You’ve been waiting months or maybe years for a baby to enter your life. You might even be gushing about your sweet baby’s impending arrival to everyone you meet. People have all kinds of baby advice ready for you. Most are excited and overjoyed with you. BUT, there's always someone who feels the need to tell you to: “Enjoy your sleep now because when this baby arrives, it’s all over!”
As a neonatal nurse, mom of four, and baby sleep expert, let me be the first to tell you:
It’s going to be okay; I promise. We can get your baby sleeping. Sleep deprivation doesn’t have to rule your world.
Allow me to share my best advice for new parents and help set your mind at ease about baby sleep before your little one arrives.
Can you spoil a newborn? anchor
No! Despite what some may say, you cannot hold your newborn “too much.” You cannot snuggle your baby “too much.” Responding to your crying baby is not only developmentally appropriate, but it also nurtures attachment and teaches your baby that the world around them is safe.
Crying is the only way your newborn baby is able to let you know they need something. So every time you pick your baby up, hold your baby, feed your baby, or change your baby’s diaper- you’re meeting their needs and providing security. Even if your baby has to wait a a minute as you finish helping a sibling or because you need to use the bathroom- your baby still knows they can depend on you.
Please do not worry about creating “bad habits” during these early weeks. If you love babywearing, snuggling with your sleeping baby, or rocking them to sleep, you should absolutely do that. You don’t need to feel guilty or worry about it for one minute. Remember: nobody knows that baby like you do. No one is better equipped to make decisions and choices for that sweet little one than you.
How do I get sleep with a newborn? anchor
Ask any new parent — in that first month, you will be exhausted, but you will also be amazed by the energy you have to provide for this little one. Sleeping for a few uninterrupted hours will feel like absolute heaven. Obviously, this won’t and shouldn’t last forever, but you will have what you need to get through this first little bit despite the middle of the night feedings and wakings.
Here are some ways to help you get some sleep after you welcome a new baby:
Have good sleep hygiene. Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. Follow a bedtime routine for yourself. (Read more about these strategies for good sleep.)
Take shifts. Divide the nights in half with a partner or another loved one to allow you to get a longer stretch of sleep.
Ask for help. I promise your loved ones want to help! This could look like picking up a grocery order, folding a load of laundry, or caring for your baby while you take a nap.
Let go of “shoulds” in your house. If the feeling that you “should” do the dishes before going to bed or you “should” fold the laundry before you allow yourself to rest is getting in the way of your sleep, give yourself some grace here. I understand this may be easier said than done. Remind yourself: this is temporary. Prioritizing sleep is important for your health and for your ability to care for your baby.
Learn about baby sleep. Research shows that attending parenting classes actually improved the birth outcomes of babies whose moms were stressed, anxious, or depressed. The same is true with baby sleep. A baby sleep class can improve your newborn experience while helping you lay a healthy sleep foundation.
What can I expect in the 4th trimester?anchor
I have a collection of blogs full of newborn sleep tips and what to expect in the early weeks with your newborn. BUT there’s some advice for new parents that I want to share from my heart to yours about what to expect in the 4th trimester (the first three months with your newborn).
Let’s talk about:
Your body. If you’ve just birthed your baby, you may look 5 months pregnant immediately after you give birth. That’s your uterus. It may surprise you, but it will go down soon. And remember, it took nine months to grow that sweet baby, it’s going to take time to recover and for your body to start to feel “normal” again.
Your bond. You're going to love this baby more than you ever dreamed possible, but that may also take some time. It's okay if it's not all rainbows right away.
Your baby’s temperament. Babies cry. They are sometimes fussy even when you're doing everything "right." It can leave you feeling like a failure. You're not. Repeat: You’re not. And for all of those fussy times, there will be so many more fun times too. You’ll soon learn that your baby’s smile will make your days unimaginably brighter.
Your baby’s nutrition. Breastfeeding and establishing a healthy nursing relationship can be very challenging... and so rewarding. Ask for help, but know that this is just one way to feed your baby. How your baby receives nutrition is NOT an indicator of your love!
Your baby’s sleep. Your baby is not a clock, and they will likely never follow a perfect schedule. But my newborn sleep class (0-12 weeks) can give you the tools you need to lay a healthy sleep foundation and give you incredible confidence with no crying involved!
Your relationship. Your marriage might look a bit different after your baby is born, but there are things you can do to help you and your partner thrive.
Your mental health. If you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster- you are! It takes 38-40 weeks for those hormones to get to a certain level, and then they come crashing down in 6-8 weeks. It’s hard! Please know, these changes in mood can happen to any parent who welcomes a new baby into their lives. You’re not alone.
If you’re struggling, I want you to know that I see you. I’ve been there. It can and WILL get better. But please ask for help! This may look like talking to a therapist, taking walks outside, beginning meds, or asking a friend to come over while you take a nap. At the end of the day, what babies need is love from healthy parents.
Postpartum Support International (1-800-944-4773) is a great resource that offers online support and can connect you to local providers.
What are your newborn must-haves?anchor
Can I tell you something? Newborns truly don’t need many products. But there are four things I think every new parent needs to own on Day 1 after arriving home from the hospital.
Here they are:
A swaddle that has Velcro or a zipper (Use code takingcarababies).
A sound machine (Use code CARA20 for 20% off).
A safe place for the baby to sleep. Be sure that it's labeled crib, bassinet, or play yard.
If you need more help with baby products, my Amazon page has all of my favorites from pregnancy through your little one’s 5th birthday.
How do I get my newborn baby on a schedule?anchor
If you’re a Type-A person who thrives on productivity, I get you. I flourish when my days are planned, and I measure success by what I accomplish in any given week. However, in the first month of your baby’s life, try to set aside that drive for productivity.
Can I give you a to-do list for the first month after your little one arrives? Here it is:
Take care of you
Take care of your baby
Brush your teeth
At the same time, I understand that you may want some more guidance, so I'm happy to give you some sample schedules so you can begin to work on a flexible routine. However, when you think about your newborn, keep in mind that he's a baby, not a robot; she's a human, not a clock. Holding to a rigid schedule will only steal your joy. They’ll want to eat before the clock says it’s time. Your baby will have irregular naps. There will be times you need to wake your baby for a feeding. This is all okay and normal!
If you need more help, my newborn class will show you how to recognize your baby’s cues so you can feel confident in navigating your day. I'll walk you through setting your days and nights up for success as you lay a healthy sleep foundation with no crying involved. Even though your days may not be perfectly predictable, I believe you can truly love the newborn stage.
What are the signs my new baby is hungry?anchor
Putting your new baby on a strict feeding schedule isn't necessary or developmentally appropriate. We always want to feed babies when they're hungry. But how do you know if your baby is hungry? By their hunger cues:
Expert Tip: Most newborns do best with feedings about every 2-3 hours during the day. If you find your little one can rarely go 2 hours without a feeding, your baby may be snacking all day instead of taking full feedings. If you have any questions or concerns about your baby getting the nutrition they need, please discuss this with your pediatrician.
My newborn won’t stop crying! What can I do?anchor
I know this can be so hard! Many babies have a witching hour(s), which is an extremely fussy period typically between 5:00 pm and 11:00 pm. This increase in fussiness usually begins around 2-3 weeks of age, peaks around 6 weeks, and resolves around 3-4 months. Here are some ways to help calm your baby during the witching hour:
Move to a calm, dark room with the sound machine on.
Put your baby in the carrier and go outside.
Turn on the faucet and rub a warm washcloth over your baby’s head.
My newborn class will teach you how to calm your fussy baby, plus all of the newborn sleep tips you’ll need to lay a healthy sleep foundation.
Expert Tip: Please talk with your pediatrician if it seems like your baby is NEVER happy, constantly crying, or showing signs of reflux.
When do babies get easier?anchor
If you're asking this question, I know you're looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. I want you to know that it's going to get easier. There are days in this early stage that feel so hard. Can I let you in on a little secret? Here it is: You're not failing. Your baby doesn’t know what they’re doing either. You're on a journey figuring this out together.
Most of your days during the first month are full of feeding, snuggles, and adjustment. I often see an increase in both fussiness and smiles during the second month. And then in your baby’s third month, you’ll notice they’re much more aware, which can be exciting as you see your baby discover the world but frustrating as it often leads to distracted eating and sleep regressions. Can you see that each age comes with its own challenges but also with so much joy and excitement? Parents, it's like this from now until they leave your house. Buckle up, it's a fun ride.
But you don't have to do this alone. I'm here for you. Start with my First Five Months Bundle, where I'll teach you how to confidently navigate sleep, routines, and your parenting journey in these first few months.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve (Cara) ever received?anchor
Here's the best advice I've ever received; it comes in 2 parts:
1) It can be so helpful to keep an open mind and truly learn from others
2) It’s also perfectly okay to say, “Thank you so much for your advice, but this is what we've decided is best for our family.”
You can trust that still, small voice inside. Truly, there’s no better parent on the planet for that baby than you.