If new parents can make it through the first three months, then they can make it through whatever obstacles parenting brings afterwards. Raising a child will never be easy. For the first ten years or so, every day might be physically tiring. Then, once your baby becomes a teenager, you'll be emotionally drained as well. But if you can just push through your baby's newborn phase, you'll know that you can do hard things.
Why? Because raising a baby is hard, plain and simple. If you expected it to be a cake walk, then I have some very bad news for you. Between erratic sleep schedules and colicky cries, you'll probably be a little exhausted. This is okay and if you fall asleep before your head hits the pillow (only to wake up for nursing two hours later), you're not a "bad parents." You're a normal one.
Sometimes, when you're in the midst of the first three months, you'll wonder if you even have the strength to make it through. This is as true for first-time parents as it is for mothers raising their second, third, or fourth baby. Infants take a lot of work. While parenting won't get easier, you can take some steps to make it more manageable.
This article explores 15 tips to get you through the first three months in one piece and (more or less) sane. Know your resources and seek them out when times get hard, and make sure to enlist your spouse's help in trying out this advice. Once you make it past month three, you'll have the confidence to know that you've gotten the hang of this whole "parenting" thing.
15 Embrace The Insanity
Feel a little crazy? Welcome to parenthood and congratulations! We all know that kids take so much. Who expected sanity to be any different? Feeling a little frazzled is totally normal. Newborns are unpredictable, fragile little things, and you may feel helpless trying to get them through infancy unscathed. Rather than try to control every little situation, give yourself the permission to accept that a little uncertainty is okay.
Keep a close watch on your emotions, though, and know your limits. If you're so stressed that you're not taking care of yourself, take time to destress. Make time for a bath, take a walk outside, or practice breathing exercises. If you feel a little guilty for doing so, remember that you can't help your baby unless you help yourself, too.
If the stress never goes away or you even feel a little unhappy or anxious, you may have post-partum depression. Seek help from your doctor, who can direct you to support groups, counseling, or medication. You don't need to feel alone if you're struggling to stay afloat.
14 Split Parental Duties Evenly
Odds are, your partner will be happy to step in from day one to help you take care of your little one. If they're slacking or you feel like they're never around, try to communicate your frustration and ask that they help you. You may have given birth to the baby, but your partner is just as much their parent as you. Split parental duties evenly so that you're not stuck with all the dirty diapers or late-night soothing.
Parental duties don't have to be so 50/50 that you take turns with each bottle. If your partner enjoys soothing the baby when cranky, let them take a crack at it. If you prefer giving the baby baths to taking them to the park, you don't have to take turns on those duties. Do what works for you and your spouse. Just make sure neither of you are shouldering the full burden.
13 Ignore Confusing Or "Weird" Advice
Most of the time, people have their hearts in the right place when they offer you some advice. Older couples may remember the time they raised babies fondly and want to share with you what worked for them. But if your grandma won't stop admonishing that it's her parenting way or the highway (and you don't fully understand what "her way" is), you're fully excused to smile, thank them for the advice, and continue what you're doing.
All babies are different. Some techniques work better with some babies, and other techniques may make your trouble worse. If you try someone's method and your baby doesn't respond well, it might not be your fault. Maybe your baby just doesn't respond well to that tip.
If someone keeps offering you the same advice, you didn't find it helpful, and they still insist you're "not doing it right," let them know. Tell them that although you appreciate their care, you haven't had as much success with that method. This goes with friends, families, and (of course) anything on that list. Everyone's experience is unique, yours included.
12 Reconnect With Friends
If you haven't seen the sun since the day you left the hospital and you're worried your friends have forgotten you, do yourself a favor and get out of the house. Cooping you up with your newborn for three months won't help either of you. Schedule a cafe date with a friend and leave the baby with your spouse for an hour. Trust us, both will be there when you get back.
Sometimes people worry that after they have a baby, they won't have time for their friends anymore (especially friends who do not have children). This is only as true as you let it be true. If you make time to reach out with friends, you'll still maintain important relationships in your life. Maybe you won't be able to go to every girls' night and your baby may have to tag along for lunches, but if you want to keep friends, you can still make time for them.
No matter what, just promise yourself to take some time out. No woman is an island. Don't make your home your prison.
11 Ask Spouse To Take Work Leave
If your spouse can take paternity leave, even if for a couple of days, that may help you get through the first month. Having two people to devote their time and energy to a newborn goes a long way, and you'll find yourself much more rested and energetic if you're not doing everything from day one.
Depending on the company, some might even let your partner schedule their time off a few days or a week after the baby is born. If you can take this option, go for it! During the first days of parenthood, you may have relatives and in-laws helping you watch the baby and get settled into motherhood. After about a week or so, they may not be as available as before. Plan ahead and ask your partner to take their days off a few days after this space so you're not left completely alone.
Unfortunately, not every company allows paternity leave. If your spouse isn't so lucky, try to make the most of the time you do have together. Appreciate their help when they are around and use precious time to reconnect with them. If you're not careful, babies can add unnecessary stress into marriage. Try to look at parenthood as a bonding experience instead.
10 The OB-Gyn Can Still Help
Luckily, ob-gyns don't just kick you out the door post-delivery and hope you take care of your newborn. If you need them, your clinician will be there every step of the way. How much help they offer depends on how much you want them to be involved. The frequency of advice is one hundred percent dependant on your need.
Don't be afraid to reach out and give your ob-gyn a call if you have any questions. Odds are, they've seen whatever your baby is going through and know how to help. Take time to write down any non-pressing questions you have and use your time at well baby exams to ask any questions. They're here to make parenting a little less scary and are here for your benefit.
Ob-gyns do so much. Their job is not easy. Behind every ob-gyn are years of training and hardships. Make sure you thank them for their support along the way. Everyone appreciates gratitude.
9 Gain A Little Perspective
Sometimes a few minutes of big-picture thinking can go a long way. Frustration is one of the most common feelings new parents feel with their baby. You may not be able to figure out why they cry before your ears start ringing; if your baby's colicky, they may not even have a fixable reason. Before you start screaming, however, try considering the situation's perspective.
Don't get sucked up emotionally into your baby's tantrums. If you get angry, your baby will feel startled and cry louder. Try your best to keep your emotions under control and seek a solution to the problem. With time, you'll find it easier to keep your feelings separated from your infants. Once you gain this skill, you'll find it a lot easier to sort your priorities and tackle the most important problems first.
If you need a mantra to get you through the moment, find your mantra. Even something as simple as "I am the adult here" or "This moment will pass" can help you keep your cool when you can feel your temper rising.
8 Ask Your Mom
Nobody knows you like your mother. If you have a healthy relationship with mom, now may be the time to invite her over to visit or give her a call. After all, she's been there. She raised you from birth and somehow made it past three months. You turned out alright, didn't you?
Your mom can tailor her advice to fit your needs and personality, and she'll be able to empathize with you on a level even your spouse might not reach. Open up to her about anything that's troubling you or any insecurities you might have. She can help put your concerns at ease and give you her perspective on getting through a tough situation.
Sometimes, due to circumstances outside your control, you may not be able to or feel comfortable with asking your mom. If you are in this situation, it's okay. Ask a neighbor or a friend with older children who knows you well. Even if they can't understand what you're going through all the way, they can still act as a good support system.
7 Take Maternity Leave If Possible
If you're working, you may want to take a couple of weeks or months off while adjusting to the newborn. If you can manage it, you'll be helping yourself as much as you're helping the baby. Parenthood is exciting but also a significant adjustment. Time to breathe and find a new flow can go a long way for your emotional health.
As important as maternity leave is, your job might not offer a long one depending on what country laws are in place. They also might not offer paid maternity leave, which could be troubling depending on your financial situation. If you can't take a long maternity leave, make do with what you have. Take time to rest and recuperate during the time you do have off.
If you have to go back before you are ready, ask your boss if they can be flexible with you. Perhaps they'll let you work from home, pay a little leave, or part-time until your life is settled again. If your boss is also a parent, odds are they empathize with your situation and might give you some leeway. If anything, asking never hurts.
6 Don't Freak Out If The "Babymoon" Phase Ends
You'll always love your baby... but when they're screaming in your ear or burping spit-up on your couch, you might not like them so much. How can you be grumpy at such a cute little bundle of joy, asks every person who has clearly never had children?
Pretty easily, as it turns out.
The first three months are tough in terms of bonding with a newborn. Because they sleep a lot and interact very little until they're a few months old, they might not give you much to work with. Your baby will bring laughter to your home, but sometimes they might also bring sighs or even some shed tears.
It's okay if you don't feel in love with your baby all the time. Think about your spouse. Sure, you love them, but you feel all sorts of emotions about them depending on the situation. Sometimes, you may even feel a little frustrated around them. The mother-child relationship is a very close bond, too, so why would it be any different? Don't hate yourself if your baby annoys you sometimes. Try to get some alone time and come back with a fresh mind.
5 Tummy Time
Tummy time is so beneficial for your baby that you'll want to include it in your daily routine. Placing a baby on their stomach (while supervised, of course) can help your baby develop strong head, shoulder, and neck muscles. Not only that, but it prevents your baby from developing positional plagiocephaly, or a flat head.
Researchers have noticed that babies who receive more tummy time crawl earlier than babies who don't. Their motor skills develop a little faster and they'll hold their head up, roll over, and sit up sooner than those who opt out of tummy time. Adding another benefit to the list, tummy time lets your baby experience the world from a whole new position and incite curiosity for the world around them.
Lay your newborn on your lap tummy-down a couple of times a day to start off. Once your baby's a few weeks older and more independent, lay them on the floor with a blanket. Make sure you keep a close eye on the baby to prevent any trouble and definitely stay in the same room while newborns have tummy time. For babies up to three months old, 20 minutes of tummy time is recommended.
4 It's Okay To Use A Babysitter (Sometimes)
How old is old enough to leave your baby with a sitter. As long as the babysitter is mature enough (meaning not your twelve year old niece or nephew), you may be able to hire a sitter as early as one and a half or two months after birth. Depending on the individual needs of your baby, you should be able to resume date night soon enough.
Before hiring someone, take time to examine your own comfort level, your babysitter's experience with newborns, and your newborn's reaction to strangers. Find a babysitter who specifically lists newborn experience as one of their qualifications and do a thorough background check. Give them a list of instructions and a number to reach you by if something happens. Let them know about anything you're concerned about and, once you feel ready, leave them with your sitter for one or two hours.
When to hire a babysitter comes down to your personal comfort level. Some mothers who can't take time off work for financial reasons hire a nanny very soon. In that case, they'll usually pump breastmilk when they have time to ensure proper feeding for their baby. There's no "right time" to leave your baby with a sitter. Leave it up to your discretion.
3 Become "The Baby Whisperer"
Your baby can't talk yet but rest assured, they're trying to communicate with you. Though you might not recognize them at first, your baby has a distinct cry for each situation. If you can develop a good ear and differentiate one cry from another, you'll respond faster and keep you and your baby less stressed.
At first, you'll have to go through trial and error. When your baby cries, try to really listen to the sound while finding a solution. Once they cry later, listen again and think about whether this cry sounds like one you've heard before. If it does, try that solution again. You'll thank yourself for the quick thinking if it works.
2 Don't Forget About Your Spouse
You think post-baby jealousy only comes from older children? Think again. Especially for first-time parents, your partner may feel a little envious of all the attention that your little one's getting. They may not feel jealous on purpose, but how couldn't they? Before the child, it was just you and them. If the two of you wanted alone time, you got it.
Now you are sharing every moment with a new baby that desperately needs your attention. Your spouse may need an adjustment period and sometimes, they may not be too happy. Take some time to tell them how much you appreciate your help and show it whenever possible. Just like raising a baby, romantic relationships take time, patience, and lots of affection.
1 Have Fun!
You know how everyone always says that they grow up so fast? Listen to these people. Yes, it's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. Babies really do grow older faster than you think. One moment you're changing their diapers, and the next you wave them off to the first day of kindergarten. Newborns cry a lot and sometimes, you might not want to be around them, but try to cherish the time you do have.
You never know what the future will bring or how things change. You don't have to love your baby all the time, but try to make the most of the time you do have when they're so tiny. If you're feeling a little grouchy, try to have some fun! Take them out on a nature trail, have a family night with your partner, and make fun memories so that when you look back on these days, you'll smile.
No pressure or anything! On the flip side, maybe this will give you a little comfort: some day, the newborn stage will pass and you'll be able to sleep at regular hours again. Hooray! Until then, though, try to make the most of what you've got and don't be afraid to laugh when things go unexpectedly. With babies, they always do.