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An expert babysitter (if I do say so myself), I thought I had a good handle on the whole motherhood thing … until I had Ned. Mothering and babysitting, I soon learned, are two very different things. I needed help. Whenever I asked our pediatrician for advice, she’d say, “It’s a stage. It’ll pass.” When I asked my mother how she survived a teething baby, sleep deprivation and the like, she responded, “I don’t remember.”
So how did I survive my son’s first year? With a little help from my friends. All the really clever ideas, the secret tricks of the trade, the creative solutions to everyday problems came from my pals (and friends of pals) during late-night e-mails, casual conversations at the playground and long-distance phone calls between feedings. Here are 12 of the best bits of advice they gave.
(1 ) Reserve the first 15 minutes of your baby’s nap time for yourself. “If you start right in on the dishes, laundry, etc., your baby inevitably wakes up before you ever get around to relaxing,” says Monica Cramer, a friend of a friend. “So I began taking my ‘me’ time first.” Monica, who has one toddler, suggests setting a timer to force yourself to chill out—read a novel, soak in a tub or simply sip tea with your feet propped up—until the buzzer goes off. “It absolutely saves your sanity,” she adds.
(2) Hang a calendar in the baby’s room to keep track of all those firsts. “A wall calendar with a pen hanging beside it offers a quick and easy way to record your baby’s progress each day,” says Lady (yes, Lady) Smith, a former colleague and mother of one.
(3) Invest in a headset phone. (I got mine at Circuit City for less than $100.) I don’t remember who gave me this tip, but I couldn’t survive without mine. A headset phone allows you to talk with friends while you fold laundry, cook dinner or even lift weights during baby’s nap time, preserving her awake time for uninterrupted bonding.
(4) Leave tags on all but the basic newborn clothes. My sister-in-law, Willa Neale, with whom I speak at least once (OK, twice) a day about baby-care quandaries, saved me a lot of time, money and frustration with this tip. “As anxious as you are to wash the baby’s clothes and have her closet all organized two weeks before she arrives,” says mother-of-three Willa, “resist the urge.” Leave the tags on anything you don’t need right away—and save all those gift receipts—so you can return or exchange outfits. This way, your summer baby doesn’t get stuck with winter clothes in newborn sizes or 25 dresses in size 6–12 months.