Becoming a parent for the first time can be daunting, especially if, like many modern parents, you have little experience with babies and children. Whereas in generations past older children may have helped to care for younger siblings and cousins, in our modern nuclear families that practice has largely fallen away. This leaves new parents struggling to know what’s normal, what to expect, and how to handle everything. So today, we’re going to talk about a few things that keep most new parents awake at night (when they should be getting all the sleep they can!).
1. Is my baby breathing?
“I honestly marvelled how the lungs just knew how to work from minute one, and kept thinking surely there would be bugs with them, and I must keep an eye on her breathing.” — Cathryn.
We’re told a lot about SIDS and the potential for this tiny being to just stop breathing. Many new parents spend the first few nights or weeks hovering over their baby to check that they are, indeed, still breathing.
There are a few things you can do to help mitigate these fears. Many parents sleep near their newborn for the first few weeks at least. Using either a Moses basket or a co-sleeper can help to alleviate worries (as you can hear your baby is fine) while sleeping safely. Another simple thing to do is use a baby breathing monitor. It’s the reason we exist, to provide early alerts to parents of the cessation of breathing, as well as peace of mind when all is fine.
2. Is my baby warm enough?
“My baby was born in the middle of the first storm of winter. I’m ashamed to say it took me two (freezing cold) nights to work out why my baby would only sleep on my chest in my bed. He was freezing cold in his crib!” — Sigrid.
This mom isn’t alone here. Many new parents don’t know that babies can’t regulate their own body temperature the same way that adults can. They can’t shiver when they’re too cold to warm up, so they just cry. You pick them up and snuggle against your warm body, and they stop crying. When you remove your warm body and they’re cold again, they cry. Do you see where this is going?
There are a few quick checks and rules you can use. Generally, babies need to be dressed in the same number of layers that you have on, plus one extra. Their neck is also a good place to check their body temperature. If it’s sweaty, take off a layer. Cool to the touch? Add an extra jersey or blanket, or just snuggle them close. Your body will help your baby regulate their temperature, so don’t feel bad to just sit around with your baby on your chest, skin-to-skin (with a blanket over you both, when it’s cold).
3. Why won’t my baby stop crying?
“Every time my baby cries, and it feels like 5000 times a day, my blood pressure spikes! Why won’t she stop crying!?” — Jennifer.
Oh, if only we had the answer to this question! For most new parents, the seemingly incessant crying is one of the surprisingly hardest parts of new parenthood. Dirty nappies become old news quite quickly, but the piercing newborn cry can set you on edge each and every time.
There are a few reasons why babies cry. Firstly, it is their only way of communicating with their caregivers. They can’t talk, whine, get anywhere on their own, or feed themselves. The only way they can communicate their needs is by crying. Many parents report hearing a different tone in their baby’s cries, depending on the need that is being expressed.
Babies cry to communicate, not just because they are sad. They cry to tell you that they're tired, cold, wet, bored, hungry, or overstimulated. And it’s important to remember that they will be OK if you can’t pick them up immediately.
Author and parenting expert Janet Lansbury recommends using your voice to communicate back. When your baby cries and you can’t get to them immediately, you can say something like, “I hear you, darling. I just have to finish showering/getting dressed/going to the toilet and then I will be with you. But I’m here and I hear you.” It might not feel like it’s doing much, but sometimes just that acknowledgement does help to calm your baby down for a bit.
4. Will my baby ever sleep?
“'My baby kept me awake. All the time until he was two! I can’t count the number of times I was woken up or spent all night Googling any reason for him not sleeping.” — Debbie.
This one’s a big one. Adult sleep and baby sleep appear to be almost totally incompatible. Most babies wake up frequently throughout the day and night to feed. Their tummies are quite tiny, so they don’t eat a lot at once. Plus, breastmilk and formula are highly digestible, so it’s used up quickly by their growing bodies.
As adults, we want 7-8 hours straight, thank-you-very-much. One or two hours at a time feels like a series of unsatisfying naps. That said, it’s normal. Completely normal. The old adage “sleep when the baby sleeps” is old for a reason. You’ll be tired during this time, so rest whenever you can. It will pass, and you will sleep again, even if it doesn’t really feel like it.
Becoming a parent for the first time can be full of wonder and worry, happiness and concern, joy and exhaustion. It’s a rollercoaster ride of incredible highs and sometimes new lows. We hope this glimpse into new parenthood helps alleviate some of the potential stresses on your own journey.
8 New Mom Stresses -- and How to Relieve Them: https://www.parents.com/baby/new-parent/motherhood/relieve-mom-stress/
Would You Pick Up This Crying Baby?: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/10/would-you-pick-up-this-crying-baby/
Baby sleep: Sleep 0 – 3 months: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/S_T/Sleep-0-3-months#:~:text=In%20the%20first%20few%20months,to%205%20hours%20at%20night.