It can be overwhelming when you are a new parent. There is so much to learn and do! (like sleep!) With the right information and tools, you will get through the first year of your baby’s life in no time. The tips in this article will help you know when to expect some relief, as well as providing some helpful advice on how to make things easier for yourself along the way. We can all survive these tough times together!
Is taking care of a newborn hard?
Taking care of a newborn can absolutely be hard, whether it is your first baby or forth, and whether you have a large support network or not. The newborn stage is intense, and there is a sharp change in routine and lifestyle after baby is born.
Why are newborns so hard?
- Sleeping and eating patterns haven’t yet formed. It’s normal for newborns to have irregular sleeping and eating patterns, which means parents will need to follow suit. Newborn stomachs are smaller than adults’, meaning they need more frequent feedings throughout the day and night. And because babies don’t yet know how to put themselves back down after waking up in order to fall asleep again on their own, it falls upon us parents – or a parent figure like an elder sibling – to help them drift off into dreamland every once in a while!
- Mom is still healing from the physical stress of giving birth. There is all sorts of discomfort going on in the first few weeks postpartum, with lack of sleep and a messy house not making this any easier. Plus, she’s still likely exhausted from the whole pregnancy and labor process.
- The only way babies know how to communicate is to cry. Crying to communicate. A baby’s cry can be difficult for any parent or caregiver to understand because of all the different kinds there are; hunger pains when hungry, having a wet or dirty diaper, feeling cold, or being tired. Our subconscious negative association with crying can make the air tense every time baby cries.
- Becoming a parent is a shock! Pregnancy, giving birth and becoming a new parent can be an overwhelming experience. Suddenly you’re faced with the responsibility of caring for another human being 24/7 while also maintaining your careers or other responsibilities on top of that! You may feel like all hope is lost because there’s no time to grieve any loss from before as well as adjust to this change in lifestyle overnight (literally).
When do babies get easier?
The most significant point that babies get easier is when they start sleeping through the night. Most commonly this is in the third or fourth month of their life. Newborns need more frequent feedings and diaper changes, and constant attention because they can’t regulate their temperature on their own.
Other major points where babies get easier include:
- When baby learns the difference between nighttime and daytime. Your baby will be much more likely to sleep when you sleep! (rather than that “advice” you’ve been getting to sleep when baby sleeps!) In the womb, they didn’t get much exposure to ‘night’ and ‘day’, but as they get used to it you’ll be one step closer to the ‘normal’ you were used to before baby.
- When baby can self-soothe. It’s normal for babies to have trouble sleeping, they are learning new things every day, and can’t shut off their brains like a light switch. They’re confused and unsure. (and not as cozy as they were in the womb!)
- When baby can hold their head up. They’ll have more agency over their own experience because they can choose where to look, and there is plenty for them to be interested in! You’ll find baby will need different entertainment and engagement than you’re used to giving them, which is fun for you both!
- When baby can sit up unassisted. Baby can sit on their own, on the floor! That means you can get in front of baby instead of having them on your lap, and there is less worrying about propping them with pillows or other supports that may not always be handy nearby. You can start to go with the flow more as they play and learn from you.
- When baby can crawl and walk. When your baby starts crawling you will have more freedom to move around the house; it’ll be much easier to leave him or her in a safe place (read: not near easy accessed precious items!) while you grab a coffee and snack from the kitchen, for example.
- When baby can smile at you. It is true that babies get easier when they are a few months old and can smile back at you. It makes their care much more enjoyable, plus seeing them giggle is very rewarding!
Towards the end of a newborn’s first year a baby is much better at self-soothing, they are finally sleeping through the night most nights, and they’re entertaining themselves more as they’re crawling around exploring your house! A lot has changed in just one short year!
How to get through the difficult newborn stage
- Experiment with strategies that work for you, and your baby. As both of you learn about each other and your new lives, needs will shift. You’re not a failure if something which worked previously suddenly stops working. Know that it is normal to feel overwhelmed and tired. They eat, they sleep, and they cry all day long while you’re left trying to juggle your life in the background! You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed or even resentful of this little bundle that takes up so much time and energy. It’s normal.
- Prioritize taking care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat good food, and take breaks. If you’re not looked after, how can you look after your baby?
- Ask for help. Whether it’s a friend, family member or professional service. Encourage your partner or other caregivers to do the same, if they need to. There is a lot of merit to the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”.
- Take advantage of routines. Having a routine mapped out means baby will feel more secure because they know what to expect. It doesn’t have to be a whole day planner (though it can be!) but routines like ‘bath, books, bed’ before the night time sleep can help baby know that it’s time to have a longer sleep now. (please!) I used “getting in to a baby sleeping bag” as part of the routine, and both my boys knew that it was time for the long night sleep when they were in their sleeping bag.
- Try not to compare yourself with other parents. Every child is different! What works for one baby may not work for another but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for yours.
- Act on advice that resonates with you. Everyone has thoughts on how to parent, even those who aren’t parents themselves. (They have parents of their own, after all!) Just because someone you trust offers you advice, you are not obliged to act on it. This is your family; do things your own way.
You can do this!
It is okay to feel overwhelmed! Newborns can be difficult but it sure is a rewarding journey. Don’t forget that asking for help when needed will more often than not get you further than trying to go it alone. You most certainly are not alone.
Do you have any other advice for new parents? Comment below!