Just Because Newborns Are Exhausting Doesn’t Mean You Need to Suffer

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The idea of normalizing the really exhausting parts of parenthood is common, but it often comes with an air of “it’s just not fixable so don’t try” which a lot of people really do not want to hear, and makes them feel even more exhausted. But there is a way to fix it.

When your newborn won’t nap anywhere but on your chest: This is super common. All of the rules designed to keep babies safe while sleeping (flat surface, on their back) are not compatible with what babies actually want (to be curled up, tummy to tummy with someone cozy). Don’t try to force the crib issue during the day. Wear the baby in a carrier or just queue up your Netflix backlog and let them snooze! Sleep begets sleep so the more they’re able to nap during the day (whatever that looks like!), the better they’ll do at night in the crib. Also, visitors love this task, so if you don’t like being trapped under a baby all day, invite a friend over to do it for you while you get your body to yourself for an hour or two. (Better yet—have them do the chores! It’s up to you) 

When the baby won’t settle for the night until 11 pm: Start a bedtime routine in the “magic window” of 6-7 p.m. This is when babies are usually ready to settle down for the night but if you miss it, they’ll get a second wind. Get the whole family in the routine by turning down all the lights, turn off the TV, get baby into pajamas and do a last daytime feed. They need about 12 hours of “night time”, even if they’re waking to feed, and the first stretch of sleep is usually the most solid. 

When both partners exhausted every day: Switch off with your partner at night. A mistake I see new parents making a lot is both parents staying up late and then both waking with baby. As tempting as it is to stay up together for a few hours when the baby goes to bed, you’re going to be miserable at 4 a.m. Have one parent go to bed at 7 or 8 p.m. while the other watches over baby in another room. Then switch off baby duty halfway through the night so the night owl parent can get some solid sleep too! You’ll be out of the newborn stage and back into your evening routine together before long. 

When you don’t like the advice you’re getting from well-meaning family members or friends: Don’t take it! If you’re perfectly happy with how things are going, just let it go in one ear and out the other. They don’t know your baby better than you do. If you WANT advice, pick a few other parents you really trust and like and listen to them. Or hire a postpartum doula or sleep coach for the really professional touch. 

Don’t be afraid of a little fussing. If you put your baby down and they hang out awake in their bed, but calm, let them be! Even if they get a little fussy, you don’t need to be spring-loaded to scoop them up. They’re just trying to get comfortable. If your baby is old enough (3 months or check with your pediatrician), sleep training is always an option. You and your baby don’t have to suffer.