Even more unsolicited advice for parents-to-be

1. Don’t Google anything–ESPECIALLY related to baby sleep patterns

Here is what my life was like for the first two and a half months:

The baby wakes up every hour for a two-week period. Why is she doing this? TO GOOGLE! “8 week old wakes hourly”. Read. Oh my God, my baby isn’t normal. Oh no. Wait. What do you MEAN I’m supposed to be putting her down awake but drowsy?! Google “when should I be putting my baby down awake but drowsy?”. Use a swing?! My baby hates her swing. Google “how to help baby like swing”. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I say “don’t do this” knowing full well you’re going to. I told myself daily that I wasn’t going to Google anything else. Five minutes later, I’d typed “wonder week leap 2” and “9 week growth spurt?” into the search engine. The truth is this: you’re going to Google things, but at the end of the day, you know your baby. Yes your baby is normal. Every baby is different. There is no magical reason or solution to a lot of things newborns do–often they simply do them. Newborns are new to the world–they have literally no context for anything that happens to them. In the first three months, try (and I know it’s hard!) not to think you’re doing anything wrong. You’re probably not. You’re probably doing amazingly.

2. Don’t ever go into any night expecting you’re going to sleep well

I know this one may seem like a no-brainer. No new parent goes into this thing thinking “I’m gonna get so much sleep!”. But, man, you’ll find yourself hopeful. “Maybe this night will be different”, you’ll say. And yes, it likely will be different, but probably not for the reason you want it to be. Maybe your newborn will wake up hourly. Maybe he won’t sleep between the hours of 1:30 – 4:30 AM one night (or several). Maybe he’ll sleep for five hours straight one night, only to be followed by a night that he wants to party with you at 2 AM. Maybe he’ll sleep through the night one night, then two days later wake up every two hours. Don’t be hopeful. Prepare for the worst. You’ll be less disappointed this way, and if your baby sleeps a longer stretch, it will feel like Christmas.

3. Keep your phone well charged for the night shift

The nights can be very, very long, unless you happen to have a unicorn baby who sleeps through the night at 6 weeks (you’re welcome, Mom and Dad). Nights are also lonely, especially if one of you is exclusively taking the night shift. I’ve whiled away the deep sleep waits on Reddit and playing Puzzle and Dragons, mainly, but I’ve also managed to do some work on creative projects and, let’s face it, talk to my Mom. Thank goodness she’s a night owl.

4. For the love of God, hold that baby

You can’t spoil a newborn. You can’t spoil a newborn. YOU CAN’T. SPOIL. A NEWBORN. Keep in mind that your little one was being held in a cozy, warm environment for nine whole months, and she just got into the harsh, loud, freezing cold world where suddenly hunger is a thing and she isn’t being constantly rocked or swayed to sleep. You can’t expect her to just adapt immediately. There’s a reason the first 3 months of a baby’s life are often referred to as the fourth trimester. If someone says that you’re spoiling your baby by holding her too much, politely inform them that they’re incorrect. If they argue with you, remind them that this is your baby and they’re welcome to have their own if they feel so strongly about it. Also, if anyone says “why don’t you sleep while the baby sleeps?”, punch them in the face.

Okay, don’t actually punch them. It’s really good advice, and the people who say it mean well. But if your baby wants needs to be held all day, you may find that you can’t sleep while the child is sleeping. Sleep deprivation is very real and very taxing. Everyone will tell you how hard it is, but you won’t really know until you’re there. But sometimes, there’s nothing you can do!

5. And also, wear that baby

I don’t think I could have gotten through the first three months without my Ergo Baby. Amelia loves it, we get snuggles all the time, and she sleeps like a dream in it. It satisfies her need to be held. Brad uses it as well–particularly on mornings that I go to the gym. It’s given us free hands so we can still get some things done around the house. Grocery shopping is a breeze. I can get out for a walk on nice days. Lots of great infant carriers and wraps exist–find one that works for you!

6. Find someone to talk to

Find a new parent–preferably, one who’s been through the first three months for awhile, or even one who’s going through it now. The first little while can be extremely lonely, especially (but not necessarily) if you’re a breastfeeding mom. Even if they can’t give you much advice, it’s great to have a sympathetic ear, especially from someone who knows how difficult it can be.

7. Get the Wonder Weeks app

This app cost a couple of bucks and it has really helped me stay in-tune with my baby! Wonder Weeks are, essentially, predictable developmental leaps, and they can turn your baby’s world upside down. Having the app will tell you when a Wonder Week is coming up and what you can expect your baby’s temperament to be like during that time. It also helps you to prepare for the fun sunny weeks, when you will see your baby trying out his new skills.

8. This, too, shall pass

I’ve seen this on pretty well every forum to do with taking care of babies, and it’s a good mantra. If your baby won’t sleep more than an hour at a time at night, it will pass. If your baby relies on being rocked to sleep only while being held in a certain position, it will pass. If your baby howls like someone kicked his dog for three hours straight a night, it will pass. Form will come out of the chaos. At 8 weeks, we started putting our girl to bed after her last feeding, rather than keeping her with us the whole time until we decided to go to bed. At 9 weeks, we had a (loose and still somewhat messy) bedtime routine put in place. At 18 weeks, she’s now going to bed at around  PM and (with a few night feedings in between–every night is different, really) waking at 6:30 AM. Some nights, she even puts herself to sleep or back to sleep. Even if something feels like it’s going to be forever, it won’t be. I need to repeat this to myself pretty often because I’m a worrier, but it really does help to keep it in mind.

9. Bedtime routines might actually work

I was really dubious about this one, but I’m glad we’re doing it. At around the 9 week mark, we decided to implement a bedtime routine. It’s nothing too exciting or glamorous. Basically, Amelia would cluster feed every night starting at 5 or 6, then fall asleep at around 7:30-8:30. Our simple bedtime routine consists of reading a book, getting her tightly swaddled (up until recently, anyway–now we have her in a Zipadee-Zip), turning on some white noise, and nursing cluster-feed style until she’s asleep. Except, a few nights, she puts herself to sleep. One night, she actually started squirming during the end of the routine, so I put her straight in her crib. I noticed she didn’t so much as fuss, so I left the room. She didn’t make a peep. I watched on the monitor then as she put herself to sleep. Maybe it’s just the time of night, but I think the routine has given her sleep cues. I’m sure the bedtime routines won’t work for everyone, but they’ve certainly worked for us, and they’re worth a try!

10. Take a “hotel day”

When Amelia was four months old, I took her to visit family, and we spent the night before at a hotel that provided a crib. I was floored at how convenient it was to have everything in a small area. It was nice not having to go up and down the stairs, and my baby was always near, by default. Hotels can be pretty expensive, so I would propose, for a day or two, turning your bedroom or the baby’s nursery into a hotel room. Keep some food and water at hand, maybe bring the TV in temporarily, and give yourself a 24-hour pass to do no housework. Better yet, make it a weekend. Make taking care of the baby and yourself the only priorities. Now, if you can afford to go to a hotel for a day or two, have at it!

BONUS: Enjoy it

Okay, EVERYONE says this one, but hear me out. The first few weeks are overwhelming and so hard, but consider: you have a free pass to get out of any housework. Your baby is still sleeping pretty easily, if not at night, which means you can sit around and binge watch the entirety of Breaking Bad if that’s what you want to do (ahem). Your baby is not really alert yet so all she wants are cuddles, food, and diaper changes. The cuddles are amazing and your baby is still (probably) pretty light so your arms won’t get as tired. Literally everyone tells you this so I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but at four months in, I’m already missing the early days. Every new thing your baby learns and every skill she gains is amazing and everything gets better and better, but the first couple of weeks are like falling in love–actually, they pretty much are falling in love. Sometimes it seems impossible to enjoy the constant crying and the night wakings, but in a few months, your brain will most likely filter out all the unpleasant stuff, and all you’ll have are the fond memories. So, make a few extra, while you’re at it.

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