Photo by Marcin Jozwiak
The newborn stage is an amazing, but short-lived time in a baby’s life. In just a few weeks, your little one will grow and change so much! This is the time when you get to know your little one and learn how to care for them. It can be an overwhelming and also a challenging time for parents, but it’s also an incredibly rewarding experience. So how many weeks is your baby considered a newborn?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines the newborn stage as the first 4 weeks outside the womb. But from a mom’s point of view, the newborn stage lasts realistically for about 12 weeks. That is when things get a little more predictable as you start having a rhythm with your baby when it comes to feeding and sleeping and life starts feeling less like survival mode.
The Fourth Trimester
The first 12 weeks also known as “the fourth trimester” are a tough time for any parent, but especially for first-time moms. Your life is turned upside down, you’re sleep deprived and you’re trying to figure out how to care for this tiny human being. There are lots of ups and downs during this time, but it’s important to remember that this stage doesn’t last forever.
This period is considered a sequel to your baby being inside the womb. It’s a time of big adjustments and lots of learning for both you and your baby. If your baby seems too “clingy” and only wants to be in contact with you 24/7, know that it is perfectly normal. Your baby has spent about 9 months in constant contact with you and now they are out in the world, it can be quite overwhelming for them.
The 100 Days Mark
In many Asian cultures, the 100 days celebrations are a big deal and mark an important milestone for babies and parents. This is a time when baby starts to become more independent and start developing their own personalities, things also go from survival to somewhat fun around this 100 days mark. You baby may laugh for the first time around this mark or start sleeping for longer stretches during the night, making things a little easier for you!
What are those Newborn Weeks Really Like?
During the newborn weeks, you will probably be spending every wake window nursing, feeding, changing, and comforting your baby. It can be tiring and you might feel like you’re not doing anything else but taking care of your baby. But it’s important to remember that this is a special time that won’t last forever.
In the first weeks, sleep is so unpredictable. There is a lot of sleeping in random places at random times! Your baby will probably sleep a lot during the day and be up all night. This can be exhausting, but try to take advantage of those daytime naps to take a rest yourself.
In those weeks, there is no point in trying to come up with a schedule for sleeping as your newborn baby’s sleep patterns will be all over the place. Just go with the flow and try to get as much rest as you can when your baby is sleeping.
Feeding Your Newborn
For breastfed babies, there is no need to worry about how much milk they are getting as they will feed on demand. Most women are able to successfully breastfeed, but that does not mean that it always comes naturally. Be prepared to go through some trial and error to figure out what works best for you and your baby.
If you decide to use formula, you will need to be more mindful about how much your baby is eating. Babies usually eat every two to three hours in the first few weeks and then they will start to space out their feedings as they grow bigger.
Newborn babies need to eat often because their stomachs are very small and they digest their food quickly. It is important not to wait until your baby is crying from hunger before feeding them as this can lead to a lot of frustration for both you and your baby.
Mobility in The First Weeks
In the early weeks, your baby will not be able to move around much. They will spend most of their time lying down and they will start to develop head control around the six-week mark.
To encourage your baby’s neck and head muscles to develop, offer plenty of tummy time. This is when your baby is lying on their stomach while supervised. Tummy time also helps to prevent flat spots from developing on the back of your baby’s head.
Around the eight-week mark is when you will start to see your baby become more active and mobile. They will be able to hold their head up for longer periods of time and start to reach out and grab things. This is also when you will start to see your baby’s first smiles!
Tips for Surviving the Newborn Stage
Having a newborn baby can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It’s important to know that every newborn baby is different as is your own experience with labor and recovery. Here are some of the most useful tips I can offer based on my experience to help you survive the newborn stage:
- Baby wearing. I highly recommend wearing your baby in those early weeks when they need constant comfort and body contact. This will free up your hands to take care of other things and it will also help to soothe your baby. Carriers or baby wraps help a lot in that matter. Know that your little one needs you and still considers you “home”, so take it in.
- Get a baby swing. A lot of people will tell you that a swing is a lifesaver and they are not wrong. It can provide your baby with the motion they need to relax and it will give you a much-needed time out to take that bathroom break or eat your meal without having to hold your baby.
- Put together a survival basket. This is a basket (or bag) that you can keep next to your bed or in the room where you spend most of your time with your baby. Load with it all the items you need to take care of your baby and yourself. I had my charger, headphones, water bottle, energy bars, burp cloth, and diapers. This way you won’t have to go far to get what you need.
- Get a good nursing pillow. especially if you will be breastfeeding, you will probably be stuck in the same position for a while. A nursing pillow will encourage better posture and save your back. As your baby grows, they will get heavier so it’s very helpful to get them used to nurse laying on a nursing pillow from the start.
- Try swaddling. Swaddling was the only way I could get my daughter to sleep on her own in the first weeks. It makes them feel all cozy and warm and it’s very helpful in calming down a fussy baby. Don’t forget about you.
- Don’t forget about you. You have probably already heard this advice: nap when the baby naps. And it’s very good advice. In those early weeks, you will be running on fumes so make sure to get some rest when you can. Don’t hesitate to accept offers of help from family and friends. Ask them also to bring food and help you with the house and make sure you communicate with your partner when you need a break.
The newborn stage only lasts for so many weeks. The days might feel very long but the years fly by. So soak up all the snuggles and firsts while you can. And don’t forget to take care of yourself too. You’ll get through this period, and you’ll look back at those newborn days and think “I don’t know how, but we did survive”!
If you have any other tips or advice for surviving the newborn stage, share them in the comments down below! And good luck! You got this!