I’m going to take this space to freely admit that I was clueless about many things when I had my first living baby. I mean, I’m pretty sure most women are, right? If you’ve never experienced raising a baby, then how could you possibly understand and know everything about it? Sure, you can read about it, talk about it, and even do some babysitting, but like many things in life, you can’t really understand it until you’ve gone through it.
After having made it through Halley’s wonderful but at times tricky newborn phase, there are some aspects about having a newborn around that I will be glad I know if we’re blessed with another baby.
Here are three of the biggest ones!
The Internet Isn’t Always Your Friend
Surprise! Babies don’t come with manuals. Yeah, you knew that, but did you really know that? Like, sure, they don’t come with manuals, but I have the internet! All answers to all of life’s problems can be found there!
When I was about to have Halley, I assumed that, if I needed to figure something out that she was doing (or not doing), I could just turn to the internet and find some answers and recommendations. While that’s largely true, the problem is this:
When it comes to babies, the internet is a confusing place with a gazillion different opinions on every topic and a lot of opinions masquerading as facts.
So, when Halley was writhing around in gas pain and I turned to the internet to find out how to fix her, I was overwhelmed by both all of the possibilities for what could be causing it, and by all of the ideas and opinions about how I should try to help her.
Ultimately, talking to the pediatrician was the best thing to do. I may have gleaned a few helpful tips to try from the internet, but it’s the pediatrician that steered me in the right direction!
You Can’t “Fix” Newborn Sleep
I don’t know if you’ve heard (sarcasm), but newborns aren’t known for letting you get a whole lot of solid sleep.While there are a few things you can try to help orient your baby to the world outside your womb in terms of night vs. day, you can’t really do much else besides go with the flow and sleep when you can.
While I knew that on a deep level, I couldn’t help but think that something was wrong with my baby when, after the first few weeks where she slept pretty much all the time, she was up late every night. She was up for much longer stretches than any book or website says newborns will be up for, and we weren’t going to sleep for the night (with wake-up feeds) until 11 PM, 12 PM, or even 1 AM.
At first, I let that stress me out big time. My baby isn’t getting enough sleep! She’s going to be developmentally delayed if her brain doesn’t get sleep! This has to be wrong! How do I fix it??
Joke’s on you, Joli! You can’t. Newborns sleep when they sleep and that’s pretty much that. Some say you can sleep train at 4 months, but that wasn’t something I wanted to do. So, ,I just followed her lead and, finally, somewhere in the beginning of month 6, she started going down to sleep at a “normal baby” time in the evening.
I experienced SO MUCH LESS STRESS that way. At least from months 0-3, you pretty much just follow your baby’s lead in terms of sleep. Your baby is not broken or wrong in any way because of how he or she sleeps during this time!
The Isolation is Real
I heard so many times, “having a newborn is isolating”. The truth is, I never believed that would happen to me. I had friends, I had family…wouldn’t they be around a lot and keep me from feeling lonely?
To a degree, yes they did. But, think about it: your entire reality is new and different. You’re doing pretty much nothing every day except caring for this new tiny human! You’re not sleeping well, you’re healing from giving birth, and your daily routine is nothing like it was before. Occasional visits from friends and family do break it up, but at some point (probably when you’re exhausted in the middle of the night), you’re going to feel like you’re alone in much of this new thing.
Finding a mom tribe was essential for me. I craved a conversation with someone who was going through the same thing, who could commiserate about how hard breastfeeding can be, talk about healing from a c-section, and laugh about diaper blowouts with me.
I ended up finding the camaraderie I was craving through a couple different things:
- A local parenting center offers “new mama” classes
- Local school districts offer ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) classes for parents with babies and kids of all ages
- Facebook groups – there are a bajillion for every kind of mom!
Life with a newborn is new and nuts and wonderful and hard, all at the same time. I hope that these few things I learned will help a new mama or two!