It takes time and patience to grow into your routine as a new mom. Try our simple tips to help you and your baby adjust to your new life.
You know you're in a good groove when your day goes like this: The baby takes a long morning nap and you have time to shower and read the paper. You get to have coffee with a friend while the baby gurgles happily in her stroller beside you. Later in the day you play with the baby while she gets “tummy time.” By 7 p.m., she’s down for the night.
Sound like a dream? It probably is. For most new moms it goes more like this: You wake up tired. You rush to get to baby-music class, but your child just wants to sleep. She cries and rubs her eyes all afternoon, but you can’t get her to nap. You never quite get that shower, and the dishes keep piling up in the sink. By evening you’re both in tears.
The first six weeks are bumpy for everyone as mom and baby find their way. Rest, pay attention to your baby’s natural patterns, and then make plans
Take advantage of naps It can’t be said enough: Being a new mom is really tiring. And since you likely won’t be getting much sleep at night (most newborns need to eat every two hours or so), it’s important to rest as much as you can during the day. That means sleeping when the baby sleeps.
Believe it or not, most babies do sleep—a lot. It just tends to happen in spurts. “Babies can sleep all day in two-hour spurts, nurse for 15 minutes, and then go back to sleep,” says Santa Monica, Calif., pediatrician Jay Gordon, M.D. In fact, on average, newborns sleep 20 hours a day in the first six weeks. But remember that that’s an average. “Babies are individuals,” Gordon says. “Some babies start taking two naps at 2 months of age, other babies fall into that pattern at 5 months or older.” In other words, in the first weeks, you can’t predict when your baby will sleep.
Don’t try to enforce a sleep schedule on a baby, Gordon says. Rather, let the baby find her own rhythm and then go with it. “The worst kind of sleeplessness is when parents don’t use this sleep time to their advantage,” he says.
Find a feeding rhythm Your routine will have to be worked around when your newborn feeds—about every two hours for the first six weeks. For instance, if you want to take a shower, try timing it after one of the morning feedings when your baby is relaxed and comfortable. You can place her in a bouncy seat next to the shower door or take her in the shower with you.
Speaking of feeding, you’ll want to set up a comfortable nursing spot: Use a cozy chair and place a side table nearby to hold burp cloths and a glass of water. Avoid talking on the phone when you feed your baby. Instead, gaze into her eyes, stroke her body and give over to this peaceful time together.
Start a bedtime routine It can be helpful to begin a bedtime routine right away. “Right off the bat, you can start giving the baby a bath, reading a book and helping her prepare for sleep,” Gordon says. Dimming the lights and playing quiet music can create a restful mood.
Whether or not your baby goes to sleep right away doesn’t matter; the point is for her to grow accustomed to the family’s evening routine. (If you wish to sleep with your baby, consider putting her in a bassinet and then bringing her to bed with you when you’re ready to go to sleep. Don’t leave her alone in an adult bed.)
Get out of the house Another simple routine to institute is to take a walk around the block at about the same time every day with the baby in a front carrier or stroller. Eventually you may be able to go for an easy run with your baby in a jogging stroller.
Carolyn Bennett, 33, an audiologist in Rochester, N.Y., says it took her about three months to get completely in sync with her son, Jack, now 9 months old. “I was really frazzled,” she says. “I tried not to go anywhere and worked around his nap time.” Lucky for Bennett, Jack is a good sleeper (two naps a day for two hours each) and can doze off anywhere. Eventually, she discovered that she and Jack both could get what they needed when she resumed running—this time with him in the jogging stroller, where he often happily slept. In fact, she recently ran a 5-mile race with Jack asleep in his three-wheeled stroller.
Make time for your partner Once the baby goes to bed, stay awake to spend some time alone with your partner. Knowing you’ll engage in adult conversation every night will help you maintain a sense of self.
Mai Delapa, 35, of Boston, pined for those nights out with her husband, Anthony, after their daughter, Lang, now 17 months, was born. “I really missed spending time with Anthony,” she says.
Delapa had been used to living spontaneously, which was no longer possible with a new baby. “At first I resented having to plan everything,” she says. “But once I accepted that this was how it had to be, things got a lot easier.” Nights out with Anthony evolved into nights in with Anthony, talking or watching a movie instead of having a drink at a bar or dining out at a restaurant.