Things to Know When You Have a Newborn in the Winter
My baby brought the blizzard.
There I was, officially 40 weeks, so desperately over being pregnant and having lost all hope of ever going into labor that I had given up. I somehow sat through The Devil Wears Prada twice. In a row. As I tucked myself in that night, I had no idea that an hour later I would wake up in the worst pain of my entire life. As my husband walked me to the car I took a moment to look up. The sky was basically falling. After weeks of steady cold air, here it was, the inevitable.
It did not let up. Not through my hours of contractions, or hours of pushing. Not through the two days spent recovering under hospital sheets and new baby sounds, not even when the pizza guys refused anymore orders to my room because of ice.
And so was my foray into parenthood. The ride home, on a Wednesday, was probably the scariest hour of my life. Though we live about ten minutes from the hospital, the wind blew and whipped snow and ice so hard against the roads that we decided to crawl the back roads home as strangers passed us, throwing up their middle finger. I knew then what the term "Tiger Mother" meant and wished it were June. What I didn't know then though was that despite the white-knuckle ride home, wintertime would prove a perfect season to get to know my new baby. Here's what I learned in that winter that I became a mother.
New parenthood is scary enough, adding icy-roads to the mix is just a sick joke.
If you can, stay home on especially treacherous days. I've nervously rescheduled pediatrician appointments and our newborn hearing test in the dead-of-winter only to be commended by the doctors and receptionists for being smart about my baby's safety.
But for those days where you just have to get out of the house keep these things in mind:
- Bring a fully charged cell phone. Just in case!
- Keep a "ditch kit" in the back seat or trunk with stuff like non-perishable snacks, a flashlight, and blankets.
- Grab a bottled water to take with you when you walk out the door since leaving one in the car will just cause it to freeze.
- Give yourself at least twenty-extra minutes to get to wherever you're going, and never rush for fear of being late. It's just really not worth it.
Wintertime Car Seat Safety
Besides having your car seat properly placed (rear facing!) and installed (you can contact your local police department for a car seat specialist who will install it for you!) it's important to be aware of how to dress baby for her car seat.
First off, avoid bulky coats, snow suits, and hats that will inhibit your baby from sitting properly in the seat. Basically, anything too clunky will keep the belts from performing safely during an accident. That being said, avoid those car seat blankets (BundleMe's)--the ones that conform to the car seat and wrap around baby. These are totally dangerous because they will keep your baby from being buckled in snugly. Even winter coats will be too bulky. So how can you keep baby warm? Dress her warm, thin layers-- her usual outfit and then a soft jacket (simple fleece jackets work great!) or thin bunting. Buckle her in snug and safe in her car seat with nothing else added for extra padding or warmth, then tuck a warm blankie in around her body and feet.
When transporting your little one in her car seat just throw a sheer swaddle (like those from Aden + Anais) over the car seat for protection from wind and elements, taking it off once you have the car seat inside the car.
The Winter Blues
Winter can be tough. Having a newborn can be tough. Put the two together and life can sometimes feel like you're trying to run through molasses. So be proactive with your mental health and reach out to friends and family before the loneliness hits. Send a silly text to your sister or ask your mom to come watch an hour of Oxygen with you before bedtime. If you live far from friends and family talk to your pediatrician about where to find local Mommy and Me groups. Le Leche League groups are also a great place to meet other new moms.
Newborns aren't really famous for playing outside in freezing temps, but for a quick jaunt to the mailbox make sure all extremities are fully covered, head hatted, and baby is wrapped in a nice snuggly blankie.
Sometimes referred to as prams consider buying one of these one-piece outfits that cover baby's feet, hands and head. Then all you have to do is slip her into one piece and you're good to go!
Savor the Sunshine
For those of us up in the most northern parts of The States, wintertime doesn't just equate snow and ice--it also means long days with little light. So for those blessed, bright days get yourself and that baby in it! Even if it's too cold to go outside, pin the shades back, pull baby's bouncer up to the window and soak in the sunshine!
Apps + Subscriptions For Staying Sane
- Netflix for those long, cold days spent in a recliner with a fussing newborn.
- BabyCenter is a great place to vent, commiserate, and share stories with other new moms.
- Amazon Prime is the holy grail of quick-ship items that you never thought you needed, like the oh-no-my-baby-has-the-sniffles! essential NoseFrida.
It's easy to find yourself in a social slump after having a baby, especially when it's too cold to bring baby out to meet up with friends. So take advantage of this awesome day-and-age that we're bringing our babies into and keep in touch through social media. Don't just stalk your friend's pages--send them messages when you get a spare moment (...it will happen...) and connect using gaming apps like Words With Friends to feel a little less isolated.
Take Your Vitamins
Seriously. A healthy dose of Vitamins C and D are important for continued health through the winter months. And a healthy mom makes a healthy baby.
You already know that breastfeeding brings great health benefits to baby but learning to breastfeed during the winter is especially awesome because you have tons of time to snuggle up and encourage milk production.
Handling the Holidays
If your little babe made his appearance before the holidays, you're probably feeling the pressure to show him off at family gatherings which understandably comes with a mix of pride and hesitation. Everyone is going to want to hold that baby! But in the first days of motherhood even the people you love most suddenly look like giant-germ-carriers. So if someone asks to hold the baby ask them to wash their hands first. I always kept a pump of anti-bacterial gel on the table nearest to wherever I was sitting with the baby to encourage people without having to ask them. It's also important to limit how often baby is passed from person to person because babies get real tired of that after a while. So suggest after baby has made her first round that everyone else get a chance after dinner or dessert.
And remember, it's perfectly okay to ask those who appear sick to wait until another time to hold your little one.
If you want to make baby completely off-limits to all just wear him to your gathering.
Space Heater Safety
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that seventy-nine percent of home-fire fatalities can be blamed on space heaters.
If they're a necessity for keeping your home warm, follow these safety tips compiled by ESFI.
Yay for Delivery!
Home Delivery, that is. Take advantage of services and stores like Walmart that offer store-to-door delivery. A good idea for new moms at any time of year! Moms in suburban areas and big cities may also be able to find a grocery-delivery or meal-prep service in their area.
It's weird, no one really told me just how much I'd be sitting around with a sleeping baby in my arms. As relaxing as this sounds, it can start to feel a bit claustrophobic, especially when your tummy starts to rumble. Keep a basket stocked with healthy, at-the-ready snacks next to your bed and in the living room to avoid munching on the wrong things out of desperation. Dried berries, unsalted nuts, protein bars, and bottled water are all good ideas.
Or you definitely won't lose it...
For those moments when baby is sleeping like a little angel in her swing, pull out the yoga mat, hula hoop, or free-weights and do a little mom-bod maintenance. Even getting in a few reps or a few minutes of cardio in FitBit challenge with your sister will make all-the-difference in bouncing back and keeping your mood up!
Baby Must-Haves for Winter
Here's a quick list of things to have one hand for you newborn in the winter:
- Gas drops or gripe water. Save yourself a 3 AM trip on bad roads and keep these on hand.
- NoseFrida and Saline Drops. Together these two congestion-fighting miracles will help keep your little one healthy through the season.
- Cool Mist Vaporizer. To keep the air clean and moist during those dry months.
Keep a basket of clean socks, booties, and winter hats next to the door for quick collecting on your way out to doctor's appointments and errand-running.
Keeping Baby Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
Follow these tips for keeping your newborn healthy during cold and flu season:
- Wash your hands when returning home and require that everyone else at home does the same.
- When in public, always carry your little one in his car seat to discourage strangers from touching him. If they're getting especially grabby throw a sheer swaddle over the car seat.
- Make sure that your whole household is up-to-date on their vaccines including the flu shot. The CDC has also issued new guidelinesfor the whooping cough vaccines, recommending frequent boosters to ensure protection.
© 2015 Kierstin Gunsberg