(I feel the need to start with a HUGE disclaimer: I am not a doctor, lactation expert or anything other than a mom who panicked at a lot of stuff with her newborn. When in doubt, CALL THE DOCTOR. If your doctor laughs at you or acts like you’re a pain in the butt, even if you are calling every day, get a new one. Because there are no bad or stupid questions when you find yourself with the daunting task of keeping a human alive. None of what I am saying below is designed to be real medical advice, and I’ve tried to link to peer-reviewed research whenever possible so you can make smart decisions. But there was so much that surprised me in the early days that I thought I’d share.)
From: Mom of 7 Weeks
Subject: Newborn babies do some crazy stuff
If you are reading this, you are either:
a) pregnant and trying to look ahead to your new baby
b) a new mom who has Googled the phrases “baby smile or gas?,” “spit-up or vomit?” or “why is my newborn’s poop green?” — or possibly all of the above
c) a been-there-done-that mom who wants to look back on the early days and laugh
Here’s the thing…as a Type A first-time mom, I spent the last few months of pregnancy either attending classes (breastfeeding! newborn baby care!) or reading books (Happiest Baby on the Block! Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child! The Baby Whisperer!) and not ONE of those prepared me for some of the crazy things that I experienced once Audrey arrived.
Yes, I learned how to put on a diaper, but not much about the glorious colors of poop that would occupy it. I was taught how to properly feed my newborn but not any helpful advice on how to determine the difference between totally-normal projectile spit-up and potentially dangerous vomit.
So, with the wisdom of seven weeks behind me (ha! I got a stomachful of warm spit-up dumped down my shirt just an hour ago), I thought I’d share some of the crazy things that newborns do that is totally normal. It probably won’t save you from some of the manic Google searches that I did, and that’s OK too. I can’t tell you how many times my mom calmly talked me down from the ledge. Thanks, Mom.
On Poop and Other Intestinal Adventures:
- Babies poop a LOT, especially newborn babies. This poop can be all different colors: yellow, orange, green, black…in my experience, it has never been brown, but I have heard that formula poops tend to be that color. And the poop can be all different textures. Seedy, clumpy, foamy, runny. And for the most part, that’s totally normal. I was terrified at how loose and runny Audrey’s poop was in the first few weeks, and I was THISCLOSE to calling the doctor. If you are really worried, feel free to call the nurse who will probably assure you that this is a normal concern for parents and help ease your fears. And as my mom friend tells me, you’ll know the difference between watery poop and diarrhea soon enough.
- Take my advice on this one: when you go to change your baby, put him/her on the table and then WAIT. 30 seconds, if possible. Babies love to wait until you start to take the diaper off to explode with poop, pee or both. I thought it was just boys that could hit a person halfway across the room. Nuh uh. Bicycle his/her legs a few times and roll her legs up toward her chest like you’re squeezing out a tube of toothpaste. You will be rewarded for your patience when you hear the tell-tale noises of one last diaper deposit.
- Don’t tempt fate by letting your baby be naked while you casually get a new diaper, wipes, etc. Have your stuff ready to go and the moment you take one diaper off, stick a clean one under. We have three changing pad covers and often used all three in one day because we couldn’t get a hang of the timing. (Funny aside: as cute as that picture is at the top of the post, my photographer tempted fate a little too long…my naked baby peed and pooped on her in between shots. Luckily, she was a pro and just laughed.)
- If your kid is under 6 weeks old and is grinning at you, don’t get too excited. It’s wonderful to think your baby is showing you how much she loves you but 9 times out of 10, she’s either a) about to fart b) about to poop c) has either just farted, pooped or both. The good news is, around 6 weeks, she’ll start smiling at you for non-poop reasons and that will really warm your heart.
On Food (Both Going in and Coming Out):
- Babies eat so dang much and so dang often when they are just out of the womb. And you count the timing from the beginning of a feed, not the end. So you if nurse at 6am and your kid takes 45 minutes to eat and is cluster feeding, you could only have a 15-minute break. It’s normal. And you can’t spoil a kid this early. If you’re like me, you’ll start to worry if you have supply issues when your kid seems to want to be attached to the boob around the clock. Chances are, you’re just fine. But head to KellyMom.com for peer-reviewed research that should ease your mind. I was on the site so often in the first few weeks that I just kept the tab open on my browser. Just hang in there and know it does get better.
- I cried buckets over one thing in the first few weeks: SPIT-UP. Audrey is a great eater (have you seen her cheeks?) but at least once almost every day, she’d finish nursing, sit up and return all of that delicious milk to me. And she’d usually do it while making awful coughing/gagging sounds. And then smile at me. And go to sleep peacefully. While I was left to break down. Baby spit-up is not cute and it’s not glamorous. It can be totally normal, even when it seems like a ridiculous amount. As with everything, talk to your doctor about it, because some babies so have more serious reflux issues that can be treated. But in general, spit-up that does not happen at every meal is probably normal.
On Figuring Out What the Hell Your Kid Wants:
- If your kid is upset, go down this list: does she have a dirty diaper? Is she hungry? Is she tired? Does she have gas? If the answer to all of those is no, you can move to less likely scenarios like your baby being overstimulated, your baby being bored, etc. But it’s almost always one of those first four options.
- Try, try again. We have a big fancy swing that Audrey loved the first time we tried and HATED the next two. I waited a week, put her back in and now it’s one of her favorite spots in the house. The first bottle we gave her went down in record time, but I spent the next four nights with tears streaming down my face as she rejected the bottles and screamed her head off. Patience prevailed and now she takes a full bottle every night. She hated the pacifier until she loved it. I think it just takes some babies time to figure out what they want.
- Babies pick up on stress, so if you’re at the end of your rope, put her down (SAFELY, of course) and take a break. Go to the next room and take a deep breath. Wash your face. Sing a song. Rub your shoulders. Then go back. Even if things are still nutty, you’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes. And don’t be afraid to negotiate with your baby. When I say things like, “OK, Audrey, I know you’re upset, but I’m out of ideas. Do you want to take a walk outside?” I find that just the tone of my voice is sometimes enough to diffuse the drama. (Again, be smart. Put your baby somewhere safe or hand her off to someone else. Take 30 seconds. Baby will be OK, but you may not be if you don’t give yourself that short break to calm your nerves.)
- Audrey never had colic but many babies do, or they experience what’s known as The Period of Purple Crying. Sometimes just knowing that your baby’s behavior is normal and WILL end (sometime) helps.
- Babies make bizarre seizure-like movements in their sleep (they also giggle!). And that’s normal! My kid flails about so much that it’s no wonder I had near-constant rib pain when I was carrying her. We swaddle her at night because it seems to soothe her, but during the day, I sometimes wonder if she’s fighting off ninjas in her dreams.
- The SECOND your baby closes his eyes, do this: pee. Refill your water bottle. That may be all you do before her eyelids pop back open, but it will make all the difference in the world at how comfortable you are.
- When in doubt: white noise.
- Babies have magic healing skin. We were terrified that Audrey had permanently scarred her face when she scraped it with her newborn talons on the way home from the hospital. A few hours later, there was no sign of the scratches. And that’s been the case ever since. I try to keep up with her nails, but those dang things grow overnight and even some deep-looking gashes have gone away in less than a day.
- However, babies DO come with some bizarre birthmarks — Audrey has a stork bite on her neck and a red patch under her hair on the back of her head, an angel kiss on her lip, some burst blood vessels on her legs and other birth souvenirs. She’s adorable and the good news is that almost all of these will fade in the next few months, but she’s not alone — TONS of kids come with marks of some sort, and it’s totally normal. And baby acne, as gross as it can be, goes away too.
- It is totally OK to google, but know that in the end, you figure it out as you go along. I searched “when do you go up in diaper size?” until it was actually time to do it. Know how I figured it out? The velcro was so tight it was leaving red marks on her legs. I searched “how much milk does a baby drink from the bottle?” but figured it out when I gave her a 5 ounce bottle and she drank 3.5 ounces. I am a big believer in planning, and I’m more confident when I know what’s coming…but in the end, you just figure it out when you figure it out.
In the end, memo or not, I have learned one thing about being a first-time parent and it’s that you can’t count on anything, and if you stress too much over getting it “right,” you will forget to enjoy it. And I enjoy it all. Even the gross stuff, and the stressful stuff. The moment I think I have it figured out, I get a faceful of spit-up and I’m reminded that babies are in charge, not moms. So take my advice and then forget everything I said. You’ll be ready to write a memo of your own soon enough.