Keeping your sanity with an infant

Those of you who know me personally also know that I had a baby girl this past Easter (Layla, on 4/4). It has been a tiring, stressful, and totally wonderful experience! What I’d like to talk about specifically are the first two points (the tiring and the stressful) and four things I’ve learned to cope with them. I hope these things will benefit you. If they do, great! If not…well, forget about everything I said and go about doing whatever it was you were going to do anyway :). Here goes…

1. Sleep when baby sleeps

When my little girl is crying, my ability to properly diagnose the situation almost entirely depends on how rested I am. I know that the more rested I am, the more clear mind mind will be. Is she hungry? Is she too hot? Does she have gas? I'll never figure it out if my mind is too cloudy. That means it is extremely important for me to get as much sleep as I can.

Therein lies the problem - you don’t have much time for sleep. At least I thought I didn’t at first. I learned after a few hard weeks that I had to lay down and sleep when Layla went down, else I wouldn’t be sleeping at all. Surprisingly, the amount of sleep I was getting after a few weeks of doing this increased dramatically because I was better able to handle/fix whatever was bothering Layla. She’d been giving me the signs all along (turning her head when hungry, kicking her legs when gassy, etc) and I’d just been to tired (or too dumb) to pay attention. Addressing those issues quickly and correctly calmed her down and prevented “meltdowns,” which then increased her snooze-time.

2. Make connections with other people in your same situation

My wife and I felt alone in the first few weeks after Layla was born. None of our close friends had newborns and we didn’t feel comfortable going to a “mommy” or “daddy” meetup in our city. We eventually sucked it up and started scheduling lunches and dinners with other parents who we’d met through mutual friends or work. We figure that doing this created win-win situations for us: we get to talk with people who experience the same issues while making new friends at the same time. Who would’ve thought (duh, right)? Plus, I developed a bunch of ideas (or avoided roadblocks altogether) through conversations with these new friends. They really are wonderful exchanges, with each side of the table contributing something or other that makes life with an infant just a little bit easier.

I think all it took was that little connection with the outside world to make us feel like we were still part of something, instead of feeling like we were on an uninhabited island where no one else had kids.

3. Change up your scenery

This really goes without saying, but I feel I have to say it anyway: you have to change up your surroundings or else you are going to go insane. I am especially prone to cabin fever, but it seemed amplified knowing you have the weight of another human relying on you 100% on your shoulders. For whatever reason, Kristin and I stayed in the house more often than not. I don’t know what it was that kept us there for so long, but after a while we grew determined to make it easier to go out and about. We critically analyzed our process management science style, which resulted in the following decisions:
  • We opted against a traditional diaper bag, going with a backpack instead. We already owned a backpack (diaper bags are not cheap, by the way), and it allowed us to have two arms totally free to handle other things.
  • We got a portable changing pad like this [] and pre-populated it with all of the change stuff we’d need.
  • We bought a different, lighter weight stroller for the "quick trips" out. We love our Chicco, but it gets left at home when we're heading to the mall.
  • Formula! We used to keep those freezer packs in our bag to keep the milk cold. Nowadays we just bring a pre-measured amount of formula along with bottles with the corresponding amount of water. Hungry baby? Mix, shake, and your done. Many thanks to our neighbors who let us borrow a tupperware formula thingamajig to dispense the formula powder in the least messy fashion.
With these changes made, getting out of the house wasn't such a big deal any more. Hooray!

4. Make daily goals for yourself

Nothing feels better than checking things off of your TODO list. What I do is make little lists with what I want to accomplish during the day. These become my daily goals which made me feel good about my day when completed. Take note - these aren't mind-bendingly awesome goals or long term in any way, but rather simple things that moved my new life further a little bit at a time:
  • Folding the laundry (ugh, what a dreaded task)
  • Calling back a friend
  • De-cluttering my desk
As Bill Murray says in What About Bob?: baby steps, baby steps! Checking off those baby steps - no matter how little - feels good.