OK, let’s be real: Adjusting to life with a newborn is a huge change.
It’s super hard to put another need’s first. Always. Want to sleep a full four hours, but your baby is hungry? Plan on coffee and a catnap later. Bad smells make you want to heave, but your kiddo just had a major poopsplosion? Hold your breath and clean it up.
Don’t worry, it’ll be totally worth it. Newborn smiles and hearty baby chuckles, not to mention all the snuggles, are so sweet they’ll melt your heart.
While there’s no doubt that the newborn months are tiring and kind of a roller coaster (hello, hormones!), there are things you can do to make life more enjoyable those first few months:
#1: Assign tasks
Everybody will be dying to see your newborn cutie, especially if you didn’t find out the gender ahead of time.
Ask someone who will be visiting you in the hospital to take pictures of your baby and email them (along with your child’s stats – height, weight and time of birth) to your friends and family.
#2: Prep for down time
Record your favorite TV shows or sign up for Netflix (finally!).
This way, when you’re feeding your baby you won’t be stuck watching daytime talk shows and lame court dramas.
#3: Learn how to get your baby to sleep
Sleep becomes the central concern of every new parent (life with a newborn is utterly exhausting at first – not going to sugarcoat it!).
You want to know: How can I tell when my baby is tired? What’s the best way to get my baby to sleep? How much sleep does my baby actually need? And most definitely, how can I get my baby to sleep more.
One thing that was a key for me during those first weeks of no sleep was the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
Believe me, you want this.
It’s best to read it before your baby arrives. But, if you’re like me and desperate to not be walking around like the undead day after day, you can still pick up this book after the baby is born and quickly skim the sections you need.
While there’s loads of conflicting parental advice out there, this book is written by a pediatrician who researches sleep patterns in children and his advice works!
#4: Stock the freezer
The last thing you’ll be in the mood for at the end of the day is hassling with dinner.
And yet, you need to stay nourished (your body needs to replenish its store of vitamins and minerals, especially if you’re nursing) and I’m betting your husband wants to eat something, too.
Imagine not having to deal with getting dinner on the table for the entire first month of your baby’s life.
That’s what I was able to do, but it took a little planning. The last few weeks before my due date, every time I cooked dinner I froze the leftovers. I put strips of masking tape with the names of meals on storage containers so we could quickly reheat them later.
By the time my baby came, the freezer was full.
If you’re not the cooking type, and neither is your spouse, I highly recommend using a meal kit service.
There are lots of companies out there that deliver packages with recipes and all the ingredients right to your door.
#5: Learn from the nurses (most of them have had newborns of their own)
While in the hospital take full advantage of the help that nurses can provide (many of them understand life with a newborn better than anyone).
I asked every single nurse I saw for breastfeeding advice.
My boobs were handled more in those three days than in my entire life.
But I found that each nurse had different tips and ways of doing things. It helped me figure out what worked best for me. Put modesty aside and let your nurses demonstrate what might work for you. And ask to see the lactation consultant to make sure that you’re doing everything correctly.
They really are the wisest when it comes to breastfeeding.
#6: Don’t get discouraged with breastfeeding
Although it seems like it should, breastfeeding doesn’t always come easy and can be a trial those first few days.
When I struggled to get my baby to feed, the hospital lactation consultant reassured me that babies don’t need much to eat the first three days or so. Your little one is recovering from the birthing process and will naturally lose a little weight during that time.
So, if your baby doesn’t seem interested in breastfeeding, don’t freak out. The nurses can be a little overzealous and cause new moms to be anxious about breastfeeding. But, the first few days are more of a practice session.
What’s most important is that the latch and positioning are good so that when your baby does get hungry, it’s a go.
#7: Make nursing easier
Get the tools you need to make nursing easier whether it’s a footstool, a cushy chair, a pump or a nursing pillow.
I recommend having these breastfeeding essentials on hand to deal with everything from nipple leakage and soreness to spit-up and middle-of-the-night breastfeeding sessions.
#8: Think Convenience
Are you in a two-story house?
If so, set up a second changing station on your main floor so you don’t have to trek upstairs for every diaper change (and there are a lot!). We used our playard (also referred to as a “pack and play”) downstairs as a changing station and a nap area during the newborn months.
This is especially helpful if you have a c-section, which means no walking up and down stairs for a few weeks.
#9: Take care of you — daily (your newborn depends on it)
Life with a newborn is hard – especially when you feel like you’re in the land of the living, you haven’t had much sleep and your body is still recovering from creating a new person (and making food for it!).
For me, taking a shower every day, getting dressed and putting on makeup made me feel like life was still in order.
To do this, I put my baby in a bouncy seat in the bathroom while I showered. I could peek at her and talk to her while I was getting washed up. And even if she started crying, at least I could check and see that she was safe.
Many folks say that the newborn months are “the best,” and while I’m not certain that’s entirely true – every stage has its wonders – I do know that it’s a super special time.
With a little preparation, you can make the adjustment to parenthood easier and really savor all those sweet, newborn moments.
P.S. Is your due date coming up? Make sure you’re ready for the big day with my free (and printable) Due Date Checklist. You’ll find out what you need to do during the third trimester to be fully prepared.
P.P.S. Are you struggling as a new mom or worried about what’s to come? Join the Mommy Crib Notes Facebook group and get some mom-to-mom advice and encouragement!