This September, I gave birth to my first child, a sweet baby boy weighing in at 7lbs 12 oz. Labor and delivery were long and much harder than I expected and I remember sitting in the hospital worrying about the days to come.
Of course, I was beyond excited to welcome this little boy into our lives (our little “piglet,” as we now call him, an affectionate term for the adorable grunting noises he makes while he eats). Yet I was terrified that, just as the difficulties of labor had been much harder than I expected, so, too, would be returning to our normal way of life.
I had no illusions about the fact that life with a newborn would be markedly different than what our lives were before. However, no part of me wanted to give up any part of our old life – including our farm.
How would I get things done? I worried endlessly about this – and as it turns out, my worries were for naught. When you want something bad enough, you adapt – and that’s doubly true when it comes to pairing motherhood with farm and homestead life.
I’ve found that juggling homesteading with a newborn is not easy, by any means, but it’s definitely possible. Here are some tips for homesteading with a newborn – because rest assured, it can be done!
Tips for Homesteading with a Newborn
1. Scale Down
Some things are inevitably going to fall through the cracks once your little one arrives. My lawn didn’t get mowed nearly as often once he arrived. I didn’t do quite as much canning as I wanted. The marketing we were working on for the farm went on pause.
When you’re running a farm or homestead and welcoming a new addition, you have to prioritize the things that matter most. You won’t be getting as much sleep as you once did and you’ll realize that certain things just don’t matter. It used to bother me if lots of weeds were popping up in the garden pathways.
Once the baby arrived, I let them go. Were they disturbing the vegetables? Nope. Did I have time to pick them? Nope. They stayed where they were.
Prioritize and don’t be afraid to put some things off. You’ll tackle them later. Only deal with what matters most.
2. Work in Time Blocks
It is very easy to find yourself overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done on a homestead – or when you have a newborn demanding your attention at all times.
I’m somebody who has always been very reliant on to-do lists and schedules, but as you know if you’ve ever had a baby, schedules go out the window.
I can’t tell myself I’m going to work on writing an article from 9-11 am because if I do, inevitably the baby will wake up and want to eat and then snuggle during that time. However, if I don’t have a list of what I need to get done, I won’t get anything done and I’ll end the day feeling sluggish and frustrated.
So I work in time blocks. I’ll flexibly schedule a few hours in the morning to write, and then dedicate a few hours in the afternoon to chores and other tasks around the house, with the baby scattered in between. I work during naps and make sure there’s plenty of family time throughout the day, too.
I try not to chunk out more than 15 minutes in duration. Although I set aside a few hours to write in the morning, I fully expect that those few hours will be very scattershot with a few minutes here and a few minutes there of work. The same goes for both indoor and outdoor chores.
Whatever it is you have to do, see if you can break it down into smaller time chunks. That way, when you have 15 free minutes, you can cross a few items off your to-do list and you’ll feel like you got more done.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
I am a stubborn person, so this one was hard for me. Fortunately, having a newborn depending on me 24/7 to meet his basic needs made me swallow my pride and ask for help.
When you have a farm to manage plus two parents who both have full-time jobs on top of caring for a newborn, it can be tough to find enough hours in the day to get everything done. To make things even more complicated, everybody’s cranky and sleep-deprived, making it hard to focus.
My husband and I found that we need to ask for help more often than we had in the past. The good news is that when you have a sweet, cuddly newborn, people are much more willing to lend a helping hand.
Grandma and Aunt C come over often for snuggles and to watch the baby while Dad and I tackle farm chores for which taking the baby with us doesn’t make sense – like working with livestock or butchering day.
Some tasks require both of us to be present (castrating piglets was one of them – and needless to say, a task in which I didn’t feel comfortable with babywearing our son). Grandma to the rescue!
If you’re anything like me, it can be humbling and frustrating to ask for help, especially when it comes to tasks that aren’t so fun (like cleaning out the chicken coop).
You’ll likely find that people are more than willing to help, even if that just means holding the baby for a while (you can almost always find someone to take that job).
4. …or to Divide and Conquer!
For other tasks, it’s easiest to just divide and conquer. I found that it was very easy for me to handle indoor chores, like canning, doing laundry, or cooking dinner. I could tackle these while wearing our son or when he was sitting contentedly in his swing.
Plus, I would be nearby in case he needed to be fed (I exclusively breastfeed). My husband had an easier time handling outdoor chores so, most mornings, he would tackle those.
Although you’ll likely miss being able to carry about your typical routine as you did before, you will likely settle into a new normal – and once your little one is big enough, you’ll all be able to tackle the farm chores together.
5. Have One Daily Goal
When the baby was first born, I tried to stick to my daily routine as much as possible. Ha!
As the weeks went by, I realized that the life of homesteading with a newborn was a lot less stressful if I only committed to getting one thing done per day. Of course, almost every day I get much more than that done. However, if I set just a single priority for the day, I’m much more likely to feel fulfilled by the time the sun goes down (rather than frazzled).
6. Get Outside
Another mistake I made during the first few days of my son’s life was that I didn’t prioritize my own mental and physical wellbeing at all. I realized very quickly that this was going to turn me into a weepy, depressed mess who wasn’t doing very much good for herself or her child.
With the help of my husband, I committed to getting outside for at least 30 minutes a day, either with my son or by myself as my husband watched the baby. Sometimes, that just meant a little bit of time in the garden. Other days, I went for a walk. I tried as often as possible, when the weather was nice, to bring my son with me so that he could soak up some vitamin D too.
Now that the weather has turned more dismal, I still find time to get outside – even if that just means sneaking in a quick run before the sun comes up and my husband has to go to work. A bit of fresh air works wonders in helping you get more done during the day and feeling happier and more relaxed as a homesteading mama.
7. Get the Kids Involved When Possible
This baby is our first, so we don’t have older kids to get in on the action. We can’t wait for the day our son is big enough to “help” with farm chores, even if that just means toddling along after us as we take care of our daily to-do lists.
For now, I wear my baby whenever I can. My husband and I hauled a bunch of bedding and other compost ingredients out of the pile the other day – the perfect opportunity for babywearing! I’ll also wear him when harvesting the garden, checking on animals, or just walking around outdoors.
It makes getting things done so much easier, and the baby is content to sleep on Mom’s chest. While I’m fortunate that he was born in the fall and not in the summer (babywearing would be stifling hot, I think, if that were the case), I think I would wear him no matter the season.
8. Don’t Neglect Your Own Needs
I don’t much like the term “self-care” as it calls to mind bubble baths and spa days – two things you might not care for or have time for when you are homesteading with a newborn.
However, self-care is important when you have a newborn – and especially when you are trying to run a farm or homestead at the same time.
Whether it’s just a short 15-minute shower at the end of the day to scrape away the mud and spit-up or self-care means taking a few moments at the start of the day to brush your teeth and put on clean clothes, do it. You’ll feel much fresher when you put yourself first at least for a moment.
9. Enjoy the Day to Day – Whatever That Might Bring
I am a very Type A kind of person. I like having a plan and sticking to a routine. Again – not exactly what a newborn offers.
However, this experience has made me relax and realize that every day has something to offer – even if it’s not exactly what you expected. Try to enjoy the little moments that your baby and your homestead have to offer.
Even if that just means enjoying a cup of coffee while snuggling your baby and watching the sun come up after a long, sleepless night – treasure the little moments because they’ll slip away faster than you know it.
10. Get Creative
No two days will be alike – which means you’ll need to get creative. Can you sneak outside to feed the chickens before the kids wake up for the day? Can you weed while they’re napping? Be flexible and don’t try to stick to one idea too rigidly. What works best one day may not work again the next.
11. Invest in the Right Tools
As a parent, you’ll figure out what works best for you. For me, a stroller, baby carrier, and swing are 3 tools that have been instrumental. Baby goes in the stroller while I’m weeding, the baby carrier while I’m writing, and the swing while I’m canning.
You may find that you have a preference for one tool over the other, and so will your baby – but don’t be afraid to invest in things that will make your homesteading with a newborn life more comfortable and a bit easier.
12. Don’t Be Afraid of Some Dirt
Baby’s going to eat some dirt.
There, I said it.
While you need to remember basic safety precaution – something I’ll address next – try not to get too hung up on keeping everything pristine all the time.
Basic sanitation matters, but if there’s a little dust on the floor where you’re letting the baby play with his toys, try not to freak. After all, that’s how an immune system is born, right?
13. Remember Basic Safety
I mentioned earlier that I like to wear my son for many tasks around the farm. However, I’m also savvy enough to know when babywearing might not be a good idea. For example, I found it was challenging to weed the garden with the baby in a ring sling. However, I could safely do it if I had him in the Baby K’tan (and supported his head as I bent).
I don’t wear my baby when running a canner or any other hot equipment, and never when I’m working with livestock. As the weather gets colder and snowier, I’m also more limited in terms of what can be done while wearing a baby.
Use your head and remember that baby’s needs come first. If you can’t get out while wearing a baby in the wrap, it may make more sense to have your partner tackle the chores while you stay with the baby inside – or vice versa.
Have Fun and Try to Relax!
The biggest advice I can give to you if you are trying to homestead with a newborn is to find your support system. For me, that’s my husband. I lean on him, and he leans on me.
We have always been this way, viewing each other as partners rather than as people who just happen to be married. Teamwork is essential when it comes to running a homestead, just as it is when raising a child.
Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself when you can and to try and just enjoy the moment (in whatever form that might mean for you).
You might be exhausted and up to your knees in chicken poop, pig poop, and yes – baby poop! – but knowing that you have your people by your side and your little one relying on you is all the motivation you need to keep going.