Monday, January 19, 2015

Newborns: Preparing for the First Six Weeks

When my husband and I learned we were pregnant with baby #2, we agreed that we would try our best to be a little more prepared the second time around.  We read books, we researched specific topics online (sleep!), and we talked to friends who had multiple kids.  Our friends warned us that the second baby may or may not be like the first baby, and that we should be prepared for anything the second time around.

While every baby may be different, there were a few things that were the same.  Baby #2 is now seven weeks old, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that things are going to get better from here on out.  Whether they do or not, here are a few things we found to be true...

#1 A newborn's routine will continually evolve

The first two weeks our baby ate and slept like a dream: she would wake up, feed, and then fall asleep for two hours.  Repeat.  While this was great during the day (we knew exactly when it would be time to feed the baby), it was horrible at night.  The good news?  By week three, the time between some of the feedings began to stretch out to three hours.  And the wake/sleep patterns continue to evolve.  Every week it's a little different and it has kept us on our toes.

#2 You will be tired

Even though our baby's schedule was predictable the first two weeks, having to feed every two hours in the middle of the night didn't make for a whole lot of sleep.  It was especially tough for me as I was exclusively breastfeeding.  During the night, the process of nursing and putting the baby back to sleep took 30-40 minutes, depending, so that only left me about 90 minutes to fall asleep and catch some rest before having to do it all over again.  Make sure you have a plan of action to get as much sleep as possible.  If you're planning on bottle feeding, that will help, as you can take turns with middle of the night feedings.

#3 Newborns don't differentiate between day and night

The exact milestone is debatable, but babies' circadian cycles and ability to create melatonin doesn't really set in until 12 weeks or so.  The result?  Some babies will be wide awake for hours in the middle of the night and/or sleep most of the daylight hours.  Parents can help babies with developing their cycles by incorporating them into the daily schedule (such as opening curtains in the morning to let in lots of natural light, reducing noise & light stimulation at bedtime). 

#4 Newborns tend to grow increasingly fussy...up to the six week mark

This is definitely not a hard and fast rule, but according to the development and sleep books out there, things get worse before they get better.  Those predictable two hour chunks between feedings?  Completely out the window by week 3, and increasingly worse by week 4.  We didn't experience anything much worse in weeks 5 and 6, but things seem to have leveled off in the last week.  Baby #2 seems to be sleeping much better at night.  Knock on wood.

#5 Newborns can't be spoiled

You may hear that holding a baby all the time will set you up for a sentence of having to hold the baby until they become a toddler, but you can't spoil a newborn in their first six weeks.  When they cry, pick them up.  Offer cuddling and contact, change their diaper, see if they're hungry.  My baby carrier has been a godsend in giving my baby the comfort she seeks, especially when I've done all the holding and rocking I can do and can no longer continue to hold her.

#6 Partnering up is the way to survive

When we had the first baby, my husband and I had no idea how challenging it would be to take care of a newborn given that there is no roadmap, that every baby will be different, and that we were both incredibly exhausted.  All the time.  So we prepared ourselves for the second baby, read books, discussed battle plans, and then baby came.  Every night we had to rework our strategy, because it seemed like every night was different.  Whether you are sharing the newborn responsibility with your spouse, a grandparent, or other helpful soul, it helps to have a plan ahead of time and be ready to change that plan as needed.  I honestly don't know how single parents do it, but those first six weeks, don't go it alone!  Enlist someone to help out, because the best way to survive is to have a partner to help you through those first six weeks that require constant vigilance and adaptation.

Prepare: Educate Yourself!

There are lots of great resources out there to educate yourself on newborn development and how to handle these tough times.  The information is constantly being updated and improved.  Get out there, read up, talk to parents, and arm yourself with ideas and information.  I know we are constantly revisiting our "bag of tricks" on how to provide our newborn with the support s/he needs without burning ourselves out.

What's your goto trick for comforting a fussy newborn?  What do you remember about those first six weeks?


  1. This is all fabulous information, especially for new moms :) I remember thinking how different it was from what I was expecting and it's hard to describe what the sleep deprivation does to you. You are so right about not spoiling a newborn! There's no reason to not cuddle all you can. I have been so swamped at work it's been hard for to keep up with my blog reading, I hope you are doing well. Things should slow down in Feb. this is just a busy month for us.

    1. Hi Karen, I'm honored that you're still finding time to read my blog. I never expect anyone to read and reply to every post, but I *always* love hearing from you. I hope I'll be exchanging running stories with by the middle of 2015!

  2. There are some great tips here! I think we really have similar views on parenting ;) I particularly like what you said about spoiling newborns. Some of the advice we got from family, older friends, and even our first doctor, was shocking! One person said just let them cry, turn up some music or something so you can't hear them -.- Because nursing on demand spoils them. I certainly raised an eyebrow on that one. Luckily we also had some great friends that had already had 3 kids give us some reassurance.

    Anyhow, I hope your babe starts sleeping through the night soon ;)

    1. Yuliya, it's very interesting trying to parent these days in a world of social media and the Internet. You can find arguments for all sides of any point you're trying to make. In addition to talking to friends with kids, and reading as many sleep books I could, I recently had to Google "my newborn wants to be held all the time" and was astonished at what I found. There is something called "high needs newborns" and the only solution is to hold them as much as possible! My first baby wasn't anywhere as needed as Baby O so this is a new journey for me. I'm just so glad that my exclusive nursing is continuing to work out (knock on wood).

      Oh my and nursing on demand spoils them?! That's one piece of advice I'm sure most lactation specialists (in the U.S., at least) would NOT agree with!

      Thanks for the well wishes!

  3. Such great tips for new moms, Marnie! Hope you were able to get some sleep this weekend!

    1. Hi Sandy! I don't want to jinx myself... so I'll just say, I'm hoping for better nights in the near future!

  4. Your advice is so great! I'm going to pass it along to my sister!! :)

  5. As a new mom, this was very useful tips to read. I don't know about other babies, but our girls love when their heads and cheeks are rubbed. It almost instantly soothes them.


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