Literally everything is harder within the newborn stage. I'm not even kidding. Just think of something…have it in mind? Yeah, that's harder in the newborn stage too. It's a difficult but tragically short season that every parent goes through/cries through.
You are not alone. Let me just try to prepare you for what you're going to experience during the newborn stage. If you're already right in the thick of it, honey, well, then you're almost through it, believe it or not. Here are some pointers to help you rock the newborn stage like it's no big deal.
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What To Expect During The Newborn Stage
I'm going to break it all down for you. For every thing that I tell you to expect, I'm also going to give you tips on how to prepare for it and how to make it a little easier. I wish I had this advice when I had a newborn baby!
1. Frequent Feedings
Women generally know to expect frequent feedings when they have a new baby on the way. We've been warned by our families and the media and all of the books that we've read. But even so, we are totally unprepared for what “frequent” really means.
In our “pre-kids” world that we lived in before we became moms we thought yeah, “frequent” meant “a lot” instead of the reality which is more like “so much that you will start to believe that you've lost all sense of time and space and are beginning to lose your mind”- or something like that.
Even my own parents who did this already and went through the same newborn stage struggles as I was going though, would say things like “You're feeding him again?” or “Do you really think he's hungry again?” because they've forgotten what “frequent” really means. Maybe it's a coping mechanism that is programmed in our brains so that we don't go around discouraging the rest of the world from having babies.
So, yes, newborns nurse frequently, typically about 12 times in a 24 hour period. These sessions can be 10 minutes long, 30 minutes long, or even seem almost constant over the course of several hours (cluster feeding). Babies may even nurse more frequently than 12 times a day and it may seem like he is insatiable at times. This is because his stomach is so small that it empties quickly.
How To Prepare For Frequent Feedings:
Place that baby on your breast whenever he wants during this stage because The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for nursing on demand and so do I.
These first few weeks are crucial for successful breastfeeding because this early (and difficult) time of nursing will lay down the entire foundation for the rest of your breastfeeding relationship. For many moms who wanted to nurse longer than they did, they will tell you that it all went wrong in the very beginning. Make sure you devour this post on feeding a newborn to really prepare yourself and DO NOT FORGET to read this post full of breastfeeding essentials that will make breastfeeding SO much easier.
- Related Read: Breastfeeding 101: How To Feed Your Newborn
2. Diaper Changes Day And Night During The Newborn Stage
Ahh, yes, the famous diaper changes. The image that flashes before our eyes when we think about having a baby. The task we say we will make our partners chip in with more often this time around. It's the activity that we animatedly prepare for by stocking up on Costco size boxes of diapers and wipes of all sizes before the baby is even born.
There is an easy way to remember how many pee and poop diapers your baby should be having. On the first day of life, expect one of each-one pee and one poop. On the second day of life, expect two of each. The third day? You guessed it, three and three.
Now, this is where counting poops stop but counting pees will continue this way until you've reached the sixth day. From then on, just expect that pees will remain the same. If you're getting at least three poops and six pees every single day (including the middle of the night), you can be confident that your baby is getting enough to eat –because counting diapers isn't just for fun.
How To Prepare For Diaper Changes:
For the first couple of days your newborn baby's stools will be thick and tarry. This dark, sticky poop is called Meconium. The meconium passes within the first week when your milk comes in. At this time your baby's poops become seedy and mustard yellow- weird, but totally normal. It is also normal if your baby's poops are more orange in color or even a shade of green.
I suggest having a diaper-changing station with diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, and hand sanitizer in multiple areas of the house. For me, what worked best was having one in the nursery, one in my bedroom, and one downstairs where we spent most of our time.
3. Puddles Of Milk
Everywhere. On your clothes, on the floor, on your sheets, the list goes on.
Your milk will probably come in between day 3 and 5 after your baby is born. When it does…ooooouch it feels like your boobs just might burst. My breasts were large and in charge but not in the beautiful way that I had imagined it would be. They were lumpy and hard and tender and… uhg, all the memories are flooding back. I think maybe this was an intelligent design because when that happens, you just want relief so you are excited, ready, and willing to nurse your baby.
The puddles of milk everywhere come from a. couple different sources:
Now that your milk is coming in, your baby can ever so delicately remove the milk from your breast at every feeding. Your boobs will start to make exactly how much your baby ingests and it will all be perfect.
Hahaha, just kidding, that doesn't actually happen. Your boobs are going to leak. And not just when you hear a baby crying in the grocery store.
Your boobs are going to leak when you think about your baby, when you talk about your baby, when you look at the clock and think “I wonder if he's hungry” etc. Yep, so all the time is a good expectation. Wear breast pads. You're welcome, because that's some pretty darn good advice if you ask me.
Sorry to disappoint, but leaking is not where the mess stops either. Babies spit up. Their digestive systems are not completely developed and some might have weak esophageal sphincters, or even infant reflux when they are young.
Usually babies grow out of spit up by the time they are 6 months old, but can still spit up until their first birthday in some cases.
Give me all of the burp cloths please. And big ones.
How To Prepare For The Puddles Of Milk:
This one's going to be extensive. Just warning you a head of time. I have so many tips on this subject, I could go on forever.
Create A Routine For Newborn Feedings
To minimize engorgement and leaking, nurse often and try not to skip feedings (even at night). Don't forget to allow your baby to empty the first breast before you switch to the next breast and encourage full feedings rather than small snacks.
Honestly, the leaking does slow down. Once you're on a good feeding schedule and your body kind of figures out what it's doing rather than making milk all willy-nilly all the time, the leaking will become less and you'll only be soaked in your own milk when feeding schedules change, like when your baby begins to naturally skip feedings.
- Related Read: How To Make Life With A Baby E.A.S.Y.
Patch The Leak
Picture this: I'm on an emergency Target run picking up the magic potion Gerber Soothe Colic Drops because when I accidentally let them run out I knew that I could not waste a moment worrying about what I was wearing. I just needed to go to Target–now!
So I waltz right in, with my newborn baby in the car seat that takes up the entire cart and makes the cart basically useless. I'm waiting in line to make my purchase when this lovely little angel of mine starts to cry. I had just nursed him in the car so I wasn't worried that he was hungry but I was stressed that the whole world was looking at me like I'm a bad mom.
Obviously I shouldn't be letting my baby cry in public because I should have complete control over his emotions and outbursts, right? Anyway, my boobs start to leak. I can feel the tingling. I look down and my sweater – yes, my sweater that sat over my bra and shirt, had two wet circles over the center of my breasts.
So what did I do? Well, the only thing I could do. Stand in line with a wet sweater, wait my turn to pay, and act like nothing was out of the ordinary. NBD. Lesson learned. Nursing pads.
Catch the spill
Burp cloths, or like most of the world calls them- receiving blankets– will be your saving grace when your baby is little. Throw one over your shoulder, on the back of the couch, and in your bed. Don't forget to stash a few of them in your diaper bag, at your changing station, and where you do tummy time. Just keep them stationed there all of the time. You never know when it's coming.
Listen, it's normal. No one is judging you and your wet shirt. No one notices that your living room smells like milky vomit. It is ok that you have to wash your sheets every night. Although it's tough, it doesn't last forever. Wearing breast milk is just something that comes along with the ability and the privilege to feed your newborn baby with your own milk.
- Related Read: The Ultimate Guide To Surviving Infant Acid Reflux
4. Sleepless Nights
Night time waking is the consequence of healthy biology and, boy, do babies know it. These tiny babies need us in the middle of the night just as much as they need us during the day, if not more. At night is when the level of your breastfeeding hormone, Prolactin, rises.
Your baby and your body are more connected than you could possibly imagine. Because of the way your bodies function, in the early weeks of your baby's life, he might be hungrier at night. You and your baby were made this way for a reason. Even though it's so hard and you're going to be so tired, just be proud at the realization that your body is working perfectly as it should.
These late night feedings will not only help you build a strong milk supply but also a strong bond with your baby. Nursing stimulates the love hormone, Oxytocin, to be released in your brain and helps you connect with your baby on an emotional level.
How To Prepare For Sleepless Nights During The Newborn Stage:
Rest when the baby sleeps. Notice that I didn't say “Sleep when your baby sleeps” because I totally agree that that is totally annoying. I don't know about you, but if I take a 20-30 minute nap a few times a day, I'm going to be extremely grumpy and probably more drowsy when I wake up. I couldn't nap when the baby napped until he started taking hour-long naps at around 8 months old or so.
What is important that you do is REST. When the baby is sleeping during the day, do yourself a solid and put the baby down for at least one nap a day.
Read a magazine, do your bible study, play on your phone, watch an episode of your favorite TV show. Please don't do the dishes or the laundry or any other annoying chore that is just going to make you more tired or that you can easily do while your baby is awake.
If you aren't resting during the day and you aren't sleeping at night, your body is going to want to shut down. Guess what? It can't! You're a mom now and shutting down is just not an option. Take care of yourself. Stop thinking about the things that need to get done for a little while every day.
- Related Read: Why Every Mom Needs To Make Me Time A Priority
5. Lots of Tears
On your part, and your baby's, right? Maybe you've heard of baby blues but you just know that it won't apply to you because you simply can't wait to be a mom, or you didn't experience it with your first baby, or you're just absolutely certain that you are a better mom than those that feel sad after having a baby.
Stop right there, girlfriend, because you may be surprised to find yourself having feelings that you absolutely never expected when you dreamed about having a family.
You may not have expected your own tears flowing so often, but your baby is going to cry, obviously. Some babies cry all of the time and some only fuss when they need something. You don't know what you're going to get until you get it.
How To Prepare:
I was ashamed to admit that I was struggling after having a baby. Wasn't I was supposed to love every moment? Aren't moms expected to know what to do when their baby cries? I felt like I was. I wasn't supposed to have anxiety and I absolutely didn't expect to be sad.
Well, I was anxious and sad sometimes. Once I finally accepted that this is something I was going through and I needed support, I feel like I quickly got better. I started talking to people who loved and supported me and I told them how I was feeling. Eventually I told them what my struggles were and asked for advice instead of bottling up my feelings and trying to put on my “perfect mom” act every time someone came over.
I'm sure that a lot of the tears come from my expectations were not being met, and my fears that other peoples' expectations of me were not being met. Get past this, mama. Most women struggle through the newborn stage. Most women cry at some point trying to get their baby to sleep or eat or stop crying for five minutes.
Lean on your family, trust your loved ones, phone a friend. You don't have to hide your tears.
- Related Read: The #1 Reason Why I'm Afraid To Have Another Baby
Your Baby's Tears
If you have a particularly fussy baby that cries even when you have satisfied all of the needs you could think of, I recommend pacifier use after the first 2 weeks of the newborn stage without guilt! Please don't beat yourself up because you expected to require no assistance in soothing your perfect baby.
Do you, boo.
Your baby and you will be happier if you are able to soothe him when he is fussy even when you know he is absolutely not hungry. Get rid of your hesitations and make the decision to satisfy your baby's need to suck without being attached to you 100% of the time.
My favorite binky is the Mam pacifiers. Yes, shocking, I know; I'm not recommending the Wubbanub. Trust me, you'll be happy you didn't get your baby stuck on the Wubbanub when your baby needs 6 of them or when he turns into a toddler and wants to run around with an animal hanging out of his mouth.
With or without the binky, there are so many ways to calm the tears of your newborn baby. I have the help you need, including the five S's, the best baby items to buy, and a schedule the predicts your babies needs. Just keep reading, just keep reading, just keep reading, reading, reading.
- Related Read:How To Prepare For Motherhood The Smart Way: Must Have Baby Items Experienced Moms Swear By
- Related Read: How To Make Life With A Baby E.A.S.Y
6. You'll Need Help
Many moms don't get the help they need because they don't want to believe they need it or they don't know how to go about getting it. I totally understand that. I needed so much help and didn't know who to ask. Sometimes I felt uncomfortable asking too much of my close friends and family. I didn't want to inconvenience anyone our sound like I couldn't handle it. Now, of course, I realize how silly that is and I would do things differently the second time around.
You should never feel like you are alone. Ask for help from your visitors. Accept help from the friends that offer. And find a group of mommies that are there to support you, lift you up, and encourage you through the tough and seemingly impossible times during the newborn stage.
How to prepare:
It takes a village.
People will visit and they love to say they want to help but they have no idea how. I found that when people offered to help I didn't even know what to tell them. There were things I absolutely didn't want them helping with, plenty of things that they couldn't help with, and not enough room in my mom brain to remember what I could actually ask for.
One of the biggest pains in the rear when you have a baby attached to your boob is cooking. You don't want to end up malnourished (especially while breastfeeding). If you're not careful, you'll be surviving only on protein bars and fruit because you don't have time or energy to cook or grocery shop. So, please, when someone offers to bring you food at any time of day, accept the offer.
I highly recommend breastfeeding support groups, mommy and me classes, workout classes focused on moms and their babies, and blogs like this one. Having moms that can relate around you is invaluable. I absolutely could not have survived the newborn stage without my supportive husband and my parents who would do anything for me. Aside from them, having an extra support system full of moms was something I absolutely needed.
7. The Love Is Intense
Getting over the hurdles and the mess of the newborn stage is nothing compared to the love that I feel for the baby that I am doing it all for. My mom told me before I had Logan, “You don't know what Love is until you meet your firstborn baby.” What? Yes I do. I love my husband so much, I could not imagine my life without him. I love my mom, my best friend, etc.
But she was so right.
There should be a different word for this relationship between a mother and her baby. It is not love. It's more than that. It's intense, it's constant, it's unwavering, its unconditional in the true sense of the word, and it literally hurts to love someone so much. My heart is just overwhelmed with the love that comes with having a baby.
I'll admit, I've had my days of constant frustration and nights that I cried myself to sleep wondering what I'm doing wrong. But not for one single second of my son's life have I not loved him with every inch of my being. He kept me up all night, changed my body, nursed until my nipples bled, and I never loved him less for it.
And neither will you.
You will struggle, you will cry, you will wonder what you're doing wrong at some point during the newborn stage. But the love, no matter how much you expect it, will be the biggest change in your life. It's going to fly by, mama. Hold onto that baby and get through the tough stuff for the sake of this incredible love.
What were there things that you didn't expect when you had your baby? Tell me about them in the comments!
What To Read Next:
- Breastfeeding 101: How To Feed Your Newborn
- Understanding The Fourth Trimester- Before You Let It Slip Away
- How To Prepare For Motherhood The Smart Way: Must Have Baby Items Experienced Moms Swear By
- The Good, Bad, and The Ugly: What You Need To Know About Postpartum Recovery
- How To Make Life With A Baby E.A.S.Y
- I Thought That Co-Sleeping Wasn't For Me…And I Was So Wrong!
- The #1 Reason Why I'm Afraid To Have Another Baby
- Life With Infant Acid Reflux: What Your Baby Is Trying To Tell You
- Why Every Mom Needs To Make Me Time A Priority