I’ll be the first to admit I hated the newborn phase of my daughter’s life. As a first time mom I had no clue what to expect after nine months of preparing for her arrival. I focused on reading everything about my pregnancy and the baby’s development, but failed to even think about what it would be like when she was actually born. I even meticulously planned out the design of her nursery down to the gallery wall above her changing table, but didn’t think that I would spend hours in that room trying to get her to fall asleep.
I’m not sure what I pictured things would be like when we brought her home. Maybe I thought our baby would be “easy” and when she cried I would know exactly what she wanted, but this was not the reality. Don’t get me wrong, in hindsight Elin was not an extremely difficult baby, but I don’t think I was even prepared for a newborn and all of the work that goes in to keeping them alive and content. I was naïve and chose not to read the typical parenting books. I figured things would come naturally and we would figure things out on our own. While this worked out in the end, I wish I would have prepared myself a bit better on what to expect with a newborn. Below are some of those things I wish I would have known.
- Baby Gas: I figured babies got gas, but to the extent that some babies struggle with gas was something I was completely oblivious to. It seemed every single time after Elin ate she would instantly have gas and struggle to get it out. She would cry in pain and nothing seemed to work. We tried bicycling her legs and massaging her tummy, but she only continued to cry. We bought gripe water and gas drops, but it was only a waste of money. I even went as far as changing my diet for a while and had no luck. The sounds of her cries only continued and it broke my heart not being able to do something to help her. It wasn’t until we tried Gerber Soothe Drops at the recommendation of our pediatrician and started using essential oils that Elin had some relief and turned in to the happy baby she is today.
- Babies Don’t Always Know When They Are Tired: Elin was born 2 weeks early so she slept a lot at the beginning of her life. She would fall asleep when she was tired without any problems. Around 4 weeks she started to become more alert and after awhile would start crying and crying. I assumed if she was tired, she would fall asleep on her own. You know what they say about assumptions… I was so wrong. Now some babies do continue to fall asleep when they are tired, but most babies get overtired and need to be put to sleep before they hit this state. The book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Marc Weisssbluth M.D. really helped me understand newborn and baby sleep habits. The basic premise in the book is to look for a baby’s tired cues—rubbing eyes, yawning, etc. and put them down for a nap at the first sight of any of the signs. The book also talks about making sure the baby’s wake time does not exceed two hours at a time. Once we put in place some of these strategies, Elin’s naps became much easier to handle.
- Breastfeeding: This could be an entire blog post on it’s own. I knew when I was pregnant I wanted to give breastfeeding a chance and would stick with it as long as it was manageable. I quickly found out that breastfeeding is not easy, especially for a control freak like me. Nursing 12 + times a day at the beginning, not knowing exactly how many ounces your baby is getting and feeling like you constantly have to have your boobs out and easily accessible is exhausting. I felt like Elin only looked at me as a food source and then since I was exhausted would give her to her dad and he would get the cuddles and fun time. Clearly some of my postpartum emotions were taking over too! At the beginning I was not a fan of breastfeeding, but set mini goals for myself. If you can get through the first month or so, I promise it gets much easier. We’re almost six months strong of exclusively breastfeeding and I love the relationship and bond it has created between the two of us.
- The range of emotions you will experience: Post partum emotions are no lie. I remember leaving the hospital in the car and just started crying. My husband asked me if I was okay and I replied, “Yes. These are happy tears. I just can’t believe she is ours to keep”. The day Elin was born I felt like life did not matter before she entered it. I didn’t have a real purpose in life before she entered my world and I still feel this way. While I’m so happy she is in our lives, there were times that my emotions weren’t so happy. There were times that I felt overwhelmed and stressed. I didn’t know if I could nurse her one more time, wake up in the middle of the night or hear her cry and not know how to soothe her one more time. Shout out to my amazing husband and mom for helping me get through this time.
- Jaundice: I had heard the term jaundice before, but never understood what it meant when you had a newborn that had questionable jaundice levels. Elin left the hospital and her bilirubin levels were right on the edge for jaundice. We had to go back to get her blood drawn every single day the week we brought her home. It was exhausting having to leave the house each day with a newborn and worrisome each time we waited for what her levels would be. She ended up not having to go under the bili lights, but it still wasn’t easy. Add on top of her higher bilirubin levels, she also lost close to the 10% allotted weight after she left the hospital. Because of this we had to feed her every two to three hours during the day and four hours at night. Most of the time this meant waking a sleeping baby, which is very hard to do. No one ever warned me of all of this!
- Visitors: I knew everyone would be excited to meet Elin and we were excited to show her off, but I had no idea how exhausting visitors could be. We welcomed the visitors, but longed for the day where it would be just the three of us hanging out in our pjs and not showered. We eventually limited visitors to one group a day, which helped a lot. The visitors eventually do slow down and I realize now it is another thing that is part of the newborn phase.
- Don’t worry about a schedule: My personality is very much type A, but I’ve learned to let this go a bit since I’ve become a mother and other situations that have happened in the last couple years of my life. I love a schedule and thought for sure that I’d have Elin on one by the time she went to daycare. I quickly realized that a schedule is non existent with a baby. They eat when they want, they get tired when they are exhausted and play when they want to play. You can’t force them to eat at certain times or have them fall asleep at certain times. Like us they aren’t always hungry at the same times or tired at the same times. While you can’t create a schedule for a baby, you can create a routine. Very early we started a bedtime routine for Elin and I think this helped her sleep through the night at a young age. She knows when her white noise machine goes on and she gets her bedtime belly massage that she will be sleeping soon. We also, for the most part, follow an eat, play, sleep routine during the day. Our daycare provider follows a similar routine, which helps on the weekend to keep consistency.
The gassy baby, sleepless nights, stressing out about nursing, and the crying were all worth the smiles, giggles, and interaction that come after the newborn phase. Remember it is just a phase and what is to come makes all the hard work worth it in the end!
Do you have anything you would add to the list? I’d love to hear!