If only babies came with a manual. Am I right?!
For real though. Couldn’t we get a little more help with this whole newborn parenting gig? It can be overwhelming leaving the confines of that birth center with all those knowledgeable medical professionals and head into the great unknown on our own home!
Should I wake her up? Is she breathing? How do I know how long to let her sleep?
Is she crying because she’s hungry again or is she tired? Should I swaddle her or take her on a car ride?
Why is she STILL crying?!
The early days are trying. Sleep deprivation while getting to know an entirely new human that is 100% reliant on you for EVERYTHING can be so brutal! So, we’ve come up with a list of 10 things that may help you navigate this time.
Newborns cry. A lot. It can be stressful but it’s important to remember that crying is their only form of communication until they are able to smile and coo around the 4-6 week mark. Keep it all in perspective. This time is fleeting and the last thing that new parents need is for their adult relationships to suffer.
Remind your partner (if applicable) that they are still you’re first priority. It’s so easy to get caught up in the constant needs of your new baby and forget about your other relationships. Reminding each other how you feel can make all the difference.
Feeding can be such a challenge, regardless of how you do it. What works for you and your baby is not going to be the right choice for everyone else. Try to keep in mind that you are this baby’s parent for a reason and take your needs into consideration and reach out for help! We have awesome lactation consultants in Whatcom County and Skagit County who are ready and willing to help you!
Whether you choose to exclusively breastfeed, bottle feed with breast milk, bottle feed with formula or another mode of feeding, find the support you need to help your feeding time be as relaxed as possible. Set up stations with snacks and water bottles around the house.
Often times, as soon as you sit down you will realize what you need. If there are stations already set up, chances are that it is within reaching distance.
The Endless "To-Do" List
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Do dishes when the baby does dishes. Am I right?! Sleep is so challenging for most new parents and simplifying it to saying “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is such a joke.
There are endless tasks that would stare me in the face as soon as my baby fell asleep and ignoring those things just simply wasn’t an option. What worked for my family won’t work for others but may help. We made a list of our top priorities.
One list included tasks that had to get done EACH DAY. Then a list of the things that had to get done ONCE A WEEK and so forth. This put it all in perspective for us and I was able to relax a bit more and actually recover from giving birth!
The Sleepless Nights
It is normal for your newborn to sleep (nearly) all day and party all night. Remember those parties your baby would throw during pregnancy right as you finally found that comfortable spot in bed? When you were pregnant, they were rocked to sleep as you went about your day and then woke as you settled down in the evening.
Newborns have to adjust to a new normal. Well, lots of new normals but this is a big one. This can be very frustrating for tired parents but it will shift eventually.
When changing a newborn’s diaper, bicycle kicks are your friend. If you’ve ever been around a newborn, you may have noticed that as soon as they got that fresh diaper on, they pooped immediately.
Rather than taking that dirty diaper off right away, expose the baby to some fresh air then cover them back up and do some leg pumps or gentle tummy rubs and wait a minute or two. This may save you a few diapers.
Set up changing stations around the house. Having some diapers and wipes easily accessible makes diaper changes a little less of a task. Remember, changing pads are not 100% necessary 100% of the time. An old hand towel or changing pad liner can become a great barrier between the baby and the surface you are changing them on.
“My baby hates the car and everyone talked about how they are supposed to fall asleep in the car.” I’ll just say it, if this is you, I am so sorry. I had two babies who HATED the car. They would cry so hard that they would be dripping with sweat once we got to our destination.
Some tricks I learned were rolling down the window (when weather allowed), dressing them in cool clothing so they didn’t get too warm, and driving on those road bumps. I am sure we got several people thinking we were crazy, but this helped!
The First Bath
Sponge baths will be just fine until the umbilical cord stump falls off (which is quite a smelly process by the way) as it is important not to get it wet. A wet washcloth with a small amount of baby-friendly soap will do the trick. Then follow up with a good lotion as newborn skin can be quite dry.
Don’t forget to get in all those sneaky folds as that is the prime location for breast milk or formula to get stuck and will get stinky real fast. Some of those locations include the groin folds, under the chin, the armpits and behind the ears.
When the time comes to do the first bath, make sure the water is warm but not too hot. Test the temperature on your inner wrist. If it is too warm for you, it is way too warm for your baby.
Try laying a warm, wet hand towel or washcloth over your baby’s exposed body. This will help them stay warm and enjoy their bath time.
Learn a good swaddle technique. Babies are super restricted for space during pregnancy. Swaddling them reminds them of this.
For those Houdini babies, try a swaddle technique that tucks their arms in a pocket before wrapping them up. There are many different ways to do it, and each baby is going to need something slightly different.
They may hate it as your are wrapping them up, but soon enough, they will give in and probably fall asleep. Good luck! P.s. We teach a great swaddle technique in our birth class!
At North Cascade Doulas, we love this stuff!
We exist to support local families as they navigate the unforeseen joys and challenges that come with bringing a baby home.
As birth doulas in Bellingham and the surrounding areas, we aim to see our clients supported through the ups and downs. If you have questions, we have answers! We will walk alongside you through your unique pregnancy, birth and postpartum story.
Contact us today to learn more about birth doula services in Skagit Valley and Whatcom County or local childbirth classes. We would be overjoyed to get to know your desires for this season and how you desire to be supported.
Author, Kristina McMurtrey, is a passionate doula who aims to see families supported regardless of their unique way of navigating pregnancy, birth and parenting.
North Cascade Doulas provide care for families looking for Labor Doulas, Postpartum Doulas, Placenta Encapsulation and Childbirth Education Classes. We support all parenting philosophies and birth plans.
Our doulas have experience in a variety of areas, such as:
(natural) unmedicated birth / (surgical) cesarean birth / epidural birth / induction / planned induction / planned cesarean / VBAC / TOLAC / waterbirth / hypnobirthing / multiples / breastfeeding / bottle feeding / formula feeding / NICU / PPD / PPMD / bed rest / high risk / low risk / advanced maternal age / miscarriage / IVF / and more.
Areas we Serve:
We serve Whatcom and Skagit Counties and the neighborhoods of Alger / Anacortes / Bellingham / Big Lake / Birch Bay / Blaine / Bow / Burlington / Clear Lake / Custer / Everson / Ferndale / Glen Haven / La Conner / Laurel / Lynden / Mount Vernon / Sedro Woolley / Sudden Valley / Maple Falls / Everson / Stanwood