The age old problem of having a newborn that newborns can’t talk. Because of that, they can’t exactly tell you in plain English what they need and want. (Of course, they tell you in other ways, but that’s another story entirely.) And they often don’t sleep much–they wake up at all hours of the night and cry. Being tired all the time is tiring. Because of this, it’s hard to feel as if you’re actually surviving the whole parenting journey–and being a good parent on top of it. But you are!
We asked you on Facebook, our Kveller readers, to offer the advice you’d give to parents of a newborn besides the age-old, nearly impossible advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps?” This is some of what you said:
“It’s OK to hold the baby. A lot of people will tell you your newborn needs to be put down or they’ll never learn to not be held, etc etc. But if you want to hold the baby while he or she sleeps, do it. It won’t hurt the baby and it might help your out of whack hormones calm down. Works for me, at least.”
“You don’t need to “enjoy every moment.” Give yourself some grace and the permission to NOT enjoy every moment, because some moments, TBH, suck. Like a 3 a.m. feeding when you are sick with the flu. Sorry, not enjoyable! No one needs that kind of pressure on top of everything else. And if you need to cry or scream or just need a minute to compose yourself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting your baby in their crib and going outside for a few minutes to breathe some fresh air, or going into your own room and screaming your head off into your pillow. Whatever you need to do to keep your baby safe but also keep yourself sane.”
“When the baby just won’t stop crying and you have tried everything you can (feed, burp, change diaper etc), it’s OK to just put the baby down (in a safe place such as a crib or pack and play) and just walk away for a bit. Sometimes baby may just calm down and fall asleep. Other times after you had had a few minutes to breath and calm yourself then you can go back and try again.”
“The world won’t end if there are dishes in the sink or dirty laundry in the hamper. Taking some time just for yourself is NOT being selfish. And when you do have free time, enjoy your baby! Time goes by way too quickly. And the dishes and laundry will be there when you’re ready. They’re not hurting anyone…”
“This was more for twin moms trying to triage two crying babies, but: If they’re crying, they’re breathing. Sometimes *that* is the best you can do.”
“Attachment parenting saved my sanity. I had not planned to co-sleep with my son but we ended up doing it when nothing else worked. My son is a kindergartner now and he happily sleeps alone, so don’t believe the naysayers who try to warn you that they’ll never leave your bed. Since both room sharing and bed sharing (but NOT sofa-sharing, which is dangerous and should never be done) reduce the risk of SIDS this is something that should be encouraged a lot more than it is.”
“The “connection” is not always instant. We hear all over the place how you just look at each other and BAM! But sometimes that does not happen right away and there is no shame in it. Some people are harder to get to know, even if they have come out of you. If you think it is taking too long, talk to your doctor.”
“Take the prescription for pain meds the doctor offers you on the way home from the hospital. You don’t have to fill it, but it’s much harder to get one after the fact if you end up needing one. And stock your kitchen with things that can easily be eaten with one hand: cheese sticks, trail mix, yogurt smoothies, etc. so you can always find something to eat for a meal if they baby needs to be held!”
“Everyone will give you advice. All the advice undoes all the other advice. So, take my advice: Stop asking for advice. It will drive you crazy. If you want to pick up your baby, pick up your baby. If you want to give the baby a bottle, feed your baby. If you need to put down your baby and walk away even when baby is crying because you’re losing your mind, put down your baby and WALK AWAY. It really is this hard, and there’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique.
Your baby will survive your best efforts and love you for it. Breathe. Take whatever help is offered. Try to remember to close your shirt before answering the front door. No one else can do this as easily as it looks on TV. If they say it’s easy, they’re lying. No matter how this child came to join your family, no one else knows this baby as you do. No one matters more to this baby than you do. Stay off Amazon when you can’t sleep. BREATHE.”
“Postpartum depression is real, you can be helped, and it doesn’t mean you are a bad mother or that you didn’t want your baby. It passes with help and time.”
“Call the nurse hotline on the back of your baby’s insurance card when you have questions. They will give professional advice. Also, avoid googling and mom blogs (especially when you are scared, sleep deprived, and or hungry).”
“Find a good sitter and make a standing bi-weekly appointment with them. Even if it’s just for a nap while they take care of the baby downstairs, find one and keep them! You are a person and deserve a break when you need it.”
“Everything is a phase. Although it often feels like you’re stuck in time and your kid will always be colicky, have temper tantrums, cry with the sitter, fill in the blank. It ALL passes eventually.”
“Keep a journal. Lots of those little moments you are sure you will never forget are often forgotten. My sons are all grown but they are starting to appreciate reading about those early moments too. Its the smallest most personal and many times intimate details of getting to know a new person that trigger a wonderful memory for us and something special for my sons. And I must add: not every little detail was always a warm and fuzzy moment. Sometimes it was not a good day! But it was honest and real.”
Read all of the responses here. If you have a question for a future installment of this series, or your own advice to offer, comment below!