It’s been five whole months since Scarlett arrived in the world and, to acknowledge a very well-worn cliché, that time really has passed in the blink of an eye. While it’s gone quickly, we’ve also seen some really huge changes in that time; and as I know we have readers with new babies and a couple on the way, now is a good time to reflect on all the things that are already distant memories and the things that are getting so much better all the time.
A brand-newborn has only one way to communicate his or her needs to the wider world, and that’s to go purple and wail. In fact, “communicate” is an overstatement for very young babies – it’s more a reflex that goes off whenever something, anything is wrong. If a newborn is hungry, tired, wet, in pain, overstimulated, cold, or in need of a cuddle, he or she has one sound to signal this, and it will go off at all hours of day or night. This will pass. If you are a new parent, keep reminding yourself of that. It will pass. One day your baby will wake up from a nap and the first thing he or she will do will be something other than emit tortured screams.
It’s not that babies cease all crying after the first few weeks, but the nature of the crying changes – baby starts to distinguish between hunger and discomfort, and you start to distinguish between the different noises made. And it does lessen, as the overwhelming thing that is the world outside the womb starts to feel safer and more familiar; and after a few more weeks, you get a whole host of new sounds in the repertoire, like cooing and gurgling and vowel sounds and babbling. Right now, Scarlett is really into blowing raspberries, which is much more fun for everyone than that all that incessant wailing.
Hopefully, if all is going sort of alright with the whole development thing, your baby should start smiling (properly, like at you and everything) at around 5-6 weeks. This will make your life so much more pleasant. Look forward to those smiles – they look good, even at 5am.
Newborns sleep a lot, but they don’t know what day and night are. Neither will you, after the first few days. Eventually, your baby will settle into a cycle, and hopefully sleep more at night than in the day; and then eventually, will do something that looks like a reasonable night’s sleep. Look! Here’s some evidence!
You won’t expect to sleep all night, every night – especially if your baby has a cold, or some other kind of virus or fever, or is teething, or you’re breastfeeding and ate a Chinese takeaway (top tip: lay off the MSG until you’re fully weaned) – but the chart will get bluer, for longer, more often.
After the first few weeks, this will no longer take every minute of every day, I promise. And once feeds become more efficient, sleeping goes better too (see above).
The first twelve or so weeks were characterised by a daily fuss that started around 7pm and went on for an hour or so, that could be anticipated once we realised the pattern and combatted by swaddling and cluster feeding most evenings, but since the start of this year that hasn’t really been such a thing any more. Sometimes Scarlett gets a bit hungry before bedtime, especially if she’s doing some growing, but she doesn’t get so fussy about it anymore – she just feeeds.
Wind and colic should disappear around this time too as the digestive system matures; we had a touch of reflux to deal with but Infant Gaviscon (you get it on prescription from your GP) sorted that right out.
Falling off the world
Aka the Moro Reflex, that makes your baby fling his or her arms out every time you transfer him or her an inch off the bed. The sense your baby has that every motion is a fall and that they must immediately grasp your monkey fur with their baby monkey paws disappears around week 12-14, along with a lot of other generalised spasming, startling and flailing.
This is one to watch out for – just when you get used to being able to put your baby down to play for a bit on her super-awesome Rainforest Play Mat, she gets other ideas and rolls, wiggles or bottom-shunts her way off the mat and over to the other side of the room. Or under the coffee table. Or over to the TV stand. It keeps her busy, and is all good from a development perspective, but it will keep you busy too.
Yes, you can cuddle a newborn and hold him or her close to you in a sling and whatever, but they get more cuddlesome with increased size, and around four to five months you may start getting some cuddles back. That’s nice.
I know a couple of you are clutching newborns right now so trust me when I say two things – the good times are just around the corner, and they’re coming faster than you can possibly imagine. God bless XOXO