To the New Mom Feeding Her Baby at 3:11 A.M.

By: Jen Shoop

My sister had her second baby a few weeks ago, and I have been visiting with my blurry memories of the newborn days as I watch her, from afar and with wonder, do her thing as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Which, of course, motherhood is and isn’t — it is natural and instinctual, but it is also learned through experience, you know? And in many ways I’m still making myself as a mother. Just earlier this year, I experienced a seismic shift in my own approach to daily parenting: more touch, more play. It’s changed how I interact with my children on a daily basis! Maybe we are always refashioning ourselves as mothers.

Anyhow, I was thinking about this and decided to republish one of my most-visited essays from the archives: a little letter to the new mamas. This is exactly what I would tell my sister, if she needed to hear it. Onward!


A Magpie reader messaged me the other day in a state of despair. “I’m a new mom, and I’m lost and so exhausted,” she wrote. “Does everyone else just ‘get’ it faster than I have?”

Who else reading this vulnerable query briefly flashed back to a similar moment in her own newborn fog? I remembered — instantly — the dull headache of exhaustion, the scampering around my bedroom between feedings in the too-bright light of morning to half-heartedly shove the pile-up of bottles and burp cloths and nursing pads and snack wrappers out of the way, the time micro was up every thirty minutes for hours on end one night and I was so wiped out, I kicked the bassinet in frustration (he was not in it) and then injured my toe. Fumbling with the nursing cover. Peering into the stroller terrified my baby might “lose it” while we were racing home for feeding time. Trying every tincture and tonic to increase my breast milk supply. Standing in the shower fully clothed in a desperate attempt to soothe my inconsolable child. Stomach-churningly using the rectal thermometer for the first time. Investigating rashes and abrasions. Pondering when to call in the pediatrician after 24 hours during which my baby spit up all of the hard-earned breastmilk I’d given him. Tears of tenderness, tears of fatigue, tears that represented the surfeit of emotions I was experiencing but that I would have been hard-pressed to pin on any one thing.

The early days are rough. The exhaustion is real. That note of self-doubt is inevitable.

But, mama, you are doing it, and you are doing a great job. Being lost and exhausted was, for me, part of the territory of new motherhood, and I think many other moms here feel similarly. So I don’t have any magic answers (though if there are specific concerns about sleeping/feeding in particular, the Magpie community always delivers with practical advice, and I encourage you to post them in the comments). And frankly I wouldn’t have wanted to hear a Pollyanna line back in those early days, and I would never want to diminish the valid way you feel at the moment. (I remember gritting my teeth when a well-intentioned acquaintance said: “Oh, the newborn days are just the best. Babies are so easy compared to toddlers! Soak it up!”) All I can say is this:

01. The newborn days are physically and emotionally challenging, but you are moving through them one step at a time in the best way you can and you are doing a great job. Underline those words. You are doing a great job.

02. Everything passes. You will not be in this sleepless moment forever.

03. If you can, be ambitious in asking for help. In retrospect, I wish I had paid to have a housekeeper come a couple times a week during those first few weeks. Having that off our plate would have lightened the load considerably (for both myself and Mr. Magpie), as it was the one “ball” I was always struggling to keep in the air but absolutely could not bear to drop. (If you live in a tiny Manhattan apartment, you know why — there is no space to dump junk or escape mess. You have to stay on top of putting things back! Also, I’m a total neat freak, and so is Mr. Magpie.) But “help” for a new mother can take many forms: it might be having a family member come by once or twice a week, or committing to meal delivery on certain days, or visiting parents for an extended period, or hiring a night nurse, or offering a caregiver extra money to help with laundry even though it’s not in her usual duties (or sending laundry out to a wash and fold!), or asking an older niece/nephew to serve as “mother’s helper” to assist with older children, or working out a nighttime schedule with your spouse where you can skip a feeding session by pumping earlier to get a head start on sleep. Importantly, it may also mean seeking help if you think you may be suffering from PPD. If you are anything like me, you are probably reading this with a million objections on your tongue: “but I don’t know where I’d find a mother’s helper” and “but I like to cook — it brings me joy” and “but I don’t want to bother my sister with this.” To all of that I say: try. See what happens. Nothing is permanent and if it’s not helpful or too awkward or too costly, you can always change tacks. I can’t tell you how often — still! — I think loosely of an idea, like the fact that we wanted to find a new nanny after months of quarantine without childcare, and I’m intimidated to the point of temporary paralysis by the prospect of all of the effort and logistics that will go into making it happen. For example, I bristled at the idea of having to interview candidates, concerned about whether I would have to meet them outside or take their temperature or have them present negative COVID test results, and how I would even facilitate the transition to a new nanny for my children. But don’t let those details get in the way. Trust yourself and the fact that you will figure out the details. The first step for me in these situations is saying something out loud to Mr. Magpie. He’s helpful in thinking through logistics, and the conversation holds me accountable to taking the next steps and makes me feel as though I’m not alone in the process. In short: if there’s a way to ask for a specific kind of help, try. I recently asked Magpies what they found most helpful when they had their babies, and they shared some fantastic responses that might give shape to something that you, too, can ask for.

04. Know that it’s normal to feel this way.

05. Know that you are not alone. I used to sit in my bed nursing my baby at 3:41 a.m. or 4:42 a.m. and think about the thousands of other moms doing the exact same thing at the exact same time–maybe there was even another mom in my building in the same posture of newborn nurture. Lean on the community of moms you have. I was lucky to have several other friends with similarly aged babies and we would text each other around the clock. If that’s not a possibility, leave a comment here, or find a forum online where you can vent or seek advice or simply lean into the notion of companionship. And if all else fails, just close your eyes and think about all those other moms across the world doing exactly what you’re doing and trust that you will make it.

I know there are so many wonderful moms (and many fellow new moms!) reading this who can relate to you and who likely have even better words of reassurance to offer. To those moms: would you share some words of encouragement for this Magpie Mom today? She needs us.


+More musings on the first few weeks of motherhood and more musings on the elegant and lopsided dance of motherhood writ large.

+Parenting advice I love.

+You are in a specific season of life. It will pass, for better and worse!

+My friend Alex recently rounded up great advice for new moms here. I was honored to be asked for mine!

Shopping Break.

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+Tuckernuck’s house label has gotten SO good. I think I need this denim dress! And how cute are these striped crochet tanks?

+GORGEOUS white maxi skirt, under $200. Nails the drop waist trend without being too-too.

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+Fun seashell-emblazoned shoes. Part of the sealife trend! Speaking of: this necklace is $50 and so good!

+I have been doing so much exercising and carpool in fitness / athleisure wear — I don’t even recognize myself, but nowadays, I get up and get straight into my workout or workout-lite clothes. I have been eyeing these Lulu shorts for more casual wear.

+Adore this $118 blue and white striped dress!

+Fun twist on denim shorts.

+A great “look for less” for my Janessa Leone hat.

+An elegant keyring.

+Love this unusual matelasse vest.

+This tote reminds me of Dragon Diffusion, but less than half the price!

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47 thoughts on “To the New Mom Feeding Her Baby at 3:11 A.M.

  1. This is kind of content we need! Pure support! It’s better than the most useful tips sometimes. I was using Susan Urban’s breastfeeding and sleep training books and what I really love her style – it’s a perfect combination of perfect tips to achieve something and ‘you can do it’ part. Women for women, right?

    1. Yes!!! Women for women for sure and 100% agree on the “pure support” note. Sometimes I just need to hear (still!) — “You’re doing a great job.” Even if the specifics aren’t known! Thanks for chiming in here, Estrella. (And welcome to the Magpie Comments section!)


  2. My second is 7 months now, and the early days were so completely exhausting that I would basically just sit and cry all day every day [compounded by severe PPD! but the exhaustion was real]. A really practical piece of advice came from my OB, who suggested that my husband sleep in the living room with the baby. I know not all husbands will do this, and I’m grateful mine did, but the OB said that the baby would have trouble sleeping when she could smell me and just want to be held. That was true and after the first few days when she literally did not sleep (I slept something like 1.5 hours in over 24 hours the day I came home from the hospital) she started sleeping through the night at 2 months.
    Not related to the sleep set-up of those early months, but she also didn’t have a 4 month sleep regression. I was ultra anxious in the days leading up to 4 months (‘is this regression?? what if I can’t sleep again??’) and it turned out I didn’t need to be. Of course for some kids this is a brutal time, but I was so anxious about the regression and it ended up being fine. Not all transitions are easy — but not all transitions are impossibly hard either.
    No one sleep solution is right for every baby and every family, and it is so hard at the beginning, and this is not the only way. I deeply empathize with the other commenters and those first days felt genuinely impossible. But just in case someone was looking for some practical advice I wanted to share this, as it really was life changing for me.

    1. Hi Holly — Bless you for sharing this honest experience. Those first weeks are so rough, and then layer on PPD…! You are strong. Thanks for sharing the tip. I also found that everyone slept better when we moved mini out of our bedroom at around three months. I know it’s not for everyone and that there are recommendations about keeping your baby in your room until a year, so obviously, moms must do what they feel comfortable with, but I felt it was the best for everyone, probably for the same reason you cited (mini could smell me!)

      And you are SO right that sometimes I am bracing myself for a huge transition/challenge and its turns out strangely easy. A good reminder to keep an open mind!


  3. I don’t think we realize the reality of motherhood. A large part of motherhood is no sleep. If you like sleep, you pretty much have to prepare to get almost none of it to become a mother unless you’re one of the lucky ones, or just don’t become a mother.

    1. Hi Angie – You are so right that nothing can prepare you for the reality of motherhood. However, I disagree with your sentiment here, or at least as I’ve interpreted it — I think you can choose to be a mom, love being a mom, and still find the sleeplessness difficult (and difficult to accept). One of the things that has helped me as a new(-ish) mother is realizing that it’s OK to feel a lot of different things about motherhood, and that those feelings do not diminish me as a parent. Still, I do fully agree with your assertion that motherhood = no sleep for a long time, and I had no idea what was coming.


  4. Late to chime in, but I also wanted to say to this mom (and all others who may be reading this) as others have said — YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I can’t even begin to describe this parenting journey, nearly 3 years in. Someone told me it is the best thing and also the hardest thing at the same time. It’s such a push-pull of emotions! I also read somewhere else about parenting — the highs can be exhilarating and the lows can be devastating and this was so true for me, having had PPD and some trauma (for which I went to therapy).

    One thing an experienced mom told me is: “everything is a phase/everything is temporary.” It wasn’t said in the context of “everything is a phase so enjoy it” (which I know is meant well but rarely a comfort) but rather — “everything is a phase and YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS.” I’ve held on to that during many sleepless nights, while holding onto a crying newborn for hours, driving up and down the expressway as a last ditch effort to get her to sleep after a missed nap and something like 8 hours total of awake time (A LOT for a 3 month old)… everything is temporary. And later while going through a sleep regression, teething, etc… everything is temporary. And now during the seemingly endless phase of strong-willed toddlerhood… this is a phase and we will get through this. It’s so hard when you’re experiencing a certain developmental challenge, not seeing an end in sight. But I hold on to that idea that this is temporary and we will get through this.

    One piece of practical advice from our pediatrician: in her experience, the magic number is 16 lbs. (maybe give or take). This is when their stomachs are big enough to hold larger amounts of food to enable them to sleep longer and possibly through the night! But she also said, not to worry if it doesn’t happen right at 16 lbs. But hearing that gave me hope when I was SO exhausted.

    I second the idea of having a few supportive mom-friends who you can text anytime, even at 3 am. Not that I expected them to answer right at that time, but it just helped to have someone to communicate with and know I was not alone.

    We are with you, dear new Mama. You’ve got this. Even when you don’t feel like it — you’ve totally got this. We are rooting for you!

    Sending virtual hugs to all moms and maternal figures out there, celebrating small wins and struggling every day, and getting up the next day to do it all over again.

    1. This comment made my heart absolutely swell, Mia. Thank you for all of the earnestness, the compassion, the wisdom, and the practical tips (who knew about 16 lbs? I found a similar demarcation point at 5 months for Hill — it was like a light switch flipped and suddenly he was sleeping much longer and more soundly and now that I think about it, that’s when I started feeding him solids! So maybe he just needed to be more fully fed! Anyway, totally agree that a big piece of the sleeping is figuring out how to keep baby full for longer periods of time.)


  5. I just wanted to say to this Mom — you are SO not alone! My first baby was endlessly crying (mama couldn’t make this baby happy!), refused to breastfeed, and had days and nights mixed up for weeks. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I can remember one day specifically SO vividly…sitting on my couch, terrified there was no end in sight to the sleep deprivation, barely recognizing myself. I got a text from a friend with a 5 and 7 year old that they had just driven 4 hours and mowed the lawn and thought, “how long will it be until something like that feels possible again? I can’t get myself off the couch most days. Clearly one day it will happen — but will it take years??? Will I make it???”

    Yes, it has gotten better it’s true — but mainly just know you aren’t alone! I am sitting with my 6 week old asleep on my chest, going through it all again. I don’t think anyone really “gets” it, despite they way it may seem.

    I echo the thoughts about online community (I like the Facebook group Mama Google), and about lowering expectations. My Mom told me that with my first and it helped me a lot. But for me it was time that healed most things. The wait (and fear it would never end) was awful. Hang in there. Life is tough, but so are you. You are doing it!

    1. Kate! This is so beautifully put, so empathetic, so honest. Thank you especially for sharing that specific moment on the couch. I have definitely been there. That night I kicked the bassinet — I nearly shudder to think back on it. I was so miserably tired! I just could not figure out when I would ever be able to sleep again. But you are right — you do, and it does get better, but knowing that only takes away a little bit of the sting at the time.

      Thank you for sharing this.


  6. I am a year in and feel like I am just coming out of the fog, it is HARD. No way around it. A few things that helped me in those bleary-eyed long nights:

    1. Set yourself up before you go to bed. Wear PJs that are easy nursing-access, comfortable, and clean. Fill your water and set out a snack, get your night light ready to turn on if you use one, set up your diaper changing station, etc. Once it clicked for me that I had to “prep” for those long nights, I found myself feeling more calm and collected, less frazzled, and more comfortable.

    2. I spent many a late-night feeding session repeating Hail Marys in my head. The repetition was comforting, and spending that time in prayer with the weight of my baby in my arms grounded me. I think a mantra, a song, even listening to a meditation or audio book could have a similar effect. I know many moms who would watch a familiar Netflix show while feeding in the wee-hours!

    3. Truly, relax during the day. Cuddle up with your baby in bed, stay in PJs all day, let yourself scroll your phone, let go of expectations. This is one piece of advice that flew in one ear and out the other for me pre-baby, and I truly understand it now. The time is fleeting and you will be back to your old productive self eventually. I think when my son was a newborn, I thought “well this is my life now, I better figure out how to function.” I wish I knew that it wouldn’t be that way forever, that it would get easier, the fog would lift, and let myself just be.

    Whew! That’s my advice for this mama. Sending love to her and all the new moms, I feel lucky to be able to give my perspective here. XO

    1. These are SUCH good and practical points, M! Especially the “nighttime prep.” One small thing that really helped me was pre-filling the bottles with water and apportioning out the formula powder into my little travel formula dispenser (as I always had to supplement breastmilk at every feeding). This meant I didn’t even have to get out of BED for a feeding. I’d just scoop him out of the bassinet next to me, feed him, then prep the bottles from my bedside table and go back to bed. (Well, I guess I always got up and changed him, too, but it just felt like less of a hassle to go to the kitchen, scoop out formula, etc.) Mr. Magpie and I refer to this “prep” as “a gift to our future selves.” It’s permeated so much of my life since. Now I try to tackle things as soon as they come up, i.e., putting things away where they belong versus letting them pile up on the spare chair in our bedroom because my “future self” will appreciate it.

      I wish I had heard these words: “you will be back to your old productive self eventually.” I’m sure I’d have had a hard time accepting it but I wish I could have embraced that more. It’s so 100% true.


  7. I’ve never commented, but I just had to on this one. My second baby is 6 months old and this question and your description of the newborn fog instantly brought me back a few months. Those first few weeks and months are so tough – not only are you trying to care for a newborn, but you are also recovering physically and emotionally and your hormones are all over the place. With my first, during the first two weeks or so, I vividly remember getting a pit in my stomach and crying every night when the sun went down because I knew the sleepless night was coming and I was already so exhausted, and the darkness amplified any worries I had during the day. I maintain that everyone tries to prepare you for giving birth, but no one warns you about how hard postpartum recovery is! As for feeling lost, even as a second-time mom, the newborn days were so mentally challenging for me, so no mom is alone in feeling that way. I agree with all of your tips about asking for help, although it was much harder during the pandemic this time around. Order takeout or stock up on frozen pizzas! Try to nap in between feedings. While it never gets “easy” being a parent, I can confidently say that it does get so much better than those first few weeks. There will be new challenges, but your confidence will grow as you get to know your baby, and you’ll learn that everything is a phase. You’ve got this, Mama!

    1. Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and empathize here. This is all so true and it is so wonderful to have so many moms acknowledge the challenge of the early weeks, provide a bit of encouragement, and dangle the reward out there — the fact that it DOES get better and that somehow you put one foot in front of the other and make it happen.

      Like you, I found the newborn phases for both of my children very challenging. Having a second child made me more confident in the sense that I knew what to expect and how to do it all (and I was less jumpy about things like weird burbles and swallowing noises in the middle of the night) but the physical exhaustion felt even worse than I remembered. It was brutal! And I still agonized over the same things — breastfeeding, how to get him to sleep, etc.

      Anyway, thank you for the thoughts and companionship!


  8. Thank you for this post. I am a FTM with a 3 month old, which technically means I’m out of the 4th trimester, but let me tell you, this experience has been so gratifying but so challenging. It’s so helpful to know that these feelings (especially the middle of the night feeding/crying) are not just me, but are so normal and that it will get better. Thank you.

    But also, how do I get my kid to sleep?

    1. Hi Sarah! Welcome to the comments and thank you so much for chiming in here. I know that there are so many other moms in your shoes that feel less alone because of what you and other moms have shared. The middle of the night feeds are a DOOZY. It feels like nobody should be awake when the clock reads 4:04 a.m. Like, what?! AHHH. Things will get better and easier with time but for now just know it’s tough and you are tough, too.

      Re: sleep. I am the last person to ask as neither of my children slept through the night until a year (Emory) and eight months (Hill) respectively. It was rough. I know there are other moms who had really good luck with The Moms on Call method, though!


    2. Dear Sarah,

      My son finally started sleeping in any significant stretches at around 6 months when he could:
      A.) easily roll over on his stomach and sleep there
      B.) eat solid foods each night before bed.

      Obviously every kid is different and I truly hope yours starts sleeping through the night TONIGHT! (My sister’s baby was a miracle sleeper, she swears by the Taking Cara Baby courses available online.)

      The reason I share, though, is I spent those first 6 months completely over analyzing everything I did to try to make him sleep more. I really beat myself up. In hindsight, I wish I had just (somehow?) been kinder to myself and realized some of his biggest strides in sleep would have nothing to do with what I did, but with what HE was capable of doing.

      We are at 11 months now and he’s (finally! Knock on wood!) sleeping through the night. Sending you so much love. You are not alone!!

      1. Had to piggy back off Joyce’s comment here — so wise! We recently came to a similar discovery with our son at 16 months in the sense that he was waking up for months (!) at 5 a.m. sharp, and we just thought, “oh, well, maybe he’s an early riser.” Then we did two things: pushed his dinner back from 5 to 6 and pushed his bedtime back from 6:30 to 7. Such minor tweaks but he suddenly started sleeping all the way until 6:30, just light a light switch! And we realized that he was just HUNGRY not having eaten since 5 pm the night before / perhaps just having the sleeptime pushed back to when he was more ready to sleep. It was crazy! Similar to Joyce, we realized that we had just needed to follow his cues. Had nothing to do with us, really, except that we weren’t giving him what he needed when he needed it. Such a huge reminder to me to really observe my children!


  9. Oh, that photo of Hill! So tiny and precious. Sylvia’s newborn photos make me want to cry and have another baby, even though she’s not even 8 months old yet! I miss those snuggles with a tiny baby nestled in the crook of my neck. Neither of my babies were very snuggly after that stage. But I’ll refrain from saying “soak up all the snuggles!” in case there’s a new mom out there who’s baby won’t sleep unless it’s being held and the mama is all “ENOUGH with all the snuggles!!!” We each have our own struggles. Mine was breastfeeding…oh, the feelings of guilt and relief when I decided to quit pumping and just formula feed. I STILL occasionally think “ I should have stuck with it longer!” But neither girl would latch well, and I wasn’t producing enough to exclusively feed them myself anyway. And it freed up so much time and stress to give up on the pumping, especially the second time with a toddler to care for as well.

    You can do it, new mama! The newborn days are hard, and they feel like forever when you’re in the midst, but in reality they are SO SHORT. That’s the knowledge that got me through the second time around. The first time, you just think “Well, this is my life now. I feed a baby, and pump, and wash bottles and change diapers and clean spit up and repeat.” But it does get better!!

    I’m with Tricia – covid definitely have me a different post-partum experience than I was expecting! All that time I spent while pregnant worrying about how in the world was I ever going to get two kids out and about, bundled up for early March…and I can count on one hand the number of times I took them both out in the first 6 months! Luckily we were able to have a few visitors and meal deliveries before our state went into lockdown. But it was so hard to have my parents literally down the street but unable to come over and help, or take my toddler for a few hours! It was such a relief when we were able to see them again.

    1. Oh Stephanie! My heart goes out to you about the breastfeeding — I think we’ve talked about this with each other in past comments, but I shared all those feelings and, like you, I still occasionally flash back and regret not being able to stick with it for longer with Hill. Ugh.

      You are so right about everything here (I found myself nodding my head at multiple points). I truly cannot imagine how difficult it would have been to have my mom down the street and unable to visit 🙁 Worse than having her a few states away! You are TOUGH.


    2. Such a late comment, but wanted to let you know that YOU are tough, too, Jen! Anyone who parents without their parents (and/or in-laws) nearby deserves a medal!

  10. New mom, I am right there with you! My daughter is almost five months old and I still struggle a lot. I see pictures of moms with a newborn out to dinner or at a pumpkin patch and can’t fathom the logistics. Does their baby not scream all the time? How can they do that activity when it feels like the baby is in the midst of the never-ending eat-play-sleep merry-go-round? I feel guilt sometimes when I see photos of other moms who seem like they are taking the young baby days in stride, and I feel like I can barely keep my head above water.
    Right now, I’m trying to add some order back to my life, because I want to inch back toward getting a little more of “me” back. I’m so tired that I end up frittering away nap times (scrolling social media, going on Amazon for more baby gear, etc.) because I need a break, but then end up feeling unproductive and disappointed. It’s a vicious cycle, and I’m not sure of the solution yet.
    I’m not sure what my point is with all this, but I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone and I feel the same way.

    1. Hi Annie! First, thank you for this vulnerable and honest and companionable note. I saw so much of myself in this reply! I remember marveling over a friend who gave birth a month before me who showed up on my doorstep within days of my daughter’s birth. “You mean you came here alone…?! Like, put the baby in the carseat and drove over here by yourself and figured it all out around nursing/sleeping schedule?!” It literally blew my mind. At the time, I felt like I was constantly racing just to stay on top of feeding the baby and myself and couldn’t imagine adding anything else.

      I also STILL fall into the same trap of scrolling in my phone when I probably should be napping or doing laundry or something else and then feeling as though I’ve “frittered away” my children’s nap/quiet time. But sometimes you do need that mental downtime to just sit and glaze over, and that’s OK!

      Anyway, thank you so much for chiming in here. 100% have been in your shoes!


    2. Just wanted to chime in on Annie’s comment because I feel like I could have written this myself 🙂 I am always in awe of other moms that seem to take their babies everywhere without any difficulties where I feel like I live in 3 hour increments in between feedings (and hate breastfeeding in public). One thing the pandemic has done for me is make me feel okay just sitting in my house with the baby since there’s really nowhere to be!

      And I totally feel you on “wasting” naptime. I get so mad at myself when he wakes up and all I’ve done is scroll social media. I did somehow give up Instagram when he was 2-4 months old and may need to try that again!

    3. Oh man, this was me four years ago! Now have four month old baby #3. The things that I found debilitating got better and easier (feeding, travel, going to the store, not religiously following wake windows and feeding times). Experience and practice help so much. So does knowing your limitations and sitting some things out for a season or two. A baby’s temperament also makes a big difference. Do not compare your colicky baby to someone else’s angel baby, or someone with their second/third/fourth baby. You have to learn so many new things with the first child. I am still learning new things every day, and am by no means perfect. However, the anxiety of being unsure of every little thing has melted away.

      1. These are all so well-observed – completely agree with each and every one. Re: “Do not compare your colicky baby…” I had the most interesting experience earlier this summer. My son had a huge and uncharacteristic meltdown before a tennis lesson, and he insisted he did not want to participate, and I really had no idea what to do. It was so out of character for him that my instinct was to wrap him in a hug and tell him “let’s just go home.” But with my older daughter, I’ve learned that if I give her wiggle room like that, she’ll challenge me each and every time we come to tennis. She needs firm and clear boundaries or will push me at each opportunity. My son is not that way, though — he accepts re-direction pretty easily. So I was at a crossroads! Interestingly enough, I talked about the experience with two different moms I deeply respect, and they told me the exact opposite thing. One said: “It’s not worth the tears – just let him go home.” The other said: “You gotta throw him onto that tennis court! Resilience, commitment, we can do hard things, etc!” My point here is that even seven years into motherhood, I am still uncertain about what to do, and friends will give me wildly divergent opinions. There is, simply, no OSFA. There are no “bright line rules.” Each child, each parent, each situation is so nuanced!

        Rambling a bit, but it was such a crisp reminder that no one has the answers and you’ve got to trust yourself.


  11. I just wanted to share how encouraging this post was for me today, even though I can’t identify with the experience of motherhood. I think many of us have been having some sleepless nights; for me, it’s a big decision clouded with doubts that has my mind racing. All of the “normal” stressors are amplified by the pandemic, so I think a lot of us are just going through A LOT right now. Thanks for the comfort of knowing we’re not alone, no matter what we’re going through. xo

    1. Hi April! Yes — 100% — you are not alone! And you are so right about how everything is heightened by the uncertainties and anxieties of living in the age of COVID-19. Thanks for being here, and for sharing. xxx

  12. Sending you so much love, new mama! A month before I gave birth about a year ago, I sat by a woman in a waiting room who was nursing a 6 week old. I asked, “What do you wish you knew before?” and she said, “it’s so f*cking hard.” I basically ignored her at the time in my pre-baby arrogance. 😉 But then, when I had my baby, the stranger’s words returned to me and I felt less alone.

    You are not doing anything wrong. Try not to equate “hard” with “wrong” in your mind. I believe Rainer Maria Rilke says, “hue to what is difficult” and Thich Nhat Hanh teaches extensively on “No mud, no lotus.” Which is great, I love those teachings, but when I was trudging through the extremely difficult newborn baby “mud” it comforted me more to think of an honest fellow mother saying, “It’s so f*cking hard.” It is, and you’re doing it!

    1. This is so right on, Joyce, and I so cherish the empathy and companionship in all of your comments, but especially here. My sister-in-law plays a similar and heartening role when I turn to her for parenting advice: “Right there with ya, sister. This is tough.”


    2. Thank you for creating such a nurturing space for new moms, Jen! I actually gave up social media this month and plan to keep it going for a year, but I’m happy that there are still online spaces that feel communal and supportive to me and your blog is definitely one of them 🙂 xoxo.

  13. Similar to Alexandra, I read this at 4 am this morning while holding my 6 month old. He’s not the best sleeper on a normal night but he’s teething right now so we are having some rough nights. He will only sleep while being held from 4-6 and I try to remind myself I’ll miss these times despite the exhaustion. I’m hoping he will start sleeping through the night in the next few months and since sleep training isn’t for us (no judgement to those who do!!!) I’m just waiting it out. It’s not easy but as he gets older he is becoming so much more fun and I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by!

    1. I love that this post came to you in such a timely manner, I imagine it made your (very) early morning a bit brighter!

      I’m curious, and bristle a bit, around the phrase “I’ll miss these times” in relation to the hardships that the newborn phase has on a new mom. I am not a mom myself but for some reason I am extremely interested in posts like these, stories from other moms, parenting advice, etc. and one of the constants through all of those is “you’ll miss it.” Again, while not having the firsthand experience – and maybe that changes everything – it seems like that phrase diminishes the emotions that new moms feel; the pain, exhaustion, loneliness, fear. Yes, I imagine that a mom will miss the tender moments that come along with those feelings, the intimate moments where it’s just you and your baby and you can’t stop looking at them. The idea, though, that a mom would be sitting in the dark trying to console an upset baby while running on mere minutes of sleep and feeling all of the unpleasant, scary feelings that can come along in those dark times, and still be reminding herself that “I’ll miss it,” seems unfair to me. I suppose I feel that new moms should feel able to sit in that discomfort without having to remind themselves to feel grateful for it and just acknowledge that yes, this really sucks right now.

      I’m curious as to others thoughts! Am I way off base here?

    2. Oof! 4-6!! It’s interesting because Emory didn’t seem as deeply bothered by teething but Hill’s sleep has been totally derailed by it on multiple occasions. The silver lining is that once the tooth is through, we usually clip right back into a good sleeping routine. Here’s hoping your baby does the same!

      Hang in there, Allie!


  14. Even though my daughters are both in their 20s, your words took me right back to those middle of the night feedings. I remember sitting in the glider nursing and feeling overwhelmed with exhaustion, fear that I wasn’t doing it right (I didn’t produce a lot of milk-don’t even get me started on the guilt that brought out) and if I’m honest a bit of anger towards my sleeping husband. But PLEASE know that if you love your baby and are trying to be a great mom then you ARE one! Also, Jen is right-ask for help. Just a few generations ago, new moms were surrounded by other women to help pick up the slack and for some reason we think we should be able to do it all by ourselves. You’ve got this mama!

    1. Hi Sandy! Thanks so much for sharing this. It is so comforting to hear from moms a decade or two out of the newborn years that can still commiserate — it makes me feel more sane, more valid, more seen! Thank you for chiming in here and for the encouragement for the other Magpie (and myself).


  15. Oh how my heart ached thinking of this mother. I believe we have truly all been there. I have three thoughts to share:
    1) lean into online community!! I joined every mom Facebook group and also a sleep training Facebook group- in addition to getting helpful advice, it is so helpful to remember you aren’t alone- if your mom friends seem to have it down, trust that there are many, many others who are struggling and need words of encouragement too. You can lift each other up when you need it.

    2) Echo-ing Jen’s point, there is no prize for doing it all yourself! So many of us had mothers that seemed to effortlessly manage it all alone so we think we should too, but money towards anything that helps you is well spent. I similarly agonized over whether to bring my night nurse back when my second daughter was 2.5 months because it felt like a waste of money, and I was an old hand now, so shouldn’t I know how to do it? But I was so exhausted I could barely form sentences and I had to admit it wasn’t healthy, especially with a toddler that needed me too. I will never ever forget that first night of delicious sleep when she came- I went into my room at 8pm to climb into bed and when I emerged at 7am the next morning I was truly whole again.

    3) This will not last forever. It took my second daughter TEN MONTHS to sleep through the night and every single night was fresh agony as she woke her older sister up and then we all had to play musical bedrooms until everyone calmed down. But eventually, she figured it out and now they both sleep 7:30-6:30 without a peep and I promise you that every single night I still think about how grateful I am for that.

    The beginning is so hard because although you love them fiercely, you don’t really know them yet. You don’t get the funny giggles or hugs or exciting firsts that offset the tough times. But brighter days are coming very soon, hang in there, and remember these dark days when another mom asks for your advice because you are the one that seems to have it all together!

    1. I love these thoughts, Gina. So much truth! I am so with you on still feeling grateful for full nights of sleep — it still feels like a gift and Landon and I still talk routinely about how amazing it is. The sleep deprivation is true torture, but it does eventually resolve itself and you will never think of sleep in the same way. Ha! 🙂 And I totally agree with your notes on finding an online community. Sometimes you just need to hear other moms express that they are going through the same thing and having similar reactions/thoughts/frustrations — sometimes I pick up a tip, or find a better way to explain how I am feeling, or just enjoy the moment of feeling “seen” or “understood.”


  16. The hardest part, for me, hasn’t been the newborn experience itself but the compounding of that with a pandemic. All of the suggestions above are wonderful and I would have loved the help, but COVID has made things more difficult. It unfortunately wasn’t feasible to have family come over regularly or to have outside caretakers and housekeepers.
    What has been most helpful for me in the past few months, is to experience the grief I’ve felt about that. I read recently that it’s important to let those difficult feelings wash over you like a wave, because it’s the only way to move through them. If you can, find someone to talk to about how hard it is. My mother lives several states away, but being able to call her and knowing she would listen to my baby and me cry was really helpful in those earliest days.

    1. Ah Tricia! I can’t believe I didn’t acknowledge the tremendous nest of complexity, isolation, and anxiety that COVID19 has brought on for new moms. I truly don’t know how you all are doing it, but it sounds like you’ve found a very healthy way of working your way through it by acknowledging the grief. My heart goes out to you. xxx

  17. It is hard! I felt like I was constantly failing; the dishes were piling up, I had stacks of bottles to clean, dirty laundry, no home cooked food and my husband was taking half the night shifts and breaks from work to hold the baby. I needed to be able to do it all by myself and I just couldn’t. When my husband came to give me a break, I felt that I had to get housework done and be productive rather than taking time for myself. He always had to tell me to take a nap rather than focus on the mess. All of this to say, don’t forget about you! You need rest too so, as Jen said, take the help that is offered or ask for the help that you need. You are doing a great job, even if you can’t see it for yourself, other people see it!!!

    1. 100%, Allison — so, so hard to actually let yourself rest when the baby is sleeping. (“But let me just quickly clean these bottles” turns into “and throw some laundry in, and answer emails, and unload the groceries…” and then the baby is awake again.)

      And YES — “even if you can’t see it for yourself, other people see it!” So true!!


  18. This is so spot on! Not only am I reading this at 4:10am as I sit in the most ridiculous posture to nurse baby Blake (please, just latch!), but I’m having to remind myself newborn days are the trenches and us moms are not alone!
    Small pro tip—find a nice cotton or (for colder climates) flannel maternity robe. Or you can just size up if not maternity. I sleep in mine and it makes it so easy to nurse in middle of night.

    1. Yes – you are in the trenches but not alone. Couldn’t have summarized it better myself! I remember those early days so well — hang in there, mama!

      And I second the robe idea (or nursing nightgown). So easy!


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