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Enjoy the Newborn Stage 9 Ways | Family Articles

I recently had a lovely evening with a new friend where we discussed all manner of things including parenting. She’s been parenting a lot longer and with more children than I, so my ears perked up when she said this:

I’ve learned it’s okay to not love every stage of parenting. You can still parent your child well even when you aren’t enjoying the situation.

– A Veteran Parent

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That led us to talking about one stage with which both of us struggled the most (so far): the newborn stage. What I appreciated about this talk, though, was that we focused on the things that made this all-giving-no-receiving stage (AKA the first 4-6 weeks before our babies learned how to smile back at us) the most enjoyable. This stage can be more difficult due to sleep deprivation and new parent anxiety as well as greatly lacking in community support or healthy parenting models—which doesn’t help.

So I thought I would share all the ways I’ve learned to curate joyous moments with my kid during this time.

1. Dress her up like a baby doll.

I remember setting up my baby shower list full of practical things: second-hand newborn onesies with no frills because she’s going to spit up on them as soon as she puts them on and grow out of them in a week or two.

Wrong! 😑

What I didn’t realize was that: 1) people love buying babies adorable outfits so asking them to stay practical is robbing them of some joy, and; 2) seeing my baby in adorable outfits is the fastest way to flash me back to the hope of being a mother myself one day, which I felt as early as 4 or 5 years old when I played with my baby dolls.

If I am blessed to have another baby, I will bring out the adorable cowgirl hat, belt, and booties for a one-week old if I have to!

2. Give reset baths.

Is your kid screaming his head off for the fourteenth time and you don’t know what to do? Give him a bath. Again. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before today. It will pull him out of whatever he was focusing on into this new liquidy environment and that may be just the distraction his nervous system needs to start all over with peace.

If you want bonus points, pull up a cushion to sit (on top of the toilet), and read out loud a few pages from your favorite book while he splashes his legs. Throw a wet hand towel over his body and keep it wet by pouring warm water on top every few minutes. Infant bath slings are worth their weight in gold here so that you can be close without having to hold him the whole time.

Switch it up between fun play baths using toys (or popsicles) and calming spa baths using ambience. Add a light massage on top of his diaper changing station (warmed up with a heated pillow under a towel) if you’d like. Add your favorite calming background music and dim the lights (or use an LED candle) for an extra soothing effect.

P.S. Reset outdoors is also a thing. Mad baby? Just take her outside. Walk around your house or your apartment’s parking lot. Works wonders.

3. Take photo shoots.

There’s a reason why baby month progression signs and “My First ______” bibs are so popular for newborns. There’s not much one can do with a newborn except take lots of photos. So take photos, take lots of them! Invest in a cloud-based photo album so you and your spouse can upload all your photos into the same place and share them with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends. Take time to add captions; these may become journal entries or short notes to your kid, which they can enjoy when they grow up.

4. Make baby keepsake books.

Those “My First Year” binders with the pre-formatted pages full of places to tape your newborn’s hospital bracelet or a lock of her hair can be really fun for crafty new parents. Go ahead, invest! You’ll never live through these moments again and you certainly won’t remember the details of them, either. I know you think you will, but you probably won’t because your new parent brain is changing way too fast to focus on any one thing for too long.

5. Have family adventures.

This may sound crazy but traveling with a newborn is way easier than traveling with a 1-5 year old. As soon as your kid learns to crawl, they become much more involved in decisions about what they will do at any given moment in the day. Until that point, they generally stay wherever you put them: in your arms, in a carrier, in a bouncer, in a swing, in a baby nest, or in a car seat.

Since you want to stay from overcrowded places for the first month of your baby’s life (while she is building her immune system), you might as well take a road trip to somewhere beautiful and outdoors!

My husband and I drove from Minnesota to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming when our baby was four weeks old. We brought a lot of baby stuff with us because I was pumping and we were bottle feeding (as well as our own food) so our car was full, but we really enjoyed our two week road trip: 5 days on the road, 4 days there, and 5 days back.

What we didn’t know at the time was that our daughter was about to start her first developmental leap on the tail end of our trip, which turned her from a rather amenable kid to a fussy, sleepy mess! Fortunately, we phoned a friend who helped us discover the Wonder Weeks book and app. Knowing what signs to look for as these developmental leaps started, when to look for those signs, how long to expect the leap, and what rewards awaited us on the other side (in the form of new skills our baby acquired) made it way easier to go through these less-fun phases.

I highly recommend the Wonder Weeks! It will make road trip planning much easier on your family!

6. Practice silliness and fun.

Make sure to start playing with your kid, even if he doesn’t yet play back. Do tummy time on your arm while you’re walking around, making airplane noises. Dance together in the kitchen. Curate your baby’s Spotify playlist from all the baby songs you plan to sing to him over and over. Watch funny YouTube videos about babies and learn to laugh at the wildness of it all. Hold your baby like a football while you watch football together. Tell him about all the fun your going to have one day when he learns how to play. Move his arms and legs around and throw your voice so that he looks like he is talking and moving; take a video and send it to your close friends. Just have fun as much as you can.

7. Recruit regular child care.

It’s amazing how much more you can enjoy your kid when you’ve had a little bit of a break from her for yourselves!

Unfortunately, we didn’t set up regular child care in our first few weeks because we didn’t know how much extra energy having a baby would suck out of us. (Not that babies suck, but I’m trying to explain that they literally feed off the life of their parents until they can become a bit more self-sufficient, later on in life.)

COVID made getting volunteer babysitters difficult; giving birth in a new state—without our regular community—made it almost impossible. God still provided some amazing people to help us through but if I could do it again, I’d actively recruit people to take care of my infant, even for a few hours. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  1. Church nursery. If you go to church, go to one with a nursery you can trust. Having 1-2 hours to focus on you and God during the most all-encompassing transition of your life is a beautiful thing. You can also take naps in the pews. Both are good and authorized for you during this season.
  2. Daytime visitors. Do people you trust want to come and see your baby? Have them come over during adult nap time! Introduce them to your child, show them all the ways to care for your child, show them how to use your TV, and then take a nap for at least 3 hours while they do a round of baby changing, feeding, burping, and putting back to sleep in your living room while you put on white noise and ear plugs in your bedroom. Invite people over every other day if you need. Someone did this for us once for six hours when we were dying from sleep deprivation and it changed our lives.
  3. Night time nanny. Yes, these people exist! You can hire them to come over at night and care for you baby for 8 hours while you sleep. If you’re nursing, you can optimize your rest in two ways: either incorporate nighttime pumping with attachments that allow you to pump while lying down and sleeping like this one from LacTek or try a wearable-while-lying-down pump (they can work!) Also keep a cooler with an ice pack by your bed so that you can transfer pumped milk straight into the cooler without having to walk to the fridge.
  4. Family members or surrogates. At least one day every two weeks, hand your child over to trusted family members or friends-like-family who feel called by God to invest in your child. Let your child stay with these people for up to nine hours (about three cycles of changing, feeding, burping, sleeping) while you have a daytime date with your husband or wife. Pick your baby up in the evening and head home with your heart full. Make sure your caregivers are willing to send you proof-of-life several times throughout the day so that your new parent anxiety is kept in check.
Welcome to our home, Calvin! Here, take our baby. 🤭

8. Create newborn-friendly spaces.

In addition to regular child care by other people, you can create newborn-friendly spaces in your house where you can deposit your child from time to time: a baby swing, baby nest, baby bouncer, or playpen can all make putting down your baby less anxiety-producing. If you create one such space in every room in your house, then you will feel much more mobile in your house while still feeling close to your baby. (This is especially important when you start working in and around your house.)

You can do the same in creating skin-to-skin spaces where you can take off your shirt and get skin-on-skin with your baby. A couch, chair, bed, or even pile of pillows on the floor can all make this time more interesting if you do it in different rooms of the house. Keep a blanket for you two and a book for you nearby, just in case.

Is baby-wearing ideal in both of these instances? Yes, but not all babies like to be worn and not all parents are in a state of mind or physical strength to wear their babies all the time. Flexibility gives us options.

9. Remember This is Temporary!

Having your world turned upside down by the arrival of a new baby that never smiles, never thanks, never gives back for the first 4-6 weeks can feel overwhelming for some (but not all) parents. This can especially be the case the longer sleep deprivation is involved. I hope this list can help you focus on how to build joyous moments in your new parenthood while giving you the flexibility you may need to care for you, too. And then, right when you think it’s never gonna happen, your kid will start smiling at you and you will get a fresh wind in your sails. All of a sudden, your one-way relationship will become a two-way relationship!

Phew!

What do you think about my list? And what are your newborn parenting hacks?

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