Written by: Wendy, IBCLC.
As a new parent, there are certain baby behaviors that you may expect. Most parents assume their baby will cry and fuss at times, that they’ll be soiling a ton of diapers, and they’ll be sleeping erratically at first.
These things are true! Still, there are some baby behaviors that can really throw you for a loop, no matter how prepared you are. What’s more, there are some myths out there about how babies are meant to behave that are … well, pretty different from the reality of raising a baby.
1. YOUR BABY MAY WAKE FREQUENTLY
Most parents don’t expect their baby to sleep all night at first. It’s actually important that your baby wakes to eat at least a few times each night in the early weeks. But many parents are surprised to learn that many babies wake to eat extremely frequently at night. It’s normal for babies to wake every 3-4 hours, but it’s also common for babies to wake every 1-2 hours, all night long. Yes, that sounds exhausting. But all babies are different in terms of how often they wake up at night, and even very frequent waking can be normal, especially at first.
2. YOUR BABY MAY TAKE SHORT NAPS
Babies nap because they can’t stay awake many hours in a row during the day when they are little. Naps are also important for parents who need breaks! But what you might not know is that newborns tend to have very short, frequent naps. Yes, as in 20 minutes at times, several times a day. This is typical for some babies but understandably frustrating for parents. Some babies are chronic short-nappers, but most will end up having longer (and fewer) naps as they get closer to 6 months or so.
3. YOUR BABY MAY NURSE ALL THE TIME
You may have been told to expect your baby to nurse 8-12 times in a 24 period, which amounts to about every 2-3 hours. But babies don’t know how to read a clock, and some babies just seem to need to feed a whole lot. It’s common for some babies to feed every hour or so. This may happen during certain times of day (many babies cluster their feeds together at night), but your baby may feed hourly for a few days during a growth spurt.
4. YOUR BABY MAY NEED A PARENT NEARBY TO FALL ASLEEP
You may have a sweet little image of putting your baby to bed that goes something like this: feed your baby, swaddle them, dim the lights, and place them gingerly down in their crib, where they will drift off to dreamland. The truth is, though, that many babies need to be “parented to sleep.” This means that they need a parent to hold or rock them while they fall asleep. Or they might want to nurse to sleep. Some babies just need a hand on their back while they drift off. This is all normal, and all children learn to put themselves to sleep in their own time.
5. YOUR BABY MAY WANT TO BE HELD CONSTANTLY
Your baby spent nine months in the warm cocoon of the womb, so it makes sense that transitioning to the outside world can be difficult. Some babies seem to adjust better than others and don’t mind spending some time in a bouncy chair, bassinet, or baby swing. But some babies seem to only be happy if they are being held. This is natural, it’s something they will outgrow soon enough, and it’s why many parents find a good baby carrier to be a lifesaver.
6. YOUR BABY MAY REJECT SOLID FOOD AT FIRST
It’s an exciting moment the first time you introduce solid food to your baby. But many parents are surprised by the fact that their baby doesn’t seem to like food at first. Sometimes the same baby who tries to grab your food off your plate will spit out the food that you offer to them. This happens and is normal. It can take a few tries before a baby starts to like solid food, and some babies just aren’t interested until they are closer to 8-9 months. This is why breast milk is your baby’s main source of nutrition for the first year of life. And trust us: before you know it, they will be eating a ton!
7. YOUR BABY MAY TAKE YEARS TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT
Many parents are told that their baby will start sleeping longer stretches when they’ve gained a certain amount of weight or when they are a certain age. The hard truth is that while some babies start sleeping through the night (defined as sleeping 6-8 hours in a row) at an early age, some don’t until they are a year or more. Some babies don’t start sleeping all night until they are 3 or 4 years old! All within the realm of normal.
Adjusting to having a newborn is all about proper expectations. Unfortunately, lots of parents are given unrealistic ideas about what their baby will be like. Then, when their baby seems more needy or demanding than other babies, parents end up thinking something is wrong with their baby or with themselves.
The truth is, though, there is nothing wrong with your baby if they are up all night feeding or if they cry anytime you try to put them down. Babies are challenging and need a lot of attention from their parents on a 24/7 basis. So cut yourself some slack, cuddle your baby as much as they need, and remember that this too shall pass.