Some people are “baby” people—I’m not one of those. The newborn stage feels more like survival mode. I’ll take a toddler tantrum over a night of sleep deprivation.
Thankfully this isn’t my first experience with caring for a newborn. I can remind myself that it does get easier. But I still see parents of older kids enjoying a night out as a couple. Or I feel like all I do is put babies to sleep. During those times, 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. My kids go from zero to 60 in the shrillest, piercing cry imaginable. That’s why I can sit in a quiet room and swear I’m hearing baby cries in my head.
Then there’s the wobbly head to support, leaving you hand-less to do anything. (This is when my Moby Wrap became indispensable.) My older son holding his head on his own marked a turning point in my newborn tolerance.
And of course, the sleep deprivation. I never did well on anything less than eight hours of sleep, and I’m out of my mind during the nighttime wake ups. I’ve had to learn with how to survive newborn sleep deprivation those first few weeks.
How to survive the newborn stage
First, let’s talk about what the newborn stage is exactly. I consider the newborn period as the time between birth and three-months-old. Many people believe that babies have a “fourth trimester,” roughly the first three months after they’re born, that accounts for developmental stages they’re still going through during that time.
With the hardships of newborn parenting in those weeks and months, how can you survive the newborn stage?
- Use your smart phone to stay awake during nighttime feedings. I use my iPhone to watch movies and TV shows, play games, check my email and log on to Facebook (check out our Facebook page!).
- Take the baby for a stroll. Most babies (I say most because my older son was not one of these) conk out when taken for a stroll. I would often walk to the mall, the park or around the neighborhood for a guaranteed nap. Plus, the exercise raises your happiness levels when you’re a newborn grump like me.
Catch a break
- Have someone take the baby out of the house so you can be alone at home. You can remember what your house felt like without the madness. My husband and I take turns taking the babies to each of our moms’ houses. The other can then 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.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. I know this is overused advice, but for a reason. I used to avoid this advice because I felt like I always had something to do. Tasks never seemed to stop, and I used nap times to do them. But then it becomes a cycle. There will never be a time when there’s nothing to do, so might as well rest when the opportunity arises.
Reset your expectations
- Make chores a lower priority. Ignore your non-vacuumed floor and toy-cluttered play area and stick to the daily tasks. Or set up a system where you deep clean, but perhaps not as frequently as before. Everyone will understand why a changing pad is next to the coffee table.
- 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, I stayed home for several weeks, even if I wasn’t part of the outside world for a while. “It’s temporary,” I told myself, and it’s true.
- Lessen or change your cooking methods. I thought I could get away with cooking during the newborn days so long as the recipes were quick. Sometimes I was able to pull it off, but 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 consume time, and unless this is your escape, leave it for down the line when the baby isn’t as demanding.
- Make a list of the different ways you sooth your baby and hang it to the wall. Your baby will cry 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 you don’t have to think 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.
No doubt the newborn stage is hard. I’m two months in the newborn stage and somehow making it out alive. Some moments are madness, like this morning when one of the twins kept crying every time I set him down for a nap. (So much for drowsy but awake!) Other moments seem peaceful, such as now when they’re both asleep and my toddler is playing with his dad. (And hence a chance to blog.)
Life is resuming to a new normal and this stage is getting easier, even with two babies on board.
Keeping track of all your baby’s latest feedings and diaper changes can feel overwhelming. Get a convenient way to track feeding and diaper times with my FREE printable tracker! Download it below:
Want more articles about newborns? Check these out:
- When Does Life with a Newborn Get Easier?
- “Help! My Newborn Will Only Sleep In My Arms.”
- How to Stay Calm when Your Baby Won’t Nap
- Taking Care of Baby When Your Partner Goes Back to Work
- 13 Ways to Cope with Sleep Deprivation when You Don’t Have a Clue
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