One of my most vivid memories is the day we brought our first baby home from the hospital. I felt this twinge of panic as my husband and I loaded a tiny six-pound infant into our car. Were they actually authorizing us to leave with this tiny creature? Were we now solely responsible for feeding and washing and clothing a baby—for raising a productive, well-adjusted member of society? Those first days were so surreal.That sense of surreality was only amplified by the exhaustion that came with through-the-night cluster feedings, worry that we were doing everything wrong, and my body’s weakened state as I recovered from labor and delivery. Days blurred into nights. We lost track of anything resembling a schedule, and a haze fell over my whole life, which wasn’t appealing to someone like me who enjoys structure and feeling in control.
Nothing can prepare you for those early days with your first baby; you just have to get through them. But once the fog starts to lift, you’ll find that your Bullet Journal can offer a lot of mental clarity.
During your stay at the hospital after giving birth, the nurses may ask you to fill out a chart indicating your feeding and diapering schedule so your doctor can ensure your baby is eating sufficiently and that his or her digestive system is functioning properly. This is a habit you can easily continue at home in your Bullet Journal.
At your first few well-visits with baby, your doctor may ask you to confirm that you’re seeing 5-6 wet diapers and at least 1 soiled diaper each day. You may also be interested in his/her sleep patterns. Nailing down your baby’s patterns helps you make sense of a helpless newborn’s behavior and establish a schedule for yourself and baby—critical to feeling like you’re getting your life back on track!
Below is a spread charting diapering, feeding, and sleep, in a variety of configurations:
Day 1: Sleep (in purple) + feeding times penned in with a full or half block, depending on whether the baby nursed on one or both sides
Day 2: Sleep + wet or soiled diapers
Day 3: Sleep + wet or soiled diapers + feeding times notated with a simple black outline around the hour
Day 4: Sleep with notations about cosleeping + feeding times with notations about how many ounces the baby took
See all the variations??
In later weeks and months, you may find that you want to incorporate information about periods of fussiness into your chart. I remember both my babies have spells of inconsolable crying in the evening around 6-8 weeks. If I had it to do over, I’d be charting when the crying started and stopped, what measures I tried to console my baby (babywearing, infant massage, etc.), and what effect each had.
Last but not least, as helpless and nonverbal as newborns are, they’re not without their personalities. Understanding what makes a baby tick can make your life infinitely easier. I love the idea of using your Bullet Journal to keep notations on what your baby enjoys or dislikes. For instance, my first baby wasn’t bothered at all by room-temperature wipes when we changed her diaper; my second baby detested them! First baby would startle and cry at loud noises; second baby didn’t mind them.
In the weeks after you bring your baby home, you can expect to be at the doctor’s office more times than you can count. To make the most out of appointments for you and your baby, keep an ongoing collection of follow-up information and questions for your doctor.
For instance, when you have postpartum appointments with your OBGYN, you can come prepared with a list of questions about recovery times and symptoms, including postpartum depression (read on for suggestions on managing PPD in your Bullet Journal).
As for all those pediatrician’s visits, you’re sure to have more questions than your brain can reasonably store, especially if this is your first baby. Use your Bullet Journal to keep a running list for your next visit as well as a place for your doctor’s responses. Even if you can’t take down his or her answers at the time of the visit, get them on paper as soon as possible so you don’t end up stuck in the middle of the night trying to remember the dosage of those gas drops! Also, don’t forget to ask your pediatrician for your baby’s height, weight, and head circumference as well as his/her percentiles. Before they’ll make it into the fancy baby book, they’ll make it into your Bullet Journal.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom, it’s not uncommon to wonder whether your baby has food sensitivities, in which case your doctor may ask you to selectively eliminate a series of known irritants, like dairy, caffeine, grains and nuts, spicy food, and leafy greens. This process requires lots of commitment as well as attention to what in particular is upsetting baby’s irritable tummy. Collecting data about your diet as well as your baby’s behavior can really help you hone in on what’s causing the issue!
(P.S. Don’t forget to tally up all that frozen breastmilk in your freezer in your Bullet Journal!)
With all those medical appointments, you’ve got to be pretty darn organized to ensure you’re at the right place, at the right time. (Ever tried rescheduling a well-child visit with your pediatrician?? Ugh.)
Aside from appointments with your OBGYN and the pediatrician, new moms may also find themselves scheduling in meetings with lactation consultants, hospital-organized support groups, and traditional moms’ groups. My best advice is this:
Keep your monthly spread up-to-date;
Consider using a weekly spread over a daily log to give you a full view of where you’re supposed to be each day of the week;
And use your phone’s calendar with an alert as a back-up. Combining the power of your Bullet Journal with a pop-up reminder from your phone is HUGE!
If you’re a mom, you’ve doubtless heard someone refer to the analogy about putting your oxygen mask on during an airplane emergency before helping others to do so. Moms are so quick to put their own needs last that we often find ourselves unraveling at the seams before we make ourselves a priority, and that’s just sad!
When you’re parenting a newborn, part of keeping yourself in view is as simple as eating right and staying hydrated. Keeping a food diary can help new moms ensure they’re getting enough calcium and iron in their diet (both vital to recovery), as well as the appropriate number of calories. Did you know breastfeeding moms need approximately 500 extra calories each day—even more than someone who’s pregnant?
As for your mental health, consider making a list of self-care options that are meaningful to you, and schedule self-care into your day or week. Here are some ideas that might sound appealing to worn-out moms:
- Take a nap!
- Read a magazine, a book, or a blog
- Climb into a warm bubble bath
- Write in a journal
- Schedule a trip to the salon or the spa
- Get out for a walk in your neighborhood or a trip to the gym
- Call a girlfriend who gets it
If you do suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety, tracking your moods and symptoms in your Bullet Journal may help you feel more in control. I’ve been encouraged to see so many “Bullet Journal junkies” in the aptly named Facebook group share their spreads for tracking moods, especially individuals coping with mental health issues. Do a quick search for mood trackers in the Bullet Journal community, and you’ll find that people from all walks of life swear by them!
Now it’s your turn! Hop on over to my website, Evie+Sarah, to enter to win an Official Bullet Journal Notebook from Ryder. What we’d like to know is how using a Bullet Journal has helped you parent a newborn, or which of the suggestions above you’d like to try.
Last but not least, congratulations to last month’s winner, Elle! Good luck with your Bullet Journal journey!!
Header Image by: Mindy Olson P
Check out the other parts in this series!