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You’ve just had (or are about to have) a beautiful baby, and you’re exhausted. If you found your way here through a desperate “how to survive life with a newborn” search, welcome here – you’re not alone.
Whether you’re a first-time mom or you’ve been made a mom several times over, life with a newborn is always exhausting, no matter how many times you’ve gone through this phase.
You now have a brand new baby who is totally and completely dependent on you, you aren’t getting adequate sleep (if any at all), and you feel like your life has completely changed.
You haven’t been able to find time to shower in the past week, never mind trying to find some time to spend by yourself, without having to be at your precious baby’s beck and call.
Life as you know it is forever changed, and you’re feeling hopeless and sleep deprived, wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again.
I have good news for you; you will feel normal again. This new life, even if you can’t see it now, will end up being one of the best things to ever happen to you.
But in the meantime, it might get a little rough.
Editor’s Note: This post is a guest post by Amy from Deliberately Here. Thank you Amy, for providing your insight on this topic!
You’re going to have days when you feel like you’re failing as a mom. You’ll have days (weeks?) when you feel like you don’t even like being a mom.
You’ll have moments of hopelessness when you’ve tried absolutely everything and you still aren’t able to calm your crying baby.
It’s no wonder you feel hopeless and like you can’t handle your new role, but there IS hope for the overwhelmed mom. And I want to help you find that hope.
I remember the day my husband and I took our son home from the hospital. We were filled with so much joy, excitement, admiration… and fear.
We were terrified.
The first few weeks feel like a blur looking back now, but when I was in the heat of them they felt like they were drawing on forever.
By three weeks our son had gotten colic and would cry and cry from sun up to sun down. We felt like we were trudging our way through the days as they drug on and on.
My hormones were all over the map, I was struggling with my postpartum healing, and I was suffering from extreme sleep deprivation.
I remember breaking down and crying when my husband would leave for work, somehow managing to make it through the day, then crying and feeling hopeless again at 7 PM because I wasn’t prepared for another sleepless night, but I knew that’s what I was going to get.
Despite being overwhelmed and not knowing how we were going to face another day, we made it through, and I have been able to learn how to not only survive life with a newborn but how to LOVE life with a newborn, lack of sleep and all.
And that’s exactly what I want to help you do today, I want you to stop “just making it” and I want you to be able to start loving this new role God chose for you.
You’ve got this, mama!
Here are my best tips for how to make it through the first few weeks with a newborn:
Get some time to yourself
When you’re a new mom you have a baby hanging off of you all day long and it can feel nearly impossible to get even 5 minutes to yourself. Never mind the fact that you haven’t even had time to shower in over a week.
But, time to yourself is an important factor in ensuring you avoid burning out. Do whatever you have to to get even just 10 minutes a day to yourself where you can go for a walk, read a book, nap, or shower.
Ask your husband to take the baby for a while after work so you can escape for a bit, or ask a close friend to come over while the baby naps so you can get out of the house for a while.
Getting “you time” doesn’t have to mean spending an entire day away from your baby.
As little as 10 minutes of time to yourself doing something you enjoy is enough to regroup and re-energize yourself.
Establish a simple routine
Establishing a bedtime and naptime routine early on is one of the best things you can do for your baby. Humans are creatures of habit, and babies crave routine more than you know.
A simple routine helps your baby know what to expect next. When you have a solid bedtime routine that you follow every night, sooner than later your baby will start to anticipate sleep and get themselves prepared for bedtime as soon as you start your routine.
When you’re creating bedtime and naptime routines for your baby, be sure that you don’t go overboard.
Don’t create big elaborate routines that take upwards of an hour to complete, or else you’ll be likely to drop it pretty quick – especially on nights when you get home late.
Create a routine according to what your baby likes, it could be something as simple as this:
If you follow that routine, eventually your baby will start winding down and getting ready to go to sleep as soon as you start the bath.
Babies will anticipate what comes next, and that’s why creating a solid, simple routine is key.
Keep in mind: don’t do things in your routine that you don’t want to be doing a year from now.
It’s important to keep the same routine day in and day out until you’re ready to stop doing the routine with your child (which likely won’t be for a couple of years, besides a few minor tweaks).
You also want to remember that babies are unpredictable and though they like routine, you can’t expect them to follow the routine to a T for at least a couple of months.
Learn early sleep cues
Babies have certain cues and signs that they start doing as soon as they’re tired, and that is when you want to start their bedtime or naptime routine and get them into bed.
If you wait until your baby is wailing from tiredness to put them to bed you will have a lot harder of a time getting them to fall asleep.
Here are a couple of early sleep cues and signs to watch out for:
- Rubbing their eyes/face
- Making grunting noises
- Heavy eyelids
- Glazed eyes
- Pulling at ears
- Jerky movements
Those are some of the most common early sleep signs for babies, and when you see your baby start to do some of these things you will want to start getting them ready for bed.
As surprising as it may be, yawning is actually one of the later sleep signs, meaning your baby is already past being tired and on its way to being overtired. And that is something you absolutely want to avoid, so it’s important to learn the early sleep signs so you can get your baby to bed before they reach the point of crying from being overtired.
One of the hardest things I did when our baby was a newborn was accept help.
For a while, I refused to accept help because I thought there was some unwritten rule that said I needed to be able to do everything on my own, and if I couldn’t, I wasn’t fit to be a mom.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I just couldn’t do it all on my own.
I was overwhelmed with becoming a mom and even though my world had been turned upside down, life kept moving along and I felt like I was falling behind and drowning beneath a long list of “to-dos”.
It wasn’t until I realized that I wasn’t burdening people by accepting the help that they were offering that I was able to feel like I was finally able to get stuff done.
Your body has been through a whole lot these past few weeks, your hormones in labor peaked to the highest they’ve ever been, then dropped down to the lowest they’ve ever been shortly after giving birth.
With that and all the healing your body is trying to do right now, it’s important to accept help and take some time to just rest.
Remember that this is a short period of time
I struggled so much with the first few weeks as a new mom because all I could see is where I was.
I thought I was going to have nights of less than 3 hours of sleep for the next year and it felt like our baby would be crying all day until he was 10.
With so much going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and only be able to see what’s happening right now. What you need to do is try to look to what life is going to be like in even just a month from now.
This difficult phase isn’t going to last forever, and even around 6 weeks things should start looking up; your baby will start interacting with you and may even start smiling at you.
This stage in your life isn’t going to last forever, it’s going to be gone faster than you know.
So try to give yourself grace and patience and rest during the day so you can have the energy to be up with your baby at night.
Learn to be okay with crying
I’m not suggesting you let your newborn cry it out, but you need to realize that you’re not a bad mom if your baby is crying.
There will come days when your baby will cry and even after you’ve done everything you can think of to soothe them, they will still cry. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.
I would get stressed out by my baby’s crying until I realized this one thing:
Crying is the only way they can communicate.
As adults, we communicate by speaking to one another. Toddlers communicate by saying certain words.
The ONLY way babies can communicate at this point is by crying.
Their crying is (usually) for a reason, whether they’re hungry, tired or have a dirty diaper.
But, there will come times when your baby cries for no reason – and even then, remembering that crying is their only way of communicating will help you handle it easier.
Discover the fourth trimester
The fourth trimester is the first three months of your baby’s life outside the womb.
During this period of time, your baby would ideally still be inside the womb developing, but since babies brains are so big, they have to be born earlier than they would like.
What this means is that for the first three months of your baby’s life it’s important to focus on recreating the environment of the womb so your baby can continue developing as they would inside the womb.
Babies are used to being secured by the soft walls of the uterus, which is why using swaddles is often so calming for babies.
Inside the womb, babies are used to jiggly movements (when moms run up the stairs, walk, etc.) and it’s not as quiet as you may think; babies hear the blood pulsing through your body loudly. This is why your baby may particularly find comfort in being swaddled and rocked or swayed.
You can learn a LOT more about the fourth trimester in the book The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.
(Note from Brandi: we also use the Happiest Baby on the Block video at the Pregnancy Center where I work — it’s a great resource for parents!)
Enjoy this time
If I could give any new mom just one piece of advice it would be to enjoy this time.
Personally, the newborn stage wasn’t my favorite stage. With each month that passes, I seem to be enjoying each new stage more than the last, but I still tried to enjoy the newborn stage as much as I could.
It goes by so, so fast and before you know it your little baby will be sleeping through the night, which means you won’t get any more of those midnight silent moments while feeding and rocking with your baby.
Before you know it they won’t want anything other than to be held in your arms for hours and hours.
And soon, they’ll be talking, walking and becoming independent.
Even if you don’t love the newborn stage right now, I’m willing to bet that one day, in the next few years, you’ll look back and miss these days and you’ll wonder where the time went.
Trying to figure out how to do life with a newborn can be difficult and overwhelming, but it won’t be long before your new baby has settled into some sleeping and eating routines.
And though it might sound minuscule, that will be enough to allow you to get some rest and alone time and help you get some order to your life.
Take care of yourself, take care of your baby, and take care of your marriage. Do your best to balance your life with your new baby while still taking time to nurture your relationships.
Before you know it you’ll find the hidden joys in motherhood and absolutely LOVE your God-given role as a mother.
Amy is a young mother and wife who knows that being a mom is an exhausting, and often, thankless job. Amy is the founder of DeliberatelyHere.com where she is using her skills and passion to help other women learn how to love their role as a mother with helpful tips and resources to encourage and inspire them along the way.