You recently brought your bundle of joy home from the hospital. You can’t get over how tiny, helpless and sweet he seems and you hope he stays that way forever. Or, maybe the new addition to your family wails all the time, you’re at your wits end trying to figure out what’s wrong and you can’t wait for the newborn phase to be over. So, how long does the newborn stage really last?
What To Expect During The Newborn Stage
Babies are physically and mentally adapting to the new world around them during the newborn stage. Here are some milestones to look out for during baby’s first three months.
- Baby will learn how to raise her head and chest when participating in tummy time.
- At first, a new baby will smile to himself. By the end of three months, he will smile in response to your smiles and also try to get you to smile back at him.
- Babies will also learn to track objects with their eyes, grip objects in their hands and swipe at or reach for dangling items.
- Baby will learn to open and shut hands, bring hands to the mouth and hold objects in hands.
- Natural newborn reflexes are also exhibited during this time, including the tongue thrust reflex, step reflex, rooting reflex, grasp reflex, fencing reflex, righting, withdrawal and startle reflex.
- Baby will learn to laugh out loud, squeal and make different sounds by the end of the three months.
The Newborn Stage, for Parents
Many new moms – and dads – would attest to the fact that taking care of newborns can be hard work that is downright overwhelming at times. During those first few weeks, you may feel as if you are constantly nursing or formula feeding, soothing your little one and trying to decode his or her cries, living on practically zero sleep and also battling crazy postpartum hormones. It can be easy to feel lost at times or as if the stage will never end. Just hang in there, things do get better!
Most new parents have probably been told to enjoy the newborn stage while it lasts because it goes by so very fast. I believe this to be true. There are days now, when, while I love the stage my daughter is in and am excited to see all the one-year-old milestones she’s accomplishing, I remember her tininess and those quiet moments spent nursing or trying to perfect the swaddle and I wish I would have relished them a bit more.
Though I did cherish many aspects of her newborn days, and she was a relatively easy newborn, there were also moments I felt as if I were on a roller coaster and looked forward to the day when things calmed down. It’s important to remember that not every new parent will always enjoy the newborn stage, and that’s perfectly OK. And normal!
“The newborn period is when people are the most unsure,” says Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta and editor-in-chief of The American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org website. “It’s a completely new world when you enter parenthood. Even training as a pediatrician doesn’t prepare you for being a parent.”
Getting through the Newborn Stage
A few months can seem like much longer when you factor in sleep deprivation, a whole new way of life and all the responsibilities that come with caring for a little human. Here are a few ways you can get through this stage without feeling like you’ve lost your mind.
1. Feed On Demand
Watch your baby for signals he or she is hungry — such as crying or sucking on hands. Studies have shown that feeding a baby on demand can be better for baby as far as cognitive abilities go later in life.
You may feel as if you are constantly nursing or making bottles, but there will come a day when you may wish you had that precious snuggle time back again.
2. Wear Your Baby
If he or she likes it, wearing your baby can be beneficial to you both. Baby will feel snug and secure, and you can get a lot more done with both hands free!
3. Take Time Out
It’s OK to accept help and take some time out for yourself. If people want to help, let them. Even leaving baby with a trusted caregiver for a few hours during those early days (on the occasion you’d want to get away) can be very beneficial.
It may sound impossible, and I used to get really annoyed when people would tell me to sleep when the baby slept (I know it is very hard as you may feel you have a million things to do), but it was great advice I should have followed.
Other things can wait, as your health is extremely important and sleep deprivation can be a big problem during those first few months of new parenthood.
5. Enjoy! (It Goes Fast)
It may seem at times there will be no end to the newborn stage in sight (or on the flip side, you may not want it to end). Whatever the case, remember to enjoy this sweet stage of your little one’s life. Take pictures, shoot videos and appreciate every moment. It really does go by quickly.
Want to learn more about living life with a newborn? Check out Heading Home With Your Newborn written by Dr. Shu and Omaha pediatrician, Dr. Laura Jan.