Survival Tips for First-Time-Dads

First-time-dads, I have some survival tips for you. You may be aware that a new baby means changes in your life but, as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”


Help. Your partner just birthed a human. If she’s nursing, she is simultaneously trying to physically, emotionally, and mentally heal all while sustaining another human life with that same fatigued body. You need to step up your game and pitch in. Take on at least two daily chores and don’t expect praise for doing so. Wash breast pump parts or bottle parts, cover bathtime duty, do laundry all the way from washer to folding, do the dishes, cook meals… just do it.

Competence. Do not play the incompetent man card. Just don’t. It demeans everyone. You helped create the child, you help parent the child. You’re scared and self-doubting? Practice makes perfect. If you need a break, make sure your partner gets one too. This is a team effort.

Encouragement. Your partner needs you to be her biggest cheerleader. Your baby needs you to lift up that mama in spirit. Remind her that she’s doing great, that she’s loved and smart and beautiful. She needs to hear that you’re right there with her loving her through all of the painful, embarrassing, and unglamorous postpartum woes. Tell her that she’s strong and competent. She may not accept your compliments but keep at it. She needs to hear it. Be that non-judgmental, safe place for her. Be her partner.

Support. If your baby is experiencing feeding issues this will affect your partner more deeply than you may comprehend. She just grew and nourished that child for the better part of a year, not being able to easily feed that same baby now that he/she is in her arms is dumbfounding. The guilt, anger, shame, and sadness that come with feeding issues (not to mention physical pain) are burdensome. If nursing issues are at play, encourage the expert support of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant  (these medical professionals are trained beyond your standard Lactation Consultant. You can find one local to you here.) If your partner is exclusively pumping, wash the breast pump parts, buy extra sets of pump parts to lessen the need for quick wash-and-dry turnaround, make her a snack when she’s pumping, make sure her water bottle is never empty, encourage her, praise her. If she is formula feeding, you feed as often as she does and take over washing duty. She needs you. The baby needs you.

Jealousy. In all likelihood at some point within the first month postpartum you will become jealous of the baby. I know that sounds ridiculous now — almost as utterly ludicrous as those sentiments will sound to your partner when you experience them — but it’s bound to happen. Right now you are the center of your partner’s affections. You are her best friend, confidant, and Netflix buddy. When baby comes, you will be bumped back a post. That nudge to end of the line may feel harsh and unfair, but it is necessary. The baby is helpless and requires parental attention and affection to survive. This is precisely why nature has employed hefty doses of mind- and body-altering hormones to change your once sultry and affable partner into a leaky, exhausted, overtly maternal she-beast… baby needs her in order to survive. As abandoned as you may feel, you are an adult and will survive. Keep being there for her and she’ll return to you again once the baby haze dissipates.

Exhaustion. When I say “exhaustion” you’re likely thinking “really tired.” Like that night-turned-day back in your youth when you were out until 6am then chugged a Red Bull, hit up McDonald’s breakfast, and powered through your daily grind. But you know what was different back then? 1) Youth… being younger makes you more resilient, 2) choice… you personally chose to stay up all night, 3) infrequency… you stayed up like that on occasion, not 3 weeks in a row, 4) rest… pre-baby, you could take it easy and rest after a long night but not now. The tired you are about to feel will undermine every good quality, every value, every shred of intellect and self-control you possess. When you hit a certain level of stress and sleep deprivation you land at a rock bottom zombie mode of existence. But you, my friend, are not healing from birthing a human you grew in your body, bleeding profusely from your nether regions, leaking from your nipples, or presently existing with breast milk and hormones being your predominant body composition. Think twice before taking that nap ahead of your healing partner. You may be tired but she is positioned at a whole new level of fatigue. (Plus, she’s hormonal… don’t mess with that.)

Hormones. The word likely makes you think of body builders and PMS. Your partner’s body is in a state of flux. The amount of hormones coursing through her system paired with the stress and sleeplessness of new-motherhood has her living life as an alien being. She will get angry quickly and cry suddenly. She will feel anxious and agitated then flip back to calm and loving. It is best to keep a closed mouth and an open heart. Remember, this is not her acting like a maniac over improperly scrubbed breast pump parts, it’s the hormones. Leave your ego at the door and pull on some extra layers of patience. Empathy would do you well now.

PPD/PPA. “Baby blues” are to be expected. Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety are another level of sadness and agitation. They are more common than we often think. Many women go undiagnosed and only realized years later that their suffering could have been helped. Know the signs of PPD and PPA.

Doubt. Every single parent has a moment or week when he or she thinks, “Did we make a huge mistake?” Don’t feel guilty or lesser for that. It is an entirely normal and natural thought. The feeling will pass. You will adjust. Life will even out. Remember, your entire life just changed over night. You, your partner, your perspectives, your goals, your aspirations, and your worldviews will be affected by this shift. It is the most beautiful and wonderful adjustment that will ever touch your life. Know it will get easier… this is good change.

Patience. Parenthood requires a level of patience you never thought you had. Patience through the good stages and bad stages, the disgusting phases and tiring phases. Patience with yourself and your partner  Patience with physical recovery and return to flexibility. Patience with a return to intimacy and mastering the learning curve. You’ll get there. It’ll get easier. You can truly enjoy it, if you actively choose to do so. Just be patient.

Bond. Skin-to-skin isn’t just for mom and baby. It has remarkable calming and bonding effects on fathers and offspring too. After baby is fed and changed, shoo mom off to take a nice, warm shower while you and baby rest shirtless, tummy-to-tummy on the sofa. You’ll soon find out why moms love sleeping baby cuddles… the hormones’ blood pressure lowering, calming effect is euphoric. Enjoy!

Savor. Some stages seem to last eons. Some phases seem like they’ll never end, but they do. They all do. Take the good with the not-so-good, and cherish it. This is a fleeting time. Take pictures, take time, take a break from the grind and experience this new life of yours. Children are only small but for a moment. Don’t let their babyhood flit by without notice.

Laugh. If you want to retain some semblance of sanity and composure, learn to laugh at yourself. There’s no need to take it all so seriously. Your kid will neither be the first nor last (that day) to meltdown in Target. Your inside-out shirt with a spit-up streak down the back, which you wore half of the day without noticing, deserves nothing short of a belly laugh. You can choose how you respond to life’s blips — yell, scream, stomp, cry, blame, or laugh — laughing is the funnest. Don’t be that guy who flips out because there’s a shin-level snot streak on his jeans. Just laugh.

Love. You are going to experience a level of love you never knew possible. A deep, unconditional, fear-inducing, beautiful adoration that will carve its way through you and your life and reshape everything perfectly. The adjustment may be scary and challenging at first but it will be more worthwhile than anything else in your life.

Parenthood is brutal and exhausting, enlightening and unpredictable, stressful and blissful. It is a partnership between parent and child as well as between significant others. It requires internal and external support, great personal fortitude, vast patience, and an open mind.

You are about to see the world in a whole new light. Fresh breath will be infused into the everyday. The mundane will become miraculous and the unusual simply extraordinary. Survive it and savor it for it goes all too quickly.

You can do this. Congratulations!

Advice on Advice

So often parents, especially new and expectant mothers, get bombarded with advice from resources near and downright bizarre. Thanks for the intel on how to cope with nipple biting, middle-aged single dude at Starbucks! This bounty of insights leads some guardians to universally rebuke all outsider commentary. How foolish! How short-sighted!

“Enough with the unsolicited advice!” “Unless you’re advising me on which wine goes with Cheez-Its, keep your advice to yourself!” “Why does my mother-in-law bother giving me baby-rearing tips… it’s MY baby?!” Some mothers vent.

I counter: accept the advice, every nugget you can scrounge. Ask present mothers in all stages of life for their learnings. They are your greatest resource. Then, dig through the mound. Sift out the out-dated, the unsavory, the inapplicable, and the ridiculous. What you’re left with is a priceless tool box with which to address your greatest life challenge yet: parenthood.

When strangers and loved ones are offering you advice, they are selflessly giving you free insights — lessons learned the hard way — so that you needn’t suffer. How beautiful is that?! What a gift (and you don’t even need to return it to Macy’s if it’s not to your liking!) The advisors are not implying you’re incapable or unfit by sharing their knowledge; they’re simply lending you a hand. They’re reaching out. Accept that donation with open arms!

Just because you listen to the advice from an elderly woman in line at Target, doesn’t mean you must follow her parental algorithm. Just because a co-worker emails you a list of her baby must-haves, doesn’t mean you are destined to purchase her recommendations precisely. Just because a neighbor chats you up about bottle vs. breast doesn’t mean you are contractually obligated to ammend your feeding choices. Instead, it means you are humble enough to know you are not omniscient, that you are aware your journey has only just begun, that you properly honor the knowledge of those who’ve gone before you. Basically, it means you’re wise enough to learn from others.

So, drop the ego. Holster the defensiveness. Ditch the dramatic tendency toward offense. And accept advice for what it is: a free gift that you may do with as you please. You may just learn something! I know I do.


Beach Trips Then and Now

“This will be your last relaxing vacation for at least a decade. Enjoy sitting now!” A mom wrangling three young children on the beach once told me as I sunned my 34-weeks round self on a pre-first-baby vacation. I smiled, thinking that Hubs and I were excited for just that eventuality.

As young beach-going adults, Hubs and I would wake up late, go out to a lazy breakfast, get dressed for the beach, walk to the seaside with a towel over our shoulder and drink in our hand, and find our sandy spot as young families made their naptime exodus.

2016-06-06 07.34.38

Enter a caption

Hubs would get restless after a while, but witnessing the antics of children on the beach was enough entertainment to satisfy us both. We loved watching their wobbly trudges through soggy sand, reveled in their youthful fascination with the surf, and speculated about how we’d address hypothetical tantrums. “Beach trips will be so much fun when we have kids,” we’d say imagining sand-dusted baby rolls and seaside castle-building.

After a few hours on the beach, we’d head back to the house, shower, nap, get an afternoon coffee, relax, wander through town, and go out for the evening. Now, a decade and three kids later, our beach trips are much different.

2016-06-06 07.37.12

#3 wakes at 6:15, I lumber downstairs with him to pump while trying not to wake the entire house with his pack-and-play protests, #1 awakes around 7:30am and eats her breakfast while watching a show on the Kindle, #3 plays in the tub while I get ready for the day, then #2 awakes by 8:00am to eat. By 9:15am our cooler is packed and we’re lotioning up for the beach.

Seaside, we unload ourselves from the minivan. With #3 strapped to my chest, #1 and #2 hold my hands as I walk ahead of Hubs who pushes the fully loaded beach cart stacked with beach chairs, a foldable tent, beach toys, the cooler, the diaper bag, and towels. Our herd sets up camp near the ocean and there our morning of wrangling and digging, refereeing and shell-hunting, laughing and eating begins. Sitting happens in 2-3 minute increments. Lounging is a distant memory. Boredom is a forgotten sentiment.

Around midday, #2 and #3 begin to melt. It’s naptime and time to head back. We fold, stack, and pack our beach plot into the cart. We trudge to the minivan, the beach clinging to our sweaty, SPF’ed skin. “Get in you car seats. I’ll check your buckling.” I call to #1 and #2 as they scramble into the van while Hubs loads the trunk and I harness #3 into his car seat.

2016-06-06 07.35.49

As we pull out of our parking space, our former selves walk past us, towel over their shoulder and drink in their hand. By the time they hit the sand, we are home. Exactly where we always wanted to be.

Photo Tutorial: Using and Nursing in the Ergo 360

I nurse in my Ergo 360 multiple times daily. People often ask how I do it. So, I’ve created a photo walk-through of how I put on and nurse in the carrier.


1. Pick up the carrier and fasten the hook-and-loop portion of the hip belt tightly around your hips, allowing the front panel to hang upside down in front of your legs while you do this.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2. Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt.

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

3. If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether.

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

4. Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps.

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

5. Fasten the shoulder blade clasp. (I recommend having this adjusted to your preferred tightness and positioned at a reachable clasping height by a companion the first time you wear the carrier and then NEVER loosen or move the strap. It’s challenging to adjust on your own.)

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

6. Pick up your baby, with him/her facing you.

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

7. Place the baby in the carrier, shimmying him/her down into the carrier pouch.

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

8. Check that the baby’s legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Check that the baby's legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

9. Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

10. Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.


Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.


1) Loosen the shoulder straps

Loosen the shoulder straps

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2) OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover.


OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover

3) Shift baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

4) Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

5) Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Hands-free incognito nursing… ta-da!


The Perfect Parent

There is a misconception among parents that someone, some unicorn-like humanoid, actually has this whole parenting thing figured out. That perfection in parenting exists. Yeah… no.

We’re all hanging on by a well-worn thread. Not one of us has it all figured out. It’s simply a balance, with some disguising their flawed normalcy better than others.

If we are head of the PTA, the class party parent, and the go-to for artfully designed cupcakes, our minivans are coated in a 2-inch thick layer of Goldfish crumbs and mystery goo. If our kids are wearing spotless smocked monogrammed garments, our pantry looks like an extreme couponer’s shopping cart. If we send our kids to school with perfectly arranged organic, cruelty-free, well-balanced bento box lunches, then our laundry piles have their own zip codes. If our lawns are perfectly manicured and hedges neatly preened, our idea of a homemade meal is serving Chick-fil-A on actual plates instead of fishing through the bag in a family free-for-all.

One kid or five, single parent or espoused, working outside of the home or stay-at-home, no one has it unwaveringly figured out. None of us gets it right all the time. Not a single one of us has every aspect of home, school, and work life precisely pieced together in a pristine algorithim.

We’re all flawed. We all screw up. We all have moments of parenting triumphs and instances of miserable failings. We’re human!

The perfect parent doesn’t exist. Except for the child-free individuals… they are, of course, the perfect parents.

Wrangling 5 Under 5

Yesterday I took on two additional kids — yes, that means I was watching five children under 5 — for 4 hours. My dear friend had an unexpected move thrust upon her. So I offered to watch her daughters so she could pack uninterrupted.

My friend’s 2-year-old daughter — we’ll call her A — has autism as well as some additional special needs. As a sibling of a special needs individual, I feel at home with the scenario. Well, apparently A was comfy too.

The kids had a blast playing outside, crafting, having a dinner-and-a-movie picnic in the playroom, and A was my cuddly sidekick through it all. She curled up beside me as I nursed #3, she rode on my hip as I loaded the dishwasher, she called me “Mommy” (purely a vocational title, of course) and reached up to me with her perfectly pudgy hands,  then she’d wrigged down to go join the others.

At one point, as I nursed #3, A pulled her pint-sized self up onto the playroom sofa, wiggled herself next to me, spotted #3’s legs sticking out from underneath my flowy top, smiled at me through her pacifier, and laid her blond head in my lap using #3’s belly as a pillow.  It was precious.

#1 adopted A as her own little sister, giving A overzealous hugs and drive-by kisses. A reveled in the attention and pretended to braid #1’s long, blond, curls.

#2 bopped about playing with #1 and A’s older sister, M. #2 and M discussed unicorns and caterpillars, sweeping techniques, and lemonade stand protocol.

M advocated beautifully for verbally-challenged A, yet played perfectly imperfectly and indepently with #1 and #2. She was so tender with #3, even when his slobbery baby kiss turned into a nibble. She was herself — smiles, grumpiness, goofiness, and all — and that was wonderful. She didn’t get lost in her older sibling duties. She felt comfortable enough to be herself.

One of my favorite aspects of the playdate, though, was how it brought out the best in all of us. It enabled our strengths to shine. When Hubs beamed, seeing A happily adjusted to her surroundings, I remembered exactly why I love that man so much. When #1 sat on the deck floor so that A could style her hair, my heart thumped. When M and #2 became enveloped in their imagination game, I grinned. When #3 gave kisses and hugs to A and M, who warmly accepted his juicy affection, I glowed. When A adapted so quickly and became so affectionate, my heart swelled. When M proclaimed she wanted to stay, I was honored.

It was a nutty afternoon but it was beautiful. What a gift these children are!



The Fear of “What If?”

I was the kid who pretended to be “mommy.” I wrote lists of possible names for my distant-future children. I aspired to be a mother while others dreamt of space exploration or royal appointments. I am now immensely fortunate to be living that dream.

I adore my present life season full of sleeplessness and snuggles, tantrums and tea parties, playdates and potty-training. I treasure the countless memories so much that I frequently attempt to recount past events so as not to allow them to fade from my mind.

Because of my love for this harried but beautiful stage, I fear what lies ahead. I worry about the days when my children don’t want me around as they do now, the days when errands can be quick and bathroom trips can be solitary. The days when people don’t look at me and immediately know I am a mom.

Part of me wants to pull back from my present stage, to stop myself from so wholeheartedly adopting the “mom” identity. The drive is fear for the future — an assumed future — and self-preservation. If I allow myself to dive deep into motherhood, how hurt and confused will I be when the tides change? Who will I be when I am not so completely needed or wanted, when my days and nights no longer center on giving of myself in every way?

There is another part of me — the hippy side, the tender side — that tells myself to revel in the fruition of my life dreams. This is but a fleeting moment in life, but it is a fulfilling one. It is what I’ve always wanted. Why not allow myself to experience it fully? Would I not chastise myself in later years for hindering my own experience due to the fear of “what if?”

Lawyers identify as lawyers, musicians identify as musicians. Why, then, should I not identify as a mother? When an individual’s career path shifts, the challenge to find one’s new identity is considered normal. Why would mothers entering new seasons of their career not be expected and afforded the right to experience the same upheaval?

Life is change. We change continuously throughout our existence, sometimes on imperceptible smaller scales and other times in abrupt, quaking shifts.

I must learn to accept the eventual change without allowing fear to rob me of my present. I am a mom. I will always be a mom. Each stage will simply be different. And that’s ok.

Sun, Music & Memories

After weeks of rain, the sun peeked through today and allowed us a preview of summer bliss. We attended our much-loved local summer concert series. We danced outside in the evening sun to live music, soaking in the light and memories.

#1 Twirling to the Music

#1 Twirling to the Music

Watching #1 and #2 twirl and run among the other children, I reflected on how last year #1 and #2 were smaller and less coordinated, apple-cheeked 2- and nearly-4-year-olds. How #3 was but a growing expectation in my rounded belly. How at the end of the concert series, #3 was a brand new addition with little infant chicken legs peaking out from the baby carrier.

I recalled how much more challenging things were with a newborn and two preschoolers as I recovered from a c-section, but how much fun we had. I realized how fast the time had spun by, and knew this year would only go faster.

So, I silenced my mind and allowed myself to simply be, to appreciate, to live our present joyful nuttiness. What a beautiful life!

“Blue Boobed”

Blue boob


Verb: the act of a breastfeeding baby causing breast milk letdown but refusing to consume the triggered milk, resulting in painful breast engorgment.

“The baby started to nurse then got distracted and blue boobed me.”

Being blue boobed by your own baby is like nursing torture. Engorgment anxiety, like hangriness (aka: hunger-induced anger), is real. The discomfort and frustration of having milk letdown just to have it painfully pool, uneaten, leaves you with three choices:

1) Try to convince your baby to nurse. Though this will likely end up failing and milk may very well end up spraying everywhere. So you’ll probably look to options #2 and #3.

2) Go ahead and grab the pump. This is only an option if you’re in a location where pumping is feasible, of course. What would’ve taken your baby 3-5 minutes to extract, will now take 15 minutes — plus pump part washing and drying, as well as milk bagging — to eliminate via the breast pump. Thanks, nursling!

3) Try riding it out. You could ignore the engorgment and anxiety, but this could end up a milky mess. You could also wind up with a nice souvenir, every nursing mom’s favorite: clogged milk ducts.

Oh the joys of breastfeeding. Keep on milking on!

The Loneliness of Motherhood

Motherhood is lonely. As moms, there’s always someone clinging to us, following us, needing us, demanding of us. Even when our children are not physically present, their needs are still in the forefront of our minds.

As mothers, we are constantly surrounded by humans — big and small — but rarely do we truly get to connect with them. We are too busy chasing and aiding our little herds to meaningfully socialize. No matter the size of our “village” or quality of our friends, we will have periods during which we feel alone. We are lonely amongst the madness, isolated amidst the crowd.

When we try to converse with others, it’s guaranteed that a majority of our thoughts and sentences will go uncompleted. “Mommy, I need to go potty!” “Mommy he’s not sharing!” “Mommy, watch this!” “Mommy, I’m stuck!” Each intercession permanently derails a line of conversation. Then there are the maternal sensors that ping every few moments interrupting you just as your child licks the floor, crawls towards power cords, attempts to fly, tackles her sibling, or uses a public drinking fountain as his own personal splash pad.

For many of us, social media becomes a form of self-medication. We use it to camouflage the isolation. We like, post, comment, pin, and tweet to feel less alone… to connect. But it falls flat. It’s not the same.

Occasionally some of us can break free and revel in a mom date. We order adult drinks and savor the ability to eat our meal without having to simultaneously referee. We chat and laugh, we feel human again. Then it’s time to go home to the children we adore and miss, despite knowing full well the level of chaos that awaits us.

We arrive home with our emotional tank closer to full. We’re refreshed and replenished from our social outing. This is temporary, and we know it.

Every tantrum, every meltdown, every sleepless night, every departure debacle and bedtime battle drains our emotional tank. Sweet moments and tender cuddles reverse a bit of the loss, but the loneliness is an emotional hemorrhage that will leave us empty if unattended. The sense of isolation will render us shriveled, aggitated, overwhemed, fatigued, and depleted. We cannot pour from an empty cup, but we must.

Motherhood is joyous and stressful, love-drenched and tumultuous, priceless and taxing. It’s a beautiful gift but it’s lonely.