There’s nothing quite like the magical feeling of your newborn baby grasping your finger for the first time. But what do you do when you’re gripped by the icy chill of winter at the same time?
Cold weather poses particular challenges to parents with newborns, and surviving the season requires a healthy dose of the three P’s: preparation, patience and positivity.
Preparation is said to be the father of inspiration, and for newborn parents of all seasons, proper prep is key. Winter baby prepping, however, requires a special zeal not unlike how you might prep for a coming zombie apocalypse. Sure, you want to survive, but you also want to set yourself up to thrive.
Rule number one: Assume the worst. You will run out of diapers/wipes/formula at the most inopportune time. Plan ahead by stocking up on all the necessities in bulk. Calculate how much you think you’ll need during baby’s first month… then double it! This will save you from midnight runs to the store during a freak thundersnow for batteries to power the only machine that helps your little one sleep for more than three minutes at a time. Failure to plan ahead means you could find yourself trolling the aisles of the local 24-hour drug store with all the other sleep-deprived zombie parents.
Rule number two: Don’t be a hero. While you’re preparing for your baby’s every possible need, it can be easy to forget to stock up on your own necessities, too. Try to think outside the breadbox, though. Winter can be a truly depressing time for many – new parents especially – and you’ll want to guard against feeling down by practicing self-care during Old Man Winter’s reign. If gossip magazines are your thing, treat yourself to an outrageous stack. Maybe gourmet coffee is a sure-fire way to get you feeling Zen during baby’s witching hour – drink up! This is a challenging time in your life and feeding your harmless vices can be a great way to have a few moments of ‘me’ time – even if you have to warm up that cup of coffee six times!
As if there isn’t enough to worry about with a new baby’s wellbeing, winter also brings with it the dangers of flu season. You’ll need to take extra care to protect baby, but also any other members of the household. Keep a stock of medications at the ready for adults and older children in the home, and have a game plan for isolating your little one from any germs that weasel their way into your family.
Patience is a virtue
Did you know that your body’s energy expenditures naturally decrease in cold conditions? It’s true!
Winter literally forces us to slow down and accomplish less. And with so much of your energy being channeled to the brand new life you’re responsible for, you may not have much left in the tank. So please, parents of winter babies, save your own sanity! Accept early on that this will not be a particularly productive season of your life. The old adage that says the days are long but the years are short is painfully true during the newborn phase, and while it might feel like you’ll have plenty of time to check a few things off your to-do list, don’t set your sights too high. The path to a Mommy Meltdown or a nasty case of Daddy Distemper is paved with the best of intentions. Newborns, by nature, require near-constant care and, when you do get a rare moment of calm, do yourself a solid and take a nap! Many a winter sun has set on parents whose untouched cold weather goals included scrubbing the baseboards, learning Mandarin and scrapbooking all 96 hours of their baby’s birth story… and that’s perfectly ok!
Keep in mind, too, that there’s nothing wrong with taking baby out and about as long as you take the necessary precautions to keep your little one warm and protected from the elements. Still, it can be daunting to think about leaving home if you aren’t yet feeling confident about baby’s schedule or needs. If you do have the gumption for a winter excursion, patience is key. Packing all the necessary supplies and bundling your little burrito will likely take double the time you’ll actually spend at the home improvement store or the corner café. And once you reach your destination, there’s no guarantee baby will cooperate. Reframe your thinking about what is an acceptable amount of time to spend getting yourself out of the house, and be prepared to either ignore scowls from strangers or cut and run from any public setting if baby has a meltdown.
Keep your glass half full (of ice-cold water)
Inevitably, even while you’re enjoying baby snuggles in front of a toasty fireplace, cabin fever will begin to set in. You’ll miss your former routines and, like most parents, you’ll probably be faced with periods of tremendous self-doubt about your parenting abilities. Whether it’s inexplicable crying, sleepless nights or day after day of dull, gray skies, something will eventually break you. Keep in mind, this is normal! The newborn phase is hard, winter can be a real mood killer and, like any time of extraordinary change, adding a new member of the family is often fraught with emotional turmoil. Parenting, much like the Marine Corps, will break you down to build you back up. You just have to remember to dig your heels in and hang on for the ride during the lows, and to ask for help when you need it.
It’s important to be kind to yourself during this season of life – and weather – and to continually remind yourself of the positive aspects of your experience. As difficult as parenting a newborn can be, it’s also a beautiful adventure. If you let it, winter has a way of removing some of life’s distractions, covering over them like a blanket of freshly fallen snow and leaving a sense of peace in the air. So breathe in that sweet baby smell and that crisp winter air, and let both fill your gratitude glass to half full.
Parenting a newborn in the winter months is challenging, but you can survive – and even thrive – by taking a few helpful steps. Surround yourself with a full stock of the necessities, allow yourself to embrace the slower pace of winter and of life with a newborn, and remember to look on the bright side.