When people find out you’re having a baby, they love to give you advice. 5% of it is helpful and 95% is completely ridiculous. Nonetheless, the advice keeps pouring in and even though you try to ignore it, it still leaves you wondering, Are they right about that?
For me, it was the first night home with the baby. I kept hearing people reference it in hushed tones with raised eyebrows, as if they all had fought in a private battle no one could speak of. That was almost worse than the other pieces of advice I had been given because they weren’t telling me the whole story. I kept thinking, What aren’t they saying??
Turns out I’m not alone on this. Many moms hear about the first night home with the baby, but they don’t get any details. And when that night actually arrives, they’re left wondering, is this normal?
Because no one had told me the truth, I was completely unprepared for my son’s first night home from the hospital. As a result, I spent the entire night (a.k.a. eight hours) sobbing. I don’t want that to happen to other moms. So I’m sharing six things that no one tells you about the first night home. This post is not meant to scare you (or make you regret getting pregnant in the first place). It’s meant to support you and show you that what you’re going through is normal and more importantly, that other moms go through it too.
(DISCLAIMER: If you had an awesome first night home with your baby where you slept for eight hours straight and woke up feeling refreshed, well, good for you. You clearly don’t need this post. But I think you’ll find most moms don’t have that experience.)
You and your baby will cry. A LOT.
On his first night home, Jackson cried for hours. I literally thought he would never stop. We put him down in the bassinet next to our bed and just when my head would hit the pillow, he’d start crying again. It went on like this for hours until the sun started to come up. I was sleep deprived and had just undergone one of the biggest changes possible. I was completely overwhelmed and so naturally, my emotions (not to mention hormones) were all out of whack. So I cried. And cried. And cried some more.
Don’t be surprised if you cry at the drop of the hat on that first night (and many nights following). Go easy on yourself. You’re tired – physically and mentally. Chances are you didn’t sleep much in the hospital the last two nights (if you did, then tell me your secrets). Oh yeah and there’s that little thing you did a few days ago, you know, GIVE BIRTH TO A BABY.
Nap as much as you can to make up for the sleepless nights. Don’t take on any other responsibilities (this includes showering, changing clothes and doing your hair and make-up). You’re in survival mode. Feeding your baby and sleeping are the only items on your to-do list right now.
Your baby will wake every hour.
Every baby is different, so maybe it won’t be every hour. Maybe it’ll be every two hours or every thirty minutes. The point is, almost no baby sleeps through the first night at home. Expect your baby to wake frequently and be prepared to handle it. This is where my husband and I failed. For some reason we thought Jackson would sleep much longer than he did (silly us). We didn’t have a plan in place to manage the frequent wakings and so as a result, both of us were up all night. It doesn’t have to be this way. Take turns getting up with the baby. If you’re breastfeeding, then feed your baby and have your husband take him/her into another room so you can get some sleep. Both parents need as much rest as they can get (you’d be surprised how good an hour or two of uninterrupted sleep can feel) to navigate the days ahead.
You will wonder if your baby will ever sleep again.
I remember saying to my husband, “He is NEVER going to sleep again. It’s going to be this way FOREVER.” (So dramatic). At the time, I truly believed it. I imagined myself ten years into the future, up all night because Jackson was crying. I tried to convince myself that I was okay with never sleeping again. I lost that battle and started crying again five minutes later.
Take it from a mom who’s baby wasn’t a great sleeper: things WILL get better. Your baby WILL sleep again. When they do the first two-hour stretch of sleep, you will cheer. Then it’ll extend to four hours, six hours, eight hours and then even ten hours (admittedly I’m not there yet. But I hear great things). Your baby will start sleeping longer, especially once they exit the newborn stage around three months. So hang in there. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel.
You will question why you had a child.
On that first night, I remember lying on the floor of the nursery as my husband held our screaming baby thinking, What did I do to my life? I’m not ashamed to admit this. My son is almost five months old now and I can’t imagine life without him. But at that time, I was distraught. I wondered what we had signed up for and questioned how I was ever going to survive on less than two hours of sleep a night (spoiler alert: you just do. The human body is amazing). I longed to go back in time to the previous week to when it was just me and my husband, sleeping peacefully in our bed.
Moms, it’s okay to question why you had your child. It’s normal, especially that first night home. It doesn’t make you a bad mom, it makes you human. Of course you love your baby. Of course you’re thrilled at the new addition to your family. But it’s okay if you don’t feel that way 24/7. In fact, admitting that is the first step toward getting much-needed support from other moms (if you’re feeling this way, I hope you’ll shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org).
You will be convinced something is wrong with your baby.
It’s easy to wonder if your baby is sick (or something worse) if he or she is crying round the clock. Chances are, your baby is completely healthy. Think of it this way: let’s say you’ve been sleeping in a dark, warm, luxurious hotel room (with room service) for nine months. Suddenly someone bursts into the room, wakes you up, drags you out of bed and throws you out onto a busy city street. Would you be happy about that? Probably not.
Your baby is a completely new environment. He or she has been through a lot in the last few days. And just when they start getting used to the hospital, now they’re thrust into another new place. It’s no surprise they’re unhappy. So what can you do? Just hold your baby and try to soothe him or her as best you can. Swaddling helps, as does white noise. But at the end of the day, sometimes there’s not much you can do except to grit your teeth and get through that first night. Things will look better in the morning, I promise.
You will doubt your abilities as a mom.
I’ve been there. I seriously considered giving my son back to the hospital because I didn’t think I was a fit mom. I couldn’t console my son and it broke my heart. Truth is, I had to learn how to be a mom. My son and I were still figuring each other out. We needed time to adjust.
If your child cries constantly that first night home, you are NOT a bad mom (the fact that you’re worrying about being a bad mom makes you a great mom). Don’t let sleep deprivation fool you – being tired, exhausted and hormonal does not equal an unfit mother. It’s early on and you need time to figure out your new role. The best thing you can do is give your child as much love possible – the rest will work itself out.
Moms – was the first night home tough for you? Any tips or encouragement to offer other moms or moms-to-be?