1. Don't Hush-A-Bye-Baby
You don't have to be quiet while the baby is sleeping. The womb is loud, and newborns are used to the noise. When ours first came home, we watched television and I would vacuum, wash dishes and talk on the phone around her while she slept. She got used to sleeping with noise, and I could get stuff done. I am still able to vacuum in her room while she sleeps (she is 14 months), and she is peaceful and well rested when she wakes up.
2. Soothe Your Wailing Newborn
When my baby cries, I comfort her by patting her back in a heartbeat-like rhythm. That helps her burp more quickly, and it also helps her relax if she's crying from insecurity. If this doesn’t work, I also try one or all of Dr. Harvey Karp's five calming moves: swaddling, shushing, holding her on her side, swinging her or letting her suck. Sometimes it takes all six!
3. Help Get Your Baby to Latch
If you are having latch-on issues while breastfeeding your baby, you can use breast shields to help the process. This was a wonderful tip that I learned from my lactation consultant. I had to use the shields for an entire month before my baby would latch onto my own nipple without them. Had it not been for the breast shields, I would not have been able to continue nursing my baby.
4. Get Prepped
At 3 weeks, babies’ days and nights become more predictable, and you can focus on yourself in addition to your newborn. One way to do that is by reducing your stress level - and having everything ready for your hungry baby and yourself is one way to do that. Start by prepping for the next feeding as soon as the previous one is over. For example, after an 11 p.m. feeding, get ready for the 2 a.m. one by prepping whatever you need for feeding and putting out fresh drinking water for yourself so you don’t have anything to think about in the middle of the night. During the day, take advantage of the baby’s naps to work out, shower or catch up on e-mail, or take a nap too.
5. Keeping Your Baby Awake During Feedings
When our baby was eating slowly and sleepily, my husband and I would massage her cheek to stimulate her to eat faster. A gentle stroke with a fingertip on her cheek was all it took, and on those long sleepless nights, this simple trick was a godsend! Our friends have found it works great with their infants too. When babies eat efficiently until they're full before going to sleep, they sleep for longer between feedings. And that means you’re both likely to be calmer!
6. Help Your Baby Bond with Dad
Make sure your baby has ample time alone with Daddy. His touch and voice are different than yours, and this will begin a bonding process and give you a break. Plus, it gets the baby used to being with someone other than you. The first few times can be hard. Make sure your baby is fed and well rested, as this will give you at least one or two hours before you're needed again. Then leave Dad and the baby alone. If you stay nearby, make sure the baby can’t see or hear you, and resist the urge to go into the room and "fix" things if she starts crying. Your baby cries with you and you experiment to find out what's wrong. Dads need time to do this too - in their own way. By allowing this time, your child will learn there is more than one way to receive comfort, which will help immensely when you leave your baby with a sitter or another family member for the first time. You could have your partner bathe her, put her to bed or just read or talk to her.
7. Crib Comfort
When my daughter was 3 weeks, she liked to sleep only on me. Every time I put her in her bassinet after she fell asleep on me, she would wake up. I realized she probably liked the warmth. So I started wrapping a blanket around a heating pad and letting it warm up her bed while I fed her. After she was done and had fallen asleep, I removed the heating pad and slipped the baby between the folds of the warm blanket. She would snuggle right in. Prewarming a blanket in the dryer also works.
8. Sleep Trick
When our baby was around 3 weeks old, she would cry and fuss because she was having a hard time falling asleep. One day, we started rubbing her nose, and it worked. In fact, it worked every time. We would start at the top and stroke it straight down to the tip, over and over. Her eyes would grow heavy and eventually close. She is now 4 months old and it still works.
9. Let Your Baby Lead The Way
Being a first-time parent can be stressful - especially when everyone wants to put in their two cents and what they're telling you doesn't feel right. As soon as I came home with my baby, my friends and relatives started giving me advice (more like demands) on how to raise her - they wanted me to do everything on schedule. It was nerve-racking, but I learned to ignore it and remember that this is my child. I couldn't bear the thought of hearing him cry in hunger because it hadn’t been three hours since his last feeding. If you let your baby - not someone else - tell you when he is hungry or tired, you will find that he (and you!) will be much happier and healthier.
10. Baby's First Baths
After the baby's umbilical cord stump falls off (generally by week 3), you’ll finally be able to give her a real bath. To keep the baby warmer, more comfortable and less likely to cry, place a warm washcloth over her tummy during the bath. It makes all the difference between a happy water baby and a miserable one. Also, if your house is on the colder side, turn up the heat a little before the bath so the cold air won't be as much of a shock after the bath. These tips made all the difference for my little girl - she loves bath time.
11. Another Reason Babies Cry
People always say that babies cry because they want food, their diaper needs to be changed, they're bored, etc., but they always leave out that the baby might be cranky because he's tired. Our son used to go nuts during his first month, and we tried everything to calm him. It turned out that what he really needed was less stimulation and more sleep. Sometimes babies really need less - not more - from you.
12. Layer Your Baby's Crib
When a baby has a diaper blowout or upset tummy in the middle of the night, it can be hard on both mom and baby to have to completely unmake the crib or bassinet and change all the sheets - and all the fussing makes it that much harder to get the baby back to sleep. So I put two layers of sheets and waterproof mattress covers on the crib mattress at a time (mattress cover, sheet, mattress cover, sheet). That way, we can just pull off the top two layers, change her and put her back in bed. No fumbling for clean bedclothes - and no 2 a.m. laundry detail!