1. Diapers.com When I first heard of Diapers.com, while pregnant, my first reaction was "Eh, what's the big deal? Who cares if you pick up the diapers at the store or order them online?" Especially since we live in the sticks where we drive right up to our stores anyway, I didn't think shlepping an extra pack of diapers home here and there would be a big deal. Now, I have seen the light, and I love Diapers.com. Why? Diapers packages are big and bulky and no fun to shlep. Diapers.com delivers them right to your door. Diapers are perpetually disappearing. Ordering them by the case is both economical and stress-reducing. Diapers.com doesn't just have diapers. Anything you could need for your baby they have: our favorite shampoo/soap for Baby J, teething and feeding gear, and their price on our formula is a full 10 bucks less than at our local store. They have free 2-day shipping on orders over $49, which, sadly, is not hard to spend in the realm of diapers and baby accoutrements. New parents need every little bit of help they can get, and this is one-stop-online-shopping that is very helpful.
2. Efficient bottle system Breastfeeding Baby J while working means getting hip to the humbling experience of pumping milk when I am away from him. There are so many things about pumping at work that are somewhat demoralizing, but it is very worthwhile, and I've found the best way to make it less difficult is to have a super efficient system: a steam sterilizer and ample supply of BPA-free bottles. In the morning, the bottles get steamed sterile in minutes, packed in the work bag, filled at work, and put into the fridge at night, when empty ones from daycare are washed and made ready to sterilize the next day. Not included: supportive, systems-oriented husband who makes this all run like a well-oiled machine. Thanks, B! This, and a great pump, make a tiresome task a little easier.
3. Soothing eye mask Who knew my favorite post-big-night out trick would also be my favorite new mom trick? Whether you're not sleeping because you are out dancing or because you have another human being to feed every two hours, your eyes are the first thing to turn on you. They feel sunken, red and painful in my experience. In this situation, if you can refresh your eyes it is the first step to refreshing your whole self. That is why I always keep one of these bad boys in the fridge, at the ready. Slap it on, and the eye-puffiness immediately goes down, making you feel ever so slightly human again. Life-changing.
4. Seventh Generation Detergent In the beginning, I diligently did separate baby and adult laundry every day (yes, every day); one with the regular laundry detergent, and one with gentle baby detergent. Then two things happened: our pediatrician mentioned that a baby detergent need only be unscented (and not specifically in a pink bottle with a teddy bear on it), and then we went on vacation with friends who have a son eight weeks older than ours, and I was enlightened as I watched them throw in big mixed loads with one fabulous all-purpose detergent. Seventh Generation Free & Clear is strong enough for the whole family's clothes, but gentle enough for Baby J as well. And on the green front, doing fewer average laundry loads means less water and energy waste, and I love supporting a forward-thinking, Vermont-based company like Seventh Generation. Win-win.
5. This is the simplest, but hardest, thing to do as a new mom: know when to ask for help. It takes a village, it truly does, and it is hard to remember that and reach out when you are sleep-deprived and feeling out of sorts and beside yourself, as new moms sometimes are. Whenever I have made a point of reaching out, instead of turning inward, at times like these, I have been so grateful that I did. I have developed newly iron-clad, war-buddy-like bonds with friends of mine with children, and discovered a capacity for empathy and generosity of spirit which have been life-saving from those without little ones as well. I have a new respect and adoration for my mother and mother-in-law, and have benefited immensely from their seasoned advice, and learned how to communicate better with both of them in the process. I have learned that not only am I not alone, but I am surrounded with people near and far who aren't going to let me fall, and that in itself has been as rich and soul-satisfying as motherhood. A friend gave me a copy of Anne Lamott's book Operating Instructions recently, and in it she talks about the "pit crew" who got her through her son's first year. Boy, did that resonate for me. To my pit crew: thank you and I love you. To any new mama in thick of it: find your pit crew and hold on to them for life, and never be afraid to pick up the phone.