actually print some of the thousands of photos they take with their phones and cameras. One of my favorite things I got for my children was matching baby frames. Another favorite gift I got for my baby shower was a multi-photo tabletop frame that I continue to use until this day!

This frame with a spot for each month of baby’s first year is a great option to help mom remember to actually keep track of photos each month. It’s so fun to look back and see how much your little one changes in that first year.

I also love this animal frame for only $16.99. Considering I did my daughter’s nursery in animals, I may have an affinity for animal-related baby decor!

Then there are frames with sentimental sayings that make excellent gifts. This wooden frame says “First we had each other. Then we had you. Now we have everything.” Um, that melts my heart — and my babies are 6 and 9!

I also love this leather picture frame for a boy or girl with a quote from Winnie the Pooh: “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

Easy-to-use hygiene products
New moms are short on time and energy, so sometimes just doing a basic self-care task can make you feel so much better. There’s not time or energy for a spa day, but just being able to shave your legs can perk you up. It was just after my first baby that I tried the Schick Intuition razor, and I still use it! It takes me maybe two minutes in the shower to shave and is so easy.

I also LOVE these make-up removing facial wipes from Target’s Up & Up brand. I know what you’re thinking: what new mom wears makeup? I’m a makeup lover all the time, but even I didn’t deal with makeup much (if at all) in those first couple of weeks. But, these wipes also just make cleaning your face easy. You don’t even have to be in the bathroom to swipe your face down and go. They’d make a nice addition to a gift bag of “take care of you” gifts for a new mom.

Gift cards
This one is probably kind of obvious, but gift cards work well for new moms. Think of things easy for them like a pizza place that delivers or an online photo service where they can print photos of their new little one.

Amazon gift cards are also a great idea, because the new mama can shop without leaving her house and have things she needs show up at her door. She can get anything from clothes for the baby (or herself) or even diapers and wipes. While you can send a gift card digitally, you can also send this cute card for a new baby with a gift card included.

And what mom wouldn’t love a Target gift card? I loved Target’s Up & Up brand diapers for my babies!

Comfy slippers
After my daughter was born, my feet were swollen for about two weeks. I remember squeezing into my husband’s Crocs to go to doctor’s appointments. Wearing socks wasn’t comfortable. Nothing worked well. When my son was born in January, I knew I needed a plan to keep my feet warm. I love comfy slippers because they can keep the new mama’s feet warm but she can also kick them off when she starts to get hot, because hormones do some crazy things to body temperature even after the baby has arrived!

As an added bonus over socks, slippers provide traction for walking on tile or vinyl flooring, which is important for mamas who are sleep deprived and carrying their precious little one.

These fun animal slippers from TeeHee come with a matching eye mask, which isn’t a bad idea for a mom who needs to sleep whenever she can — even if it’s the middle of the day!

These sparkly sequin-covered slippers from Alotta Knits are another fun option that come in five different colors.

If you want something a little more sedate, these Vifuur memory foam slippers come in eight different colors.

An easy and quick devotion book
New babies turn your schedule completely upside down, including a chance for quiet time with God. It’s hard to have time or energy to do anything more than just survive, so having a devotion book that you can pick up when you get a chance and read through in five minutes or less is ideal for a new mom.

One of my very favorite ones is Jen Hatmaker’s “Out of the Spin Cycle.” I used to take it along with me when I went to pick up my daughter from preschool while her baby brother was asleep in the backseat. I could easily read through the devotions. I read through this book twice, which isn’t something I often do. It just really spoke to and ministered to my exhausted mama heart.

Sarah Arthur’s “Mommy Time: 90 Devotions for New Moms” looks like another good option that draws on the author’s own experiences as a mom who has been there, done that.

The Hugs series of books are also always a good option. Just like with the other two devotion books, this “Hugs for New Moms” includes inspiration and stories from real moms and aren’t written for any particular day, so if days get missed in the busyness of life with a newborn, it won’t require playing catch-up.

For something a little more Scripture-driven, yet also concise for new mama’s who lack time and energy for concentrating, “Mom’s Daily Bread,” which releases April 16, 2019, offers an encouraging verse for each day of the year.

Quiet activities for big siblings
If this isn’t the first baby for your friend, consider also bring something along for the big sibling. Yes, this post is focusing on taking care of and supporting the mama, but helping keep her other kiddos quietly entertained while she is dealing with the new baby’s needs is supportive!

Kids love stickers. Even better, Melissa & Doug reuseable stickers can be played with over and over again and don’t require constant parental supervision of toddlers to make sure stickers don’t get stuck anywhere they shouldn’t be.

For preschoolers and early elementary siblings, this set of make-a-sticker sheets is awesome! They can create animal faces by choice and you get 60 sheets for only $11.99!

Along those same lines, these Magnetic Fun scenes would work well for big brothers or sisters who need quiet activities. They come in a nice tin, so they’d also be easy to toss in the diaper bag to have for waiting for doctor’s appointments or running errands.

One of my kids’ favorite things in the preschool days were the Melissa and Doug Water Wow sets. They’re nice because the kids are getting the experience of painting without the mess. And this pack includes not only ones to reveal color but also connect-the-dots. You can buy a pack of three or individually.

Lacing sets are another favorite of little ones. My 6-year-old really just got out one of our sets of lacing cards a few weeks ago, in fact! This Lauri Lacing & Tracing Noah’s Ark set is incredibly cute.

5 tips to keep your marriage strong with a newborn

Advice for your marriage with a newborn

When our daughter was born in October of 2009, my husband and I been married for just over 10 years. We’d weathered lots of life’s storms together including chronic illness, extended family health scares, death, job loss and financial devastation. Through it all, we remained a team, ready to take on life’s challenges together. We strove to work together and not against one another. We hadn’t, however, navigated marriage with a newborn.

Nothing prepared us for parenthood. My husband and I knew it would be hard. We weren’t young. We weren’t naive, but it was way harder than we expected. I’ve yet to meet a new parent who said otherwise. It’s sort of a total system shock. While becoming a first-time parent is a great and exciting event, it’s also highly stressful — especially when you figure in the hormones, the sheer exhaustion and the total upheaval as life as you knew it.

We learned some lessons the first time around with a newborn. So when we had our son in January 2013, we were able to better adjust. Both of my babies were completely different kinds of babies. They are still different. But these tips, which I first wrote just before our son was born, helped keep our marriage with a newborn strong both times.

1. Don’t keep score. 

In the early months of our daughter’s life, I kept a mental score of who did more. It was me — always. After all, I was the one who got up with her all night, I was the one who was pumping for her around the clock, I was the one whose body was still healing and on and on and on the list could go. However, I was failing to notice the things my husband was doing. He was waking up at night, too. After working long days that involved a three-hour total commute, he’d come home and take over so I could snooze. He was changing diapers. We both did a lot. 

I realized I resented him as he slept while I sat in a dark living room pumping more milk after having changed, fed and gotten the baby back to sleep. I have lots of reasons why I felt this way (hormones, exhaustion, etc.), but none of them justified it and it was hurting my relationship in silence (well, mostly in silence save for a few bursts of passive aggressiveness — a trait I work to stifle because it’s hurtful).

Once I got over myself and realized keeping score was only making things worse, I was able to accept my new role as a mother and milk provider and appreciate the things my husband was doing. I realized sometimes he did more and sometimes I did more. As long as we were both making an effort to do the best we could, I couldn’t complain. Keeping score only makes things worse for your marriage with a newborn.

2. Let each other express emotions freely, without judgment. 

When you’re exhausted and dealing with a baby who isn’t cooperating, sometimes you’re just plain angry at your squalling bundle of joy. It’s neither rational nor reasonable. But, it happens. Being able to share that with your partner and have them understand, take over if necessary and not judge you helps you move on and move past it.

I struggled a lot in the early days with my daughter. I thought I was failing her and wasn’t cut out to be a mother. My husband never judged me. He supported me, encouraged me and helped me move past it. I whined and cried about being tied to a breast pump and never being able to have a normal life again, and he was patient to encourage and support me.

When I was weary from our son not sleeping at night for the first three months, my husband left me a note to find in the middle of the night. It reminded me I wasn’t alone and could wake him up if I got overwhelmed. 

3. Take time for each other. 

I’m not talking big, elaborate dates. Some of our best times in those first couple of weeks after our daughter was born were when one set of our parents would come over and watch the baby for a couple of hours so we could rest. We’d head straight to bed, set the timer so we didn’t sleep for 18 hours straight like we felt like doing and snuggle in for a nap together.

We didn’t have compelling conversations about being new parents. We didn’t whisper sweet nothings in each others’ ears. Instead we just enjoyed rest together. As time went on, we carved out time for more like quick dinners at fast food restaurants without a baby in tow. No matter what, though, making time for one another is important for your marriage with a newborn.

4. Accept help from the outside. 

This goes along with number three. It’s hard to make time for each other when you’ve got a baby demanding help and attention so often. Add in that during times the baby sleeps you have to deal with things like laundry, pumping, showering, sleeping and eating, and there’s very little time or energy left for much else. Having help from others is fine. Maybe it’s a friend who will come and hold the baby for a while. Or maybe you have retired parents around who love to snuggle with their grandbabies.

Whatever the case, it’s OK to ask for outside help. In fact, I’d say it’s even necessary for your own sanity and the sake of your relationship. Asking for help doesn’t mean you aren’t good parents or can’t handle having a baby. It just means you’re human, recognize you sometimes need a break and understand you need to stay connected to your spouse to stay sane through this journey.

5. Always be compassionate and respectful.

Sometimes in order to be compassionate with our spouse, we have to remember that it’s not all about us. Our spouses are people, too, with their own wants and needs. Remaining compassionate when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed is hard.

But remember your spouse is just as exhausted and overwhelmed, and sometimes he needs you to give him some grace and vice versa. Both of you will mess up. Both of you will get short with the other and need them to just drop it and understand you’re coming from a place of exhaustion, not anger.

That said, being respectful to each other is key as well. Sometimes people are kinder to complete strangers than their own spouses. Not cool. You can never take back words once they have been said. You can apologize, but the words have left their mark. Try to remember that when the baby is crying, you’ve been up for 19 hours and you just realized you’re out of clean sleepers because your spouse forgot to do the laundry like he said he would.

(And, because my husband reads my blog, I must point out I made up this last scenario. I don’t think it happened to us, but I couldn’t think of an actual example, though I know these types of things happened.) You’re both doing your best.

Parenthood isn’t easy. The newborn days are rough. They’re hard on each person and relationship. At the end of the day (even when that’s 2 a.m.), the important thing is that you have this new, tiny life that came from the two of you. It’s awe-inspiring and overwhelming at once.

And, as someone whose youngest baby is turning 6 in a couple of months, I can assure you that the newborn days do pass and pass quickly and one day you’ll be able to sleep again.

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