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?