When do newborns 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 or 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. This doesn’t even count household chores—dishes, laundry—that 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. When you had a stable routine to rely on, instead of wondering when life with a new baby would ever get any easier.
My friend, you are not alone—the newborn phase 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. Here are a few reasons I’ve learned:
- 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 do so.
- Healing from childbirth. You may still be healing from the physical stress of having just given birth. There’s all sorts of discomfort going on in the first weeks postpartum. Lack of sleep, a messy house, and wild emotions 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 his needs, both big and small.
- The shock of parenthood. Bringing home a newborn disrupts the routine a new parent 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 that 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 newborns 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 that:
1. When your baby learns the difference between day and night
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In the womb, babies slept disjointed hours, never knowing night from day. This explains the long stretches of sleep during the day, and the frequent wake ups throughout the night. They sleep in erratic patterns throughout 24 hours.
But at around four weeks old, they’ll begin to differentiate day and night and sleep longer during the evenings. This is when you can help your baby stay awake when it’s bright, and sleep for a longer period at night.
The result? You’ll begin to sleep longer when your body needs it (at night) with him doing the same.
Tip: Make the room dark and subdued in the evenings so he has an easier time sleeping in long stretches at night. I bought by light-blocking curtains like these.
2. When your baby smiles for the first time
You probably saw your baby “smiling” in the early days, but it turns out, those cute smirks are actually reflexes. It’s easy to feel like all you do is give, give, and give some more, with not much in return.
But around six to eight weeks, you’ll see a hint of a genuine, gleeful smile, often in response to your own happy face.
Now, smiling doesn’t make life technically 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 smile reveals the joy our babies feel.
Plus those smiles are so cute, they can erase the frustration or sleep deprivation and exhaustion new moms feel.
3. When your baby grows past the Moro reflex
Does your newborn suddenly move her arms and flail her legs, sometimes even in the middle of sleep? She might have even woken herself up, either by startling her awake or smacking herself in the face. It’s hard enough to get her to sleep—it’s even more frustrating when that sleep gets cut short from this motion.
This is her Moro reflex, a survival mechanism we’re all born with that eventually goes away a few months after we’re born.
And when your newborn does outgrow this reflex, you’ll no longer have to worry about her wild arms and legs startling her awake or bonking her in the face. You’ll have one less thing to disrupt her sleep and make her cry.
Tip: In the meantime, swaddle her to keep her arms in place and give her the snug feeling she’d grown used to in the womb.
4. When your baby can hold his head up
In the first few months, carrying your baby meant using both your arms to cradle and support his head. His neck isn’t strong enough to hold his head upright, so you need both arms to carry him around.
But in due time, he’ll be able to hold his own head, making it easier to carry him with just one arm. With at least one free arm, carrying him becomes easier to get things done and move around. Imagine simple conveniences like holding him in one arm while you use the other to open the door.
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.
Tip: In the meantime, a baby wrap is a fantastic way to carry your newborn while keeping your arms free.
5. When your baby can sleep 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 that 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 blessing 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 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. When your baby can sit up on his own
Just as babies holding their heads up helped free up at least one arm, so too does sitting up on their own help with day-to-day life.
Currently, you can only put your baby down on her back or tummy, but in due time, sitting up will allow her more flexibility.
For instance, sitting up on her own makes bath time so much easier, since you can use both hands to bathe. She’s also able to sit in a shopping cart, making it that much more convenient to take her on errands, as well as in a high chair for easy feeding.
7. When your baby can eat solids
One exciting stage for many parents is when babies start eating solids. This new experience marks a momentous feat—now your baby isn’t only relying on breast milk or formula.
Of course, solids don’t guarantee longer sleep, nor is it the main source of nutrition (break milk or formula is, until the one-year mark).
But giving her solids offers other a chance to feed her, which can free up your time. You might also enjoy preparing and introducing solid food, helping her taste and feel new flavors and textures.
8. When your baby can put himself to sleep
I dreaded rocking, swinging, bouncing or shushing my babies each time they had to nap during the day or sleep for the night. I’d take it personally each time they woke up prematurely from a nap, having to repeat the cycle all over again.
That’s why my turning point happened when they no longer relied on those tactics and could put themselves to sleep. Only when I sleep trained them did they stay asleep for the full 10-12 hours at night (and during nap times).
Sleeping through the night and putting themselves to sleep were, by far, the biggest factor that made caring for a baby easier for me. I sleep trained my eldest at six months, and my twins at four months.
Once the babies were able to do both of those, life became normal again. I could simply lay them down awake, knowing they’d fall—and stay—asleep. No longer did I have to repeat the rocking and nursing if they happened to wake up when I put them down in their cribs.
And perhaps most important, I regained those few hours between their bedtime and mine when I had time for myself.
9. When your baby starts crawling
Does your baby insist on being with you everywhere, wanting to be carried if only to move from one place to the next? I can imagine why—if you’re the only way she can get around, no wonder she fusses to get carried.
That all changes once she becomes more mobile, and crawling is the first “step” that allows her to do just that.
Once she starts to crawl, she can simply follow you around the house, all without fussing to get picked up and carried. You’ll also have a new way to play with her, like having her grab a ball or playing peekaboo.
And at this stage, babies are so interactive and ready to explore—this newfound mobility gives her even more reason to be happy and independent.
10. When life becomes your (new) normal again
Remember those first few days and weeks of bringing your baby home? How suddenly and quickly your life felt upended, never knowing if it’ll ever feel normal again?
But as you get used to life with a baby, you’ll notice that you’re “getting your groove back.” That you have a familiarity to your days, a predictability to your routine, and even a chance to do the things you once enjoyed before having kids.
You start cooking again instead of ordering take out or heating up frozen meals. You’re reading more than one chapter in a book and taking the baby out on an errand—all on your own. You’re actually sleeping for more than a few hours at a time.
Life with a baby will be different, but soon you’ll incorporate bits of your old life into your new. You’ll no longer feel tied to baby duties 24/7, 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. She’ll be able to hold her own head, making carrying her and getting things done much easier.
She’ll also learn to sleep through the night, giving you a full night of rest once again (and even a few hours of time to yourself). You’ll find your groove, and life will begin to feel normal again.
She won’t be a newborn forever—she’ll graduate to the infant stage, then grow into a toddler, and before you know it, she’ll be one of the big kids.
Plug through those first few months, and you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel soon enough.
Get more tips:
- When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier? Top Tips to Ease the Pain
- The Ultimate Newborn Shopping List
- How to Get Your Baby to Nap in the Crib
- What to Do When Your 3 Month Old Won’t Nap
- How to Survive the First Few Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler
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