When does it get easier with a newborn? Caring for a baby in the early months is hard. Learn the milestones that make life easier.
A common question many new (and exasperated) parents ask is: When do newborns get easier? 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.
Why are newborns so hard?
Before we dive into when babies get easier, let’s talk about why the newborn stage is difficult in the first place:
- Erratic sleeping and eating patterns. Gone (at least temporarily) are your eight-hours of sleep. Newborn tummies are smaller, calling for frequent feedings both during the day and night. They also don’t know how to put themselves to sleep, relying on us to help them fall asleep.
- Healing from childbirth. You’re still healing from the physical stress of having just given birth. There’s all sorts of discomfort going on in the first few weeks postpartum. Lack of sleep, a messy house and caring for a baby don’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 better able to communicate. They’ll have different cries, facial expressions and body languages, and one day they’ll even use words. A newborn baby doesn’t have those skills yet and relies only on crying to communicate all their needs.
- The shock of new parenthood. Bringing home a newborn disrupts the routine a couple or a family may have had, and so suddenly. Gone are the days of thinking only of yourself or living on your own schedule.
- 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 challenge for many parents.
When does it get easier with a newborn?
While every baby is different, several milestones can mark the times when caring for a baby won’t be as hard.
Four weeks: Learning the difference between day and night
In the womb, babies slept disjointed hours, never knowing night from day. At around four weeks old, they’ll differentiate day and night and begin sleeping longer during the evenings.
Make the room dark and subdued in the evenings so your baby has an easier time sleeping in long stretches at night. I bought by light-blocking curtains like these for their bedroom (affiliate link).
Six weeks: The first smile
You probably saw your baby “smiling” the first few days, but those cute smirks are reflexes. But around six to eight weeks, you’ll see a genuine, gleeful smile, often in response to your own happy face.
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.
Plus they’re so cute they can erase the frustration or sleep deprivation a tired mom feels.
3 to 4 months: Holding their heads up
In the first few months, carrying your baby meant using both arms to cradle and support her head and neck. Her heck isn’t strong enough and always needs to be supported.
But soon your baby will be able to hold her own head, making it easier to carry her with just one arm. With at least one free arm, carrying your baby becomes easier to get things done and move around.
Every baby develops differently, but my eldest was able to hold his head up around four months. The twins—born prematurely—held theirs even later than that.
4 to 6 months: Sleeping through the night
Ahh, the ever-famous sleeping through the night. Ask several moms what sleeping through the night means and you’ll likely get different answers. Some will answer five hours counts, while others say eight is enough.
Personally, I define sleeping through the night as getting 10-12 hours of straight, uninterrupted sleep.
But even five hours is a godsend compared to the bits of sleep from the newborn days. The longer your baby is able to stay asleep at night makes it easier to survive those early months.
My kids slept five-plus hours on their own around two months and slept the full 11-12 hours at 4-6 months through sleep training.
4 to 6 months: The ability to put themselves to sleep
I dreaded rocking, swinging, bouncing or shushing my babies each time they had to nap or sleep for the night. My turning point was when my babies no longer relied on those tactics and could put themselves to sleep.
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 11-12 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 newborns get easier once you “get your groove back.” You start cooking again, read more than one chapter in a book and take the baby out on an errand—all on your own. And you actually slept for five straight hours.
Life with a baby will be different, but soon you’ll incorporate bits of your old life into your new. You no longer feel tied to baby duties and enjoy the things you did once again.
The good news is that newborns do get easier. You’ll catch a glimpse of that first smile to make all the hard work extra worthwhile. They’ll be able to hold their own heads, making carrying them and getting things done much easier.
They’ll also learn to sleep through the night, giving you a full night of sleep once again (and even a few hours of time to yourself). You’ll find your groove, and life will begin to feel normal again.
Your baby won’t be a newborn forever—he’ll graduate to the infant stage, then grow into a toddler, and before you know it, he’ll be one of the big kids. Plug through those first months and you’ll see that the light at the end of the tunnel soon enough.
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 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
Tell me in the comments: Based on your experience, when do newborns get easier? Which milestones made life less hectic?
Track feedings and diapers
Need an organized way to track your baby's latest feedings and diaper changes? Download my FREE printable tracker to help you record feedings and diapers—no more forgetting! The set comes with templates for both breastfed and bottle-fed babies.