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The Truth About the First Month With a Baby

Photograph by Twenty20

I've just reached the other side of Month One with our baby girl. And, to sum it up, I’d describe it as total survival mode.

You can forget what the books told you. What your aunt swore to you. What that Facebook article tried to scare you to believe. The first month with your newborn is, in my opinion, an extended incubation period. There's a reason it's often referred to as the fourth trimester: Babies still need to develop so much after leaving our bodies.

I read every baby book, article, forum and post in preparation for this. And, of ALL the content I consumed, this simple mantra is the only thing that got me through that first month: Trust your instincts. Ditch the need for order and routine. Follow your baby's cues.

Because the first month is hard. So hard. Just do what you've gotta do to make it through to the other side.

SLEEP

You’ll sleep, but it won’t ever be the same as it was before baby. You’ll mostly be catching power naps whenever you can. Sometimes you’ll sleep when the baby sleeps. Other times, you’ll want to use that opportunity to be a person and leave your bedroom. I still find time to pick up the house, because that’s something that matters to me. I could use that time to shower or paint my nails or cook, but those things don’t matter as much to me.

You’re going to be reintroduced to times like 3 a.m. Remember 3 a.m.? You haven’t seen 3 a.m. since you were chugging vodka & Sprites, dancing to bad EDM and wearing a shirt as a dress. Now 3 a.m. looks like you dozing off over your baby as she dream feeds on your sore nips.

WARDROBE

You no longer wear clothes. You live in the same three pajamas now. Accept it. You’ll return to your closet eventually, put on jeans and be a person again. But, for now, that’s just not on the agenda.

The thing is, there's no right way to care for a newborn.

SELF-CARE

Everyone makes a big emphasis on Mom “taking care of herself” after having a baby. But self-care is going to look a little different. Some days, it might look like bingeing on Netflix all day because Baby refuses to be put down. Other days, it may look like taking a hot shower while your husband watches Baby. Or eating an entire meal at a table, uninterrupted.

BABY CARE

It’s going to feel like all you’re doing is feeding the baby—and you kind of are. You’re basically a human milk machine that first month. Just go with it. Feed Baby whenever she wants. (I don’t know if this is true for formula, but I’m breastfeeding, and my doctor assured me you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.)

Baby’s day looks like this: cry, eat, sleep, cry, diaper change, eat, sleep, cry. Rinse and repeat.

Luckily, toward the end of the first month, she’s awake for longer stretches and we’re getting to play with her a lot more. That’s super fun! She’s starting to focusing on our faces and playing with her toys. There is a light at the end of this dark, sleep-deprived tunnel.

The thing is, there's no right way to care for a newborn. The main goal is getting to a place where you can start anticipating her needs before she has to ask (and by "ask," I mean "scream.") As long as you’re paying attention to her and giving her what she needs, you’re doing it right. Every newborn is different and every baby develops at a different pace. Just focus on building as strong a bond as you can with your little one. Observe her. Learn her. Know her inside and out.

Accept that as soon as you think you’ve cracked the code and have her figured out, she’ll completely change. That’s normal too. She’s not a completely different baby, although it might feel that way. She’s still your baby, who you know better than anyone else. So, keep following your gut, mamas, and know that despite feeling otherwise—you've got this.

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