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The Reality of Bringing Home A Newborn

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I am so blessed to have the opportunity to continue to see newborn babies in my practice.  Now that I have “been around for awhile” I am also getting a chance to see some 2nd generation babies, in other words, newborns whose parents were my patients!!  It is just the best!!!

You’ve heard me say, “your baby doesn’t come with a manual” and despite reading a lot about a new baby, many new parents are feeling totally “overwhelmed” with in just a few days after the birth of their child.

Every new parent needs to know that feeling overwhelmed is a normal and realistic emotion in the first weeks after an infant is born.   I just had a discussion about this very topic with a cute couple who had their baby last week. The father had been patient of mine and I have been excitedly awaiting the baby’s birth.  They welcomed a new little boy to their family last week and I saw them several days later.

They were beaming with pride and joy, but expressed to me that despite all of their preparation they still felt “unprepared”.  I must say, I don’t think there is a book, blog, CD, manual or anything else that can totally prepare you to be a parent. It is “on the job training” and just like any job, the first days to weeks are sometimes some of the most challenging.

I have decided that early parenting is really more of a physical job than an intellectual one.  For the first month or so, certainly the first 2 weeks, the main goal for a parent is to sleep whenever you can.

Forget the books about having a “schedule” for a newborn. Intellectually that makes a great deal of sense, but practically it does not. I do not mean to say that you should not “try” to feed your baby every 2-3 hours and “try” to get them to stay awake for a bit after a feeding, and “try” to put them down when they are awake.

But, if you go into those early weeks with expectations that you can make it all happen like clockwork, then you are going to set yourself up for failure and feeling inadequate.  I really believe that those first weeks are about SURVIVAL, and that means you sleep when you can (even if that is the middle of the day), as you never know what time of day your baby will decide that they want to have some awake time.

Often that awake time is not at all related to a parent’s normal circadian rhythm. If you think too much about making it happen on your terms, again, you should have spent that time sleeping when you could have.

The same thing goes for feeding a newborn.  They are human after all, and they too will eat differently from one meal to another. That does not mean there is a problem, every feeding is not going to be the same.  You would love for them to eat their “biggest” meal right before you put them to bed at night, but a newborn may decide that they prefer to eat in the morning or in the middle of the night, again, you have to go “with the flow”.

Stressing over the fact that your baby only fed for 10 minutes on one breast and then 5 rather than 10 on the other, or that they only took 2 ounces of formula rather than 4 will only drive you crazy and contribute to sleeplessness if you try to analyze it.  Again, intellect doesn’t work at this stage of the game.  In the beginning, every day is different; some are better than others. Just be assured you have many more days and years to “perfect” this parenting thing.

But what I do know is that for most of us, parenting while extremely challenging at times (like the first 2 -4 weeks), is the most rewarding job you will ever have.  So, jump in with few expectations except to know that your baby is changing every day.  The rhythm will come, the days and nights will straighten themselves out and you will eat and sleep again on a regular schedule. It just takes time!

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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