As a new mom to twins I have learned so much I could probably fill a book with all of it! Lol. (I guess that tells you I knew nothing to start with about parenting or having babies :-) But, there were a few times when I said to myself, "Boy! I wish someone told me that before I had the girls!" Well, this is my top five list.
1) How to get babies to sleep. First, of all I fully acknowledge that I am no expert. All babies are different and should your pediatrician or any other expert tell you something different you should by all means go with them. That said, this is what works for me.
Babies go through stages of learning to sleep. So, what works well when they are a newborn will change when they hit about 4 months. This will change again about 7-8 months and, yet again, about 9-10 months. My girls are only eleven months (next week) so I can't really speak past that. But, there are a few things that seemed to work all the way through. First of all, "tiring them out" doesn't work. In other words, contrary to what seems logical, they do not get more tired as they stay up later. Quite the opposite. It's much tougher for me to get the girls to sleep at 8:30pm than it is a 7:00pm. They just get too tired. Too fussy. Not interested in sleep.
Second, times really do matter. My girls both sleep best when put them down at a constant interval between naps or at the exact same time each day. I've tried both methods I don't know that it really matters which them you go with. Just find one and stick with it. But, varying the time of naps or bedtime due to appointments or simply life doesn't work well at all.
Beyond that, I found the very best way to get the girls to sleep was to lay them next to me with a bottle. Then, I would pretend to be asleep myself. No singing, no patting, no movement. Just cuddling them close to me, being completely still and giving them milk. (I couldn't nurse due to medical reasons but that's a whole different blog.) Bear in mind that I have two babies so holding and rocking them both at the same time isn't going to happen. Furthermore, my girls seem to get distracted with too much movement, walking, rocking, singing etc. so this just works best for us. Once, they get to sleep I can gently move them over into their crib.
When they were first born I think I was in "survival mode" so I honestly can't tell you how long between naps. We just did the best that we could. But, starting around 5 months I tried to put them down for a nap two hours from the time they last woke up. Now, they just take one long nap (2-3 hours) around noon each day. Wish it were more but for mine the single, long nap is what they gravitated toward when they were around 10 1/2 months old.
So, there you have it my great sleep secret. Lay them down next to you with a bottle. Be completely still. Pretend to be asleep. And, do this at the same time each day (or equally spaced intervals). Simple, I know. But, boy, do I wish someone would have let me in on this little secret. I read books and blogs, and a whole lot of "sleep training" information but this has been the only thing that really worked for us.
2) Wear an abdominal binder as soon as the OBGYN gives the okay after you deliver. I had (have?) a mommy tummy. I looked like a 40 year old man with a beer belly. Not kidding. I seriously considered a tummy tuck and I've never really been a plastic surgery kind of a gal but this was ridiculous. After delivery, there was a time when I weighed less than 120lbs and looked 6 months pregnant. NO one tells you this!! Well, I didn't get a tummy tuck. But, I did do a lot of research online, had an appointment with a general surgeon, saw a physical therapist for several months, and, this is what came of it all.
The general surgeon suggested an abdominal binder. I don't really think that the kind matters. I got the one at the pharmacy that my insurance paid for and I also paid, out of pocket, for the one that the Tupler Technique boasts is the best one possible. Honestly, I liked the one from the pharmacy much better and wore it more faithfully. The material just seemed to breathe better so I didn't get so sweaty. Regardless, of what you choose, wear one, and, wear it soon. Unfortunately, several months passed before I figured this one out. It helped tremendously - both to flatten my tummy and to support my back.
I would also recommend doing physical therapy. My insurance paid for it, and it was great to be taught which exercises were helpful and which ones would actually make my tummy budge worse at that stage of the game (like traditional crunches and sit-ups). If you can't see a physical therapist to get a variety of exercises, try this exercise:
Lay flat on your back, wrap a sheet or towel length-ways around your lower, mid and upper abs (each section separately). Hold the towel (or sheet) together with your hands, crossed across your stomach like you're about to tie a bow around a package. Then, try to contract and release your upper, mid and lower abdominals (separately) while really focusing on the muscle groups. Move the towel (or sheet) so that it wraps around the muscle group you are working on. You are trying to contract your muscles in such a way that they "wrap around you" and pull in-ward in much the same way that the towel you are holding is wrapped around you. (You don't always have to use a sheet or towel. It just helps you get the motion down at first.) Do this while laying flat on your back with your knees bent like you were going to do a sit-up. If done properly, you can place your thumb where your leg attaches to your pelvis area and feel that area rise slightly and just brush your thumb. This isn't about a lot of motion. It is more about contracting the muscles and retraining them to come together. Do this 30 times for each muscle group (upper, middle and lower abs) throughout the day. You can increase the number as you get stronger. You can also add a variation where you raise your head slightly off the ground - directly up not curled in like you were doing a sit-up. The key is not large movements or a huge number of repetitions. It is simply focus and teaching those muscles to tighten and contract once more. Eventually, you can add more exercises to strengthen your core but this is a great place to start.
I still don't have a perfectly flat stomach but it has vastly improved. I should also note that when you take off the binder for several days you will see a regression in that your stomach will begin to pooch more than it did immediately upon removing the binder. That said, I have found that the more I wear the binder, the less regression I see each time. I guess the one thing that has greatly improved is my vanity :-)
3) Prunes. They are baby's best friend. Oh, how I wish we had started prunes at 6 months. I tried apple juice and prune juice (baby style half water, half juice). I tried Karo syrup. (just about a teaspoon full in a 4 oz bottle, once a day) But nothing works as well as good old prunes. One pack a day keeps the constipation away. Enough said.
4) Let me start by saying I don't have any affiliate links. This is just pure mommy input. That said, these are the coolest sippy cups I have ever seen. We were not sippy cup girls. We liked our bottles just fine, thank you. We would also drink out a glass quite happily (although we did have a bad habit of dumping it on ourselves) but you could just keep those dreadful old sippy cups. Until....we found....the Munchkin, Miracle 360 Degree Cup. They are awesome. The nurse at my pediatrician's office told me about them. Now, I will say that they do leak out of the top some but, more importantly, the girls actually use them. They are much like an actual cup. However, they have a lid with a rim. The girls can drink anywhere from the rim of the cup and liquid comes out. They also have two handles for easy grip. I love them!!! So, if you have a baby who is not a sippy cup kind of a tot. Give them a try. You'll be amazed at the IMMEDIATE change from a no-sippy cup kind of a gal to sippin pro.
5) Spoons. It's the simple things of life. There is a spoon called a "Sassy" spoon. They come two to a pack and I think I paid $3.28 at the grocery store. Very neat if you're trying to teach your little one to feed themselves. The spoons have little holes in them so the food adheres to the little holes and actually stays on the spoon when its turned upside down (within reason and only THICK baby food stays on the spoon). They also have a nice angled grip and a chubby handle so their just perfect for little ones.
There you have it. Your ticket to the good life. (If you're a mommy.) Lots of sleep, a flat(er) stomach, prunes, cups and spoons. What more could you want? Oh, how life changes :-)