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MILESTONE NO. 8 Getting more than two hours of sleep in a row
Babies sleep in spurts. A part of you will adjust, and the other part of you will slowly lose your mind. Sleep deprivation can make you feel crazy, but the good news is you can get your baby to sleep longer after the first eight weeks. “If your baby is healthy and full term, at between 8 to 12 weeks old you can expect one six-hour span of sleep a night from her,” West says. The caveat? She must have eaten well during the day, so she doesn’t have as much incentive to wake up to eat at night.
During the day, your infant needs to be fed every three hours until 4 months of age, so the adage to never wake a sleeping baby simply doesn’t hold true. To encourage longer nighttime sleep stretches, don’t let your baby sleep through a daytime feeding. That means no naps longer than three hours, tempting as they are. By limiting your baby’s daytime sleep, which also maximizes her exposure to daylight, you help her move to a better night sleep schedule. If she still wakes frequently at night, you need to gently curb those nocturnal comfort feeding sessions. Don’t always rush to feed her when she cries. Simply reassure her by shushing, patting or jiggling or, as a last resort, picking her up briefly. Yes, there will be tears. But not as many as you think, especially if you are consistent with your approach.
MILESTONE NO. 9 Taking your baby out for the first time
If you can swing it, enjoy a staying-in period for the first month when all you have to do is bond with your baby at home. When you feel ready to brave the world, take it slow. “I vividly remember the first time I tried to leave the house with my baby,” says Ettus. “It took me two hours even though I was only going two blocks away.” Baby aside, the diaper bag, the stroller and the car seat all involve learning curves in their own right. Give yourself time to figure out how they work, and you will soon be able to whittle down that two-hour slog.
With my son, I went the minimal-gear route with our first excursions, and limited them to a four-mile radius from our home. I figured out how his carrier worked by watching a few online tutorials, and triumphantly maneuvered Jordan so we were chest to chest. Holding his wee hands as we walked, I had the best of both worlds: I was enjoying a chance to bond with my son and exercising at the same time.
MILESTONE NO. 10 Your first date with your partner
Date nights, which many new parents agree to in theory but never actually have, can serve two fundamental purposes: They help your relationship thrive and get you out of the house without your baby in tow. “Dates make us feel like we are more than just exhausted moms,” says Meeker. But don’t expect to have the same experience you had before having a baby.
While some experts advise not talking about your baby on dates, Black suggests embracing your new identity as parents. “You have other friends you can discuss movies with, but no one else is as interested in your baby,” she says. While most things you enjoyed together before you had a baby don’t necessarily change, you are more likely to view and do them differently now. How are you and your partner different now that you are parents? How does the world seem different? That subject is worth exploring on your dates, says Black.
When my husband and I went out on our first date six months after having the baby, we spent the whole time talking about Jordan. Freed from the cycle of diapering, feeding and burping, we could see the huge blessing of his presence with dazzling clarity. We were an enthusiastic admiration society of two, and by the end of the meal, we couldn’t wait to hold him again. That’s the ultimate mom milestone: not the going out per se, but the eagerness to return home. Because once that baby love has you nailed, the milestones—both yours and your child’s—will come thick and fast.