How to Survive Baby’s First Year: Navigating the Fog to Find Your ‘Normal’

Baby's First Year

“Remember, the first year is the hardest.” The age-old wisdom, passed down from seasoned parents with a knowing nod and sympathetic smile, often echoes in the minds of new parents. A whole year? Really? That sounds like an awfully long time to be in the survival mode trenches. I’m here to tell you, from the other side of that first year, they were right. And guess what? It does get better.

The Newborn Phase (0-3 Months): The Exhaustion Olympics

You know those pictures you take of your bundle of joy? The ones where you’re convinced your baby’s the cutest creature ever to grace this Earth? You look at those photos later, and all you remember is a foggy haze of “How did I survive?”

Once upon a time, I embarked on the incredible journey of motherhood. Little did I know that my first year as a new mom would be filled with both monumental challenges and heartwarming victories. As I reflect on those moments, I hope to inspire and uplift fellow parents who may be navigating similar struggles.

Examples Of My Experience With A Newborn:

  • Endless feedings, day and night, blurred together in a sleepless haze. My baby’s constant hunger seemed insatiable, leaving me exhausted.
  • Swaddling was a never-ending task. Wrapping my baby snugly, again and again, seemed to test my patience to its limit.
  • The struggle of breastfeeding and pumping was relentless. I felt like a malfunctioning milk machine, sometimes leaking, sometimes unable to produce enough.
  • My postpartum body was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Finding clothes that fit felt like an impossible quest, adding to my sense of frustration.
  • Soothing a crying baby felt like an uphill battle. Combined with my own recovery and sleep deprivation, the emotional toll was heavy.
  • Frequent doctor’s and lactation appointments were overwhelming, adding to the list of anxieties and uncertainties.
  • A constant flow of visitors, their expectations and the resulting chaos, often left me feeling more overwhelmed and anxious.
  • Being diagnosed with perinatal hypertension was a jarring reminder of the physical toll my body was taking, adding further strain to an already difficult time.
  • The formula shortage of 2022 increased the stress. With each store visit, my anxiety grew as I fought to find the nutrition my baby needed.
  • Postpartum anxiety and intrusive thoughts seemed to creep in when least expected. Managing my emotions felt like navigating a storm without a compass.
  • Leaving the house with my baby felt like an expedition fraught with worry. The fear of germs, public judgment, and an unpredictable baby created an additional layer of anxiety.
  • Facing newborn photos amplified my insecurities about my appearance. Each snapshot seemed to capture the chaos and unpreparedness, rather than the joy of a new life.

Through it all, I discovered an inner strength I never knew I possessed. The challenges I faced as a new mom were interwoven with the victories—the milestones, the first smiles, the moments of pure joy. The challenges may be great, but within you lies an unwavering strength. Embrace the journey, celebrate the victories, and know that every trial you face shapes you into the remarkable parent you are meant to be.

Remember, dear parents, you are not alone. And, spoiler alert: You will get better at handling the curveballs your tiny, adorable boss throws your way. And remember, just because a night feels endless doesn’t mean it actually is. The sun does rise. So will you.

Infant Phase (4-6 Months): The Fog Begins to Lift

Enter month four, where you’re just starting to remember what it feels like to string together more than two hours of sleep. It’s like you’ve been handed a map to the maze.

You’re still in the labyrinth, but now there are signs pointing you to the exit. Your baby might still be demanding, but you’re slowly deciphering their secret language. Is the crying getting louder? Perhaps, but you’re becoming a more efficient soother. Teething begins, but your courage continues.

It’s also the stage where you can finally start reclaiming some territory in your house from the baby gear invaders.

Examples Of My Experience With A New Infant from 4-6 Months:

  • We finally started getting the hang of exclusive pumping, leaving breastfeeding behind. It felt like we were beginning to find a rhythm in the chaos.
  • The formula shortage continued, and we were still supplementing. Each can of formula found felt like a small victory in a challenging time.
  • Thankfully, my physical health problems from birth and postpartum had been resolved. This relief was like a lighthouse on a stormy night, a beacon of hope that things were improving.
  • My Daughter’s nighttime feedings dropped and my milk regulated. I found myself sleeping for longer stretches, a luxury I hadn’t experienced for months.
  • At four months, my daughter’s first tooth made its appearance. We began to navigate the ups and downs of teething, adding another item to our parenting to-do list.
  • We started venturing out of the house more frequently, gaining confidence with each successful trip. I felt like a seasoned explorer, charting new territories with my little one.
  • But, with growth came louder cries. These new sounds were more triggering for my anxiety, a reminder that the journey wasn’t entirely smooth.
  • My daughter discovered her voice and grunted non-stop. The sound, unfamiliar and worrying, set off alarm bells in my head every time.
  • I began feeling more comfortable in clothes and in general. It felt like I was slowly reclaiming my body and sense of self.
  • But intrusive thoughts continued to barrage my mind, intensifying the mental challenge.
  • Hormonal lows hit hard and fast, and I still didn’t feel mentally like myself. It was a stark reminder of the invisible battles new mothers fight.

Infant Phase (7-12 Months): Light at the End of the Tunnel

Ah, sweet relief! Months seven through twelve are like finding the cheese in the maze. Your baby is beginning to sit up, eat solids, and – the holy grail of parenthood – sleep through the night. It’s a time of discovery for them and a return to sanity for you.

Teething, sleep regressions, anxiety— yes, they all continue to lurk around corners. But, with your growing experience and confidence, you’re better equipped to navigate around these obstacles. And the joy! Oh, the joy of seeing your little one explore their world is a balm for the weary parental soul.

Examples Of My Experience With A My Infant from 7-12 Months:

  • Teething became a near-constant challenge. Soothing my crying, fussing baby, while grappling with my own struggles, tested my patience and resilience. Emma seemed to always have teeth coming in. At 12 months, she had four molars arrive in a single week – just in time for her first birthday.
  • Sleep regressions threw us off balance. Just when I thought we had a break from teething and sleep was improving, she’d stop sleeping through the night. This unexpected change was a rude awakening – quite literally.
  • Anxiety around baby-led weaning grew. We transitioned from purées to chunks and finally to baby-led weaning around her first birthday. Despite our success, I found myself worrying excessively about my daughter’s eating habits.
  • We switched to overnight diapers, which were a game-changer. They held more liquid and kept her dry, helping her sleep for longer stretches. I have a lot of other tips for diapering in “Baby Diapering Essentials: A Journey Through My Diapering Routine.”
  • Mental health and postpartum hormones remained a work in progress. Teething periods often triggered my anxiety, with constant crying and difficult nights testing my strength.
  • As my daughter started sitting up and walking, I was on constant watch to prevent injuries. She fell at 10 months old, cutting her lip on our hardwood floor, which sparked a fresh wave of anxiety.
  • Yet, despite these challenges, the pure joy of parenthood began to emerge around the 9-month mark. These were the moments that made the trials worthwhile, the bright sunshine breaking through the clouds.

The Impact of Mental Health on Parenthood

Let’s be real. Postpartum hormones are a wild ride. They can wrap you in a heavy, wet blanket, making it hard to appreciate the joyful moments. Did you know Around one in seven women can develop postpartum depression and approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Don’t shrug off these feelings. Don’t hide them. They’re as much a part of the journey as the sleepless nights and first giggles. Acknowledging my postpartum anxiety, seeking therapy, and learning how to navigate through these emotions was an essential part of my journey. The result? It didn’t just help me survive the lows; it set the stage for truly experiencing the highs. Embrace these joyful moments when they appear and ride them for as long as you can.

When “Normal” Starts Feeling Normal Again

At 16 months, I look back and realize that each struggle, each hurdle, each anxious thought was a stepping stone towards becoming stronger, more resilient, and more present in the moment. The fog has cleared. The maze has been navigated. And trust me, the other side is beautiful.

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re allowed to stumble, catch your breath, and move at your own pace. And remember, there’s always another parent on the sidelines, cheering you on, sharing your tears, and celebrating your victories.

And to those who’ve warned us about the first year being the hardest— you’re right. But you know what else? It makes us stronger and those hard days always pass by. So, new parents, buckle up. It’s going to be a wild ride, but oh, what a ride it will be! 

The Parenting Carousel: Beautiful Chaos

Take a moment to celebrate the journey and the many milestones you’ve reached. You’ve come a long way from the anxious new parent, stumbling through the fog of sleep deprivation.

Your baby is now a little person with a personality of their own. The giggles, the first words, the toddling steps – they’re all markers on this incredible journey of parenthood. You’re now part of a community that understands the unique blend of exhaustion, joy, fear, and pride that is parenting.

However, it’s important to remember, that just like a carousel, parenthood isn’t just about going round in circles. It’s about appreciating the ups, weathering the downs, and marveling at the whole dizzying, delightful experience.

The Takeaway: You’ve Got This!

It’s easy to lose yourself in the fog of the first year of parenthood, but remember: You’re not alone. And, as seasoned travelers will tell you, the weather always clears up eventually.

Remember, parenthood is a journey, not a destination. It’s about learning to navigate the unexpected, rising above the challenges, and finding joy in the small moments. It’s about knowing that no matter how long the night, the dawn is just a diaper change away.

Your mental health plays a crucial role in experiencing the joy of parenthood. Take care of it. Seek help when you need it. Talk about it. You’re not alone.

So, the next time you’re lost in the fog or stumbling in the maze, remember that every stage has its end, every challenge its reward. You are stronger, wiser, and more resilient than you ever imagined.

And remember, we’re all in this together. Follow Practical Little Life on Instagram to share in this incredible journey, to laugh, to cry, and to celebrate the chaos and the beauty that is parenthood.

How to Survive Baby’s First Year with Practical Essentials

As a new parent, I remember feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what I needed to properly care for my baby. Over time, I learned what items were essential and helped me survive the first year. In this post, “Baby’s First Year: How I Survived with These Practical Essentials” I want to share my personal experience.