There are so many things they don’t tell you about the weeks following your little one’s arrival. You’ll hear everyone’s labor story and the classic advice “get your sleep while you can.” But it seems that no one talks about that adjustment period once you’ve brought your little one home. Maybe most people block out those memories because sometimes, it can just be tough.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t stopped swooning over my little guy since we brought him home. But every day I’m discovering new things about him and myself by doing some research and reaching out to experienced moms. Sometimes you experience an issue and you wouldn’t realize how common it is because no one seems to talk about it and your infant doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
Those first two months after pregnancy is sometimes referred to as “The Fourth Trimester.” Your baby is dependent on you to acclimate them to life outside the womb. There’s no way to spoil a newborn, they simply just need you. You’re their comfort.
You may get home from the hospital and after the first week or two you might feel like the luckiest parents in the world, you got the perfect baby that sleeps all the time. Then that phase passes quickly and it’s a game of detective to figure out what those persistent cries mean.
I’d like to share a few things I’ve discovered in my five short weeks of being a new mom. No one discusses these troubles or how to address them so my hope is to enlighten you with my experience so you can better discern what might be going on and maybe offer a solution.
Your baby’s little stomach and esophagus is still developing. It’s common to experience reflux. If your baby is spitting up more than just a tablespoon at a time they’re likely experiencing reflux. This can feel like little baby heart burn and can be a cause for the fuss between the spit ups.
What did we do?
I couldn’t stand the thought of my baby in pain all night and hated to hear him vomiting through the night, waking him up just after I got him to sleep. I talked to a few experienced mamas and they each recommended elevating him. There are different ways you can do this and I would recommend contacting your pediatrician or researching a safe way to do so that works for you. I also use gripe water (miracle water in my books) when I can hear his little tummy is in shambles. I also keep him upright during the day after each feeding for 15-30 minutes. This has significantly reduced the amount of bibs and burp rags we go through in just one day.
2.) Your Diet
If you are breastfeeding your baby, another cause for reflux might be something that you’re eating. In our experience while he was experiencing very bad reflux he would also grunt and squirm through the night. One of those well knowledgeable mamas I reached out to about this issue also experienced it with her little one. She discovered the grunting and squirming through the night was a result of something she was eating.
The food you need to eliminate could be anything. It’s a game of process of elimination. I’ve started by eliminating dairy as this seems to be such a common culprit for this issue in little ones and we’re already starting to see a big difference. Once you’ve found in your diet what is causing a reaction, try reintroducing it at a later time.
3.) Sleep Habits
After the first week or two of your baby sleeping all the time you might be under the illusion that they’ll just nap wherever and whenever they are tired. That might only be true for a very short amount of time. I suddenly thought I had the crankiest baby to exist! Sleep for newborns is crucial and if they aren’t well rested through the day, putting an overly tired baby to bed at night is an actual nightmare! Your baby probably needs a bit of help getting to sleep and your entire day might feel like an effort to get their eyes to close but it results in a MUCH happier baby.
It sometimes feels like you’re faced with the impossible when those sweet eyes keep popping open and you know a nap is needed. I thought the only way my baby would ever be soothed is if he were being bounced. Even then, that doesn’t always put him to sleep, it just keeps him quiet.
I’ll let you in on The “Four S’s”. This is a recipe for a sleepy baby. Side, Swaddled, Sucking, and Shushing. Did you know it’s increasingly difficult to soothe a baby when they are on their back? It’s news to me! Once I stopped trying to calm my baby in a back down position it got incredibly easier. I now put my baby down for naps several times a day by holding him on his side, shushing, patting his back, and offering him a pacifier. If he’s having a difficult time calming down I’ll also swaddle him but often times only swaddle at night. I won’t lie, sometimes it still takes awhile for him to close his eyes but he stays relatively calm in this position and does fall asleep. It sure beats bouncing him for 20+ minutes. This isn’t a fool proof way to get your baby to calm down or fall asleep, we all know sometimes babies just cry for no reason but it’s worth a shot.
No matter how you get your baby to nap throughout the day, keep in mind that just before they fall asleep they might have an outburst and cry. This is their way of letting out some stress and emotion before falling asleep. Don’t lose patience yet! Just keep doing what you’re doing.
Side note: Don’t let other adults or visitors keep them up. Most of their life right now should just be eating and sleeping. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your little ones sleep, and your own sanity!
I would really like to emphasize this topic. I definitely wish I would have been better prepared for the physical demands my body would continue to go through after labor and delivery. I had no idea I’d be nursing practically 10 hours a day.. (don’t let that scare you, they get quicker and more efficient soon.) If you choose to breastfeed it is a full time job especially in those early days. It will feel that your little one is constantly eating. Let them! It is their way of telling your body exactly how much it needs to start producing. Take a class or at least watch a few YouTube videos about latching and other things about breastfeeding so you’re not going in completely blind.
I was fortunate to have great lactation consultants available to me at the hospital and they scheduled a follow up appointment to see how we were doing after a week. If you have this benefit- use them! Ask questions, tell them if and when it hurts, they’ll help you adjust how you’re holding your baby, or the angle, or give you tips on how to heal the cracking and make it a much better experience.
Which leads me to the next thing: you’re going to be sore. Those girls have never received that much attention… fight through the discomfort. It’s only temporary. Push through those couple first weeks. The discomfort is only temporary, just don’t give up! Get help if you need it!
A must have for me was the “My Brest Friend” pillow. I had a boppy pillow but it didn’t do much good for me. I had to sandwich a ton of other pillows around us to have him at the right level and position. Good positioning is critical when you’re learning how to nurse, the My Brest Friend made an incredible difference.
While figuring out how to handle these various situations, this one has been the hardest adjustment. Having a little human completely dependent on you that’s trying to cope with a new world around them, it’s so easy to forget about yourself. You suddenly have to meet the needs of your baby, your husband, and yourself, and no one’s going to give you a round of applause or a cape when you start to get the hang of it. There’s just that expectation that is not talked about and it’s okay if it takes you time to adjust. It’s okay to ask for help.
If you have negative feelings about caring for your baby tell your doctor. Your hormones may cause postpartum depression and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Seek advice from a medical professional so you can begin to enjoy your new arrival.
If you have any of these experiences, I hope sharing mine has helped you identify a solution or caused you to think critically to brainstorm a new solution tailored to meet the needs of you and your baby.
It is not always going to be easy but it doesn’t always have to be frustrating. Find what works for you and it will feel natural in no time.
Best of luck and congratulations new mama.