Life With a One Month Old
We have now spent one month with our Baby S, and while of course every baby is different, there are also some commonalities many babies share. So, I wanted to share our experience both in case it gives a useful peek into what life with a newborn is really like, and I also simply want to have it written down somewhere since I know from experience those early weeks quickly become a somewhat hard to remember blur!
Sleep (Deficit) With a One Month Old:
The first night with a newborn is often deceptively peaceful. Both mom and baby (and probably even dad) are worn out from a day of labor and delivery, and after an hour or two of alert time after delivery, babies often sleep so well the first night they have to be woken up to eat. That was our experience with Babies #1 and #2, but unlike with our first child, this time we knew that the relatively peaceful first night was not at all an indicator of nights to come.
The second night was rough as the baby was hungry, but since it takes 2-3 days for a nursing mom to really have increased volumes of milk available, it creates a tough scenario of hungry baby, not a ton of food, and as a result, not a lot of sleep. The third night was a bit better as food was more readily available at that point, but by that point the adrenaline of birth had worn off and the parents are probably starting to get pretty tired - at least I know I was. This time we didn't have dad stay at the hospital with me as that just results in two parents who get limited sleep. Instead, he stayed home with Little C at night and as a result wasn't as tired when we were discharged to come home after three nights at the hospital.
In the first couple of weeks at home with a newborn, sleep is sporadic, with the longest periods of continuous sleep for the infant probably topping out at 3-4 hours, which means the parents' sleep is more choppy than that. If you have the ability to "sleep when your baby sleeps" during the day, you will be better off, but if you have other kids to take care of, household chores to do (or blog posts to write), then you are not really going to be able to regularly capitalize on those daytime naps and realistically you will be praying for "good" nights where you probably often make out with 5 - 6 hours of choppy sleep if you are lucky - this is especially true if you are the nursing mom.
As you near the one month mark, the periods of nighttime sleep may get better. In our case Baby S has had a couple of 5+ hour periods of sleep at night after about four weeks, which is great when it happens, but still unreliable and unpredictable at best. If she does have that longer period of sleep at night, it is likely that the rest of the night will probably max out at 2 hour sleep intervals.
In other words, for the first month, parents are probably going to range from tired to really really tired. This was one of the big reasons that we didn't travel for the first month with Baby S. I don't care where we could go, it just wouldn't really be enjoyable if you are doing it totally exhausted. We also were trying to really get into a predictable routine that would have been thrown off with hotels, different sleeping arrangements, new time zones, etc. That probably isn't a huge deal for the infant, but it wouldn't have helped develop a routine either.
The best travel during the first month with a newborn (in my opinion), is to bring help to you. If you have the ability to have family come stay with you in that first month for a few days, it can be a huge help. We had grandparents fly in from Kansas for a few nights after a week or so, and since Grandma was willing to help out at night while she was here, we were able to get a bit more rest since my husband then didn't have to get up at all, and I only got up to nurse and then Grandma would help get Baby S settled back down into her crib (which can require anywhere from minutes to hours of rocking, patting, and shushing). Of course if your family expects to be waited on while visiting as opposed to rolling up their sleeves and helping out, then I recommend at a minimum they visit for a short time and stay at a hotel, and potentially hold off the visit until later on when things are more settled. The last thing you will need the first month is more people to take care of and entertain.
Roller Coaster of Emotions With a One Month Old:
The first month with a newborn is a roller coaster. Don't be shocked if you go from elation and joy over the new life that is joining your family, to the polar opposite of those emotions. You may also think you have permanently ruined your life, or at least permanently altered it for the worse by bringing a demanding, crying, non-sleeping infant into your household...or your other kids may think that.
With the second kid I had more perspective on knowing the hard moments were just temporary than I did with my first, but the hard moments and the wide spectrum of emotions still happen. Hormones aside, even just the exhaustion that comes with caring for an infant will play games with your emotions since everything is harder when you are working on day 23 of limited sleep.
This is another reason I don't recommend trying to enjoy a vacation so early on - even if you think it will be enjoyable, your emotions and experience when the trip comes may be very different than you expected.
What Do One Month Olds Do All Day:
In the first month babies truly do just sleep, eat, poop, and cry 95% of the time. For about 5% of the time they may be alert and content, but that time does not make up the majority of their day. I'm sure this part really does vary from baby to baby, but I know my kids both were not happy "just chilling" for more than a few minutes. They wanted to be eating, asleep, or being rocked/bounced/shushed/held for the majority of the day.
They aren't mobile in the first month, which is handy, but they also don't really interact much at all with the rest of the world outside of eating or crying. They don't yet really smile, reach for things, laugh, coo, or do much beyond observing. In other words, you do all the work and they don't really (yet) give you much in return other than some delicious baby snuggles.
This inability to do much of anything bodes well for travel for the parents since the baby is probably happy in a wrap or carrier much of the time, but since you will be pretty tired, that outweighs the ease of porting the baby around.
Crying in the First Month With a Newborn:
In the first month you will probably hear a lot of crying. How much will vary, and lord help you if you have a colicky baby like our first was, but even a "normal" baby cries more than many new parents might expect. They cry if they are hungry, cold, hot, bored, sleepy, want to be held, and for no apparent reason at all. Guessing why they are unhappy is sometimes just that, a guessing game, especially in the first month. The hardest crying for us is often in the evening when she tends to cry more for no obvious reason. This often falls during dinner, bathtime, and bedtime, so it makes for a stressful end to the day when everyone is already tired and ready for sleep.
The idea of dealing with this chunk of crying time each day in a hotel or other sleeping situation where we don't have the comforts of home like a rocking chair and can't easily walk around trying to calm her doesn't sound fun. Having to also worry about bothering other guests in neighboring rooms also sounds pretty terrible. Having to do it in a hotel room where we are all held captive to her screams without being able to take turns resting also sounds like an inhumane version of torture. Of course, I'm sure there are babies out there who hardly ever cry, but I don't have experience with those little ones!
Feeding a One Month Old:
I've already mentioned this, but a huge chunk of time in a baby's first month is spent eating. That means a huge chunk of time for the parents is spent feeding. If you are a nursing mom, that means you are probably spending 20-30 minutes feeding every couple of hours all day long. Hopefully that stretches to at least 3-4 hours some at night, but all said there will likely be at least 8 or 9 feeding every 24 hours that amount to several hours per day spent feeding and burping. If you are pumping milk on top of that, then factor in a little more time.
If your baby is on formula they may go a little longer between feedings and the task can be more easily shared between caregivers, but still expect to spend a good chunk of your day preparing bottles, feeding, and cleaning bottles. If you are traveling with your infant, breastfeeding is obviously easier as it requires no prep, materials, or clean-up. Formula fed babies who travel early on will require more supplies brought along, as will those who are fed pumped breast milk. Keep this in mind if you do travel as you may need a sink, fridge, etc. readily available.
Labor Recovery with a One Month Old:
Unless you adopted your baby or they were delivered by surrogate or stork, the mom is going to have some recovery time. With a routine natural delivery that recovery might be pretty quick and things are much better within a week or two. However, with a complicated delivery or surgery, the recovery can take all of the first month and beyond.
Personally, after our surprise c-section I hurt a lot more and had a much slower recovery than I anticipated. One month in I still have to take pain medication many days, and am still healing. I ended up back at the ER after about three weeks with lots of pain had to undergo many tests and ended up potentially having some infection, but also needing to scale back activity and had to go back on more pain meds.
I'm very thankful we weren't traveling when the pain from the third week crept up since getting medical attention could have been more complicated if we were away from home.
Getting Travel Documents for a One Month Old:
One travel related task we did complete in the first month was to get Baby S's birth certificate, social security card, and apply for her passport. Taking passport photos of a one month old is a pretty funny experience, but overall the process of getting travel documents so you are ready to go when the time comes isn't usually too hard for a newborn - see details here.
If there is any chance you will need a passport for your little one, I recommend just going ahead and getting it taken care of as soon as you have a chance so you don't have to stress over it, or go in person to a passport agency for very expedited service later on. Silly as it may seem, even newborns have to have their own passport if you plan to travel outside the country with them.
Summary of Life With a One Month Old:
Our first month with Baby S has overall gone really well. She thankfully hasn't had any medical problems, seems to be a relatively "normal" baby (as opposed to the colic and NICU experiences we had with Little C), and she sure is cute and snuggley.
Our five-year-old has also adjusted as well as we could hope for - which means she has good moments where she is nuts about her sister and tougher moments when she no longer has our undivided attention.
That said, it hasn't always been easy. Some days we are very tired and get little accomplished. Since we both are basically working for ourselves via contracts/freelancing/blogging from home right now, it is challenging to divide up responsibilities and get work accomplished while meeting the needs of both kids on limited sleep. If we hadn't had help from others, it wouldn't have been possible to both keep working while making it through the first month with a newborn. I'm thankful we didn't have trips mixed in on top of everything else.
I have enjoyed many moments from the first month with our newborn, and as we head into Month 2 I am looking forward to getting into a better routine as Little C goes back to school, Baby S gets older and (hopefully) sleeps more, and we can all start doing more together as a family than just making it through one day to the next relatively in one piece.
I'd love to hear how our experience lines up with the first month of your kiddos' lives!