Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

Ten Steps to Surviving the first three months with a newborn!

[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost. Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline also now available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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So, your precious baby has finally arrived! After a perfect pregnancy and blissful labor and delivery, you’ve come home (in your pre-pregnancy clothes, of course!) with your beautiful baby, ready to start life as the perfect parents of a perfect child. Yeah, right! Actually, after a pregnancy in which you threw up more times than you can count and yet still managed to gain an embarrassing amount of weight, and where your feet swelled to unrecognizable lumps at the bottom of your legs, you finally suffered through a hideously long, painful labor and delivery only to arrive home (in your largest maternity outfit which barely fit!) with a screaming, vomiting, miniature human being who can’t tell you why he’s upset and who poops what can only be described as TAR! What are you going to do now?!?

First, call your mommy! No, really, if you have a mom or a grandma or an aunt or a good friend who has any experience with babies, ask for help! As long as there have been babies being born, there have been women gathering around to help new mamas through those first intense weeks with a newborn. Experienced helpers can make all the difference in how well you survive the sleepless nights, crazy hormones, and vast uncertainties that come with being a new parent.

Beware, though, the experienced helpers who are a bit too helpful and try to push you out of the way even to the extent of trying to guilt you into leaving your baby behind to go on a walk or a date-night ‘for the good of your marriage.’ In the first place, having to leave your baby behind to preserve your marriage isn’t a great precedent to set with your husband. You two are in this together and setting a precedent of family first is a good idea! And secondly, the whole point of having help is not only for you to recover, but also so you can become experienced yourself in taking care of your baby. And on that note…

Second, while accepting help is vital, make sure that everyone knows that this baby is YOUR baby and YOU will decide what is best for you and your child. Listen to all the advice; take what makes sense to you; and chuck the rest. Let your helpers do the housework and the cooking and the errands while you take care of and get to know the new little addition to your family. If your instincts tell you to hold your baby, even while she sleeps, then hold your baby even while she sleeps! If your instincts tell you to nurse your crying baby even though you just nursed fifteen minutes ago, then nurse your baby!  God gave you those instincts for a reason, so don’t ignore them!

Third, I know we’ve all heard the ‘sleep when your baby is sleeping’ advice. Listen to that advice! Short little naps may not seem all that helpful in theory, but they can be lifesavers when getting used to the rigors of new parenthood. And keep reminding yourself that it will get better, because it will!

Fourth, whether you’ve chosen to breastfeed or bottle feed, expect your little one to eat erratically right at first. Remember, babies nutritional needs were met with a constancy and lack of effort in utero that can’t be fully replicated outside the womb. Their tummies are only about the size of a walnut in the first days, so they can’t eat enough at a feeding to last them more than two or three hours at most, and often far less! Also, if you’re breastfeeding it’s common to worry that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, but if you keep in mind how itty bitty their little tummies are, you’ll realize that it doesn’t take much to fill them up. Things to consider with breastfeeding are getting a good latch and establishing your supply, among others, and it’s often helpful to consult a lactation specialist for guidance. There are excellent resources available in most communities through your local hospital as well as online resources such as La Leche League and Kellymom.com.

Fifth, while bathing baby may be fun, it really isn’t necessary and might be rather traumatic for them. ‘Topping and tailing’ is a term that means taking a warm, wet cloth (no soap) and gently washing their eyes (inner corner to outer corner to avoid infection), face, ears, head, and neck, and then washing their bottom, being careful to clean out all the little cracks and crevices. Follow that with cord care (gently cleaning the cord area with a cotton swab moistened with alcohol), and you’re done!

Sixth, birth is a huge transition for a baby. From a warm, dark, weightless environment where all their needs are met, sounds are muffled, and mama’s heartbeat lulls them to sleep, they are abruptly ejected into a cold, loud, bright world where they experience hunger and discomfort and loneliness and fear for the first time. You can help your little one cope by easing the transition for him. Keeping the lights a bit dimmer and the sounds a bit more muted right at first is helpful in welcoming your baby to your world. Also, it’s helpful to wear your baby in those first transitional weeks (and often far longer when you discover how convenient it is!). Babywearing is a term that refers to using a baby carrier, wrap, or sling to keep your baby close to you where he can hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth and closeness in an approximation of your womb. All of these things will help to reduce your baby’s stress as he acclimates to his new environment, and a less stressed baby tends to result in a less stressed mommy!

Seventh, there is a big divide in parenting circles between the ‘co-sleepers’ and the ‘crib-sleepers’ so be aware that whichever choice you make will probably be challenged by more than one of your friends or relatives or even complete strangers who seem to have no issues with giving advice to someone they don’t know! Bottom line, if you choose to co-sleep, check here for ‘safe co-sleeping’ options, and then follow your instincts! If you choose to put your little one in a crib or bassinet, do yourself a favor and put it next to your bed to reduce your travel time in the middle of the night. You’ll thank me, I promise!

Eighth, your baby is completely and totally helpless in every way. Her main mode of communication is crying. Medical experts agree that it isn’t possible to spoil a newborn, and you are just at the beginning stages of building a trust relationship, so respond promptly to your little one’s cries! Your immediate response to your baby’s needs will help her begin to learn that she can count on you when she needs you and that she doesn’t have to ‘fight’ for your attention. Babies left to cry-it-out often do sleep through the night sooner than babies whose needs are responded to because they have learned to give up on their needs being met. But that ‘gain’ of sleeping through the night is accomplished at the ‘loss’ of trust, and the long-term consequences  of a child giving up on her parents simply aren’t worth it.

Ninth, baby yourself! Whether you’ve had a c-section or a vaginal birth, your body has been through the wringer; your hormones are all over the place; and your lack of sleep is not helping matters! Have someone make you a ‘survival basket’ with water bottles, granola bars, minty gum, hand sanitizer, diapers, baby wipes, burp rags, and, most importantly, chocolate! It needs to be small and light enough for you to take from room to room with you while carrying your baby. Also, have someone make a comfy area in your living room for you to nurse (with your survival basket within reach!) and a changing area so you don’t have to go back and forth to the bedroom or nursery throughout the day. Take showers when you can. Accept casseroles and other offerings of meals from friends and church members and co-workers. And, if you don’t have help for the housework, just do the bare minimum so you can rest and recover and focus on getting to know your precious new baby!

Tenth, baby your marriage! This is a huge, huge, huge transition for you and your husband, so both of you apologize to each other in advance for any temper tantrums, thoughtless words, or unmet needs that might (will!) occur in the foreseeable future. You are going from ‘the two of us’ to ‘we three’ and, just as with anything else, change isn’t easy. Husbands, it’s not about you right now, period. Yes, you have your own issues to deal with in becoming a parent for the first time, but you need to put that aside for the first weeks and concentrate on your wife and child. Your wife isn’t just having to deal with becoming a mommy, but her body has been through an incredible transition during the previous nine months followed by the trauma of labor and delivery followed by crashing hormones, the trials of learning to breastfeed (or deal with engorgement issues if choosing to bottle feed), and the exhaustion of dealing with a newborn’s erratic sleep patterns. If she’s also had a c-section, you can add major abdominal surgery to that list! So, husbands, put your own issues aside and baby your wife and baby for the time being! Wives, a little verbal acknowledgement goes a long way with husbands, so try to muster up enough energy to tell your husband that you appreciate him and understand that he is trying to figure out this new life just like you are, and assure him that eventually you will be you again! (Yes, you will. It just takes time!)

Final thoughts: One of the things that has kept me going through giving birth to six children (and losing several others along the way) is the assurance that ‘this too shall pass.’ As with all changes in life, it takes time to adjust, but reminding yourself that this ‘will pass,’ and you will adjust, and life will go on is very, very helpful! Also, take time to enjoy the little things–the sweet smell of your newborn’s tiny head, the soft sounds of his breathing as he sleeps, the sight of your spouse staring into your beautiful baby’s eyes–because too soon this time will pass and these precious moments will become mere memories. Congratulations and God bless!

quote twinkle twinkle baby mineRelated links:

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

Baby Talk

Mona Lisa Smiles

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

Practical Gentle Discipline Guide

Four Ways Attachment Parenting Can Reduce the Risk of SIDS

The Science of Sleep: Newborns

just wanted you to know

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

34 Responses

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  10. CCourtney

    Thank you for posting the info about breastfeeding. I was told, by my mother in law, I wasn’t producing enough milk for my daughter because she ate every 2 hours. If someone had told me that it was normal for her to eat that much, I would have listened and breastfed her longer.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:46 pm

  11. Laine

    So sorry CCourtney!! The best advise I ever got was from my mom, who happens to be a lactation consultant, is if you are breastfeeding there is no such thing as a baby over-eating. If your baby wants to eat every hour they can. Not to say that some babies don’t over do it, but it doesn’t hurt them.

    September 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm

  12. L.R. Knost

    There are many ‘booby traps’ (false or misleading information/myths) that lead mamas to stop breastfeeding before they or their little ones are ready :( That’s why it’s so important to get solid information circulating in as many formats as possible. I’m sorry you didn’t get the support you needed at the time, mama, and hope that, if you have another little blessing, you’ll get the support you need to breastfeed as long as you’d like to!

    September 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm

  13. What a nice summary! I try to stress to my girlfriends getting ready for babies to accept the help!!!! If you have friends and family around let them help you out — you don’t have to pretend you can do it all and know what you’re doing every moment of the day. :o)

    October 10, 2012 at 11:51 am

  14. Pingback: » 300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny… Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources

  15. Sage advice. My ‘babies’ (3 of them) are in their early 20s now. When I had mine my husband was military and we lived far from both families…I had little to no help. Neither my mother or mother-in-law breast-fed, so weren’t supportive there either. But I stuck to my gut instincts, you’re so right about mother’s intuition and doing what works for you. I nursed all three of mine, my youngest till she was almost 2. It was tough but worked out the best for all of us. I kept them with me (in a snugli) the first 6mos, and fed on demand. My mom criticized me harshly— felt I was doing ‘too much’ for them; she made snide comments and frequently expressed disgust. But it worked for me…so I kept at it. And all 3 of my children are now healthy, well-adjusted adults. Oh, we had trials and tribulations, every family does…but I will forever be grateful on how I raised them as babies. I must have done something right…for everything I read now goes back to what I did 20yrs ago.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm

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  17. Suzanne

    The only thing I would add is yes have your helpers clean and such but remember to THANK THEM they do NOT have to do what they are doing! Don’t take that for granted!

    January 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    • L.R. Knost

      Agreed! I’ve seen some cute ideas on Pinterest for making personalized thank you cards that could be made before delivery and then handed out with a picture of the new little one and a $5 Starbucks giftcard tucked inside.

      January 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm

  18. Jessica

    Just a note regarding bathing. totally agree with baby not always needing a full bath. as a nurse on post-partum, we recommend giving baby a full, but quick, bath every 3 days, and doing as you describe in between. but we no longer recommend using alcohol for cord care, unless the cord stump becomes infected (red, pussy, smelly), at which point a doctor’s visit is a good idea. Other than that, all that cord needs is warm water, being sure to dry around it with a cotton swab. These are Canadian guidelines, and I know that such guidelines change depending on location, so be sure to check with a health care provider in your area. Just thought I would offer another opinion!

    March 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    • L.R. Knost

      Thank you, Jessica. I’ve heard both recommendations here in the US, too. It’s good to have a variety of thoughts so mama’s know that there isn’t just ‘one way’ to do things!

      March 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm

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  23. Anda

    Hi, thank you for all the info and help you have been giving to us all so far!
    I am experiencing a new kind of sleep problem now though: i am expecting no 2 and my 3 yrs old is still not sleeping through the night. He wakes up either because a bad dream, thirst, wee etc and immediately starts crying for me as he does not like being on his own. However, w a newborn on his way who will have to share his bedroom (after 3-4 months of sleeping in our bedroom first), I don’t really know what to do… Any advice on that?

    July 25, 2013 at 2:02 am

    • Night-waking is normal, mama. Even us adults do it! We just typically go back to sleep and don’t remember we were ever awake. Some children are able at three-years-old to settle back to sleep themselves, and some still need a bit of help. It won’t last forever. (Even though I know it feels like it sometimes!) Before you know it he’ll be putting himself to bed and handling all of his nighttime needs alone, etc. If your husband can try to step in and respond to your little guy at night and even lay down with him until he goes back to sleep, that may help to set a new pattern that will work well when the new baby comes. Or you could put a little pallet on the floor in your room and let him know that he can come in there quietly and sleep if he wakes up and needs to be near you. With a new baby on the way, your little guy is likely already feeling the dynamic shifting in the house and may need some extra connection time to reassure him that everything is okay and that your love will be multiplied and not divided. :) Congratulations on the new little expected blessing!

      July 26, 2013 at 11:55 am

      • Anda

        Thanks, the idea is very good, this way he will still feel like he can come whenever he wants to be close to us :)

        August 1, 2013 at 9:20 am

  24. Amy

    Those first months are so very tough.

    August 7, 2013 at 11:54 pm

  25. Roberta Ferguson

    Hoping for an ebook! Thank you.

    August 7, 2013 at 11:59 pm

  26. Pati Mattison

    Would love to win. Thank you

    August 8, 2013 at 12:00 am

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  29. Such a great read, thank you so much!

    September 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

  30. Mama913

    Something no one told me is babies can have a tough time pooping! Especially right after your milk comes in and their stools transition from tar to baby poo! Mine was up for 7 hrs screaming the night we brought him home from the hospital! After hours of taking turns with my hubby walking the house and googling what might help, he finally loaded his diaper! Then he was 100% fine and went back to sleep! Tummy massage and moving their legs like a bicycle really help!
    Have a stash of gas drops and gripe water handy, they are life savers!

    November 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm

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