As a first-time mom, I feel like nothing could have prepared me for that first month. Sure, everyone was like "sleep while you can" while I was pregnant to prepare, but har har. If only you could stockpile sleep, right? That first month was pure hell between sleep deprivation, being scared out of my mind, and just being overwhelmed with emotions from love, to anger, to stress. Plus there are all of the things you really can't do with a newborn in the first month that throw you for a loop. I mean, sure, you knew you probably couldn't take them on a water ski or whatever, but all of those little no-nos really add up in just four weeks.
But reminder: While it sure is hard, it's definitely rewarding. I promise. Even though it doesn't feel like it at 3 a.m. when your baby is screaming and it sounds like they aren't eating right and are possibly aspirating their milk (WHAT IS THAT NOISE?), it gets easier, less stressful, and a lot more fun. You slowly but surely kinda figure out what you're doing. But, let's be honest, none of us know what we are doing and parenting is all about winging it and doing the best we can. You got this, I promise. And now you've got this list of things to take off your expectations.
I have never felt more terrible in my entire life than I did that first month of my son Jack's life. Recovering from childbirth is hard enough, but add sleep deprivation, nerves, and fear, and you've got a crazy combination. Most newborns don't sleep in very long increments, so you'll be fighting for an hour of sleep at a time. And if your baby is like Jack, you'll sleep in 15-minute increments. I thought I was going to die. It does get better, I promise. And your brain will block that time out so that you may even want to do it again. But sleep is definitely not something you can do with a newborn in the first month.
2. Rush The Burping Process
I had no idea that sometimes babies don't burp right away when you try to "burp" them, and if they don't burp right away, it doesn't mean they still aren't gassy. Turns out there are a ton of ways to help baby break up gas, like bicycle kicks, tummy time, massage, and gas drops. Nobody was a happy camper until my husband and I figured out not to rush burping Jack and that if he didn't burp the first time, he probably needed to do some bicycle kicks. Sorry, kid.
3. Turn Down Help
At least for the first month, many people will offer to help you. They'll bring food, offer to watch the baby while you nap, etc. And do not turn them down. You may not want to be a bother, but napping will help your sanity and you definitely won't feel like cooking when you've slept for 20 minutes the night before. Which brings me to my next thing you can't do with a newborn during the first month.
4. Easily Cook Dinner
The last thing I wanted to do was cook dinner during that first month. Before I went into labor, my husband and I spent four hours one Sunday prepping freezer meals to just thaw and dump in a crockpot for the first few weeks of Jack's life. Thank goodness we did that. And also, thank goodness for our best friends who brought us gourmet meals those first few weeks. I was starving from breastfeeding and exhausted, and it was just perfect.
5. Have Sex With Your Partner
Not only does your doctor say you're not supposed to have sex for six weeks after giving birth, who has the time or the energy? Sexy times will be the last thing on your mind that first month — and maybe even longer for some couples. With a newborn in the house, it's pretty impossible to make time for that while balancing their needs (and your exhaustion).
6. Have A Ton Of People Over To Meet the Baby
You and your partner are going to be exhausted zombie people. You won't know what day it is and you'll be on the verge of a mental breakdown. Unless these people want to take care of your baby while you and your partner nap, don't invite a ton of people over. No new parent wants to chit chat and have small talk when they haven't slept for two weeks. However, I will say if having a couple of people over will help you feel like a real human being again, go for it.
7. Poop Or Pee Without Some Discomfort
I had a vaginal delivery and only had a second-degree tear. But my God was it uncomfortable to use the bathroom that first month. The first postpartum poop (and some subsequent poops) were pretty scary and painful, and having to rush to the bathroom and fill up your water bottle squirter first before sitting down to pee wasn't only a pain, but stressful because your post-vaginal-delivery pelvic floor muscles don't always hold your pee in as well. Accidents will happen. And squirting that water up there while you try to pee is uncomfortable, and sometimes it stings. All that on top of trying to respond to your newborn's cries while hurriedly trying to reassemble the frozen pad/witch hazel concoction in your underwear is hard work.
8. Let Them Cry It Out
Crying is the only way newborns can communicate their needs. And during those first few months, they're learning whether their needs will be met and if they can be comforted by you. Whether you like the cry it out method when they get older, that's up to each parent, but Baby Center suggested waiting until they are at least 4 to 6 weeks old and are physically and emotionally ready to sleep through the night.
9. Go To An Enclosed Space With A Ton Of People
"My biggest pet peeve is seeing people taking their newborn to crowded places. Taking them for walks in a stroller is one thing, but I have seen newborns at bowling alleys, in crowded restaurants, etc.," Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper. "If a child under 6 weeks old gets a fever of over 100.4, they end up hospitalized with a full septic workup (spinal tap, blood culture, urine culture)." The last thing that you want is to expose your newborn to more germs and have them end up hospitalized. So no big trips to the mall or restaurants that first month.
10. Compare Yourself Or Your Baby To Other Families
Every single family and baby are different. What works for some babies may not always work for yours. This was a hard one for me because most of my friends already had kids and Jack was my first. Take their advice (when you ask for it) and try it out. If it doesn't work, you'll have to figure out what works best for your own kid. Also, don't forget everyone struggles through the hell that is your baby's first month on Earth. It's the hardest thing ever, and you're not alone. Even if Susan seemed like she had it all together, she probably didn't. Don't compare yourself to her.
11. Let Them Sleep Too Long Between Feeds
Until he had gained enough weight at his first checkup, our pediatrician told us to wake Jack up every two hours to feed him. It's really important they don't miss meals when they're trying to put that weight back on after birth, especially in the first month.
12. Get Discouraged If Breastfeeding Isn't Going Perfectly
For all those people who say breastfeeding is "natural" and that it's instinctual for your baby to nurse, I call baloney. It may be that way for some women, but every single one of my friends (and myself) who tried to breastfeed had trouble getting their babies to latch, and it took a long time for it to work out for my friends. I cried and cried and cried and got so frustrated I couldn't get my son to latch. I wanted to breastfeed so bad. Now I'm exclusively pumping — which really sucks, but hey, what are you going to do? All of my friends and other women told me how hard it was and how frustrated they felt. Just know you're not alone and there are usually options available to you, like lactation consultants or other breastfeeding mamas to give you advice. And if you still can't make it work, don't stress out. It's OK. As long as your baby is getting fed, that's the most important thing, right?
13. Under-React To A Fever
I'm so thankful I noticed my newborn son acting kinda lethargic and looking flushed enough to take his temperature, and to immediately take him to the doctor when it was a little high. Turns out, he had a UTI and we had to take him to the emergency room. So that was scary. Until babies are 60 days old, having a fever can be an incredibly serious thing, and doctors will usually admit them for further testing and potentially antibiotics.
14. Forget To Take Pictures (And Have Pictures Taken Of You)
Everyone was right. It does go by so fast. Make sure you document those first few weeks, because sleep deprivation may make you forget. It's also important that your partner takes pictures of you with the baby. A lot of moms don't feel comfortable in their postpartum bodies, but you don't want to be absent from memories. Your kids will want to look back and see you. They won't care if you look different or if you haven't washed your hair in a week.
15. Bathe Your Baby Too Much Too Soon
According to Baby Center, you can't submerge your baby in water until their umbilical cord stump falls off. This should take about two weeks. Before it falls off, sponge baths are the way to go — but you definitely don't have to bathe them every day. Your newborn's skin is so sensitive, you don't want it to dry out. Plus, they don't really get dirty except for their genitals from peeing and pooping, and you wipe and clean that what feels like a million times per day already. Bathing your infant every few days is just fine.
16. Walk On Old Hardwood Floors Normally
I never realized how creaky my house was until I had a baby. Every step I take makes a loud creaking noise, and it would wake him up every single time. I guess that's what we get for having the original floors in our 1920s house, but man do my feet hurt from all the tiptoeing around.
17. Use Regular Laundry Detergent
The Bump reported that you shouldn't use regular laundry detergent with your newborn's clothing because a newborn's skin is extra sensitive and brand new. Now you don't have to get Dreft necessarily, but anything that's unscented, hypoallergenic, plant-based, and chemical-free will do the trick. And you'll be doing a lot of laundry. A lot.
18. Be Afraid To Call Or Ask Your Pediatrician If You Have Questions
You're not the only new mom to call the pediatrician because you think something is wrong, when really, your baby just needs to poop. Or was that just me? Anyway, don't be ashamed to call if you have questions. Your pediatrician is there to help you and have worked with many first-time parents before. They understand you're scared and have no idea what you're doing. That's totally normal.
19. Air Travel
Not that anyone would want to get on an airplane with a tiny baby unless you absolutely have to, but Dr. S. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatric obesity specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper it's something you should specifically avoid. "Besides avoiding crowded places, also avoid air travel (since the air is recirculated in the plane, you breath the same air that was in other people's mouths). Wait until after 2 months, when your child's immune system is stronger and they have received their first set of vaccines."
So if grandma and grandpa live out of state, they can come to you, or wait to meet your baby after they're at least 2 months old. And if they do fly to come meet them, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly before handling your baby. Airplane and airport germs are gross.
20. Use An Infant Carrier Not Created For Newborns
While they're pretty awesome and effective after that first month (in my opinion), Ganjian warns to not use any "infant carriers where you can't see your child's head. A baby’s head is very floppy and flexes too much onto the chest, which causes breathing difficulties."
That first month is so hard, but you're doing great. It gets more and more fun every day, and pretty soon, you'll be longing for them to be as tiny as they are now — sleep deprivation and all.