The first three months after I gave birth–a time some refer to as the “fourth trimester” because of how undeveloped the baby still is–was both intense and serene. There were moments in which I felt more content than I ever had in my adult life and others in which I sobbed for reasons I couldn’t even articulate.
Despite doing a ton of research before having a baby, I felt that most advice either made the newborn stage seem like a terrible trial to survive or an unrealistically romantic and easy time. In truth, it was neither—and both. Over time, through trial, error, and recommendations from other parents, I discovered tips and tactics that helped me cherish and mitigate the stress of that fleeting time. Below are 10 surprising ways to actually enjoy the newborn stage.
10 Surprising Ways to Actually Enjoy the Newborn Stage
Listen to Music That’s Made Just for New Parents
There are songs made just for kids, and then there are songs made just for adults who care for kids– a crucial difference! In my opinion, the best musician for the newborn stage is Vered, who’s trained in music therapy and clinical psychology. Her songs have an indie-folk-rock sound but the lyrics are all about babies, perfectly capturing the hyper-specific details. Some are funny, some are so sweet they make you want to cry, and some even lend themselves to activities you can do with your child, like “Bikeride,” which describes “bicycling” a baby’s legs—something that’s often advised to help with gas (#IYKYK). She also teaches classes (remote and in-person) on how to use music to soothe babies.
Find Activities to Do With Your Baby
It can be surprisingly hard to figure out what to do with a newborn who can barely move. Eager for some age-appropriate activities to do with our baby, I purchased Curious Baby™ Activity Cards, which include more than forty ideas about how to play and engage with children from birth to 12 months. Had I not read these, I never would’ve thought to tie toys and other small objects to a string and dangle them over our baby for her to bat at (something fittingly called “Cat Play”). Most of the activities use common household objects such as scarves, mirrors, and pots, so you don’t have to clutter your home with even more stuff.
Don’t Pressure Yourself to Provide 24/7 Entertainment
Two things can be true: Activities for babies are fun, and also, you can go overboard on pressuring yourself to “entertain” them when, in fact, their favorite hobby is staring at the ceiling fan. It took me a while to accept that sometimes it’s okay to just let babies amuse themselves. Your baby might also enjoy watching you do chores or a workout video, either from a bouncer/infant seat or the comfort of a baby carrier. They might even enjoy hanging out at a café if you take them. Can’t know until you try!
Fill Your Home With Healthy “One-Hand” Snacks
When our baby was young, I made a ton of “no-bake energy bites” using rolled oats, peanut butter, and chocolate chips and popped around five of them into my mouth per day. There are many recipes online that use various combinations of oats, nut butters, and healthy add-ins like chia seeds and ground flaxseed so you can mix and match the ingredients to suit your preferences. What’s great about these is they’re super easy to make. They’re relatively healthy, and, perhaps most importantly, they can be eaten using just one hand. If you’d rather not make anything, shop for similarly easy snacks like nuts/trail mix and energy bars.
Record Your Memories
New moms take approximately 574 photos per day, but it can be easy to forget the details that images don’t capture. One way to record the moments without the pressure of journaling is to use a wall calendar. I wrote down one thing each day in the squares, like “smiled for the first time” or “Grandma came over.” You could also use a one-sentence journal. Even if it’s a cursory effort, you’ll have a lot more to look back on than you otherwise would.
Re-Curate Your Social Media Feeds
Parenting in the age of social media can be a bit of a mixed bag with all the misinformation and misleading influencers out there. But if there’s one thing social media is admittedly useful for, it’s comic relief. Sometimes when you’re delirious from exhaustion and at your wit’s end, a well-crafted joke can boost your mood like nothing else. There are so many funny parent accounts on Instagram and TikTok, including @momcomnyc, @karendisapproves, @themomcomics, and of course, @theeverymom, among countless others. Just be careful you don’t laugh so hard you pee your pants (those who’ve given birth know this isn’t even a joke!).
Resist Doing Too Much Research
Of course, it’s important to know the basics of baby health and care. However, when it comes to advice for new parents, I do believe there can be too much of a good thing. What might start as a casual late-night Google session could turn into endlessly scrolling user forums and working yourself into a panic. Many “experts” on social media don’t even have the proper credentials, so it’s wise to approach any advice with skepticism, especially if it isn’t coming from (or verified by) a medical professional. As long as you consult your child’s doctor about any issues and keep one or two reliable sources bookmarked (in digital or book form), you’re probably covered.
Queue up Some Media for Yourself—and Treat Yourself to Good Headphones
This might mean downloading a few audiobooks you can listen to while pushing a stroller or having one earbud in while the other is free to listen for your baby’s whimpers. It might mean hooking up your headphones to your TV so you can watch a non-kid-friendly movie while your infant naps on your lap. However you approach it, having some media you truly enjoy consuming can be a bright point in a hard day.
Strategize About Your Own Comfort, Not Just Your Baby’s
Between feeding, contact napping, and soothing, newborn-life involves a lot of sitting. While you don’t necessarily need a nursery glider, they can be very nice to have. Either way, you’ll likely want to stake out some spots around your home where you could comfortably pass hours at a time. This might mean setting up a nursing pillow or positioning side tables for easy access to water and snacks. It may also mean moving your lamps around or buying a dimmer switch so you don’t have to sit under glaring fluorescent lights or setting up an extension cord so you can charge your phone.
Don’t Try Too Hard to Be “Strong” or “Positive”—Get Help Instead
The newborn stage can take a toll on any parent, and too many people suffer in silence while dealing with serious issues like nursing pain, depression and anxiety, pelvic floor issues, relationship strain, and more. If you suspect any physical or mental health issues, talk to a doctor (or two… Unfortunately, we often really have to advocate for ourselves in the U.S.). For help with more everyday things like food, cleaning, and childcare, ask any friends or family members you can. It can be uncomfortable when you’re used to being independent. But a baby is simply not a one- or even two-person job. If you’re lacking community, try seeking it out proactively. One way or another, finding ways to seek guidance, solidarity, and (ideally) some assistance can make a huge difference.