The newborn stage is challenging enough as it is. Get a head start and learn top newborn tips and tricks to help you care for your new baby.
Exhausted doesn’t even describe the newborn days, don’t you think?
Waking up delirious from sleep deprivation multiple times a night. Struggling with the initial discomfort of breastfeeding, all while recovering from childbirth. Wondering if your days will ever feel normal again.
Newborn life also makes you doubt yourself and question every decision you make. Was that a sleep cue? Do I latch him on every time he cries? How many ounces of vitamin D was I supposed to give him?
And despite all the joy and bonding you feel with your newborn baby, parenthood still hits you head on. You feel like you’re starting from scratch, thrust in a job you had little experience preparing for.
Newborn tips and tricks
Truth be told, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into as a first-time parent. I wished for easier days and reminisced about my old life, unsure whether I was even fit to be a mom.
But as with all things parenthood, I learned on the job.
I discovered little hacks that did make those days easier and more manageable. I researched newborn tips and tricks, growing more confident and better equipped to handle a new baby. And I reached out to fellow moms and discovered their secrets to surviving the maddening newborn stage.
Because it turns out, there are certain hacks that make adjusting to motherhood smoother.
Below are the tips I wish I knew from the start. They’re quick wins to help you better manage when you need them most, yet so useful that they make a world of a difference. As one mom said after reading the article:
“I thought I knew a lot after having twin 17 years ago but now I just had my #4 baby and I’m realizing that I did so much wrong with my first 2 babies… Thank you for the tips they’re so informative.” -Dahana Osias
1. Keep your baby awake no longer than 90 minutes
Before I had kids, I figured babies sleep whenever they feel tired. After all, we’ve all seen them fast asleep in any environment at all hours of the day and night. I assumed that they’d simply fall asleep when they needed to.
So, when I had my first, I assumed just as much. I didn’t follow any type of routine, much less looked at the clock to see how long he’d been awake. I’d take him to family parties late into the night, and didn’t track patterns in our day.
Well, it turns out, babies don’t always fall asleep when they’re tired.
In fact, when mine felt cranky and overtired, he’d get upset cry. This, of course, made it even harder to put him to sleep. I couldn’t lay him down in the crib or bassinet drowsy and awake. Instead, I had to cradle and rock him in my arms for naps or feed him to sleep.
I later learned that babies can only stay awake for so long. And more importantly, they don’t “just fall asleep” when they feel tired. If they’re too stimulated, hungry, uncomfortable, or overtired, they have a harder time falling asleep.
The lesson? Be more conscious of how long your baby is awake. An hour and a half is about the most he can stay awake. Don’t hesitate to put him down for a nap, even he’d only been awake for a short while. He’ll soon sleep better and welcome his next nap, rather than feeling cranky and overtired.
When I had twins a few years after my first, I remembered this handy trick. I avoided keeping them awake too long, making them easy sleepers from day one. Sure, this isn’t always convenient, especially if you feel stuck at home, but it can make a huge difference with how easy it is to put your baby to sleep.
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2. Onesies can also be pulled down during messy accidents
Nearly every onesie will come with those envelope flaps near the collar. At first I thought this was to accommodate different-sized heads and to make it more comfortable for the baby to have a shirt pulled over his head.
Turns out, those envelope flaps are much more functional than fitting over your baby’s head. They allow you to pull the onesie down.
Normally, you’d undress him by lifting the onesie over the head, but from time to time, you’ll face the dreaded poop burst. One so full it spills out of the diaper and onto the onesie—not exactly something you’d want to pull over his head.
The envelope flaps allow you to pull the onesie down over his shoulders, removing it without going near his head.
3. Eliminate gas with the elbow-to-knee trick
One of the biggest challenges with caring for a newborn is the baby’s gas and digestion. My little guy had a serious case of gas, so much so that it was difficult to put him to sleep. I felt helpless, unsure of how to help him when he fussed and cried.
Nothing seemed to work. That is, until I learned the elbow-to-knee trick, which instantly removed his gas. Every time I’d touch his elbow to the opposite knee, he’d give a little fart, then another when I repeated with the opposite limbs. It seemed like a miracle!
So, here’s how you do it:
- Lay your baby down on his back.
- Move his right elbow and left knee toward each other as if they were going to touch.
- Do the same with the opposite elbow and knee: Move his left elbow and right knee toward each other.
- Alternate a few times until he stops farting.
Hopefully each time you connect one elbow to the opposite knee, he’ll fart and expel some gas. This will keep him be more comfortable and better able to sleep.
4. Feed your baby after he wakes up
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It didn’t take long for me to see that my baby would fall asleep while nursing. I even prided myself for being the only who could put him to sleep—I had “mama’s touch,” I assumed.
Trouble is, he’d only fall asleep through nursing (or rocking). Nap times became horrendous—I’d spend several minutes rocking him to sleep only for him to wake up the minute I put him down.
This also made nap times short. Forget about two-hour naps—each time he stirred, he wouldn’t know how to put himself back to sleep. I’d resort to rocking or nursing him all over again, making both of us miserable and sleep deprived.
Then I read Tracy Hogg’s E-A-S-Y technique (eat/awake/sleep/you). Rather than feeding your baby to sleep, you’d feed him after he woke up.
At first, I was doubtful. This was, after all, one of the surefire ways I could put him to sleep. But when I saw how much he relied on external aids to fall asleep, I knew I had to try a different way.
I then changed my routine. Rather than feeding him to sleep, I fed him after he woke up, which allowed him to try to fall asleep on his own. He stopped associating nursing with sleeping and instead expected to eat when he woke up.
Here’s how it works:
- Feed your baby (eat) after he wakes up (awake) so he’ll have energy for awake time.
- After he has been awake a while, put him to sleep drowsy but awake (sleep). He can explore different ways to put himself to sleep, such as sucking his thumb or pacifier, or rocking his head side to side.
- Once he’s asleep, you can tend to yourself (you) and repeat the cycle.
5. Track your baby’s feedings and diapers
During your first appointments, your pediatrician will likely ask a few questions about your baby’s progress, like:
- what types of bowel movements she’s had
- how often she pees
- how many ounces of milk or minutes she nurses
If you breastfeed, you’ll want to track how many minutes she nurses and on which breast. If you bottle-feed, then it’s about tracking how many ounces she drinks. For accurate answers, record her feedings on paper or an app so you don’t have to pull the information from memory.
Track when and how often you change diapers, too, including details like the color and texture of poop. Not exactly enticing, but necessary.
Tip: In the first few weeks, you can use cotton pads and warm water as wipes to avoid irritating sensitive skin.
6. Find alternative ways to hold your baby
The first day I was home alone with my twins felt like a juggling act. With two babies to care for and only one set of arms, I needed to bounce between one to the other to get them to sleep.
Because a baby’s preferred position? In our arms.
And yes, the snuggling feels good, but isn’t sustainable. After all, you need your arms to get things done, from using the restroom to preparing food. And it’s not always safe to fall asleep holding your baby.
Instead, use other techniques to hold and comfort him. I relied so much on baby gear to hold my babies, giving me time to tend to the other twin or catch a break. These are the items I recommend the most:
- Swing: The swing was perfect for lulling my babies to sleep, where they often fell asleep for a nap. The motion soothed them when nothing else seemed to work, or at least kept them entertained during awake time.
- Baby wrap: A baby wrap allows you to keep your baby close while freeing your arms to do other tasks.
- Stroller: Many babies will fall asleep in a stroller, making for convenient errands or a walk around the block.
- Infant cushion: An infant cushion uses the baby’s weight to give the feeling of being held.
Using several baby items to hold your baby is also convenient so that, should he fuss with one, you have other options handy.
7. Swaddle your baby for better sleep
For months, your baby got used to the tight spaces of the womb—going from the fetal position to lying flat on his back isn’t the easiest transition. He also has the Moro reflex, or the sudden flailing of the arms that can startle him awake or even hit him on the face.
Enter the swaddle.
By wrapping your baby in a blanket, you’ll prevent his arms from flailing and waking him up. And by recreating the snugness of the womb, you’re more likely to help him sleep longer stretches.
Here’s how to swaddle your baby:
- Place a square swaddle blanket (like these Aden+Anais ones I loved) flat on a surface like a diamond.
- Fold the top corner down 5-10 inches towards the middle so that the diamond now looks like the top part got cut off.
- Place your baby on top of the swaddle with her neck aligned with the straight line you folded.
- Keep her arms straight next to her body. Then, fold the left corner of the swaddle over her body and tuck it under her back. Her left arm should still be free.
- Fold the bottom corner up and over her left shoulder, tucking it inside the swaddle.
- Holding her left arm down, fold the right corner over her arm and entire body, tucking the flap into the swaddle.
For a more convenient option, use a Velcro swaddle blanket or the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit. Both keep her snug, are less likely to come undone, and take less steps—especially useful in the middle of the night.
Worried that she won’t learn to self soothe by sucking her thumb if her arms are swaddled? One trick is to unswaddle one or both arms, or resort to swaddling only when she’s fussy rather than as a regular part of your bedtime routine.
And swaddle her before feeding you can keep her in a drowsy state and put her down directly.
8. Use white noise so your baby doesn’t startle
In the womb, your baby heard a constant white noise, from the beating of your heart to the muffles of the outside world. But now, he wakes up over the slightest sound.
This is when white noise comes in handy.
I learned the magic of white noise early on, when the continuous hum of a fan would help my baby sleep much longer. I could shuffle around the house without tiptoeing for fear of making a sound, and I didn’t have to worry about noises from the neighbors.
To make white noise, place a fan or heater in the room your baby is sleeping in to help him fall and stay asleep. Not only is the white noise comforting, it also muffles sounds from elsewhere. You can also get a white noise machine so you don’t affect the room’s temperature:
9. Let your baby take long naps
You may have heard that you should have your baby nap in a bright room during the day to help him learn day from night. The idea is that you’d avoid long naps during the day that he ought to reserve for nights.
Yes, you want him to sleep longer at nights, but you want him to take long naps, too. This will allow both of you to get much-needed rest, even if it’s during the day. Besides, rarely does a baby nap for five or more hours during the day (I can count twice for mine).
And if you truly want to avoid these long naps, then simply wake him up when they’ve gotten too long.
Another benefit of a dark room? The darkness signals that it’s nap or bedtime, creating a trigger that will cue him for sleep.
Welcoming a baby can be one of the most challenging periods in a parent’s life. While nothing can make the hardships disappear completely, we can rely on newborn tips and tricks to make those months much smoother.
As a recap, here are the tips we learned:
- Onesies can also be pulled down during messy poop accidents.
- Expel gas with the elbow-to-knee trick.
- Keep your baby awake no longer than 90 minutes for better sleep and less fussiness.
- Record feedings and diaper changes to monitor his progress.
- Feed him after he wakes up to reduce the reliance on feeding to sleep.
- Find alternative ways to hold him to free up your arms.
- Swaddle him for longer stretches of sleep.
- Use white noise to muffle outside noises that might startle him awake.
- Allow him to take long naps, hanging darkening curtains to help.
Taking care of a newborn is tough enough as it is, but with these newborn tips and tricks, you’ll have an easier time caring for your baby.
Get more tips:
- How to Survive the First Few Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler
- Burping a Newborn After Breastfeeding: Necessary or Not?
- 12 Things to Do When Your Newborn Keeps Fighting Sleep
- How to Get Your Baby to Adjust Using a Newborn Schedule
- Clever Solutions to the Newborn Witching Hour
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