Newborn Survival Tips

I have three pretty simple "survival tips" for having newborns... and here they are:

(1) Follow a basic routine: I'm not a J on the Myers-Briggs personality scale, and I don't personally do well with rigid scheduling, but a flexible routine has been a HUGE help and blessing for us with babies. It may not be for everyone, but it most definitely is for us. I've written more about it here.

(2) Use gas drops (simethicone) generously. Seriously, use them as often as you please. I've had doctors in three countries tell me that it does not go into the blood stream and therefore you can use them as often as you please. With little ones who often have burps you can't quite get out or air bubbles they've swallowed, gas drops are a life saver! (TIP: Buy the generic ones at Target. They were 80% less per ounce than the Mylicon name brand version in my hometown in Texas, and work every bit as good.) A friend of ours jokingly called it "quiet juice" because of how much he noticed that it helped our daughter to stop fussing when she had an upset tummy.

(3) Don't form unnecessary habits (always sleeping in the same place; always needing x, y, or z to fall asleep; always holding baby at certain times of day, etc.) ... because then you'll be obligated to keep them up, or else! So if you get into a habit that works for you, that's fine, or that you intend to maintain-- GREAT! But particularly in our family (moving around the world 5 times in the last 2 years), not instilling unnecessary habits in babies is a glorious thing.


What tips do you have for not just surviving-- but THRIVING-- through the newborn period?

39 comments:

mummymac said...

I think in addition to your tips, I would have to say:

Don't fuss over newborns. It's too easy to do this especially if the little one is a first baby. If they are fed, dry and not in pain it's ok to let them lie and learn to fall over to sleep on their own.

Taking into consideration that all newborns are different what worked a treat for numbers 1 & 2 won't necesarily work for number 3 etc. (from experience :)

I think finally I would say when they are up a little it's good to keep them in a routine of sleeping during the day. My third didn't sleep well at night but because my 3 & 1 year old were still sleeping during the day I was able to cope by napping then, and don't feel guilty about napping during the day either...

Looking forward to others suggestions !

Crystal said...

I am an expectant mother (for the first time!), and your blog has been such a blessing in my life! I especially loved your birth stories about how easy labor was for you! It gives me hope!

Dean said...

Tip: Remember every moment. Use the video camera often. You won't believe how much they change in the first few months.

Joanna said...

You took mine: gas drops. I've seen screaming, screeching, wailing babies quiet instantly upon being given the gas drops.

Rachel said...

I'm expecting my fifth child and have learned a few things from each new baby.
*I wish I had a sling with my oldest, it's invaluable when baby is fussy and while out and about it keeps curious-yet-possibly-germ-laiden-admirers from touching the baby. I now have three ;)
*With my second child I discovered Hyland's teeth tablets and colic tablets. They are homeopathic and I've even given them to the older kids when they're cranky.
*Breastfeeding, while difficult at first is SO worth in the end; not only is it better for baby, it's better for momma.
*Somewhere along the way I forgot how much swaddling can calm a baby, but I thank God I relearned this technique with our fourth.
*Do NOT keep everyone quiet while the baby naps; kids eventually resent that they can't do anything because the baby's sleeping. (I have a relative that won't let her son play on the computer because the clicking keyboard wakes the toddler up, from three rooms away.)
*And yes, tempting though it may be to hold baby all day long, you will regret it when you have a baby that refuses to be put down.
These are the things that I'm trying to keep in mind as I prepare for our newest arrival.

Jennine said...

I have seven children and used attachment parenting with the first three and wouldn't you know, to this day they are more demanding and discontent than the children I parented with routine and schedules.

My experience has shown me that even little ones require routine and order to flourish.

I miss the baby days. You are so blessed. Enjoy!

Cat said...

Always use the restroom and grab a glass or bottle of water before you sit down to nurse. If you're comfortable, you might just be able to catch a cat nap in there.

Kristin said...

I'm expecting my fourth. I think the best thing to remember is that every stage passes. Some babies want to be held all the time (no matter what you do), but before long, they want to get down and run around. Some babies don't need a lot of sleep, but before long they are the first ones up playing with the younger ones while Mom drags out of bed. :-)

I just found your blog (thru LINKS on Amy's Humble Musings) and I've enjoyed reading your posts. Come visit me at from-my-life.blogspot.com. :-)

dcrmom said...

Awww, I love that picture.

My survival tip -- just do what works. Seriously, that's SO overused, but I learned it after trying too hard to put my 1st child into a a schedule that didn't suit MY personality. (It worked well for friends of mine, just not for ME and OUR family.) I was so much happier with child #2 and #3 when I decided to just go with the flow. We were ALL happier.

I hope you are enjoying your precious new baby gift, Jess! Congratulations!! :-)

Brenda said...

Ha! We called those drops "liquid gold." :)

Jen said...

I decided, when I had my first, that (and while it might sound selfish, it's worked) I was here first, so the baby was going to work into *my* routine, and not the other way around. If I had to be somewhere at a certain time and the baby was still sleeping, I went any way. Of course I took him with me! I just wasn't the type to go... oh, I couldn't be on time becaue the baby was sleeping, so I'd just get him out of bed and off we went. If he went back to sleep, great, if not *shrug*... he'll sleep better later. (of course, if I had just put him down to sleep and someone invited me out, I would say no, he's just been put to bed.) If we were out and it was time for a nap, he learnt to sleep in the pram/carseat/whoevers bed. If we were late for a feed... he survived. As a result, all 5 of my children cope well with change and upset schedules; even my Autistic Spectrum son... who is the eldest. They will sleep anywhere, and after a smidge of grizzling on bad days, will wait for dinner if mummy is running a little late *wink*.
Yes, your life can revolve around your children, but it doesn't, and shouldn't be run by them.

Jen said...

Oh, and I agree especially with the "don't make it deathly silent when your baby is sleeping" comment. My kids'll sleep through a cyclone: our dining room was right off Troy's bedroom, so when we'd have a games night with friends and it got pretty loud, he'd sleep through it. My niece on the other hand, needs absolute silence in the house when she sleeps. Drives me insane.

Pam Lowe said...

You are bringing back such great memories, thank you.
My tips, write it down, all the funny things they say and do; even if you write it on the calender. Next, sleep when they sleep, if possible, makes for more milk production and more patience all around. Snuggle, they grow fast, my oldest is 22.
God bless

Britt said...

I agree with Rachel (the computer comment cracked me up!). Let there be noise while baby is sleeping. With my first one, I would play music if *I* wasn't going to be noisy. With my second one, I had the first one to make noise :) My kids sleep through pretty much everything.

The Pauls' said...

We have 10 children and I think the "tip" that has helped me get through many nights of 'less than adequate' sleep is not to count the hours of sleep I missed, or how little I got, but instead enjoy one on one quiet time with your little one and thank God for every moment that you have with him/her.

Anonymous said...

Learn how to use a sling, pouch or other baby carrier that is appropriate for a newborn. This will make your life so much easier, and usually keep the baby happy while you have your hands free to do other things.

Drink a glass of water every time you sit down to nurse the baby. This was easier with the first baby, because I didn't have to worry about a toddler/preschooler knocking over a pitcher of water on the table beside my rocking chair!

Eat plenty of protein as well as carbohydrates.

Learn the signs of postpartum depression so that you can seek help if you are facing more than the usual exhaustion and baby blues.

Laurie B

Anonymous said...

I just recently had number five, so, with 5, ages 9 and under, I have learned that setting my expectations too high is bad for me and the kids. I write myself a list of 5-6 things I want to get done everyday. I include on the list dinner and school as the most important and then 2 other things. By the end of the day I can honestly see that I have "done" something even though I don't feel like I got too much accomplished.

I learned from a hosptial nurse, to brush a newborns hair everyday with the brush they give you at the hospital and it reduces the cradle cap. Do it once a day from the time they are born before it ever has a chance to develop. It has made a huge difference for me.

I also want to second what one reader wrote about eating protein and carbs. Most of the time when I am feeling overwhelmed, if I force myslef to eat a quick snack, like a banana or a handful of peanuts, I can think so much more clear. Its so easy to keep going on with the hussle and bussle to forget to eat ourselves!


Shannon

Jess said...

Goodness gracious-- what a great load of tips from so many experienced mamas! Thanks to all who have spoken up so far-- what a good collection of wisdom! :)

Catherine R. said...

Ladies, I want to ask you something: do you write down your schedule? I am preg with my first and even when I read about breastfeeding scheduling I am afraid that I will constantly be losing track of when the last feeding was...so, does anyone use a timer? I am considering this as well as writing down a general daily activity schedule.

Hendrick Family said...

A friend just sent me your website. I love it already.

I'm a mother of three boys (ages 8, 4, and 6) and we've fostered two other precious children.

One of the things I always give to new moms at baby showers is The Message version of the Bible.

Normally, I don't read the Message, but during the times when my children were little, the Message was just what I needed! I could read the Bible while I sat down to nurse my babies and actually understand what I was reading. That was amazing to me! It's hard to understand anything on 3 hours of sleep at night. The Message was a MUST for me during the first 6 months of my children's lives.

What a beautiful blog.

Heather

HarperMama said...

I find it disturbing to hear Christian women say things like "I was here first, so the baby was going to work into *my* routine, and not the other way around." The best response is always the loving response- which I think most people would agree is to meet the need of your baby as soon as possible. After all, expecting a newborn to understand "your" schedule may be a bit of an advance concept.

My tips- don't try to do too much when the baby comes! Even if the goals for the day are (1) Hold the baby and (2) Feed the baby and you have to scratch them off of your to-do list every day- let that be enough and have someone else take care of everything else. You'll never have the first few weeks back again- why short change the most special time in your baby's young life?

Mom/Nana said...

Well, I don't have anything that hasn't already been mentioned, except adding that I always kept a "baby book" for both of my children up through age 5, and I would recommend keeping some sort of book-it could be a journal or most anything to write all sorts of things down that you will never remember, but are fun to look at later, even years later, and share with your child-they will get a big kick out of it! My kids have enjoyed looking at what foods they ate at what stage, because things were so different then, and I wouldn't have remembered all of those things. Also, little funny faces or cute things they did at different stages-take the time to jot it down. I can't tell you the times that your dad and I spent hours looking through our baby book, and it was amazing the things that even after a year or two, we had forgotten. It was very special to us. And, I'll add that at times, those baby books come in handy. Once or twice, we've had to go back and check out important information that was only in those books. Also, like has been mentioned, sleeping when your baby is sleeping, if possible, is very important.
I've seen the Babywise program with all 4 of my grandchildren with you and Doug, and I have been amazed. I really feel that I implemented some of it back when you and your brother were babies, even though we didn't know anything about the Babywise book, etc., but I'm sure if I had seen it, I would have read it and loved it too. It's just fantastic.
Mom and Nana

Mom said...

I need to also add that you have a wonderful, helpful, loving husband in Doug. I also had a wonderful, helpful and loving husband with your dad. That was something I'll always be grateful for and thankful for. I can't tell you the times that he really pulled me through! And, I've been around for all 4 of your pregnancies and births, and have seen first hand how helpful and great Doug is, and that is such a blessing to witness.
Love, Mom

Jess said...

Harpermama,
I think if you read carefully, you'll notice that no one here has ever talked about not meeting a baby's needs. Far from it... this whole thread has skads of advice about how to meet babies' needs.

But meeting needs is different from meeting whims... or letting a newborn baby live for an extended period of time as though day is night and night is day.

I'd be silly to continue to bend to the whims of an infant concerning day/night sleep issues *IF* we are able to still meet their needs but lovingly adjust their body rhythms to where they sleep at night and eat/play/wake up during the day (which I believe we can do and have done with all four of our children). We'd be unnecessarily signing up for months or years of insomnia when there is an easier way.

Again, no one here has talked about not meeting needs. You'd be wise to choose words that are less combative should you come back around to comment.

Thanks,
Jess

Jenny said...

Thanks Jess... I got a little upset, I must admit, because I felt that my comment must not have been read in entirety for that line being used like it was, and you answered for me beautifully, and were so much more concise than I would have been! I would have dribbled on for ages trying to rephrase what I meant.

Jess said...

Catherine R.,
I did write down our nursing times the first month or two with our first child. It helped me to remember, and I definitely didn't want to get distracted and realize that it had been four or five hours since they last ate. It's very helpful to do so.

Within a couple months, though, you'll start to fall into a consistent routine and won't need to write it down, because you'll be feeding at roughly the same times every day.

But with every newborn, I've found it helpful to write it down or at least try to burn the times he/she feeds on my brain by speaking it outloud, reminding Doug what time they ate, etc.

It definitely helps you to better assess their needs... if you just laid them down and they start to fuss 20 minutes later (but it's only been 90 minutes since they last ate), you can then know, OH- they must have some gas (try burping or gas drops)... or perhaps he got overstimulated (pat his back, talk in soft soothing tones, and try again). But if it's been 2 & 1/2 hours, and you're just not thinking it's been that long (believe me, the time can FLY when you have an infant), you'll be able to look down at the time and realize "oh, goodness, it IS time again for you to eat!" And then feed them. It makes newborn life a little more certain to just have that record to look at and know that they eat often enough and don't eat too often in the weeks after the first two.

During the first two weeks, though, Catherine, you definitely need to feed, feed, feed, (focusing on full feedings) without regard to a clock-- to get your milk supply healthy and strong. After that is when you start helping them to form those patterns into a routine. Frankly, I've found that when I feed full feedings during the first two weeks (whenever they root/act hungry), I've not had to too much to get them into a natural routine... by feeding them full feedings during those first days, and making sure they have at least a few minutes of waketime after eating before falling asleep again, they more naturally fall into a 2 & 1/2 - 3 hour routine.

All that to say, yes. Writing it down is helpful. :) How's that for a long answer to a short question?

Jess

flyinjuju said...

This is a great post! With a 5 week old around our house it is nice to hear all of this advice. We love a consistent routine and also try not to form unnecessary habits. We could probably use more gas drops in this house. I always forget that one. :) I tend to like the house on the quiet side, so I am working on letting life just be. That isn't too hard with two other little ones running aroud the house. And of course, snuggle and cuddle, they truly do grow so fast.
Joy in Jesus,
Julie

Anonymous said...

We found swaddling to be very helpful with our newborn, but had an unpleasant surprise at about 4 months when he started getting out of the swaddle but at the same time was unable to sleep without being swaddled. I just found a new blog which I think might be helpful in the transition from swaddling to no swaddling, which we have had a lot of trouble with. You can find it at http://swaddling.blogspot.com
Christina

Catherine R. said...

Thanks, Jess : ) I have read Babywise now and will probably reference it again as the birth happens. They too confirm to feed feed feed during the first couple weeks, as you know. I put gas drops on my "Baby stuff we need" list too. I didn't even know those exist so thanks!

Jessica said...

Catherine R., I too recommend that you make a chart. My 2nd child is 6 weeks old and on a good schedule and I'm still recording our feedings. At first I did it so I could remember when she fed and also to make sure she was getting enough. Since you've read Babywise you know that wet and dirty diapers indicate if they are getting enough milk so it is helpful to record that also. On my chart I record date, time of feeding, length at each side, wet and dirty diapers, and since she has some reflux issues if she got sick. This has helped me talk to the doctors and lactation specialist.

The Durham's said...

Hey:)

Okay...I didn't realize you had another blog:) Monty and I have been keeping up with your family on your other blog, but I stumbled across this one from a comment you left on the Hulsey's blog:) How are you guys? Silas is so handsome:) Just wanted you to know we still think of you often, and pray for your sweet family constantly:)

alaskamommy said...

Several others have said simlilar things, but here's my little bits of advice. (oh, and #3 is on the way, so I need to remember all this soon too!)

A) Feed yourself, both physically and spiritually.

B) Trust your husband with the baby. Tell him when you (me!) need a break to lay down, shower, read, or talk a walk. He can handle the baby, really.

C) Use the "awake" time at night to pray for others. I decided to use that time to uplift our pastors, and wow there must have been some weeks when they really needed it! =) It also helped my mindset too; instead of feeling grouchy or upset, I knew that this was a sweet time with my little ones and that my heart was directed to God.

D) Read parenting books, and not just from one parenting style either, and don't bash another parents choice. I read Babywise, kept a little bit of that info and mentally trashed what didn't work for us, and have done the same with attachment parenting books. Either style is not an "all or nothing" approach that some would lead us to believe.

Thanks for letting all of us contribute! It's been great to read the other comments and file things away for this October, when we once again enter the newborn stage.

MaryBeth said...

I've enjoyed reading this post and all these comments so much! So many great and encouraging ideas. I think I need to start printing them to read again right before our little one comes. Thanks all you wise mamas for sharing :)

Amy said...

My dh just recently was sporting this very style of facial hair. I had not ever seen before (except on maybe Abraham Lincoln). Hmmm, it must be a gentic thing for men. (He has since gone smooth again.)

Polly said...

I just saw this!!

*Swaddling. My lifesaver (along w/ the Happiest Baby on the BLock DVD, for my very fussy son during his first 3-4 months!)

*gas drops, definitely

*when baby wakes at night keep things dark and don't talk, and in the a.m. open curtains wide and let light pour in. my son figured out night and day FAST using this method. he's almost 1 now and when he is up at night which happens once in a blue moon, I keep all lights off and just rock in the quiet. they figure it out fast.

*don't do ANYTHING if you can help it during the first month. procure as much outside help as possible--cooking, cleaning, laundering. that really helped me.

*try to establish breastfeeding and don't get frustrated if it doesn't go right initially--it's a learning process for sure!!

*follow your instincts, even when you don't feel you have any at all

*don't worry about what others think about your childrearing methods. if it works for you, works for your baby, works for your family--that's what you should do. I spent too much time in the beginning worrying very unnecessarily about the way I was doing things, which was instinctual but different than the way I thought I was supposed to do them. For instance, we co-sleep, something I was *TOTALLY* against for at least 4 months. TOTALLY! but it has been a huge blessing for us.

*Enjoy them. babies don't keep!!!

Anne said...

I use attachment parenting during the first year and then as they are ready for a routine we work toward one. I don't think it is fair to a baby to remove him from his being held and fed 24/7 to a schedule.
I follow Dr. Sears advice over Babywise. A doctor with 8 children rather than a preacher with a few.
While some babies may do fine on a 4 hour schedule... MOST breastfed babies do not, no where near. I had one who went 4 hours, but that was just him... there is no way I could have gotten my other 3 to go 4 hours.
And I believe breastfeeding is far more important than a routine. They are only little for a short time.

Jess said...

Anne,
Well, you and I agree that breastfeeding is excellent.

We just disagree about how to go about it. And that's OK. None of my newborns have been on a 4-hour schedule-- in fact, that kind of spacing doesn't happen until at least 4-6 months, per Ezzo's recommendations.

And I have nothing against you, Anne-- obviously, I don't even know you. But I get really tired of people putting up the "straw man" argument against Babywise that it's a 4-hour-rigid-schedule-from-birth book. That just ain't it... to those who are curious, read it for yourself. Don't buy into the internet hype.

Frankly, Anne, I don't think it's fair to a baby to teach him/her to *need* to be held/fed 24/7 and then have to strip that away. Better to start the general way you mean to finish.

That's not to say I don't hold my babies a lot when they're born. Oh, I do. I love to snuggle with them, study their features, inspect their toes and laugh at their chub rolls on their thighs. I just don't do it to the point of habit. I aim to not develop habits that are going to need to be removed later.

Anyhow, I wanted to respond to your comment in particular because you seem to have some significant misperceptions about what Babywise is about, and I don't want your misperceptions to color other readers' views.

whitley said...

you have some great advice to share, but i would be careful about advising everyone to use the gas relief drops. i am sure they are a true help to some, but can be quit harmful for others.
my son is not usually fussy but quit gassy, and after reading this post, i thought i would try the gas drops. i bought the generic brand at target and gave him the recommended dosage for a couple consecutive feedings. what proceeded was a 48 hour nightmare. it turned my generally happy son into a screaming miserable child who couldn't properly eat, pass gas or poop. he screamed for hours like he was in extreme pain. since i noticed the change in him around the same time i started using the drops, i decided to start doing some research. it turns out the drops can cause extreme constipation in some babies.
upon researching how the drops actually work, i learned that they do not actually eliminate gas, but rather work as an agent to combine all the small air bubbles into one large one. the thought here is that it will be easier for the baby to burp up one big bubble and be done with it. i am sure it works for many, but it brought extreme pain to my baby.
happily the drops are now in the trash, and after two trying days my son is back to his happy self.

Jess said...

Hi Whitley...
Wow, that sounds awful! I've not used it just for gassiness, but more for fussiness and discomfort. It stinks that it made things worse for your little guy. I'm so sorry they didn't work for you guys. (Or rather, that they worked so poorly!)
~Jess