Have you heard about the notorious newborn stage? Or maybe you’re already experiencing it?
The sleep deprivation, the colics, the cries… Well, as it turns out, it doesn’t have to be this way.
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When my older daughter was a newborn I was a complete wreck. She cried all night, every night. I had no one to ask for help or advice. I was so tired and desperate I didn’t even think of looking for the answers online. But time passed and I found a way to make it easier.
Now with my second baby, I am more confident and I was able to get myself together and actually enjoy the newborn stage.
So if you’re struggling like I used to, or you’re still expecting and you want to be able to remember the newborn stage with a smile, keep reading ahead and let me tell you how to make the newborn stage easier.
How long is the newborn stage?
A baby is usually considered a newborn until it gets two months old. Many people believe that these 8 weeks are the hardest.
I also used to believe that.
I remember wondering when does caring for a newborn becomes easier. Well, the harsh truth is that it doesn’t.
But you find your rhythm and things just naturally fall into place. It’s just a matter of proper preparation and a positive mindset.
10 tips to survive the first weeks with a newborn
1. Ask for help
If you’re anything like me, you won’t even think about letting anyone else care for your newborn baby. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help.
Whether it’s your partner, family, or close friend, there are many tasks that you could outsource so you don’t have to deal with them.
- Shopping (you could still prepare the shopping list)
- Laundry/Ironing/Folding clothes
- Taking the older kids to the kindergarten/school/playground
2. Involve your partner
Long gone are the days when the kids were solely a mother’s responsibility. Your partner is as much a parent as you are so try to involve them as much as possible.
And while they can’t breastfeed, they can take part in pretty much everything else. You could safely ask them to bathe the baby, put it to sleep, change it, bottle feed it, or just entertain it during wake times.
Keep in mind, though, that many men are “allergic” to crying babies and dirty diapers, so don’t push them too hard. Let them help with what they are comfortable with.
3. Involve your older kids
When a new baby comes to the family, it is quite common that the older kids start feeling jealous. To avoid that, try to involve them so they can feel needed and important.
My kids have 1 year 8 months age gap. While we did try to talk to the older sister about the baby, she is just too young to understand what it really means. So we took another approach.
We act like nothing really changed.
To avoid jealousy just keep the older child around while you’re taking care of the baby. You could talk, sing, or look at their books or flashcards. Ask them to bring you something you need or throw away a dirty diaper.
If you have any bedtime or other routines, keep them going. This will show them that they are just as important as before the baby arrived.
4. Create a bedtime routine for the baby
For a newborn, daytime and nighttime are relative terms. They can easily sleep all day and then stay awake longer at night.
If you want to go back to sleep at night as soon as possible, you will need to ease them into a routine that is comfortable for both of you.
Here are a few easy and practical tips to help you out:
- Don’t rush it. For your baby everything is new and changes are happening all the time. If you want a calm and happy baby, don’t overwhelm them. Give them time and don’t expect miracles after a couple of days.
- Create a routine that will hint them it’s time for bed. For us, this includes bath, massage, putting on the PJs, and then feeding. This routine happens only in the evening and after a week I can already see that it’s easier for her to fall asleep afterwards.
- Aim to start the routine around the same time. However, don’t stress too much on the time for the first couple of months.
- Keep them close to you at night. Newborns need to feel their mom is close by. Keeping them closer to you at night will calm them and will allow you to go back to sleep sooner after you feed or check on the baby. A good option for the first several months is a side-sleeping crib that you can attach to your bed.
- Keep them sleepy during nighttime feedings. Try to keep the night feedings as quiet as possible so you don’t fully wake the baby. If you want to watch or listen to something to help you stay awake opt for earphones.
5. Sleep when the baby sleeps
I bet you have heard this one a thousand times already. But you know what? It’s damn good advice.
You are probably thinking the same things I did the first time around? If I sleep when the baby sleeps, when will I cook, eat, take a shower, do the dishes, the laundry…
Well, remember #2? And you don’t have to go to bed every time the baby falls asleep. Still, a couple of naps during the day can do miracles, especially if you have a colicky kid and you’re hardly sleeping at night.
6. Prepare for frequent feeds
During the newborn stage, your baby’s stomach is so tiny that they need to eat every 2 or 3 hours. And if you’re bottle feeding the struggle can be real.
As a first time mom I used to get up at night, go to the kitchen, warm water, count the formula spoons (which is harder than it sounds when you’re half asleep), then go back to the hungry, crying, and now fully awake baby. Doesn’t sound nice, does it?
Soon after, however, I learned several tricks that made bottle feeding a lot easier.
- Get several bottles. This way you don’t have to wash and sterilize the bottles immediately after feeding. Instead, just grab a new one and clean them all in the morning.
- Get two thermos flasks. Fill one with hot water and one with cold water and mix them in the baby bottle. You could use one with water prepared at the right temperature but keep in mind that most flasks won’t hold the exact temperature for more than 3-4 hours.
- Get a formula powder dispenser. Fill the containers with the exact amount of formula powder for each feed.
Arrange everything in a feeding station on your nightstand. You could add a couple of clean nappies, baby wipes, and a clean set of baby clothes.
Personally, at night I only change the baby’s diaper if she has pooped or it’s soaking full. Most of the time I just feed her so I don’t fully wake her. And myself, for that matter.
Oh, and one benefit of bottle feeding! You could take turns feeding the baby. This way you could get a bit longer sleep at least once in a while.
7. Keep track of feedings and diapers
During the newborn stage, you would need to ensure that your baby is well-fed and gaining enough weight. And believe me when I say that you won’t be able to just remember it. You would need to write it down. At least for the first few weeks.
There are two easy ways to track the number and time of feedings and diapers.
In a journal
I used to do this with my first baby. I entered the start time of feedings and the number of pooped diapers for the day.
On the pro side, this allowed me to keep all my data in one place, my journal. The downside was that I had to keep it around me at all times, otherwise I would forget to enter some of the feeding times.
In an app
This time I’m using a mobile app as I decided to try a bit more automated approach. The one I’m using is called simply Baby Tracker and allows you to track feeds, sleep, diapers, playtime, medication, and much, much more.
And the best part is that it’s absolutely free!
8. Try a baby carrier
If taking a break is just not in your nature and you want to continue living at (almost) full pace, consider getting a baby carrier.
It will allow you to get things done while your baby is snuggled safely against your chest. Among other benefits of the baby carriers is that they are known to reduce colics. Plus hearing your heartbeat also has a calming effect on your baby.
For newborn babies, it is recommended that you opt for a soft wrap. However, tying it around you could be quite intimidating at first.
If you’re not sure whether the baby carrier is something you will be comfortable with, you could rent one for the first few weeks. The consultants renting the wraps will also be able to advise you on which wrap will best suit your needs, as well as how to put it on properly.
9. Start a baby diary
A baby’s first year is full of so many joyful events that you’ll want to remember for the years to come. But if you’re only sleeping 4 hours a day your mind could easily start forgetting things. Even important ones!
What brought the baby’s first real smile? When did you start tummy time and how did your baby feel about it? When did your baby start cooing? What did it sound like?
Your diary doesn’t have to be something fancy and expensive. A simple journal will do just fine.
And if you want to make things even more special, consider taking milestone photos to mark these special events. If you have a printer at home, you could grab my baby milestones cards pack for free.
10. Never forget to take care of yourself
Yes, having a newborn at home probably won’t leave you enough time to go to the hairdresser or to get your nails done professionally.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t find tons of ways to treat yourself at home during naptime. Take a relaxing bath, do some low impact exercises, or call a friend to chat.
Your good mood and mental health are crucial if you want to go through the newborn stage with a smile.