Some people are “baby” people; I am not one of those. The newborn stage feels more like survival mode, and I’ll easily take a toddler tantrum over a night of sleep deprivation. Thankfully this isn’t my first experience with caring for a newborn and am able to remind myself that it truly does get easier. Yet every time I hear someone say they have an “easy” baby, or see parents of older kids able to frequently enjoy a night out as a couple, or feel like my life is a cycle of putting babies to sleep, I remember why the newborn stage isn’t all it’s cracked out to be for me.
For one thing, I can’t stand the shrill newborn cry that two out of my three kids have cursed me with. Thankfully one of the twins actually has a pretty cute cry that sounds like he’s saying, “Okay! Okay!” but my other two kids go from zero to 60 in the loudest, piercing cry imaginable. That is why I can sit in a perfectly quiet room and swear that I’m hearing baby cries in my head because they have practically imprinted their sounds in my head.
Then there’s the wobbly head that requires constant support, leaving you virtually hand-less to do anything productive around the house. I remember my older son holding his head on his own being a turning point in my newborn tolerance.
And of course, the sleep deprivation. I was never one to function well on anything less than eight hours of sleep, and I’m literally out of my mind during the nighttime wake ups.
With all the hardships of newborn parenting, how can you cope and make it out alive?
- Use that smart phone to stay awake during nighttime feedings. When I’m barely able to keep my eyes open, I use my iPhone to watch movies and TV shows, play games, check my email and log on to Facebook.
- Take the baby for a stroll. Most babies (I say most because my older son was not one of these) quickly conk out when taken for a stroll. I would often walk to the mall, the park or simply around the neighborhood for a guaranteed nap. Plus, the exercise raises your happiness levels, which is much needed when you’re a newborn grump like me.
Catch a break
- If your partner has time off, have him take the baby out of the house for a good chunk of hours so that you can be alone at home and remember what your house felt like without all the madness. My husband and I take turns taking the babies to each of our moms’ houses so the other can enjoy the house to himself or herself.
- Better yet, enlist a babysitter (or three, in my case!) to sleep over your house while you and your partner check in to a hotel for a full night’s sleep. We planned such an outing recently when my husband and I dined at a fancy restaurant and slept in a hotel down the street from our house and left the nighttime wakings to our family.
Reset your expectations
- Make chores a lower priority. As grating as a non-vacuumed floor and a toy-cluttered play area may be, ease up on chores and stick to the daily tasks. Or set up a system where you deep clean, but perhaps not as frequently as before. Everyone who enters your home will understand why there is a changing pad next to the coffee table and baby blankets strewn all over the floor.
- Try to stay home for a month to rest. With my older son’s birth, the shock of not being able to do simple things like go to the grocery drove me mad. This time around, I made it a point to stay home for several weeks, alleviating the frustration of not being part of the outside world for a while. “It’s temporary,” I told myself, and it’s true.
- Lessen or modify your cooking methods. I thought I could get away with cooking during the newborn days so long as the recipes were quick, and while sometimes we were able to pull it off, most days we were better off with an alternative. That meant maybe only having one or two recipes a week. Or relying on quick meals like pasta and a jar of marinara sauce or tortillas and cheese for a quick quesadilla. Cooking (and the cleanup!) can take up a chunk of time, and unless this is your escape, leave it for down the line when the baby isn’t so demanding.
- Make a list of the different ways you sooth your baby and hang it to the wall. When a baby cries in the middle of the night and you’re barely able to open your eyes, you’ll want a cheat sheet of your soothing methods handy so that you don’t have to think too hard about what to do.
- Stick to a routine. Bathing our twins and putting them down for the night has been pretty much the same for the last several weeks. Best not to change things up too often if something works to save you time.
I’m two months in the newborn stage and somehow making it out alive. Some moments are utter madness, such as this morning when one of the twins kept waking up crying every time I set him down for a nap (so much for drowsy but awake!). Other moments actually seem peaceful, such as now when they’re both asleep and my toddler is playing with his dad (and hence a chance to post on my blog).
Slowly life is resuming to a new normal, even with two newborns on board.
How do you cope during the newborn stage?