Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe the way I felt the first few weeks after having our son. I did all the research, got all the advice, and learned all the first time mom tips possible before having our baby and I thought I was prepared for the new phase of life my husband and I were about to enter.
I was wrong.
I knew I was going to be tired, but what I didn’t know was that “tired” wouldn’t even begin to scrape the surface of my delirious, sleep-deprived self.
I knew I wasn’t going to have as much time to do my regular household duties, what I didn’t know was that my son would enter the PURPLE crying stage at just three weeks old and cry inconsolably for hours on end, or that he would need to be held all hours of the day (and sometimes night). I knew I would have to kiss my uninterrupted nighttime sleep goodbye, but I didn’t know that I would be kissing ALL my nighttime sleep goodbye.
(Are you familiar with the PURPLE crying stage? PURPLE crying is a stage that begins when your baby is 2 weeks old and continues until 3 – 4 months. It is when your baby cries for no apparent reason, and there is often not much you can do to console them. Learn more about the PURPLE crying period here.)
As much as I thought I did, I really didn’t know what to expect.
Maybe you’re like I was and are trying to do all the research possible to learn everything you can about having your first baby and what to expect postpartum before your baby comes, or maybe you’ve already had your baby and you’re here in a desperate attempt to try and learn how you can doitall as a mom (spoiler: you can’t. But you can make it easier), I’ve put together a list of the best tips for new moms to help you learn what to expect and how to survive the first few months with a newborn.
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FIRST TIME MOM ADVICE
It’s important to remember that each and every baby is going to be different from the next. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to finding something that works to soothe babies.
There’s no one thing that will work for EVERY baby to help them sleep better. There isn’t just one thing that will solve every mom’s breastfeeding problems.
Because every baby, mom, and situation is different, you need to know that some things just won’t work for your baby, while other things – things that some moms may swear DON’T work – WILL work for your baby.
When it’s 2 AM and you’ve been trying to rock an inconsolable baby to sleep for the past two hours you will be willing to try just about anything.
And that’s exactly what being a new mom is all about – trying everything until you find something that works for your baby. So don’t be afraid to try it all, but don’t be discouraged if some things just don’t work for your baby, even if other moms are convinced it works for all babies.
If something doesn’t work, keep trying new things until you find that one thing that DOES work (you’ll feel like a million bucks when you do), and if you find something that does work, keep on doing it until it doesn’t anymore.
TAKING TIPS FOR FIRST TIME MOMS WITH NEWBORNS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT
As soon as people heard I was pregnant, and after I had my son, they all thought it was their duty to give me an overwhelming amount of unsolicited new mom advice.
Don’t get me wrong – I was thankful that people were so willing to share their new mom tips with me, but eventually I started getting tired of hearing the same things over and over again, and hearing how the tips they were giving me ABSOLUTELY worked for every baby out there – even when I knew they didn’t work for my son.
Don’t get discouraged by the amount of unsolicited advice you get. These people are (usually) just trying to be helpful, so smile and be grateful for the advice, then toss it out of your mind if it’s something you’ve already tried and know won’t work for your baby.
(But don’t assume that every piece of advice that sounds absurd won’t work – sometimes it’s the most absurd advice that works the best.)
When it comes down to it, you know your baby the best. You know what works and what doesn’t work – but if there’s something you haven’t tried, don’t be above giving it a try. (There will come a point where you’ll be willing to try just about anything.)
NEW MOM SURVIVAL TIPS
I decided to put together this list of first time mom survival tips and tricks to help you stick a couple more first time mom tips up your sleeve to pull out and try on your baby.
(Speaking of new mom survival tips… you NEED a postpartum care kit. Check out the ultimate postpartum care kit for new moms to make postpartum recover a breeze, here.)
Remember: everything on this list probably isn’t going to work for your baby – but they’re worth giving a try so you can find something that does work.
I got so much first time mom advice when I became pregnant, that I didn’t know which stuff worked and which stuff didn’t.
It seemed like every mom swore by the things she was telling me, but with so much conflicting advice being thrown at me I just didn’t know which stuff to take and which stuff to leave. I got overwhelmed with the advice I was getting, and that made me fail to remember most of it (some of which could have come in handy with my son, who knows).
I’ve put together this list of tips for first time moms so you don’t have to be overwhelmed by the amount of information you’re getting.
You don’t even have to worry about remembering everything in this post right off the bat, you can simply save it for later and refer back to it when you’re looking for some tricks to help with the newborn stage.
FIRST TIME MOM TIPS TO SURVIVING THE FIRST MONTHS WITH A NEWBORN
1. USE A ROUTINE
(Most) babies love routines. Having a routine helps them know what’s coming next and what to expect. Using a routine for bedtime and naptime will usually help your baby learn how to fall asleep faster.
Keep in mind that baby’s sleeping and eating habits will become more consistent and predictable between the 2 – 4 month stage, so if you use a routine before that age you shouldn’t expect your infant to stick to it completely just yet, but it still has it’s benefits, even at such a young age.
Our son’s bedtime routine consists of:
- Bottle or boob
We start the routine at the same time each night by giving him a bath, then we dress him in his nighty and feed him. After that we read a short Bible story (I love this devotional for babies) and pray with him, then we put him down in his cradle to go to sleep. Sometimes he just fights sleep, especially when he’s overtired. That’s why we love our cradle, because it rocks so we can reach over from our bed and rock him to sleep, without even getting up. (This is like our cradle.)
The routine isn’t perfect yet and there are some nights when he doesn’t want to cooperate, or he is too wired to go straight to bed, these nights the routine takes a bit longer but we try to stick to it as much as we can.
By sticking to the routine, our son knows to expect bedtime to be right around the corner when we start undressing him for his bath.
Doing this bedtime routine helps our son wind down and helps him to know to expect that bedtime coming up.
We have also found that right after his bath and getting dressed if we do the rest of the routine in our room in the dark (besides the night light we use since he doesn’t like the room completely dark) it helps him settle down even more.
Don’t expect your infant to stick to a strict routine right off the bat – it will take some time for them to settle into it, but once they start to get the hang of it it will make bedtime and naptime a lot easier.
2. WAKE A SLEEPING BABY
I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times: “never wake a sleeping baby”. And that could be why hearing the opposite – to WAKE a sleeping baby – might come as a shock to you.
But because newborns sleep SO much, you’re going to want to wake them up to feed during the day.
Think of it like this: the more daytime feedings you can give your baby, the fuller their stomach will stay, and the less nighttime feedings you’ll need to do.
(Anything for a couple extra hours of sleep, can I get an amen?)
If your doctor directs you differently, absolutely follow what they say – but if they don’t, waking your baby every 2 to 3 hours during the day to feed them is a good place to start.
In the beginning, we were waking our son up every two hours to eat during the day. Eventually, as he got a bit older, we started extending the cycle to every three hours. You know your newborn best, so play around with a schedule and find a good amount of time between feedings that works for your baby.
3. FOLLOW THE EAT, WAKE, SLEEP CYCLE
During the day we’ve gotten into the habit of following the eat, wake, sleep cycle with our son. This means we wake him up and feed him immediately, then we keep him awake for a while (not too long), and then we put him back to sleep.
Following this pattern teaches your baby a couple of things – it teaches them to not fall asleep while nursing, and if they do fall asleep while nursing they get woken right back up to stay awake for a while, and by not falling asleep while nursing they will learn how to put themselves to sleep.
It also allows your baby some awake time during the day to ensure they’re not sleeping the whole day away (and up all night). You could use this awake time to play with them when they get a bit older, but while they’re still very new you could put baby in a vibrating chair and let them look around for a while. You could also put baby in a swing (our son loves this kind) and prop a couple toys up in front of them to look at.
4. A WELL RESTED BABY SLEEPS BETTER THAN A TIRED BABY
Before having our son I always thought that the longer you kept a baby up during the day, the better they would sleep at night.
Boy, was I wrong.
I had to learn the hard way that a tired baby sleeps FAR worse than a well-rested baby.
The answer to better nighttime sleep is this: good daytime naps.
I know, it seems completely backward to what you might think, but when babies get too tired they quickly become overstimulated, and an overstimulated baby is VERY tough to get to sleep. You will first have to wind them back down, then try to sooth them to sleep.
To avoid this, allow your baby to take good naps during the day, but ensure that you do wake them up every couple of hours to feed and play before putting them back to sleep so they don’t end up sleeping too much and not enough at night.
5. PUT BABY DOWN DROWSY BUT NOT ASLEEP
Getting a baby to sleep on its own can be a lengthy, challenging ordeal. Our son wants nothing other than to be rocked, walked, cuddled, or nursed to sleep.
In short, he thinks he has to be in our arms to fall asleep. And when he does fall asleep in our arms, the moment we put him in his cradle he will often wake up wailing (but that’s a story for another time).
Remember how I said some things will work for your baby and other things won’t? This is one of those things that isn’t working for our son – right now.
It did work for our son for the first couple week of his life, then it stopped working. We have hopes that this is just a phase and we’ll be able to get him to sleep on his own again soon.
6. BABIES GO THROUGH PHASES
Babies go through SO many different phases when they are young. One week they may sleep through the whole night and you’ll pat yourself on the back thinking you’ve mastered this whole parenting thing, then the very next week they’ll wake up crying 4 times through the night and you’ll wonder if you’ll ever get the hang of parenting.
(You will, don’t worry.)
It’s important to know that babies go through phases, and the phases don’t last forever.
It’s especially important to remember this when it’s the middle of the night and you haven’t got a wink of sleep and you’re wondering why your baby who used to put themselves to sleep is now demanding to be rocked to sleep.
Your baby won’t stay in this phase forever, with a bit of time it will pass.
7. GET EVERYTHING PREPARED FOR YOUR NIGHTTIME FEEDINGS IN THE EVENING
Waking up in the middle of the night isn’t fun, especially when you’re doing it 4+ times a night. You’ll quickly find out that you become drowsy and often can do things in a “dream state” which means you may be a bit delirious and confused when you wake up.
On nights that I’m especially tired, the nighttime feedings are a LOT easier when I have prepared everything the evening before. Rather than waking up to a crying baby and fumbling around to find my nursing pillow, the diapers and wipes, and my glass of water, I try to have everything ready for me.
In the evening I put a full glass of water on my night table (with both my husband and I drinking out of the glass through the night it doesn’t last long, so we’ve switched to using a water bottle like this one), I get the number of diapers I’ll need for the whole night out on the night table, I put the wipes out, and put my nursing pillow on the end of the bed.
This way when our son wakes up crying the only time I have to get out of our bed is to get him out and put him back into the cradle. The diapers, wipes, and my nursing pillow are all in arm’s reach from the bed which makes these night feedings a lot more bearable.
(When our son was a month old my husband and I moved the cradle right beside our bed so I barely have to get out of bed to grab him instead of walking across the whole room. Every little bit counts!)
8. STRATEGICALLY CHANGE DIAPERS AT NIGHT
My son hates having his diaper changed – he starts screaming and won’t stop until it’s done, and having a screaming baby in the middle of the night is not fun, especially when you’re trying to keep them drowsy and in a sleepy-state.
What I have started to do during the nighttime feedings is, as soon as I hear him start making noise (as long as he’s not just making noise in his sleep) I pick him up and lay him on our bed.
Then the first thing I do is change his diaper. This way I’m changing his diaper before he’s fully awake, and we can usually get through a whole diaper change before he starts crying. (Usually.)
After I change his diaper I nurse him right away and stick him back in his cradle. We have tried nursing first and then changing his diaper but we’ve found he gets too riled up from the diaper change and doesn’t go back down to bed very easily.
Letting him nurse himself to sleep during the night feedings or nurse until he’s drowsy makes putting him back to bed a lot easier.
9. GIVE BABY ALONE TIME WITH DAD
It’s important for your baby to have alone time with your husband. His voice, touch, and interactions with your baby are different than yours so allowing baby and dad alone time will help with creating a bond and will give you a much-needed break.
Since my husband is gone at work all day, evenings are his time to bond with our son. When he gets home from work he gives our son a bottle (this gives me a chance to get supper ready) and plays with him.
Having even that one feeding a day freed up helps tremendously with recharging myself and giving me a bit of time to do something without having a baby hanging off of me.
My husband also takes care of bathtime, this is another chance that he gets to bond alone with our son.
10. USE WHITE NOISE
Believe it or not, the womb is a pretty boppin’ place. When your baby is inside you it is constantly hearing all kinds of noises. It hears your heartbeat, your respiratory system, your digestive system, and more – including noises outside the womb.
Then, when they’re born, they’re brought into a world that’s pretty quiet, for them. Instead of hearing the constant noise that they’re used to, we parents think that the quieter we keep the room, the better baby will sleep.
When it is, in fact, the opposite that is truer, for most babies.
If your baby is struggling to fall – and stay – asleep at night consider using a white noise machine to give them that gentle, constant noise they’re used to.
If you don’t want to purchase an actual white noise machine, you can always just turn a fan on and let that noise sooth your baby (a standing one like this works well). Just make sure the fan doesn’t blow on your baby.
If you think a white noise machine would help your baby sleep better, this is one of the best white noise machines you can get. It’s a night light and white noise machine all in one, and you can control it all from your phone.
11. USE LANOLIN CREAM AND BREAST PUMPS
Breastfeeding will seem like anything but fun for the first while. It can hurt, sometimes it takes a while for your baby to figure out how to latch (and then it hurts even more), you’ll get engorged, and you’ll leak. Everywhere.
Our son was tongue tied when he was born, and it wasn’t until he was two days old that we were able to get his tongue tie clipped.
Boy, did those first two days ever hurt! My nipples got cracked and started bleeding after the first two days of breastfeeding, and I thought that’s just how it was going to be (it doesn’t have to be). Since he was so tongue-tied he wasn’t able to latch on to the breast properly, and that caused extreme soreness.
I was not a big fan of breastfeeding, to put it lightly.
But, after he got his tongue tie clipped and a lot of Lanolin cream later, we were able to get the hang of breastfeeding, and I’ve started to love it.
You will definitely want to have some nipple cream on hand for when your baby is born. This is the cream the nurses at the hospital recommended to me, and after using it for just a couple of days my nipples were no longer blistered or bleeding – and I haven’t had to use it since.
You’ll also want to have a breast pump. Even if you’re planning on exclusively breastfeeding, if you ever want to go more than 3 hours without seeing your baby, you’re probably going to need to pump. (Or else you’ll get engorged, and that’s just not fun.)
I use this Medela breast pump and I have really enjoyed it. It’s electric so I’m still able to do stuff while I pump, rather than having to use my hands to manually pump. They can be a bit pricey, though, so talk to your insurance company about covering some of the cost.
12. THE FIRST OUTING ALONE IS TERRIFYING, BUT YOU’LL BE OKAY
I remember my first outing with our son by myself. It was his 2-week checkup and I was terrified, but believe it or not, we survived.
I remember how scared I was to go grocery shopping with him by myself. What if he started crying in the store? What if he got hungry? What if he pooped?
Despite all the “what if” scenarios I was playing in my head, the shopping trip went pretty smooth. It was one of the fastest grocery shopping trips of my life, but getting the first initial trip out of the way gave me the confidence I needed to know that “I’ve got this”.
13. GRIPE WATER IS A LIFESAVER
I didn’t realize just how much gas a newborn could have, and how fussy it could make them. Our son gets a lot of gas and tummy aches, and that means a lot of sleepless nights. It wasn’t until I started giving him gripe water that we finally got a bit of a break.
I was skeptical at first, but after giving him a dose of this Gripe water and seeing how it helped his stomach feel better almost instantly, I was sold on the stuff.
My doctor gave me the go-ahead to give our son Gripe water, but just to be on the safe side you should talk to your doctor before giving your newborn anything other than breastmilk.
If you do choose to use Gripe water, use caution when you’re buying it as some brands still include alcohol in the list of ingredients. You’ll want to use this brand of Gripe water since they are free from dyes, parabens, alcohol, and preservatives.
14. USE A BOTTLE NIPPLE TO GIVE MEDICINE
Speaking of Gripe water, I never knew how to get my son to drink the stuff. I tried to feed it to him with a spoon and he hated it – and most of it ended up on the floor.
Then I learned that you could use bottle nipples to distribute liquids to your baby (genius). Now I pour the Gripe water into a bottle nipple and he easily sucks it all right out without wasting a drop.
15. DRINK LOTS OF WATER. THEN DRINK SOME MORE
The nurses at the hospital told me to drink 12 cups of water a day after having my son. I’ve never been much of a water drinker, so while I can’t quite drink that much water, I have definitely been drinking far more than I used to. I use a water bottle like this one so I can keep track of how much I’m drinking throughout the day.
It’s especially important to drink lots of water if you’re breastfeeding. Drinking water will help keep your milk supply up AND your energy levels. I find on days that I forget to drink much water, the nighttime feedings are much worse than usual.
But if I drink plenty of water, I don’t just feel more energized during the day, I also find I’m less groggy at night.
16. USE A BABY CARRIER
Your baby will likely go through a phase where all they want is to be held. But, since you can’t just sit on the couch holding your baby all day (wouldn’t it be nice?), you need to find some way to have a happy baby and get everything done that needs doing.
I struggled with this a lot at first. Living in a messy house stresses me out, but our son wanted nothing but to be held – and I didn’t even think of using the baby carrier that we had to hold our son and free up my hands, so I spent a lot of days trying to quickly do a little bit of cleaning here and there while our son screamed because I wasn’t holding him, then I’d spend the other portion of the day sitting down holding him and stressing about everything else that I still had to do.
That is, until I started putting him in a baby carrier.
We got lent a couple different types of baby carriers, and the one I used at first our son hated, so after a couple of days I tried putting him in a different kind of carrier, and he absolutely loved it. (This is the type of carrier he didn’t like. Eventually, I found out that he loved this carrier.)
And I was finally able to get stuff done during the day while holding our baby. I could go for walks, clean the house, make meals, and work all while holding him.
This is the baby carrier that our son LOVES. (He usually falls asleep as soon as I put him in it, and if he’s not sleeping, he’s pretty content.)
17. SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS, IF YOU WANT TO
Nearly everyone I talked to would tell me to sleep when the baby sleeps. And I get that I need my sleep, but I also don’t have time to take a nap every day. There are things I need to do that just can’t get done when I’m sleeping.
So, sleep when your baby is sleeping – IF you want to.
In other words, don’t feel guilty for taking a midday nap. You do need it. Don’t wear yourself out because you’re too good to take a nap… we all need a refreshing nap sometimes.
But, on the other hand, don’t feel like you HAVE to sleep when your baby sleeps. I had so many people telling me to sleep when the baby sleeps that I got really sick of hearing it. Some days I just couldn’t sleep. Some days I would end up being more sleep deprived than I should have been because I didn’t take a nap and chose to do something else when the baby slept. And that’s okay too – just be sure you’re taking care of you, and never, EVER, be too good for a nap.
18. ACCEPT HELP
If you get stressed out by not being able to get anything done throughout the day because your newborn needs cuddles, don’t’ be too proud to ask for help.
Baby’s are hard work, plus you just gave birth. You deserve a break, and the best way to get a break is to ask for and accept help. It could be something as simple as asking your mom to come snuggle your baby so you can shower or do the dishes. You could ask your girlfriend to come over and help you with your laundry. Your sister could come over and prep dinners for the week. Any little bit of help counts.
19. FIND A HOBBY
I LOVE being a mom, but I know I would get burned out pretty fast if I didn’t do anything other than momming. Finding a hobby, something that you can do on your own, is important for helping you keep your sanity. It could be something as simple as having your spouse watch the baby in the evenings and going for a walk by yourself every night. Or maybe you enjoy painting, or writing, or knitting. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s something you enjoy.
Now that you’ve got all these first time mom tips and you’re well equipped for motherhood (or as equipped as you can be), if you’re a mom I’d love to hear from YOU – what are a couple things you couldn’t live without in the first few months with a newborn? What kept you sane?
Still pregnant? Check out the latest pregnancy posts here…
The Ultimate Postpartum Care Kit for New Moms
13 Ways to Manage Labor Pain Naturally in Childbirth
17 Things to do Before Your Baby Arrives
How to Get Rid of Morning Sickness – 9 Remedies That Work
Top 20 Pregnancy Must Haves (from 0 – 9 months)