When you’re a first-time parent, everything your baby does is adorable and amazing. (Did you see her sneeze?!) Even when they do something gross, they still manage to find a way to make you smile. (Sure, he just pooped down the front of your shirt, but look at that sweet little grin!) But there are also a lot of surprising aspects of being a new parent that may not have been included in the long list of advice you received pre-baby. Here are some of the surprising, but common, things you may experience as a new parent. (Keep in mind that you should always check with a doctor concerning anything you may be worried about. Just because something is common, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy or that it should be ignored.)
1. Projectile Spit-Up
Oh, yeah. You thought you were prepared to handle a little spit-up. You figured a burp cloth over the shoulder would suffice. You weren’t expecting a scene from The Exorcist, were you? Sometimes those little over-eaters will shock you with the amount of milk that spews from their tiny mouths. When it shoots across the room and hits a visiting relative, you may find yourself worried sick (no pun intended). While you should always mention projectile spit-up to your pediatrician (they can tell you what’s healthy vs. what isn’t), this is one of the more surprising, but common, aspects of new parenthood. (And to help put it in perspective, when it feels like your child has just spewed at least 6 ounces of milk, our pediatrician told us that 1 ounce of spit-up will cover an entire sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper.)
2. Breastfeeding Helps You Lose Baby Weight
It’s true; while your baby is suckling away, you may notice your pregnancy weight slipping away, too (alongside those dreams of uninterrupted sleep). Personally, I had lost all of my pregnancy weight during the first two weeks postpartum, thanks to my little glutton. I was particularly appreciative of this perk since I definitely had no time (or desire) to work out. In fact, between breastfeeding Bailey until she was seven months old and otherwise just chasing her around, I found myself 10 lbs lighter at the beginning of my current pregnancy than I was when I became pregnant the first time. Not bad! (Note: Results not typical. Super awesome weight loss not guaranteed.)
3. Breastfeeding Hurts at First
(See why I led with the weight loss? I’m being honest, but don’t let this discourage you from nursing if that’s your choice. There are definite health benefits to breastfeeding, but whether you choose breast milk or formula, your child will love you and I will support you from afar.) As a new mom, I had no idea what to expect when it came to breastfeeding. To be honest, I didn’t really think about it ahead of time in terms of pain or comfort. Imagine my surprise when those incredibly strong jaw muscles latched on for the first few times. While it did hurt in the beginning, I found that a never-ending supply of lanolin was a lifesaver. Also, rubbing a bit of breast milk on cracked or dry nipples helped to heal them. Eventually, your breasts will toughen up and the pain will lessen until it finally dissolves. I’m hoping there’s little to no pain the second time around since these bad boys have already been in the trenches during their first tour. Time will tell.
4. Growth Spurts
Apparently, growth spurts don’t only happen to tweens over summer vacation; babies have them constantly throughout the first year. Every time I finally felt like I was getting the hang of this motherhood thing, Bailey would hit a growth spurt and send me into a tailspin. At first, I didn’t even know about growth spurts so, naturally, when she jumped from eating every 3 hours to every hour, I worried I wasn’t producing enough milk. She would nurse for an hour and then would almost immediately want to nurse again. (So much for mom getting a potty/snack break.) After a little Googling, however, I learned that her signs of latching, nursing, unlatching, and crying matched what other moms described as growth spurts. Be prepared because they generally go through them between 1 and 3 weeks, 6 and 8 weeks, and again at 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months. (Check out this article from What to Expect for more information on growth spurts.)
5. Trouble with Gas and Dairy
When my usually happy baby was writhing in pain every night, I learned that she was suffering from gas because of my diet. Apparently, breastfed babies can be affected by the food their mothers ingest. I narrowed it down to the cow’s milk protein in dairy when I learned (through more Googling) that it was a common culprit. I had a lot of milk, ice cream, and other dairy products in my diet and my poor baby was suffering. Once I switched from regular milk to almond milk and from chocolate ice cream to coconut milk ice cream sandwiches, Bailey did much better. We also kept infant gas drops on hand as they worked miracles when she was having tummy troubles. When my sandbags dried up and we started her on formula, we opted for Enfamil Gentlease since it broke down the milk proteins and was designed to ease gas and fussiness. Even though she had trouble with it as a newborn, she transitioned flawlessly to whole milk and still loves it today.
As a new mom with tons of questions and zero experience, I found websites like this one extremely helpful as I waded through the first year. Friends and family are always great for advice, but you can’t always call your girlfriend at 3 am when Junior hits his first growth spurt. When you’re feeling lost, I say turn to the pros through parenthood websites (like TBMB) and online forums. No matter what, know that you’re not alone.
What surprising things did your newborn do that caught you off guard? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!