A common question many new (and exasperated) parents ask is: When does it get easier with a newborn? I know I did when I became a first-time mom. I longed for life to resume its normalcy. Because let’s face it: the newborn months are tough. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to be shining any time soon.
When does it get easier with a newborn?
While every baby is different, several milestones can mark the times when caring for a baby isn’t as challenging.
Four weeks: Learning the difference between day and night.
In the womb, babies slept disjointed hours, never knowing night from day. At one month, they’ll differentiate day and night and sleep longer during the evenings.
Keep the room bright during the day so your baby sleep lighter for their naps. Then make the room dark and subdued in the evenings so they know night time is for deep sleep. (I bought by light-blocking curtains like these for their bedroom.)
Six weeks: The first smile.
Around six to eight weeks, the first real smile emerges. You probably saw signs of “smiling” the first few days, but those cute smirks are reflexes. Later, you’ll witness a genuine, social smile, often in response to your own smiles.
Smiling doesn’t make it easier with a newborn, but this gesture is one of the first signs of reciprocity. After weeks and weeks of giving without so much as a thank you note, a baby’s smile reveals the joy our babies feel. And they’re so cute they can erase the frustration or sleep deprivation a tired mom feels.
3 to 4 months: Holding their heads up.
The day your baby can hold her head up means you now have one free hand. Before, carrying babies meant using one hand to cradle and support the head and neck. With at least one free arm, toting baby around becomes makes it easier to get around.
Every baby develops differently, but my eldest was able to hold his head up around four months. The twins—born prematurely—even later than that.
4 to 6 months: Sleeping through the night.
Ahh, the ever-famous, STTN-for-short, sleeping through the night. “Through the night” is vague, from five hours to a full eight (or more). Even five hours is a godsend, so the longer your baby is able to stay asleep in the evening makes it easier to survive those early months.
My kids slept five-plus hours on their own around two months. They didn’t sleep the full 11 hours until we sleep-trained a few months later.
4 to 6 months: The ability to put themselves to sleep.
More important than sleeping long stretches is the ability to put himself to sleep. I dreaded rocking, swinging, bouncing or shushing my babies each time they had to nap.
Babies learn to sleep by sucking their thumbs, rocking their heads, or babbling. Mine were able to sleep on their own early on, but once they woke up, they weren’t able to put themselves back to sleep. Not until we sleep trained did they resume and stay asleep for the full 11 to 12 hours at night (and during nap times).
Sleeping through the night and putting themselves to sleep were what made caring for a newborn easier for me. Once the babies were able to do both of those, life became normal (and I regained my sanity) once again.
6 to 8 months+: Life becomes (your new) normal again
Babies reach milestones at different points in their growth, and as always, all babies are different.
But you’ll notice that this baby thing is a little easier once you “get your groove back.” You start cooking again. You can read more than one chapter in a book. You take the baby out on an errand… all on your own. And you slept for five straight hours.
And remember, it’s normal for the newborn stage to be difficult, especially for the following reasons:
- Babies’ erratic sleeping and eating patterns. Gone (at least temporarily) are your eight-hours of sleep. Newborns have yet to learn to take in their food during the day to sleep at night. Their tummies are smaller, calling for frequent feedings. They also don’t know how to put themselves to sleep, relying on us to ease them into rest.
- Healing from childbirth. You’re still healing from the physical ailments of having just given birth. There’s all sorts of discomfort going on in the first few weeks post-partum. Coupled with lack of sleep, a messy house and caring for a baby doesn’t make this period any easier.
- Crying to communicate. One of the challenges with babies and even toddlers is deciphering what it is they’re trying to tell us. As kids grow, they’re more adept at communicating. They’ll have different cries, facial expressions and body languages, and finally use words. A newborn baby doesn’t have those skills and relies only on crying to communicate.
- The shock of new parenthood. Bringing home a newborn disrupts the routine a couple or a family may have had, and so suddenly.
- Caring for an older child and a newborn. Never mind you just brought home a baby—you now have the older child to contend with too. Juggling newborn needs with your older child can be a difficult experience.
The good news is that it does get easier. Newborns aren’t newborns forever. They’ll become infants, then toddlers and before you know it, bona fide big kids. Plug through those first months and relish the baby moments before he grows up right before your eyes.
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Want to read more? Check out these related topics:
- 13 Ways to Cope with Newborn Sleep Deprivation
- “Help! My Newborn Only Sleeps when Held.”
- Taking Care of Baby When Your Partner Goes Back to Work
- How to Survive the Newborn Stage
- Preparing for Survival Mode: Life with a Newborn
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