Babies are precious, innocent, beautiful little miracles. They are also messy, needy, fussy, loud, bodily-fluid spouting strangers with zero neck strength or bowel control. Not to mention, they really throw a monkey wrench in your pre-baby lifestyle.
There are many wonderful things about becoming a mom – the awe, the love, the oxytocin surge and the triumph and relief that you are finally not pregnant anymore! But if we’re honest, there are plenty of things about having a newborn that are not wonderful. In fact, just the opposite. They are exhausting, difficult and physically and emotionally trying.
Motherhood does not always meet our expectations, especially when the baby is brand new and needs us for literally everything. It's often now how we pictured it, probably because there is nothing you can think, read or see that will truly prepare you for being a full-time mother. It's important to talk about the messy underbelly of parenting, to acknowledge it is not a bed of roses so moms who are going through hard times with their babies can feel understood and less alone.
With that in mind, here’s a list of things some moms find less than awesome about their little bundles of joy.
15 Copious, Ridiculous Amounts Of Spit Up
Let’s be honest is there anything to like about vomit? Just because it’s coming from a baby doesn’t make it any cuter. Some moms get lucky and have babies who can keep milk in their digestive tracts. But for others, the first six to nine months of babies life are filled with gallons of spit up, coming at the most inopportune times. While some of it is expected – after nursing or being given a bottle for example -- it can also creep up on you out of nowhere. You'll be holding the baby up on your shoulder, casually chatting to a friend and BAM. A whole mess of spit up is suddenly tricking down into your butt crack. (True story).
And the amount! Don’t be surprised if your baby's stomach contents can cover a whole couch cushion, or close to it. Usually, a muscle between the esophagus and the stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter keeps stomach contents down. But this muscle is not fully developed in babies and until it matures, spitting up may continue to plague your clothes and furniture.
You may have a round the clock bib wearer for the first several months. And you may not find much use for the cute little spit up towels you were given as baby gifts. We had to drape ourselves in hospital blankets every time we were holding the baby. And we still got spit up down our boobs and backs more times than we could count.
14 They Generate Insane Amounts Of Laundry
For tiny little creatures that don’t run, walk, paint, play outside or do any activities that might get them dirty, these little dudes sure do create mountains of soiled clothes. Whether they are drooling, spitting up or doing a nice loose poop that spreads up their backs, they will give you plenty of reason to fire up the washing machine several times per week or per day.
According to a study conducted by cleaning company www.Ecozone.com, between pre-wash prep, folding, pairing up separated socks, ironing and re-washing clothes left in the washing machine too long, the average mother will spend five months of her life doing laundry. When a new baby comes along, the amount of time spent cleaning clothes temporarily spikes up. Whether that’s because the little ones don’t have many clothes, the clothes are super stinky due to bodily fluid contamination or the parent simply can’t open or close the laundry room door, whose to say. All we know is that’s a lot of time sorting whites from colors and pouring detergent when you'd rather be binge-watching Game of Thrones.
13 They Don’t Sleep (And You Don’t Sleep)
Every time we hear the phrase “slept like a baby” we think, and that’s a good thing? Sure, some miracle infants sleep soundly and happily without assistance from day one. However, for many, this is not the case. Though in the first few days and weeks of a newborn's life they can sleep up to 16-17 hours a day, it is fitful and in short bursts. They often wake frequently, or don’t achieve deep sleep and only manage a 10-15 minute nap which is a disaster for everyone involved. According to Dr. Sears, infant sleep cycles (going form light to deep sleep and back to light again) are shorter than adult sleep cycles. Because of this, they experience a vulnerable period of near wakefulness around every 50-60 minutes, during which they can be easily aroused by noise or hunger.
Not to mention what it sometimes takes to get them to sleep. You may need to use a combination of rocking, jiggling, swinging, Bjorning, pacifier-ing and nursing for HOURS before they fall asleep and stay asleep. Babies often develop “sleep associations” meaning that however they fall asleep (in your arms or nursing, for example) is how they will want to be lulled back to sleep whenever they wake up. Add in teething, being hungry, thirsty, wet, too hot, too cold, having acid reflux or simply wanting to be held and you’ve got a host of reasons the baby will be waking you up at regular intervals throughout the day and night.
12 Nursing Is A Round The Clock Job
No one ever tells you before you become a mom that if you choose to nurse your baby, you will be doing it virtually 24/7 for the first few weeks. Of course, you have a vague idea that it will be demanding and time consuming, but it may not be until after the baby’s born that you learn their tummies are the size of ping pong balls and can’t hold much milk. Which means they need to eat constantly.
Breastfeeding newborns need to eat every one and half to two hours, on average. But another fun fact we didn’t learn until after the baby arrived was that it takes up to 45 minutes or more to feed a newborn! Most experts recommend feeing for 10-20 minutes on each breast. If you have to wait for your milk to “let-down,” cry through the pain of a poor latch or chafed, bleeding nipples and wake up your baby who keeps falling asleep even though she's barely eaten, the minutes add up. By the time you get through all that, burp, change and re-swaddle your infant, she’ll be ready to eat again.
11 Speaking Of Nursing...It Kills
Of course, it’s not baby’s fault, but breastfeeding can be extremely painful and it’s hard not to be unhappy when it happens to you. There are many reasons breastfeeding can be uncomfortable, or downright excruciating. From shallow latch and tongue-tie to thrush (or yeast) infection and “milk bleb” (a thin layer of skin that grows over a milk duct opening and clogs the duct), a lot of things can go wrong during the nursing process. Breast pump trauma can damage your nipples as can blisters resulting from a poor latch. There is even such a thing as “vasospasm” or spasm in the blood vessels of the nipple that causes intense pain and discoloration. It's not uncommon for breastfeeding pain to continue for one to six weeks. That’s a long time to repeat something painful 10-12 times a day.
10 Babies (And Their Car Seats) Are Damn Heavy
You do not need to be a muscle-bound body builder to carry a newborn that weighs between seven and ten pounds. BUT, when that baby is a few months old and you have to hold it for hours on end, in your arms, on your hip or in an infant carrier strapped to your chest, it can start to hurt. According to Ben Montgomery of Step and Spine Physical Therapy, the repetitive motions of parenting (lifting, holding, carrying, rocking) commonly cause aches and pains in the back, neck, shoulders, elbows and wrists. He even compared this kind of chronic discomfort to that of well-known “repetitive stress injuries” (RSIs) such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
The most common culprit is poor posture (that – and carrying car seats which in and of themselves often weigh from 15 to 20+ pounds). Bringing your baby close to your body before lifting, as opposed to bending at the waist and picking them up from an arm’s length distance, helps to mediate back pain. As does carrying your child in the center of your body rather than holding them on one hip. Also, never carry the car seat on one side of your body or draped over your forearm like a purse. Instead, use both hands to grip the handle and carry it in front of your body. This should help keep you out of the chiropractor’s office – or at least minimize the bill.
9 Wet Poop! OMG, So Much
We all know that babies are notorious for pooping, and quite messily at that. But what can come as a surprise to parents of newborns is the consistency, often more liquid than solid. Newborn’s intestines do not absorb water very well and as a result, they excrete much of it into their stools (less so for formula-fed babies, whose poops may be bulkier in texture, more like toothpaste). When absorption improves, so does the thickness, but for the first few weeks or months, you will be faced with literal pools of poop.
And how often! Did you know a breastfed newborn has a bowel movement from four to ten times a day?! Formula-fed babies “only” poop one to two times per day on the high end and once every three days on the low end. Until the diaper contents get firmer, it's important to apply diaper cream liberally to keep a nasty bum rash at bay.
8 All. The. Crying.
When newborns first come out, their cries can actually be quite cute; soft and pretty low-pitched, more like mellow cat mewls than anything truly grating. But when your little bundle begins to develop a legitimate set of pipes those cries get much, much louder – and if you have a fussy, colicky or high needs baby, they practically never stop.
Some cries are attached to things you can figure out and fix, like hunger, wetness or being over-tired. But when your baby cries for several hours of the day, for “no reason” (or none that you can easily discern) and won’t calm down no matter what you do, your daily existence can get very taxing.
There is even some research showing that the hormone oxytocin primes nerve cells to better hear an infant in distress. This suggests that moms, who are flooded with oxytocin during labor, delivery and postpartum, are very attuned to and thus affected by their baby’s cries. According to NeuroReport, women’s normal brain activity will be interrupted and jolted out of daydreaming by the sound (men's brains "carry on uninterrupted").
So if you get a baby who cries inconsolably, or one who refuses to be put down ever without screaming in protest, we wouldn't judge you for wanting to voluntarily check yourself into the nut house.
7 The Umbilical Cord Stump
Taking care of a newborn while maintaining your sanity is hard enough. The constant work you have to do seems never ending: feed, burp, change, wipe, wash, soothe, rock, hold, carry. Repeat ad nauseum. Add to the list of tasks: keeping the crusted, blue remnants of a deceased bodily organ clean, dry and un-infected. (P.S. Do this while accidentally grazing it during 600 diaper and onesie changes).
The umbilical cord stump usually falls off within three weeks after birth. During this time, many parents fret whether it’s healing properly and what amount of blood, redness and or pus is normal to see around the stump. It’s hard not to check it every time you change your baby, which is up to a dozen or more times a day and you may have to resist the urge to pull it off yourself (not a good idea).
6 Feeling Trapped, Alone Or Overwhelmed
Caring for a tiny human 24/7 can fill you with many conflicting emotions. At times, hormones will surge when you look in your baby’s eyes and you can literally feel yourself falling in love. At others, you may be exhausted, irritable and even become angry or resentful at the nonstop demands being made on you, while you can barely take care of your own basic needs like eating and personal hygiene.
Even if you are able to get outside once a day for a walk or an errand, (or, joy of joys, a conversation with an adult!) the transition to full-time motherhood is dramatic and can leave some feeling trapped in “baby jail.” This has nothing to do with not loving your child; it has everything to do with being in a huge and often frightening life transition while being on a hormonal emotional roller coaster and feeling unsure how to achieve balance between your role as mother and everything else you want to do in your life. It’s not uncommon to wonder if and when you will ever get back to your “pre-baby self” – an identity and lifestyle with some independence and a healthy amount of separation from your motherly duties. It's important to take breaks, ask for help, talk to a doctor if you feel you are depressed and remember, it’s just a phase and won’t last forever!
5 Babies Are Boring, There We Said It
Momming can be an isolating and solitary task. There is an inconvenient and perhaps taboo truth that babies, while scrumptious, are also a literal snooze fest. Seriously, what can they do besides eat, cry, sleep and shart? Not much. They can't lift their heads or control their limbs; some barely even open their eyes for the first month. It can be six to 12 weeks before you get a smile and three to four months before you hear a laugh. With few traces of recognizable personality and zero ability to communicate outside of crying, we wouldn't blame you for feeling bored to bits while caring for your baby.
So what will you get from them? Gurgling, squirming, cooing and lots and lots of staring into space. Sometimes it is satisfying to simply hold and look at your baby. Even just to watch them sleep. But there is a limit to the number of hours and days on end you can do that and still maintain your own interpersonal skills. In the early stages, parenting is definitely a one-way street. You may find yourself feeling impatient for them to get older, so they can sit up, interact and react to the world around them, including you.
4 Being Scared Of How Fragile They Are
The loose, jelly-like limbs, the open fontanels, the soft skulls that flop around every time you forget to support them. Newborns, in all their mushy helplessness, seem super fragile. So many ways to inadvertently thwart their still developing little bodies! It's not surprising many new parents live in fear that they will accidentally damage the baby.
While infants are more resilient than they look, you do need to take extra precautions when handling them. Supporting their neck and head when lifting and holding them is key, as is making sure you never place them too close to the edge of a couch or chair to prevent falls. Never let an unattended child hold your infant and never shake the baby, not even for a second as it can cause brain damage. Outside of these major precautions, try not to worry. Babies are less delicate than they appear.
3 When You Haven’t Bonded Yet
In our society the common perception and mythology around motherhood is that you will feel an overwhelming love for your infant as soon as (s)he is born. We assume it will be natural, easy, and happen quickly. However, this is not the case for everyone. In fact it’s perfectly normal for it to take time to feel a deep bond with your baby.
You may have had a hard labor and delivery and your body and mind need time to recover before you have the emotional bandwidth to feel maternal love. Perhaps this new person has left you with a prolapsed bladder, excruciating abdominal pain from an unexpected C-section, hemorrhoids, incontinence, excessive bleeding, perineal soreness, swollen breasts or clogged ducts and you simply are not comfortable nor ready to take care of another person while suffering yourself.
Even if physical trauma is not be the culprit, it is normal to feel some negative feelings and/or ambivalence towards the newborn and all of the incessant demands (s)he places on you. If you have dark thoughts of harming yourself or the baby, seek help. Postpartum depression and anxiety affect up to 20 percent of new moms. Otherwise, keep holding and talking to your baby, and the bonding will follow.
2 They Trigger All Our Anxieties Times A Million
Being responsible for sustaining human life, sometimes nearly singlehandedly and often when you have no idea what you’re doing, is not easy. It’s no wonder having a baby can fill us with worry. The laundry list of things to be afraid about ranges from sleep training, breast vs. formula feeding and germs to SIDS, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and developmental delays. At each stage of life, there is something that can completely freak you out as a parent.
The litany of things to be concerned about paired with all the aggressively differing parenting advice philosophies that bombard us, can be tough to handle, especially for first-time and Type-A perfectionist parents who want to “do it right.” Babies require a steep learning curve and it’s no fun to feel clueless. Rest assured, it gets easier with time – and with successive children. With each one, you are more experienced and you simply don’t have as much time to care about all the things you obsessed over the first time around.
1 When They Get Strong
As much as you may have fretted when they were tiny and defenseless, you may also not love it when they beef up because you know what that means? They can now fight you. And boy, will they! At bedtime, bath time, dinnertime, diaper-changing time, getting into the car seat time, leaving the playground time, basically all the time. As your baby cruises into toddlerhood, the most routine of tasks will become a struggle.
The tiny being you used to be able to gently hold down with one hand (and who did not resemble Mike Tyson on the changing table to begin with) will suddenly have leg muscles and strong opinions to go along with them. The placid coos and giggles of a six month old all too quickly morph into the tortured howls of protest and frustration of an 18-month old. So enjoy your little bundle while you can because pretty soon you’ll have to wrestle him to the ground just to put on a pair of pants.
Sources: BabyCenter, StepandSpine.com, Parents.com, What to Expect, Science News.