So many things change when you become a parent. No longer is it easy to tell what is “normal.” What was once normal, is no longer. It used to be normal to go to work, maybe go to the gym, eat whatever you want, whenever you want and have only your partner to answer to. Now the very definition of what normal is has suddenly changed. As a new parent you will have questions about everything. And you should! When you are a new parent, everything that happens with your child is a brand new experience, for which you have little to no frame or reference or past experience to have learned from. In a nutshell, no way to know if what is happening is normal.
Here are just a few of the most commonly heard questions with regard to what is normal in the newborn period:
Is it normal…
that my baby makes so much noise when he is sleeping?
to be nursing for hours at a time?
for my previously easy going baby not now be very fussy at 6 weeks old, 8 weeks old, 3 months old, 4 months old, etc…?
that I feel like crying over seemingly trivial things in the first two weeks after my baby is born?
for my baby to wake up the minute I put him down?
that I wonder what I am supposed to “do” to stimulate my baby’s growth and development?
that my friend’s baby, who is exactly the same age, is doing different things the my baby?
The answer is yes! All of these things are normal.
I find that one of the most remarkable things about having a newborn is how quickly things change. The very definition of what is normal in your new life changes on a day to day basis. You may have a few days where you feel like you have a handle on some circumstance—it could be how to soothe your baby or a particularly challenging feeding situation—and then within a day, things are turned upside down. In the same way, you may be experiencing a really exhausting witching hour with constant crying and unable-to-be-put-down fussiness from 5-9pm for 3 days and then on day 4, your baby is a new child and smiles happily at you without a peep.
Babies grow so quickly in the early months, which is part of the cause for this constant change. Some double their birth weight by the time they are 4 months old and some even sooner then that. Their brains are developing very quickly and they are taking in more and more each day. That means a lot is happening in a very short period of time. To put it into perspective, I am often reminding parents that even though a month may seem like a short time period in our life span, for a 4 month old baby, a month is a quarter of their lives.
When it comes to sleep, parents all want to know if what is happening and what they are doing in the early months is going to be the way things are always. Is this the “new normal,” they want to know. The answer is a resolute no. In the first 6 months, you do what you have to do to help soothe your baby. This is a good thing! You are building trust and a healthy attachment by responding to your baby when he needs you. As they get older and closer to 4 months (for some babies, 6 months) your baby will need you to do less of that soothing for them. But until that time, by responding to him and doing what he needs you to do, you will be helping him in the long run to trust that when he needs you, you will be there.
Rest assure, much of what you are experiencing as a new parent is normal. Knowing that you are not alone in this and that all new parents feel like this can go a long way to ease stress of the early months. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other new parents, ask for help and get support. It will make you feel “normal.”