Staying Sane With a Newborn
Let’s review a few books that offer good advice for the early days of parenthood. The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD is definitely on the “must read” list. This book will help you understand how to effectively sooth the fussiest of babies. It will also give you a good sense of how your baby’s brain is changing over the first year of life. This book is extremely well done, and available in audio as well.
You can watch the swaddling techniques on Youtube. I strongly recommend you practice swaddling your baby before you leave the hospital. The nurses will walk you through it again and again if you ask. When done well swaddling can be very comforting to a young baby. We loved this technique so much that when our kids outgrew the smaller blankets, I went to the fabric store to buy large pieces of cloth to make jumbo swaddles.
During your baby’s first year, you will become obsessed with sleep. Yours and theirs. The better they sleep the more you sleep. It’s a simple equation that is somehow difficult to actually balance. There are numerous books written on sleep. In the early months, I read everything I could get my hands on. We were exhausted and frantic to get our twins sleeping in some kind of remotely consolidated way.
I highly recommend, The Sleep Easy Solution, by Waldburger and Spivack. The information in the book is well organized. Best of all, their approach is respectful of the emotional and sleep needs of both child and parent. If you need to sleep train, it will give you clear, step-by-step instructions. It will help you prepare your child for sleep training.
It will also walk you through solutions to various obstacles, like how to wean off nighttime feedings. If you can, read this book before your baby arrives to set yourself up for an easier process. Regardless of your kids ages, you’ll find real practical help in The Sleep Easy Solution.
Before your baby is born, you can also do some pre-arrival prep work to lighten the everyday work of the first few months. If you have space, invest in a small extra freezer. We stocked ours with quiche, an assortment of organic frozen meals, and food delivered by friends. You can pull out a meal for one or a quiche to last a week of lunches. You could also practice ordering grocery delivery. Set up a favorites list and get comfortable with the ins and outs of your local service.
Stock up on your basics like toilet paper, tissue, and coffee. Order your first set of diapers delivered to your door so that re-orders are easy. Do it now so you don’t need to figure it all out while you’re trying to figure out breast feeding, pumping, and bottles. I know some moms even set up calendars so friends can sign up for helper duties or meal deliveries.
Remember, nobody really stays sane during the first months with newborns. For many parents this is just a really, hard time. All you do is wade through it until the babies grow a little. At this age, they grow and change very fast. However, when you are getting no sleep and no break, it seems like this stage is going on forever. Keep reminding yourself that your babies will change a lot in one month. Really, a lot. Regardless of what you do now, they will be doing things completely differently in a few months. Then a few months after that, they will be in a totally different phase of sleep, growth, and development.
Take a deep breath. You can do this. One hour at a time. One day at a time. You will wade through the unknown. In the beginning, you will be too tired to see it, but you are slooowly becoming an expert! You’re not going to feel like an expert for a very long time, but this is how you get there.
Seek help from family, friends, and nannies. Whether you hire them or they are volunteers, you want people who will really work. You don’t need visitors who want you to entertain them or people you would feel the need to clean for. Just say, “No, come later, when they are 6 months old” to those would-be guests. Raising children has been a group effort for all of human existence. When you ask for help, you join the community of parenthood. It’s a great community.