How To Survive The First Few Weeks With A Newborn

There's this rumor floating around that says the first few weeks with a newborn are all snuggles and cuddles and TV-show-binge-watching for the new mom. 

If you've been there, you know that's maybe 25 percent of it, probably more like 20 percent. 

Here's how it all really goes down - and how you learn to adapt. Evolve. Survive.

Let's just get all the romantic notions out of the way, mmmmk?

The first few nights are pretty good. You still have a fairly large false sense of self control in place. Depending on the birth, you're likely feeling the new-mom high, ready to quickly and eagerly meet baby's every tiny need - like making sure they are swaddled tight as an egg roll, oohing and ahhing over their first poop and each wet diaper, and protecting their sweet, smooshed noses and torpedo heads from the ghastly talons they came out of the womb with. 

Then you're sent home from the hospital. You're both relieved to be away from the nurses that pester you every two hours for a "little blood pressure check here," and a "little painful uterus shove for shrinkage there," and petrified that they're actually sending you home and trusting you to care for this somewhat amphibian-like human being that you've already nearly lost among the straps and buckles when you put them in the carseat on your way out the hospital door. 

You likely sit in the back seat, right next to the baby, monitoring their breathing and backseat-driving the heck out of your husband because each and every turn is a little too fast and a little too tight. Even though he can barely drive over 20 mph himself for fear of roughing up his precious cargo in the back. 

And then you're home. 

The first couple weeks are full of adrenaline, excitement and Flying By The Seat Of Your Huge Pads and Yoga Pants. It's scary, sure. And you have no clue what you're doing. But that little alien is ruling your world in a way that is both amazingly mesmerizing and horribly torturous. And so you are confused, but consumed. And you actually manage to get by for a time not really realizing how incredibly sleep deprived - and frankly, insane - you are. 

But quickly, you learn. 

It is on.

Out of nowhere, your sleep depravation hits a high point and your body can no longer function on one hour naps here and there throughout a 24 hour period. You no longer have capacity to nurse, or pump, or fill bottles, or a combination of two, or heaven forbid - all three - every two hours, without falling asleep in the middle of a diaper change, the only thing waking you back up is the warm little trickle of pee on your face your undiapered newborn aimed at you.

During the day, you begin to feel like you should at least start to be productive, and so you brush your teeth and then spend the rest of the day shuffling around, aimlessly trying to do something while really doing nothing at all. 

You will likely begin to cry more than your child for reasons you cannot comprehend or explain, making your husband wide-eyed and terrified as he encourages you to get some rest, but all you can talk about are nonsensical phrases about diapers and nipple cream and wanting to scrub poop off the wall that's been festering for over a week. 

During those first few weeks and months you begin to forget what day of the week it is and there are moments when you can't figure out if it's actually night time or a rare total eclipse of the sun. You eventually forget your own phone number and even your address, and become too afraid to leave the house not only because you're afraid the baby will lose it while out and about, but because you're afraid you're so tired you'll never be able to find your own home again.

It's an understandably confusing time when all logic goes out the window. Be not concerned. You'll likely remember the difference again when your child is, oh, 32?

You begin to hallucinate, hearing phantom cries even as you stare at your baby sleeping soundly in the rock n'play right in front of you, and you think you hear your husband come home randomly from work at one in the afternoon - a terrible trick which includes the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. 

The first few weeks with a newborn are debilitating, consuming, wonderful, misery, happiness, joy and agony all rolled into one. It's amazing how a teeny-tiny human being can rule your entire universe.

So here's what you need to know about how to survive. 

Expect nothing. And I repeat: Expect nothing. 

But if you must expect something, expect that nothing will go as planned, and then I believe you will be properly prepared. 

To survive, you must trust that you are not in control, and that your best efforts are truly enough for this little life form entrusted to your care. It will be hard and scary and confusing. Sure, you will have moments of mental clarity and triumph, but then again, I must warn you, the very second you feel like you know what you're doing, something will change and you'll be back to square one, lost and confused, and reminded of your complete and utter lack of knowledge and skill as a parent. 

And so you solider on. Because in reality, everything is as it should be. 

If you don't know what you're doing, then you're right where you need to be, doing exactly what you should. 

And here's the shining truth that keeps us as mothers carrying on - no matter the stage our children are in. Each and every day of motherhood - but especially those first few weeks - will be full of frustration, pain, confusion and some downright terrifying moments. But then, each and every single day the fog will clear for a moment, maybe two, and you'll see in your baby some awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, amazing, marvelous, miraculous moment that will completely erase your memory for the moments of terror that preceded it. 

There are very, very few guarantees in parenting, but this is one: That each day, you will get a little bit of hardship and a little bit of magic. And that in turn guarantees that you will always undoubtedly, undeniably, unquestionably, adore, admire, cherish and wholeheartedly love your new baby and do anything for them. 

Your love for them will always, always, always be pure, unadulterated and undefiled. 

And no amount of sleep deprivation, confusion, exhaustion, stress or anxiety can change it, bend it or break it. 

Your truest guarantee is that you won't be able to comprehend how much love you have for your child. 

And so in turn, there is really nothing I can tell you about how to survive the first few weeks with a newborn. Because you already have everything you need. 

The love that floods your heart the moment you meet them is what will get you through. 

It is all you need to survive. Carry on, warrior. 

Like this post? Here are some of the top posts for new moms. I also share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue)Twitter (@oakland_avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!


  1. Brilliantly true. It's terrifying but as soon as you get a smile or the peace of a baby deep in sleep, it's all erased.

  2. This sounds like mostly my experience when I had a newborn. How is it different having your toddler in the picture too?

  3. I read this today, our first full day home from the hospital. Thank you. I needed to hear this and feel the encouragement as I face the weeks to come.