Surviving the Exhaustion of the Newborn Days

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– A post from LifeasMOM contributor Lauren

It is no secret: the first days and weeks home with a newborn are pretty exhausting. Whether you are a first-time mother or a many-times-over mother, the fatigue can take you by surprise.

In those early days there is definitely not a routine yet, as the baby eats and sleeps on demand – meaning Mama sleeps when she can, if at all. And if you’re having a hard time nursing? Oh that is exhausting just in itself. If you have other children, trying to manage spending enough time with everyone can be…trying, to say the least.

So how do you survive? What are some proven ‘tricks’ to help you not only survive these newborn days, but also enjoy them to the fullest?

Let other people help you.

There is absolutely no need to be SuperMom in these first few weeks. Trust me in that there will be plenty of time in the next few decades for you to get many things accomplished. For the time being, let others help you.

There are not that many times in life when others drop everything they are doing to be of assistance to you. And new motherhood is definitely one of those times! So be willing to let others bring you meals, wash your dishes/clothes, babysit your older kiddos or even mop your floor.

I’ve admitted many times over that this is really hard for me, but I am always so relieved and grateful when I can set my issues aside and let other people minister to me. People are waiting to bless you – so let them!

Do only the essentials.

What are the essentials in your house? I encourage you to make a list of them, and then refer to it when you get overwhelmed. For me, the essentials are clean dishes, enough food for meals and snacks at home, and clean clothes.

All other household tasks such as vacuuming and scrubbing bathrooms take a backseat in those first few weeks. If they get done, I am thrilled. If not, I try not to stress over it. And then I go consult my ‘Essentials List’ again and remind myself these things are not necessary for us to make it through the day.

Have a list of activities for older children.

We are going to take a break from homeschool for the first 4-6 weeks after our baby arrives. However, I can’t just leave my 5 year old and 3 year old to roam free and just play all day for 6 weeks.

My children do much better with structure, so I have a list of ready-to-play items for when they need some direction.

A few ideas: Activities in a Bag, games such as Bingo and Go Fish, I bought a few new puzzles for us to put together and I re-stocked the Art Box with fun new-to-them items. So when I see that my children need something more structured to do than play on their own, I consult my list and let them choose something fun to do.

Take a lot of pictures.

Sleep deprivation can do odd things to a mom. Some of those early days of my children are sadly a blur to me. I am so grateful we have lots of pictures to remind me of their facial expressions in those early days when my memory is often fuzzy.

Rest when your newborn rests.

Everyone gives this as advice, so it must be true, right? It absolutely is. If you have older children, it is not often the case where you can sleep when the baby sleeps. But you can certainly rest with your feet up!

Find your older children an independent activity and lie down with your eyes closed for 10 minutes or so. While ‘resting’ is definitely not the same thing as sleeping, it can rejuvenate your body for a short period.

Most importantly, I encourage you to find contentment in the current stage of baby life. Since my first son was born, I have made a very intentional effort to not “wish away” stages in my children’s lives. It is so easy to say, ”I can’t wait until they are old enough to _____.”  Fill in the blank with: sleep through the night, get in a routine, feed themselves, etc.

But as experienced mothers know all too well: these newborn days are so precious, yet so fleeting. What a privilege it is to learn and get to know a whole new person in their first days! I encourage you to have an attitude of living in the moment with your new little one. You’ll be so glad that you did.

What are some ways you survived the exhaustion of the newborn days?

What things did you do to prepare yourself and your household?

— Lauren Hill is the ‘Mama’ behind Mama’s Laundry Talk. She is due with her fourth little one in Mid-November and can hardly wait to meet this new person! In the picture in this post, Mama looks very tired – because she is!

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  1. Taking care of my newborn is horribly exhausting and frustrating. I am convinced that people who purposely get pregnant more than once are insane.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m praying that you have a partner who will step up and carry some of the load and that your friends will have clarity as to how they can help. It is exhausting but it doesn’t have to be horrible. Hang in there! If you’d like to talk, please let me know.

  2. My last baby is 2 months old. We are not sleeping. I’ve been awake for 4days. My hub sleeps during the week. I sleep on weekends.She’s a good baby as far as personality, but she wants to be cleaned constantly (aside from other needs). She sleeps so lightly the other kids can’t even talk. Right now at 9 am all I can think is please let 5:30pm come in the next five minutes so hub can take over. I can’t stop crying (involuntarily). My other kids were heavy sleepers. I hate how whiney I am! I don’t have any m-i-l or mother help. I wish enjoying this time with her was an option. My only savior is a vacuum cleaner. She seems to only sleep with it running, which keeps me awake. Right now I’m doing dishes and ordering take out. We are on basic survival mode.

  3. Yes to everything others have said. Accepting help, reducing expectations, and sitting/resting as much as possible are the best things a new mom can do. When my twins (#4 & 5) were born, my husband was still in school (Master’s program) and couldn’t take time off. My mom and mother-in-law still had children at home, and could only come for a few days each. I only had family to help for about a week. When they were gone, my husband took over breakfast, and packed lunches for me and my older three (then 4, 3 & 20 months). Then we locked ourselves in our family room, and watched TV, read books, napped, played around with the camera, played board games & card games, and covered the floor with toys until Daddy got home and made us dinner. Most of my involvement in that was direction from my nursing chair, with the babies on the nursing pillow… That was our routine for the first 6 weeks, and I don’t regret a second of it.

    My twins are now 13 months, I still don’t get a ton of sleep, and I still feel tired and cranky sometimes, and hope to someday have my bed to myself (and my husband of course), but it’s still worth it to see their precious angel faces while they sleep. 🙂

  4. Sleep with your baby! You AND baby will sleep better that way.

    No other mammal on earth separates a nursing mom and a baby. Why do we?

    1. @Taximom5, SO TRUE!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT WE ARE THINKING SOMETIMES. WHO’S IDEA WAS IT THAT STARTED IT. Can you tell I’m passionate about this. In my own case I just do not wish to do so.

  5. Yes! Let people do work for you. That was THE hardest lesson I had to learn in April. We arrived home from the hospital with our son ON our daughter’s first birthday. Oh yes. What timing. I had a c-section and physically was not able to do any of the work that needed to be done. I couldn’t even lift my sweet little girl. One afternoon I heard my dear friend in the kitchen scrubbing my trash can, and I finally realized what a blessing it is to let others serve you. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to! And for heaven’s sake, take a nap! Whenever. You. Possibly. Can.!!

  6. I remember just sitting at my kitchen table snuggling my son, then 2 days old, while my mother-in-law mopped my floor. Any other day I’d have felt guilty, but…not then! I sat and I snuggled. 🙂

    After each of my babies was born (and I’m sure, after every other one who comes), my husband stayed home for two weeks. Then, my mother came for two more weeks. I had help for the first whole month, which was SO nice! Next time my older kids will be at least 3.5 and 2, and I can say to my mom “Take them outside! I’m going to take a nap with the baby!” Ah yes….

  7. I feel horrible at the end of my pregnancies and cannot sleep for more than an hour without having to pee so I actually feel better after the babies come. I do sleep in a little later and give up on most cleaning for the first 4-6 weeks but in general I feel better after giving birth 🙂

    1. @Becky,

      I’m with you! I feel TONS better after having the baby than I do here at the end. I am 37 weeks, so I am definitely in the huge-enormous-can’t sleep stage!

      To me, the tiredness after birth is much different than the fatigue while at the end of pregnancy. And I handle the exhaustion afterwards much better! 😉


  8. I had a lactation nurse tell me with my firstborn that, “Babies come from a place where there is no time.” Hearing that made me realize that I could not expect my babies to adjust to our schedule right off the bat. I also read in a book that I “couldn’t spoil a newborn.” You can’t hold them too much or love them too much or kiss them too much. So true! Newborn months happen too fast.

    1. @Kelly,

      Wow – that is excellent advice from your lactation consultant! It’s so true that newborns have no concept of time so there’s no way we can expect them to adjust to OUR schedules! That’s a great tidbit of info to put things in perspective!

      And I couldn’t agree more about spoiling a newborn. It’s just not possible in my experience. Hold and kiss them as much as you can!


  9. When my second came along, I nursed as often as I could lying down. It initially was due to a forceful let down, but ended up being our “rest” time together every few hours. I wished I had made an “essential” list….that would have relieved a lot of stress!

  10. Oh.. I remember the early days and what really helped me take care of myself, my husband and my little one was letting go off unrealistic expectations. So, the house wasn’t dusted everyday, fine. As long as we were rested, fed and clean, things were good. I also, took time out to read, connect and learn more about life with baby.. That really helped me feel better and not all alone. 🙂