When do babies get easier? Caring for a baby in the early months is challenging. Learn the milestones that make life easier.
The light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t shining any time soon.
My baby was a few weeks old, nursing all the time, and hardly sleeping at all.
Nights were the worst: My husband and I would sit in our dark bedroom with a wailing baby in one of our arms. With only a small lamp lit, the other one faced the laptop, desperately searching for solutions that might help our baby stretch his sleep or cry less.
It didn’t help when the milestones everyone promised would make life easier came and went. And this doesn’t even count the other household tasks—chores, washing bottles, finding time to eat—competed for our already sleep-deprived attention.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you’re longing for the good ol’ days when life felt normal, not delirious. Where you have a stable routine to rely on, instead of wondering when life with a newborn would ever get any easier.
My friend, you are not alone—the newborn stage is hard for every parent. And “easy” can be elusive as well. Just as your baby finally reaches a milestone, another challenge seems to pop up.
Why are newborns so hard?
Before we dive into when newborns 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 newborns 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, both big and small.
- The shock of new parenthood. Bringing home a newborn disrupts the routine a couple or a family may have had, and so suddenly, too. No longer are you thinking only of yourself or following your own schedule.
- Caring for an older child and a newborn. Never mind you just brought home a baby—you may also have an older child to contend with too. While you likely know what to expect this time around, juggling newborn needs with your older child can be a challenge.
When do babies get easier?
Keep in mind that “easy” can be elusive. Just when one phase is finally done, another one pops up to challenge us.
But generally, babies and kids do tend to get easier the older they get. They’re able to communicate, are more independent and can better understand their environment over time. Babies get easier to entertain, and having a baby actually becomes fun.
While every baby is different, several milestones can make caring for a baby easier. Take a look at a few stages that do just that:
1. Learning the difference between day and night
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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.
2. Smiling for the first time
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. Growing past the Moro reflex
Does your newborn suddenly jerk her arms and flail her legs, sometimes even in the middle of sleep? This is her Moro reflex, a survival mechanism we’re all born with that eventually stops a few months after we’re born.
And when your newborn does, you’ll no longer have to worry about her wild arms and legs startling her awake or bonking her in the face. Swaddles help in the meantime, but once she’s outgrown this reflex, you’ll have one less thing to disrupt her sleep and make her cry.
4. 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.
5. 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.
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“Thank you so much for your articles and insight, Nina. I’ve read your downloadable books:) I love reading what you have to say because I feel like I’m understood and normal. It can be very isolating taking care of a newborn and I just returned to work so I’m ever more frazzled. Thanks for the advice and tips:)” -Rebecca Leon
6. Sitting up on their own
Just as babies holding their heads up helped free up at least one arm, so too does sitting up on their own. Sure, you could always lay them flat on their back just as easily, but sitting up allows them more flexibility.
Sitting up makes bath time 10 times easier since your baby can sit well on his own. He’s also able to sit in a shopping cart, making it that much more convenient to take him on errands.
7. Eating solids
One exciting stage for many parents is when babies start eating solids. While solids don’t guarantee longer sleep, this new experience marks a momentous feat—now the baby isn’t only relying on breast milk or formula.
I loved giving my babies solid food, seeing which ones they liked, and helping them taste and feel new flavors and textures.
8. Putting 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.
Does your baby insist on being with you everywhere? Once she starts to crawl, she can simply follow you around the house, all without fussing to get picked up and carried.
At this stage, babies are so interactive and ready to explore. Having another means of mobility gives her even more reason to be happy and independent.
10. 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 babies 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.
When does having a baby get fun? 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 light at the end of the tunnel soon enough.
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Tell me in the comments: Based on your experience, when do babies get easier?
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