Before I had Charlie (my firstborn), people always said that the beginning was hard. They never actually came out and told me why. I would get vague advice saying enjoy your sleep now while you can. Mind you I did understand that sleep would be more challenging in the beginning, I just didn’t understand the extent of how difficult it truly was.
It was chaos with Charlie. We were not getting enough sleep, and our first big mistake was that we didn’t do a good job with dividing the nighttime responsibilities. Now with our second son, Arthur, we figured it out. We set up an alternating schedule and were able to at least get a little sleep. So if you are currently struggling or you’ve been hearing how intense the first month is, know you are not alone.
What are the challenges of the first month?
Oh my goodness ladies…the first month is rough and here are the reasons why:
- You just gave birth to a tiny human being. That means you either pushed a baby that was hopefully 6-8 pounds out of your body or you had a c-section where they removed the baby from you. Both are hard on your body, but we are women and of course we can handle it. It took 18 hours of labor before Charlie decided to grace us with his presence. Also don’t forget the recovery time for will be intense, especially if this is your first child. Your body is exhausted from the process and it will take about a month or more to truly recover. Add to the fact that you are now responsible for providing for this new life. So right from the beginning, you are at a disadvantage.
- Sleep is out of the question. Your little one has this thing where they mix up day and night, and this happens because when in the womb your baby slept whenever they felt like it. So moms if you remember laying down to go to sleep and then you would feel your baby start to kick, that was the sign that your baby is awake. Also, your baby gets hungry quickly. A lot of growth is happening within the first few months. That’s basically their job in the beginning, so they will be drinking milk like crazy.
- With sleep deprivation comes a short temperament. My husband and I got into our worst arguments during this time. Between my hormones going crazy from giving birth and no sleep, it wouldn’t take much for me to become angry.
- You will either have limited or overwhelming social interactions. During the first few months, I find most parents don’t get out much. Our reason was that we were concerned about our little one’s health, but the bigger reason was that we were exhausted. The social interactions we did have would be with family, and after a while, I would get so annoyed that they were the only people I would see. We saw them more than normal because of course they are excited to see the newest addition to the family. As much as I love family (my own and the in-laws), I found I needed to have a limit.
Most of these problems could directly be linked to lack of sleep and the loss of control of hormones. So the good news is that this crazy period will pass. At least until you have another little one.
10 Best Tips to Surviving Baby’s First Month
Tip 1: Create a Schedule and Stick with it!
I can’t tell you how important it is to decide on a schedule from the very beginning and to stick with it as much as possible. Don’t deter from the schedule unless it is for a special event. This is and will continue to be the foundation that will help your baby know when it is time to sleep and allow you to have a little bit of a life again.
I know too many people who tell me their children went to bed at 7:00 PM one night and then 11:00 PM the other. Don’t be these people. It is hard for both the parents and the kids. Help your child with learning how to sleep through the night. We implemented the schedule with both kids. Charlie would sleep through the night before turning 4 months old. Arthur is a little more on and off, but he will generally wake up for a quick feeding and is back to sleep in 15 minutes.
Our nighttime schedule looks like this:
- 8:00-8:15 PM – begin bath time
- 8:10-8:20 PM – end bath time, put on pajamas, brush teeth
- 8:15-8:30 PM – feed bottle (to baby) and read a book (when they are young pick a book you like to read, something like Harry Potter or Eragon)
- 8:30ish PM – put to bed
Please note that the schedule listed above is approximate, give or take 5-10 minutes. In general it takes about 30 minutes with bath time included for us to put both kids to bed.
Tip 2: Split the Nighttime Feeding into Shifts
My husband and I did not learn this the first time and I sincerely hope this helps one of you mamas out there. Split the night into two shifts. When Arthur woke anytime between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM I would get up and feed/rock the baby. If he woke up between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM, my husband would get up.
By separating the night into chucks, it allowed us to get a better amount of sleep. I took the early shift so my husband would be able to get a longer period of uninterrupted sleep since he still had to work. By the way, ladies don’t let your husband not take a shift. Staying home with your newborn is tough work and this is one of the simplest ways to keep you feeling sane. Also getting plenty of good rest will help your body heal.
Tip 3: Use Formula as Your Bedtime Feeding
So I know this one might be a little controversial, but with my first, I ended up needing to do a combination feed of formula and breastfeeding. Basically, I wasn’t producing enough milk on my own and my son, Charlie, was losing more weight than the doctors like. Before adding formula to the feeding routine, Charlie did not sleep very long, but the minute we did it changed everything. The perk of using formula is that it keeps the baby feeling full for a longer time compared to breast milk.
Personally, I love the combination feeding and it continued to make a wonderful difference even as our son got older. It also allowed my husband to develop this special connection with both my sons. When our second son was born, we just automatically began the combination feeding and the benefits held true a second time.
We have suggested this to other families that we knew were having the same issues of getting their baby to sleep longer, and it worked wonders for them as well.
Tip 4: Use a SwaddleMe
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My husband is a pro at swaddling both our kids with the muslin swaddle blankets. The problem with them for sleeping longer at night is that eventually, babies wiggle free. This was especially true with my son, Arthur. He was like Houdini and could get out of anything. Anyway, the SwaddleMe is a great alternative and works well with those who maybe don’t get the swaddle blankets tight enough (that would be me to my husband’s frustration). Swaddling your baby allows them a sense of comfort like they are back in the womb which makes going to sleep a lot nicer. Just remember that once your baby can roll over you need to immediately stop using all forms of swaddles. This is for your babies safety.
Tip 5: Tidy Up Your Home
During this time you are not going to feel like doing this at all, but doing it even 1-2 nights a week will make a huge difference mentally. There is something refreshing about your house looking clean. If you don’t want to do it yourself, I completely understand. While we didn’t do this, family members told us that a good idea was to hire a maid service for the first couple of months. We didn’t budget for that expense and in the end, we had a great cleaning routine that it wasn’t needed. If interested in this look on Groupon for some less expense maid services.
For some helpful tricks in keeping your home tidy, check out my post about Best Products to Keep a Tidy Home with Kids.
Tip 6: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
I struggle with this one a lot and I’m sad to say that I didn’t do this as much. A lot of it was because I was dealing with the out of control emotions that hit me postpartum. The people we asked for help were family, and at that time I was already seeing them too much. Asking for help from them would have been overkill for me. I wish I would have just asked my friends for help (but I was worried that the family would find out). If you aren’t dealing with the issues I had, asking for help will give you a moment to either getting some needed shopping done, take a nap, some cleaning, or maybe some personnel time. Whatever reason you need help, ask for it.
Tip 7: Laughing
This might sound silly, but laughing will help a lot. Laughing releases these awesome chemicals called endorphins (which are considered our feel-good chemicals). So after you argue over something ridiculous with your partner, feel free to laugh about it. My husband and I did it all the time. Bonus it helps dissolve any tension that might be lingering after a sleep-deprived argument.
Tip 8: Order a Delicious Dinner
Since we live in this wonderful technological time frame, there are so many options to order our favorite meals for take out. So “Yippee” to not always having to do fast food, unless it sounds good of course. When you can, order a meal to give your partner and yourself a break from cooking and cleaning the dishes. Having even just one night where you don’t have to cook feels great. My husband and I would usually order food on Fridays because by that point we were just done with the week.
Tip 9: Date Night with Partner
At the end of the first month, you and your partner should plan a date together. As much as you love your child, getting away for even just two hours will work wonders on your relationship. My husband and I make sure we go on a date at least once a month. This alone has strengthened our connection tremendously. Plus you should celebrate the fact that you survived the first month. That’s a big deal. While there will be other battles in the future, that first month can wear you down like crazy.
Tip 10: Set Some Boundaries
This one can be a little tough, depending on the people in your life, but if you need to, set some boundaries. If you find family is coming over too much for you to handle (and if they live near you they most likely will be coming over a lot), then find some time to sit down with your partner to discuss options.
I knew when we had our second child that we would most likely be seeing family a lot, so when I was starting to feel exhausted with the visits, I talked to my husband. We would discuss either taking a break for a couple of weekends or figure out what events that required us to see family and try to do it all in one weekend (instead of them being spread out). For example, if there was a birthday party coming up, we would combine seeing the grandparents and going to the birthday party into one.
Don’t be afraid to say that you are unable or don’t want to see family. Just do it nicely. As my husband told me, treat the grandparents the way you will one day want to be treated.
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Surviving Baby’s First Month
You will get through it and one day it will be a vague memory for you. At least until you have another child. Remember to always take a little time for yourself and don’t feel afraid if you need to set up some boundaries to keep your sanity. Taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for you and your family.
For all you Moms out there, are there some tips that helped you survive the first month that I didn’t mention? Please send them to me! I want to know and will create an updated list with all the new suggestions.