Do you have a newborn and are completely lost on how to survive the first 4 weeks with them? Are they crying all the time and you have no idea how to make it stop? I was there too – quite recently, actually. My son is 10 months old but those first few weeks are still fresh in my mind and this post is here to help you make it through!
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First, read my post on the four parenting and pregnancy books that you NEED to read. The books on that list, along with this post, will help you fully understand your newborn and how to help them adapt to life outside the womb a little easier.
Newborns can be tough to handle – tiny, usually crying, and always wanting to sleep. Maybe you came home and it’s not what you imagined. It’s okay!
Here are some ways to help you first 4 weeks with your baby:
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1. Trial & Error
If your baby is crying non-stop and you don’t know what to do – it’s okay! At this point, you can try EVERYTHING. Go down the line: feed, change, rock, sing to, etc. Sometimes you need to step away so they can stop being overwhelmed by all the things you’re trying so try that as well. Try one thing at a time and eventually you will find it. With that being said…
2. Have patience
We are all new when it comes to our first child, so you can’t be expected to know it at all first. Have some patience and know that you will figure it out. If you need to step away, put your baby in a safe place (like the crib) and take a deep breath (yes, even if baby is crying. It’s better to do this than to resort to something harmful like shaking your baby). Give yourself 2 or 3 minutes to compose yourself, then go back to your baby.
For the first week with Liam, we didn’t swaddle him and man do I regret it. We had no idea!! But after hearing some advice and reading The Happiest Baby On The Block (on my list of must-reads! Check out the post here), we realized we needed to swaddle him during sleepy times. Babies like to feel like they are back in the womb (at least in the first few weeks) and swaddling does just that. We received these Swaddle-Me swaddles as a gift and LOVED them. They are cute and we still use them even at 12 weeks! Your baby may resist swaddling at first (ours did) but be persistent. Usually while we are wrapping his first arm he whimpers, but then once he’s actually swaddled he’s calm. Babies flail and startle too much so swaddling really helps them to stay still, which helps them sleep better and longer!
4. Get a sound machine
Again, we didn’t use this the first week cuz we just didn’t know. My sister-in-law lent us her sound machine and thank goodness she did because it really helped Liam sleep SO much better (it helped us sleep better too). We love this sound machine because there a few different sounds you can choose from. We prefer the white noise option and so does baby, but you can try all of them to see what works for you. We use it for all naps and sleepy time. Babies really like sound and don’t actually want to sleep in silence – they are used to hearing everything when they were in the womb and want to keep it that way!
5. Use gas drops
Our baby had a hard time passing gas and pooping at times and we weren’t sure what to do. He would cry and even scream every night and we were at our wits end. We finally asked our pediatrician what to do and she recommended gas drops (called Mylicon). We bought ours around 2 weeks and are still using it. We bought these gas drops and it seemed to work wonders. If you suspect your baby has gas problems (most do, at first) then talk to your doc and get some gas drops!
6. Nap when you can
I know everything you read says “sleep when baby sleeps” but it’s not always possible. That’s why I’ve amended it to be “sleep when you can”. Even just a 30-minute power nap can help you make it through the day so try to do that at least once a day. I also set aside time every weekend to get a nice, long nap in while Peter watched the baby. Having a great partner definitely helps!
7. Realize that this will pass
Newborns are adorable, but it’s no secret they’re hard work. But they wont be a newborn forever, and soon they will be much easier to handle. Sleep will come easier, digestion issues will fix themselves, and you’ll start to see their little personality emerge. Some nights may be harder than others, but I kept telling myself it would pass and it truly helped me get through it. I kept reminding myself that he would soon start smiling, laughing, and playing (and he did!) and I knew that if I could just make it through these first 4 weeks, things would be amazing and worth it.
8. Don’t have too many expectations
Many people have an idea in their mind of what a baby should do but it’s important to remember that a new baby will really only eat, sleep, and poop. Before you bring your baby home, remember to tell yourself that the first few weeks will really be you and the baby just surviving together. These are precious moments, of course, but you can’t expect to be playing and smiling just yet. Remember this fact and you’ll be just fine.
9. Finally - remember that nobody is born an expert
Babies don’t come with instruction manuals and everyone has to start from scratch. It’s okay if you’re not an expert at first (you’ll become one!) and it doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up over not knowing what to do. Give yourself (and baby too!) time to adapt and I promise you’ll start to get it.
The first few weeks are rough, but they are precious! Use your instincts and just try your best – it WILL get easier. Cherish these moments because they will fly by, trust me!