The newborn phase feels like a distant dream. I can’t even believe that we went through it with Willow. Between the hormone imbalance, exhaustion, and just the general newness of role, it was quite a blur. And it is true what they say about the fourth trimester… it absolutely flies by. Even in the worst of moments and tantrums – when time feels like its standing still – you’ll soon believe it was only a blink of an eye. I swear.
Regardless of how fast it goes by, it is still the toughest transition you may ever go through (it certainly was for me). Becoming a mother challenged every bit of my being. Things that I thought would be easy, were not so much. Things that I dreaded turned out to be not so bad. My emotions were all over the place. My anxiety was through the roof. My entire existence and purpose suddenly shifted. It is so much to take in, in just a moment. Baby is born. World is turned upside-down, in the best most major, earth-shattering way. On the best days, you are truly elated. On the darker days, you may feel like you’ll never shake the negative. The good news is: it is ALL NORMAL as shit. And it will pass. And you will sleep again. And you will find time to love your husband/wife. And you will be the best mom in the world.
And surprisingly enough, you may eventually miss the first 12 weeks (weird, right?)
At any rate, here you are. Whether you are in the first 12 weeks now, have gone through them, or may face the challenge in the future, I wanted to share my experience and survival tools. Looking back on it, these are the things that made our lives easier and comfortable during the newborn stage. I hope these tips will help another mom.
There’s not such thing as too much sleep for a newborn. You might begin to wonder if you should be entertaining your baby in any way. I can’t tell you how many times I googled “how to entertain an XX month old.” The thing is – the first 12 weeks are honestly a time for your baby to get acclimated at home, sleep like crazy, feed, and just stare at your face. Newborns will sleep up to 17 hours in a 24 hour period, and that is okay. They need it to keep from getting cranky and to develop. So please do yourself a favor and get the Netflix/Hulu suggestions now and settle on in. The first few weeks will be you and your baby, relaxing on the couch – feed/stare/sleep. Just embrace it now. Don’t fight it. Baby is going to sleep. Even after sleeping all day, Willow would sleep great at night (I think I was a lucky one), but the point is… too much sleep during day does not mean zero sleep at night. They really do need to sleep!
Don’t focus on schedule (yet anyways). This was a hard one for me at first, but don’t even think about a schedule just yet. I am a very scheduled kind of person and would have never thought I would become so flexible after having a baby. I just went about my day based on Willow’s cues and that was that. Keep the baby happy – that is all that matters. If you try to force a schedule, chances are, you may have a cranky baby. If you are a schedule kinda-person, worry about it later down the road.
To be honest, even now, Willow isn’t on a strict schedule. I still let her lead and go with my gut. It is what works for us. You’ll find your groove in time. Just don’t fret on it during the first 12 weeks.
Use the swaddle method. Whether velcro, zipper, or a good ‘ol fashioned blanket, swaddling a baby helps to keep them warm and feeling safe. You may find that your baby prefers their arms in or out – don’t worry about “figuring it out” – they will let you know very quickly, trust me! We very quickly realized that Willow did NOT like zipper or velcro swaddles, but loved her arms out with a swaddle blanket. Our favorites were aden + anais and Little Unicorn. We only swaddled at night, as a sign that it was bedtime. We made it a part of our routine, and it worked for us.
And here’s a tip: Find a thrift store in your area to avoid spending too much on swaddles. I bought all of the velcro and zippered swaddles for $2 each at a local thrift shop. Thank God I did, because she hated them and we never used any!
Use white walls to your advantage. If Willow was being fussy, we would rock/bounce her over our shoulder in front of a white wall in our bedroom. This eliminated anything that may catch her eye and put her into a trance. It was one of those tricks we would use if all else failed, and it definitely did help. Just something to try if you are at your wits end and think your baby might be overstimulated! Speaking of white…
White noise is your friend. We absolutely still sleep with a white noise machine, ha! Since babies are used to white noise in the womb, this helps them to adjust to the real world. It is so calming that even we looked forward to this every night. I had one for the bedroom, one for on-the-go, and another for her naptimes. I used all three… and I do not regret any of them.
Embrace help from loved ones. I am weird about asking for help, but realized quickly that I needed to get over it and just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family to cook, clean, or just come and hangout if you are having a bad day. I found that some of my best days with Willow were spent when I had some support.
Take a quick ride around the block. This will only work if your baby enjoys his/her car seat and driving around. But for us, it was a lifesaver. Willow loved her carseat from day one and would fall asleep almost immediately. If she was fussy before bed and needed to calm down a bit, we’d bundle on up and ride around the block for 20 minutes or so. To be honest, we came to love this routine so much. The fresh air was great… it was quiet on the roads… and my husband and I got a chance to just catch a breath and talk to one another while she dozed off. It got even better once the neighborhood put up Christmas lights. We haven’t done this for a while now, but it’s nice to know we always have this trick in our back pocket. I actually miss it!
The only thing that was rough was trying to get her out of carseat if she was sleeping, BUT even if she woke up, at least she was much more calm than before. Putting her down was significantly easier when she was already drowsy.
Get out of the house sooner than later. It’s terrifying taking your newborn out of the house and for a drive the first time. I hated everyone on the road and drove SO SLOW. I was a nervous wreck! But the sooner you do it, the sooner you get used to it, and the sooner you are over it. You won’t always feel so nervous, trust me. It became second nature very quickly, and now we love going for rides. We started slow by taking backroads most places. Even if you just take rides around the neighborhood or to a park down the road, just get out and enjoy the fresh air. The walls can be suffocating at home during the newborn stage – trust me!
Turn to the “colic hold.” If you are not familiar, here is a picture of the colic hold. I don’t know how this works, but it did for us. Anytime Willow would have a meltdown, we would put her in this position and suddenly things get quiet. Even for 5 minutes… it was still a very welcome silence. If you are at your wits end, just try it!
At the end of the day, remind yourself that this is temporary. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, these 12 weeks are going to fly by faster than you think. There is some peace on the horizon, promise. I hope that even one of these tips will resonate and help you. I truly do!
If you are a mother or father, what helped you during the first 12 weeks? xx bianca