You’ve done it! All of the waiting and planning and dreaming and name veto-ing is over and you are now home with your newborn. Now what?? Here’s a few tips and ideas from one mother to another that can be your go to newborn survival guide.
I remember that feeling. As a mom of 4 I’ve brought a newborn home, well, 4 times. Each time there is a mixed bag of emotions. Overwhelmed and exhausted are probably the top 2 that I experienced the most vividly. I distinctly remember walking out of the hospital with my first daughter and looking at my husband saying “I can’t believe they’re just letting us take this baby home! We have no idea what we’re doing, how are we going to survive this newborn!”
Now that I’ve done it a few times myself and as a sleep coach with specialized training in newborn care, breastfeeding, and sleep hygiene, I wish I could go back to my first-time mom self and say it’s ok, no one knows what they’re doing and you are all going to be fine. As a certified sleep consultant I have supported many families through these first few weeks with their newborn and the thing I love the most is the confidence that parents gain during the time we work together.
Want to know how you can survive and thrive with your newborn in the first few weeks home? Read on.
Survival Tip 1:
Feeding Your Newborn (Bottle and Breast)
Newborns do three things round the clock: they sleep, eat, and cry. They also fill their diapers at the most inconvenient moments. Now that your baby is home the clock is your best friend. When they eat, mark the time and how much they ate.
- For a bottle fed baby record the amount eaten, for a breastfed baby the minutes fed.
There will be a lot of “cluster feeding”, which is simply a lot of feedings bunched together. This happens mostly in the evening.
- For a breastfed baby you can use a safety pin hooked to your bra to help you remember which side you fed from last. Record the side you started on and the minutes baby fed on each side.
- Over the next few weeks start working toward offering a feed every 1.5-3 hours for a breastfed newborn and 2-3 hours for a formula fed newborn.
Don’t live and die by this. There’s a lot of good research for feed on demand in the first few weeks of life. Kids Health offers some great insights here at this link.
If your newborn wants to eat, feed them but watching the clock can help structure your day and give you some control so you don’t feel like all you do is sit on the couch with your shirt off or wash bottles all day long dumping formula down the drain.
Survival Tip 2:
Sleepy Cues vs Hunger Cues
Ok I’m going to let you in on a secret. Sleepy cues and hunger cues look almost exactly the same with a newborn baby.
Arching back or twisting
Newborns can only tolerate being awake for about 45 minutes at a time, but they need to eat somewhere between 1.5-3 hours. So when your baby starts fussing or arching their back or rooting around and you fed baby less than an hour ago, offer a nap first. If after 20 minutes or so baby is more upset or won’t sleep then it will be closer to feed time.
Remember how we’re watching the clock for feeds? Well watch the clock for naps too. It will help you determine whether baby is hungry, sleepy or just a baby and needs to cry for a minute.
- Baby wakes in the morning and has a clean diaper and feed out in the main area of the house
- Have some “playtime”. Talk to your newborn, prop them up on the boppy, make eye contact, lay them in a safe space on the floor and let them have some quiet time to avoid overstimulation.
- 45 minutes after waking up for the day we are back to bed for a nap
- Feed upon waking (this time length including the feed may be about an hour)
- Sleep after 45 minutes
Repeat all day long. Bedtime should fall somewhere between 8-9pm. Don’t kill yourself over the schedule but it can begin to turn surviving to thriving.
Survival Tip 3:
Day and Night Reversal
Mixing up days and nights is a very normal and frustrating problem for new parents. Your baby sleeps for hours and hours all day long and at night is bright eyed and bushy tailed. This is very normal because well, they are new! Their little body has no idea what it’s doing and hasn’t been around long enough to establish a circadian rhythm. Some things you can do to help get on the right schedule:
- If weather/season permits spend some time outside. Hold your baby in the sun. I firmly believe in the power of vitamin D for both mom and newborns. Stand barefoot in the grass, hold your baby and soak up the sun. It’s helpful for circadian rhythms, jaundice, and grounding hormones.
- Following the eat, play, sleep schedule can prevent baby from constantly dozing off at the breast and ensures good full feeds. Feeding after waking can also help your baby be more stimulated after a feed and interact with you for a while before being ready to sleep again.
- Open the blinds in your house, make daytime bright and interactive. Night wakings should be handled quietly and calmly in a darkened room with minimal interactions.
Top 3 Things to Focus on in the First 2 Weeks
The first two weeks are special and precious. They are also exhausting and go by in a blur. Don’t try to do it all at once. You aren’t going to master a feed schedule, teach your newborn self soothing skills, adjust to being a parent, and get the laundry done in the first 2 weeks. You just aren’t, make your peace with it.
Here are 3 things you can do:
- Offer a nap every 45 minutes. If baby won’t sleep in their crib or bassinet don’t stress. Try to lay baby down in their sleep space for the first nap of the day. Baby wearing, holding and sleeping, feeding and sleeping are all normal. It’s truly fine, just try consistently for the first nap of the day to lay baby in the bed.
- Work on eat, play sleep. It won’t always be possible because sometimes your baby will sleep for 20 minutes and wake up screaming and other times your baby will sleep for 3 hours and you’ll be so ready to breastfeed you’ll be expressing into the bathroom sink. Just relax and keep it in the big picture.
- Bask in your new family. Everything is different now Mama. You’ve brought this tiny person into your home to love. It’s a beautiful and amazing thing. Eating and sleeping are your top priorities so keep your eye on the clock, don’t stress if it’s not “perfect” because I’m here to tell you it won’t be, and take a deep breath. You’ve got this!
Knowledge is power! Education around healthy sleep hygiene is my favorite thing about sleep coaching. I’m not getting your baby to sleep, I’m here to educate parents so that you know how to set your little one up for success so they can have an awesome relationship with sleep for the rest of their lives. Plus let’s face it, rested parents are better parents. Want to connect with me? Let’s do it. Schedule a free 15 minute call here and we’ll get you on the road to rested nights.