Ok, brace yourself for this post. I am going to tell you everything you need to know to survive your first few weeks of mommyhood, also known as “surviving the newborn stage”. Ready?
The very, very first thing you need to know is that it is not, I repeat NOT going to be like in the movies, where you have this gorgeous little baby in your arms who sleeps all the time and all you have to do is cuddle him while he looks adorable.
Being a new mom is hard work. And, the bad news is, there’s not much you can do against it. Even with preparation, this is going to be a tough time.
Ok, now that you are nice and scared, let’s do this! Here are the different things you need to know to survive the newborn stage:
1 – You’re going to be in pain
You’ve just given birth. Take a moment to realize exactly what that means. You have given life to another, tiny human being that you grew in your womb for the past 9 months. Your uterus got stretched, your bowels were shoved around, and your lungs were pushed out of the way to make room for that little ball of love.
And then you had to push it out of you. A small human being was pushed out of your body.
So yes, you are going to be in pain, and it doesn’t matter if you had a natural birth or a c-section. Either way, your body is going to feel like it got hit by a train. The effort required to give birth, and the stress it engenders is going to leave you feeling wiped out.
Yes, it’s all worth it, because you finally get to hold that little lump in your arms and give him all the kisses you’ve been aching to. But it doesn’t make it any less tiring and painful. You might not actually feel the pain and exhaustion until later because of the excitement of meeting your little one, but it’s there. It will catch up to you, and you will feel sore. You might have trouble walking, and it might be painful for you to hold your mini-me in your arms.
But it will pass. It might take a few days or weeks, but it will pass. Just hang in there
How to survive
If you are in severe pain, ask a doctor what kind of painkiller you can take. If you are breastfeeding, then some painkillers are not indicated. Talk to a doctor.
If the pain is bearable, just try to ride it out. You wil quickly notive that some movements induce pain, while certain positions allow you to forget that you were ever in pain at all.
Try to remember what movements bring pain, and what soothes it. Try to make a conscious effort when you move to allow your body to tell you what’s working and what isn’t.
Remember, you just put your body through a tremendous amount of stress, and it needs time. Give it. Be gentle to it, and take the time you need to recover. Ultimately, as with any injury, the gentler you are and the more patient you are with your body, the faster it will heal.
2 – You’re going to be exhausted
As mentioned briefly in the previous section, you are going to be exhausted. And if you ever thought before in your life that you had been tired, you’re going to realize how sorely wrong you were.
I don’t mean to discourage you, but remember those times you went out to the club and got home, pooped beyond all reason, at 6 in the morning?
Yeah. You’re going to feel like that a lot. All the time, actually. Except you won’t have had the party stuff before that had made it all worth it. Now you’re going to be exhausted because you went through labor, and before you could catch your breath, a tiny little newborn was thrust into your arms. And from that point on, you won’t have a second to yourself.
Chances are that your baby will not sleep through the night for a few months, so neither will you. During the day you’ll have to feed him every few hours as well, and rock him when he cries, try to sooth his tummy troubles, and desperately try to figure out why he’s crying when you’ve already tried everything.
This is going to be a mentally and physically trying periode.
How to survive
Wait – what? You just said I wouldn’t be able to!
Yes, I know. You won’t be able to have nice, restful nights, and your days will be a blur of trying to keep the baby happy.
But you are going to need sleep. So many times I hear new moms say that they dont want to sleep during the day, because they are afraid they will miss something with the baby. Or they’re afraid then they won’t be able to sleep at night. Or they think they’re going to get into bad habits.
But you will lose it if you don’t sleep, that’s for sure.
So allow yourself to sleep during the day. You won’t miss out on aynthing. If the baby needs you, he will know how to alert you. Believe me. They’ve got built-in alarm systems, there’s no way you’ll miss it.
And you will be able to sleep at night. Right now, you are trying to survive the newborn stage, remember? Your body needs sleep. Listen to it, it knows what it needs. And believe me, the 15 minutes you’ll be able to close your eyes this afternoon will not take anything away from the 75 minutes you’ll be able to sleep this evening.
And you’re not getting into any bad habits. The newborn phase doesn’t last forever, and neither will the feeling that you just can’t stay awake. Give into it and sleep while you can.
3 – Your newborn will cry
And you won’t understand why. You fed her, changed her, burped her, and she just woke from a 2-hour nap. She should be happy, right?
Well, sometimes newborns just cry. Remember that a few days ago she was in a warm, cozy little spot that was all hers, and suddenly she was thrown into a harsh, cold world where all the noise and light isn’t filtered for her anymore.
Of course she’s upset.
And feeding, changing or burping her won’t help. What’ I’ve found was the only thing that helped with my children was simply to hold them, whisper to them while holding them close to my heart, caressing their cheek and giving them gentle kisses.
They are overwhelmed with everything going on around them, so make sure to take it slow, speak slowly and gently to them. It will sooth them, and they will recognize your voice from when they were in the womb. It can make a big difference for them, to hear that familiar voice through all the chaos around them. So give them that small comfort.
How to survive
By expecting this.
I so often hear young mothers wondering if they should pick their baby up and sooth her, or let her cry and sooth herself, like you hear so often.
I understand that you may want an older child to learn to sooth themself, especially once they’ve learned that they can manipulate parents by crying.
But we’re talking about a newborn here! They haven’t learned all that yet, and if they’re crying, there’s a visceral reason for it. Your baby is not manipulating you. They need something. And yes, sometimes that something is for you to hold them, But at this point in their life, it’s a need just as vital as drinking and sleeping.
So hold them. Sooth them. Talk to them, sing to them.
No, you are not going to create a needy baby that will never want to be set down, and that will only fall alseep in your arms.
Not at this stage. Yes, that’s something you might want to pay attention to, but later, after a couple of months. Right now, they need some contact and some love.
4 – Breastfeeding can be painful
I had no idea and was not prepared for it. When I had my son, I got really bad cracked and bleeding nipples, even though we had the proper position and he was latching on properly. I got to the point where I dreaded feeding time because I was in such pain the whole time he ate.
I had tried everything the doctors told me to, but nothing helped. Finally, I stopped and switched to formula because I just couldn’t take it anymore.
When I had my daughter, I tried again, thinking this time would be different because I would have the right position from the start.
It wasn’t. It was just as painful, and my nipples started to crack and bleed again, despite my care.
So be prepapred. If, like me, you have very sensitive nipples, then you might not be able to do anything against it. Don’t let it make you feel bad about switching to formula. They have made tremendous progress with artificial milk, and newborns get all the nutrients and vitamins they need from it too.
How to survive
Make sure you ask your doctor or a lactation expert to show you the correct position, and how your baby should latch on. It will make all the difference in the world, as the baby not latching on properly increases the probability of a painful feeding.
Make sure you pay attention to all they explain. It’s important, for example, to break the suction from your baby’s mouth before you pull him away. Pulling him away before will pull on the nipple and might cause cracking and bleeding.
Also, changing positions at every feeding will help, as the pressure from the baby’s mouth won’t be focused on the same part of the nipple every time.
Applying lanolin oil to your nipples will also sooth them, and help prevent cracks.
Again, make sure you ask your doctor or lactation specialist, and if you feel any particular pains in your breasts, make sure to tell them and ask what can be done. Don’t be shy about asking these questions, it can save you a lot of pain.
5 – Get organized ahead of time
This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but bringing a little human being home from the hospital actually creates a lot of chaos in the home.
When I brought my son back, I wasn’t quite prepared for that. I mean, he’s tiny, doesn’t move on his own, and sleeps all day. How hard can it really be, right?
Wrong. So, SO wrong.
As mentioned above, this is a really trying time for you. You are going to be in pain, you are going to be exhausted, your baby is going to need you to hold him, sometimes for hours on end for no particular reason.
You’re going to watch the laundry pile
How to survive
Get organized ahead of time. If you live with your partner, and you usually do most of the housework, now is the time to ask him to pitch in a bit more. If he doesn’t know how to do laundry, show him ahead of time of time how to sort it and use the machine.
Consider opening an account with an online store so you can get your groceries delivered to your home.
Look up recipes online that are easy to make, use few dishes, and that you can make a lot of ahead of time and freeze. This will save you a lot of time later, when you just won’t have the time or the energy to cook.
So make huge pans of everything you’re making, then freeze it in single portions that you can then take out and heat up whenever you need it.
If you haven’t already, set up seperate baskets for each color for laundry so can directly throw the clothes into the correct basket, and you don’t need to sort them out anymore. Then, whenever you see that one color is piling up, just throw it in the machine and turn it on.
But again, if you can, have someone help you. Which brings me to my next point:
6 – You will need help
If you’re anything like me, very proud, over-achieving and stubborn (but
Or you might feel like you have to, especially if you’re young. You might feel like asking for help is an admission that you weren’t ready to be a mother, and that you’re admitting that all the people who gave you crap were right.
Well, here’s a secret for you that I wish I had known years ago, when I was pregnant with my son:
EVERY SINGLE NEW MOTHER NEEDS HELP, REGARDLESS OF HER AGE
And this is true whether the pregnancy was planned or not. Whether she’s 18 or 38. It doesn’t matter. Being a new mom is hard. And there is no shame in asking for help!
If you’ve got a partner, then make sure he knows that you’re going to need him more in the following weeks. If you’re single, have your family or friends around to help.
Maybe even ask someone to stay with you for the first few weeks, or you stay with someone. It will make a huge difference for you. You’ll be able to take breaks to sleep, to eat warm meals instead of cold ones that have been lying there for the past hour.
How to survive
Don’t be ashamed. As I said, every single mother needs help in the beginning. The fact that you are a young mom, the fact that your pregnancy wasn’t planned, or the fact that you are single does not factor in here.
You are going through one of the toughest times in a mother’s life, so give yourself so credit. You don’t have to do this all on your own.
And once again, I know you may feel like you’re telling all those people who gave you crap that they were right all along, but you know what?
They’ve never been so wrong in their entire life. You’ve made it this far. You’ve given birth (or are about to) to a little human being, that you grew inside you over the past 9 months.
You are a warrior! Those people giving you a hard time? They can’t fathom the strength it takes to go through with what you’re doing.
Take some time to let that sink in. You are stronger than they ever will be.
So don’t doubt yourself.
And don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
7 – You’ll doubt yourself
There is now so much information everywhere, so much you didn’t know or had even thought about that it can make you feel inadequate. I know I do sometimes.
When I see posts about “being a rockstar mom”, “10 things every mom needs to do” and so on, I’ll admit to feeling like a cave woman.
I kind of grunt, and go: “well, my kids are alive. And our home is still standing. That counts for something, right?”
I’m not saying these posts don’t have really valuable information. A lot of them do.
But I am saying that you don’t need to read them or implement what they say to be a rockstar mom. Yes, being a mother is hard work, absolutely. And sometimes, seeing how others make it work helps.
But sometimes it does the opposite and makes you feel bad that you aren’t doing things the same way, and that you can’t get your 1-week-old baby to go to sleep by snapping your fingers in just the right way.
And sometimes it’s really hard to keep up that confidence, and trust that we are doing the right things.
How to survive
Remember that human beings have been having babies since long before the internet and Pinterest. We know how to do this. It’s in our blood.
Trust your gut, your instinct. Resist the urge to google “why isn’t my 3-week-old baby walking yet? Is there something wrong with him?”
No. Your baby is fine, and you need to stop reading about “miracle babies” and “superstar parents” who are doing everything better than you are.
You’re doing just fine. If your baby is healthy, is eating and sleeping properly, then that’s really all you need to know.
If you worry about your baby’s health, if you’re worried that he’s not gaining enough weight, or you’re worried about him not sleeping enough, then call your doctor. Don’t google it, and certainly don’t read posts about it on Pinterest.
Again, unless you think that there’s something wrong with your baby’s health, you’re doing just fine.
Which brings me to:
8 – Don’t compare yourself to others
This is similar to the previous point, but as it’s so important, I’m rephrasing it for you here.
You’re going to read and hear about a lot of parents who seem to “have it all under control”, and are somehow managing all of this parenting stuff while still managing to do their hair, full make-up and nails in the morning, while baking a cake in the oven, while the meat and vegetables are cooking on the stove.
Don’t compare yourself to them. There are so many reasons they might be managing the way they are, and the first could very simply be that they’re not. They could be exaggerating by quite a bit. Not to say that they aren’t doing well, just not quite as well as they want you to believe.
They might also have had a baby before, and were better perpared this time around. Or they might have a different family situation, with parents or in-laws who stay with them.
There are a thousand reasons why they might be doing what you feel is “better”.
How to survive
Keep all those reasons in mind when you do come across these kinds of posts, or when you hear about someone who came straight out of a Disney movie.
Once again, if your baby’s healthy, and you’re all getting by, then you ARE DOING FINE. Don’t let anyone else tell you or make you feel otherwise.
You are doing an amazing job with your little one, and you’ll have plenty of time later to make up for all the stuff you can’t do right away.
So stop looking at others and comparing yourself to them. You are the mother your baby needs, and what you are doing for her is enough.
In the end
Surviving the newborn stage can seem impossible when you are in its midst. It can look like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, and you begin to wonder how you ever thought you could do this.
You being to wonder how humanity ever survived for so long. How could the species continue on after going through this?
And all of a sudden, it’s over. You get into different habits, your baby grows and things get every so slightly easier every day. You keep going, one day after the other, and before you know it, your baby’s sleeping through the night and you’re an expert burper and diaper changer.
Like so many other things in life, it gets easier with time. Just hang in there, and follow the advice in this post. Ask for help when you need it, take a nap when you can. Give yourself, your body and your baby some time to adjust to this new situation.
You just went through MAJOR change in your lives, it’s unreasonnable to expect things to begin running smoothly from the get-go.
Some take some time, and give yourself a break. You’ll do just fine.
How about you? What advice do you have for new moms? Let me know in the comments down below, I’d love ot hear from you!