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10 Things They Forget to Mention About Newborns

Photograph by Twenty20

When my husband and I welcomed our first baby this spring, we thought we had it all figured out. We’d read all the books, gotten tons of advice and felt super prepared.

But if there’s one thing babies teach you, it’s that preparedness can only get you so far. Sure, we knew we had long nights and distracted days ahead of us, but there are some newborn tips and tricks that aren’t frequently discussed or ever really mentioned.

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Here are 10 things I wish someone had told me about having a newborn:

1. It gets harder before it gets easier

Our first week home, I got cocky. Our son slept for 18 to 20 hours a day in his bouncy seat, perfectly content. I was able to get work done, fold laundry, cook dinner—this baby thing was no sweat. I'd convinced myself we just had a “good” baby.

By the time he turned 3 weeks old, I was singing a different tune.

Babies can take a few weeks to really “wake up.” Suddenly, he was awake for long stretches of time, wanting to be held by someone at all times and crying for longer than a minute. It was a whole different ball game, and it caused me to lose my footing a bit. I wish someone had told me that the first week home can feel like a honeymoon phase, and it’s totally normal for things to get more difficult before they get easier.

2. Babies have to learn how to breastfeed

I’d always heard that babies knew instinctively how to breastfeed when they were born. Not true! Although they may have a natural rooting and sucking reflex, they need to learn that your chest is where the goods are coming from. The nurse practically shoved his little head onto me, and I freaked out—it seemed so rough. But she explained to me that he doesn’t know that that’s where food comes from, so I had to hold his head there until he figured out he was eating.

So just as you’re learning, they’re learning—and figuring out that latch can hurt!

3. Newborns have freaky breathing patterns

Babies will occasionally stop breathing for 5 to 10 seconds, giving Mom a total heart attack before they suddenly come back breathing super quickly with shallow breaths, as if they’re gasping for air. The first time it happened, I was so glad I was in the hospital with a pediatrician standing there—otherwise I would have definitely thought something was wrong. Turns out, his little brain was still figuring out how to tell his lungs to get air. So sometimes signals get crossed.

What I wasn't prepared for was his rocket POOP!

4. A pacifier is totally useless

I assumed pacifiers were a great way to get a baby to self-soothe, but our baby tends to freak out when you stick a pacifier in his mouth. He’ll sometimes take it, but only from his dad, and only for a few minutes when we’re desperate for him to let us finish a task. If I try to do it, he screams as if I’m trying to poison him. Not all babies will be satisfied by a paci—don’t rely on one, especially at first.

5. They can have more acne than a teenager

I always thought newborns had smooth, perfect skin, and they do—for a few days. As mom’s hormones leave his body, babies can get a ton of pimples on their chin and cheeks, like they’re going through puberty. I thought we weren’t washing his face well enough, but it turns out that’s perfectly normal. Also, it's not measles. (Whew!)

6. They don’t just pee on you—they can, and will, poop on you.

Everyone—EVERYONE!—warned that my little boy would pee on me when I changed his diaper. What I wasn't prepared for was his rocket POOP! He managed to get poop on his laundry hamper, his dresser, the carpet and his parents. So I'm here to warn you: It can shoot out like a cannon. The cute, satisfied face he makes almost makes up for it.

Pro tip: Undo the diaper tabs, and then sit there for a minute with the diaper still covering his booty. We’ve avoided many a poop explosion by simply being a little patient and letting him do his business.

As soon as someone else is snuggling him, I tend to want him back.

7. It’s smart to disconnect your credit card from your Amazon account

When you’re awake at 2 a.m., someone online could tell you a quail egg will help your baby sleep and you’ll find yourself dropping 50 bucks on it. I wish someone would have warned me that I’d be making impulse purchases of sound machines and salt lamp as the baby wailed in my sleep-deprived arms. You’ll have a much clearer head during his morning nap. So disconnect your card from your Amazon to avoid a budget hangover in the morning.

8. Those little suckers are slippery!

The first time my husband and I gave our baby a bath, we could barely hold on to him. We finally bought a baby bathtub, because we were so paranoid we were going to drop him on the floor.

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9. The slightest noise now wakes you up

Foot kicks? Head shifts slightly? Deep sigh? No matter what it is, any slight noise has me wide awake and waiting for a cry.

10. You can miss your baby while in the same room

Since we had the first grandchild in our families, any time we're with our parents, everyone clamors for the baby. At first, a break sounds great. But as soon as someone else is snuggling him, I tend to want him back. Sharing the baby love is harder than it sounds.

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