- Family and Parenting
How to Survive the First Month of Your Newborn's Life
The First Month
The first month of your newborn's life is usually the hardest. You will face lots of challenges all the way through your life as a parent but the first month is hard because you are tired, still recovering from pregnancy and childbirth, still getting the hang of what your supposed to do and crucially your baby will not be sleeping very much at night.
In this article I shall give you some tips to help you cope and enjoy this hard but exciting and magical time. After the first month your baby should start to sleep more, you should be starting to feel stronger and more confident and everything should get easier.
During the Day
If you have a healthy newborn during the day should probably be a lot easier than during the night. When your baby gets older and starts sleeping through it gets harder during the day but for now make the most of your baby sleeping lots during the day and try to rest when you can.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time in the day:
- Keep the things you need to hand- if you will be based in one room invest in a baby storage box. If you are going to be moving around a lot fill a canvas bag up with what you need so you can easily transport them around the house- for instance some diapers, wipes, cream, pacifiers, nipple cream, change of clothes, burp cloths etc
- When you feel up to it try to go for small walks with your baby- you will both benefit from getting some daylight and the gentle exercise is perfect for postnatal women
- Drink lots of water to keep you hydrated- this is especially important if you are breastfeeding
- Sleep during the day when your baby sleeps- I know it's not always practical to sleep for all of your baby's naps but try to get a few naps in
- If your baby is waking up a lot in the night and going for long periods during the day asleep it may be worth waking them up and feeding them every two hours to stop them from becoming 'nocturnal'
- Accept all the help you are offered but your newborn should be with you in this early stage so rather than 'taking the baby off your hands' suggest people help you by cooking/cleaning for you etc
- If you are formula feeding you can measure out all your boiled water into bottles in the morning and then all you have to do it add the powder when it is time for a feed
- Try freezing meals in the run up to giving birth so you don't have to worry about cooking in the early days
During the Night
You cannot and should not expect a newborn younger than four weeks to sleep very long at night- on the bright side they will sleep a lot during the day. When a baby is this young their stomach isn't large enough to hold enough milk to keep them full enough to sleep through the night so you can expect to be kept awake.
Here are some tips to help you survive the lack of sleep:
- A lot of newborns will not go to sleep in their crib but instead like to be held. I think it's OK to do this in the early weeks but try to start a sleep training routine by 6 weeks at the latest
- If your baby falls asleep in your arms after a night feed and then wakes up as soon as you put them down try holding them until they are in deep sleep then put them down- you can test this by lifting up their arm- if it flops straight back down it should be safe to put them down
- Wear a vest throughout the day and then put it over your baby's crib mattress at night- their bed will smell of you and they will feel comforted
- Many newborns are comforted by sounds that mimic the sounds of the womb- some baby's fall fast asleep when a hairdryer or vacuum cleaner is used near them- it might seem a bit far fetched to do this in the middle of the night but when you are desperate for sleep anything is worth a try.
- Sing to your baby- the sound of your voice- even if it's really bad- can often soothe your little one to sleep
- Avoid carrying your baby round, or worse still driving them around, as this could create bad habits that you'll struggle to get out of.
- Stock up on trashy magazines to read and keep you awake during night feeds- especially if you are breastfeeding as breastfeeding actually makes you feel sleepy.
- take a healthy snack to bed with you so you have something to sustain you for night feeds- a cereal bar is convenient
- if you are breastfeeding and all is going well- let your husband/partner sleep through the night feeds so he is more use to you during the day- no point in you both being tired
- if you are formula feeding make sure you and your partner take it in turns to do night feeds