As a first-time mom, you’ve probably heard that you can’t really understand what it’s like to have a baby until you actually have one. You have never been 100% in charge of another human and yet, you birthed your beautiful bundle, and they sent you home from the hospital like you knew what was going on. You get home, exhausted, sore, and more than a little uncomfortable in your postpartum body. Then reality hits. Life with a newborn is NOT for the faint of heart. Here are a few of the normal things you probably weren’t expecting (or at least couldn’t fathom until they happened).
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The Fourth Trimester refers to the first three months of life with a newborn. The Happiest Baby on the Block is a great resource for learning how to soothe an infant as she enters the world. Everything on this list about newborn life is hard. But for me, the hardest was the fact that I felt like an insane person when sleep deprivation combined with postpartum hormones.
Sleep Deprivation makes you C-R-A-Z-Y
When people say that new parents don’t get a lot of sleep, they don’t mean they had to eek by on 6 hours a night. After having a newborn I fully understand why sleep deprivation is such an effective form of torture. Newborns eat every 1-2 hours. And may take up to 30 minutes to feed. Which means you get a 30-minute break between feedings.
As a new breastfeeding mamma, this means you’re up basically 24/7. Only getting 2-3 hour stretches of sleep at a time literally made me crazy. Combined with the hormones, I was a hot mess. I cried for weeks straight after my daughter was born.
To add insult to injury, if you’re breastfeeding, you physically can’t go very long without nursing or pumping while your milk regulates. Engorgement, plugged ducts, and mastitis are very real son-of-a-b words for new mammas. If you have a plugged duct or mastitis, find out how to treat it here.
Unfortunately, you’re not likely to get a lot of sleep in the short term. Also, unfortunately, some babies take their time learning to sleep through the night. Our daughter didn’t sleep through until 5 a.m. until she was 11 months old, which felt like pure torture. The good news is that they all eventually do sleep. And you will too. So while this phase of the fourth trimester is slightly horrific, know that it will pass.
Life with a newborn means feeding FREQUENTLY. Like every hour.
As I mentioned above, newborns eat every one to two hours. This is 12+ feedings per day, and if your baby is underweight, likely more often. This is because their tummies are so tiny that they get hungry again very quickly.
In order to boost and then regulate your milk supply, you should be aiming for 12+ nursing sessions a day when your baby is born. As they grow and start sleeping longer, you’ll be able to drop a feeding or two. I was nursing about eight times a day (plus overnight) when I went back to work at 14 weeks. Enter your email below to get access to the resource library – where you can find a breastfeeding schedule cheat sheet, five tips to decompress in five minutes, and a ton of other free awesomeness.
If you’re worried about milk supply, here are five tried and true tips to help you make more milk!
The best news about feeding so much in the early days is that it will help your baby grow. The faster she grows, the more likely she is to drop a feeding, giving mamma more sleep.
You’ll worry about Pee and Poop more than you ever have in your life
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about bodily functions more than we did when our daughter was first born. Did she pee enough? How many times did she poop today? And don’t even get me started on the color situation.
Monitoring urine and poop output are signs of a healthy and growing baby, so you may become slightly obsessed. I had no idea we’d turn into crazy people, calling from the other room to have the other parent look at a dirty diaper.
If you’re in this boat, it’s normal. You’ll end up talking more about output in those first few weeks than you ever thought possible. And it will come up again throughout infancy if you see something strange. Your baby is most likely fine, just make sure she’s got the appropriate amount of wet and dirty diapers per day and try not to dwell on it too much.
Life with a newborn is terrifying. You’ll be scared about something 90% of the time
One of the things I really wasn’t prepared for was the constant feeling of fear (and sometimes slight panic) for my baby. I was constantly getting up to make sure she was still breathing. If she had a hitch in her breath I was convinced something terrible was wrong. Hint – it’s probably just the tiny nasal passages.
Once I was less afraid of her spontaneously forgetting to breathe, I was still terrified that she was going to suffocate in her swaddle, she’d catch the flu, someone would give her meningitis or that we’d fall down the stairs and I’d crush her. You get the drift. I was pretty paranoid.
This is also totally normal. I can’t tell you you’ll ever stop worrying about your child, but the panic should subside. If it doesn’t, please tell your doctor. Postpartum Anxiety is a treatable problem and shouldn’t be suffered in silence.
It’s ok not to like your baby
This is probably one of the more surprising things that can happen during the fourth trimester. Everyone tells you about the unconditional love you’ll automatically have for your new little bundle. What they don’t tell you is that the bonding isn’t instantaneous, and that life with a newborn isn’t all sunshine and roses.
You hear stories about how mammas look into their baby’s eyes after birth and are mesmerized and in love. I think I was in shock.
The first few months of your baby’s life she’ll need everything from you. Feeding, nurturing, changing, etc. It’s a lot of give and no take. You won’t even get a smile back for about two months! The first few weeks home I was convinced we’d made a mistake.
This is also normal. Not everyone immediately bonds with their baby, and for some mammas, it may take months or more before they “knew” that they liked their child. Again, if you’re feeling depressed for longer than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor. Postpartum depression can be a contributing factor to not liking your baby and you definitely don’t want to go untreated.
Fear not, you will bond with the baby. It may take a few days, weeks, or even months, but you’ll get that unconditional mamma bear love you’ve been hearing so much about. And then you’ll know it was all worth it.
You might not like your husband
If I hadn’t mentioned the hormones before, now is a good time. Your hormones are literally going haywire right after birth and you’re 100% focused on keeping your little one alive. Combining this with sleep deprivation, and the fact that your hubby can’t even feed the baby if you’re breastfeeding may make you a teeny tiny bit (ahem, a lot) resentful.
You will also have zero sex drive. The 180-degree shift in your life may mean that you’re not currently capable of affection towards your husband. This can be true even if you thought he set the sun, moon, and stars the week before birth. This is also normal. And it will pass. One day you may even want to have sex again. Yes, I know, that day feels like it isn’t going to be any day soon. But one day.
After childbirth, you might not poop for a week. And you’ll be terrified when you do.
Ok, this one is more mamma focused, but I had to put it in here. Everyone talks about how terrified they are about pooping on the table while in labor. What NO ONE talks about is how hard it will be to poop afterward!
The other big issue is not only will you be constipated, but you will be absolutely petrified of pooping (or peeing for that matter) once you’ve pushed out your little. There was a big trauma down south very recently, and the bodily functions in that area aren’t pleasant for a while while you’re healing.
Who would have thought that an epidural would stop you up for so long? No comment on how long it takes natural birthing mammas to poop again. Either way, I can’t imagine they’re thrilled when it happens since we all stretch the same place.
You’ll go through more diapers than you ever thought possible
Speaking of poop. There will be so. much. poop. A huge amount of your life once you have a newborn will revolve around diapers. You may go through up to 15+ diapers a day. At some point, the pee diapers will overtake the poopy ones, but in the early days, you’ll probably see just as much poo as pee.
The upside is that before your baby is on solid food poo doesn’t smell as bad, and it’s even less smelly if you’re breastfeeding. However, per my point above, you’ll talk about it a lot either way.
Before having a newborn I didn’t realize you could have four diaper changes in an hour. Totally didn’t understand that was a thing. After having a newborn, I realize that if you have four diaper changes in an hour and don’t get pee or poo on anything, it’s a huge win.
Your laundry will multiply as if you have three more people in the house
As immediately referenced above, there is a lot of pee and poo. And it gets on stuff. You may go through five or more outfits a day. If you make it through the day in one outfit it’s a miracle. This mainly goes for the baby, but your laundry will also multiply.
The funny thing about newborns is that they have an uncanny ability to project pee, poo, and spit up in multiple directions at the same time. Meaning, you may need to wash your outfit, your baby’s outfit, a blanket, AND sheet all in one diaper change.
We did at least one load of laundry a day when our little lady was first home from the hospital. In the past, we did two loads a week, so this was a HUGE increase. I was running through multiple outfits as well as receiving blankets and changing pad liners every day. The first two months our laundry multiple like we had 7 people living with us.
It will be hard to leave your house
I mean, like really hard. By the time you change the baby and feed her, she’ll need to be changed again. If you do get her in the car seat without a total meltdown you’ll need to ensure you pack a suitcase to bring everything you need for your outing.
Depending on where you’re going or how long you’ll be out, this could range from needing a couple of outfits, diapers, and blanket, to a veritable load of laundry and breast pump. Everything at home will be 1000x more convenient.
Don’t let this keep you in. It’s important that you get out in the world and do things that make you feel normal. To combat postpartum anxiety and depression and to get back to feeling like your bad-ass self you can’t sit in bed all day. Go out.
Newborns cry ALL the time. Nothing is wrong.
Babies cry. It’s a fact of life. However, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how much of life with a newborn centered around crying. Our little love was a few minutes of crying a day away from a colic diagnosis. If she wasn’t being held or breastfeeding she was crying. I couldn’t put her down for more than a few minutes at a time without the waterworks starting.
As a new mom, the sound of your baby crying does something to you physically. You’re biologically programmed to respond, and the crying baby is distressing. You feel like you’re doing something wrong if you can’t get the baby to stop crying. Or you’re convinced that something is horribly wrong.
Neither of those things are true. Babies cry. Sometimes a lot.
You’ll be overwhelmed by trying to take care of anything but the baby. Including yourself.
You may have scoffed at the idea that you wouldn’t be able to shower as a new mom. As someone without a child, it seems unfathomable that you won’t have five minutes to yourself to shower or go to the bathroom.
Then you have your little bundle and realize that they literally mean it’s a 24/7 gig. Keeping up with your baby’s needs can be so daunting at first that you throw in the towel on everything else. Including taking care of yourself.
This is not the right approach, even if you feel like you don’t have anything left to give. I’m not advocating going out to do the dishes. I am advocating making time for a shower every day. If you don’t take care of yourself you’re going to be way less effective at taking care of your little one. If you’re struggling to make time for yourself, check out the best ways to get a break with a newborn, from a reformed perfectionist.
You might not be able to eat or shower without the baby crying.
Babies cry. There isn’t a lot of downtime, and sometimes, the second you put the baby down she’s screaming again. Since you DO need to shower and eat, you may just need to let the baby cry for a few minutes.
For me, this meant I’d put the baby on the floor outside the bathroom where I could see her from the shower. At first, I’d get a 2-3 minute shower before the screaming started. Eventually, I got to the point where I could actually wash my hair and she’d stare up at the toys on her play gym the entire time I was in the shower.
At first, this was agonizing, but since I was committed to showering every day I made it happen. It’s not uncommon to hear a baby crying while you’re in the shower for a long time after you have a baby — even if it’s just in your head. A hazard of motherhood.
Life with a newborn revolves around anxiety. You will obsess. Over Everything.
Did you get the right brand of baby body wash? What is the weird mark on your baby’s leg? Does it matter if your baby’s clothes are organic cotton? Or if you accidentally put one in the wash with your detergent?
There are a million little things running through your head as a new mamma, and it’s so easy to jump down the rabbit hole and obsess over every single one. While I’m a big advocate of research, unhealthy obsession won’t help anyone.
Do get your baby to the doctor if she develops a high fever. Don’t freak out if you dropped a onesie into the laundry with regular detergent. Even if your kiddo gets a rash from the detergent, she’ll be fine. You have bigger fish to fry.
Trust your instincts, but not everything is going to kill your baby.
You do want to use those mamma bear instincts to protect your child. You have them for a reason! It’s true that no one knows a baby better than their mamma. However, you want to keep an eye on your own anxiety levels. Your calibration may be a bit out of whack in the early days of life with a newborn, so take a deep breath.
Not everything is going to kill your baby. I was worried about swaddles, and germs, and toxins, and allergies, and basically everything.
We bought a natural cleaner to use on the wood furniture in her room. I was convinced that what the cleaning ladies used would poison her. I’m not saying you should use toxic chemicals in your house. I am saying that if you have someone come clean your house to help you out, it shouldn’t put you in a full blown panic if they use pledge in the nursery.
It gets easier.
Becoming a mom was the most transformational experience of my life. And I was totally unprepared. It may have just been me, but even though I had friends with babies I had no idea what to expect about life with a newborn. The unexpectedness of the fourth trimester was really challenging — and totally normal.
If you’re overwhelmed by anything above, know that you’ll get through it. It doesn’t seem like it now, but it does get easier.
Trust me. And then write me an email when your baby is six months old 🙂