Parenthood: Life After Baby
"How exactly does life change after a baby?"
If you're about to begin maternity leave and looking forward to all the free
time you'll have, WebMD is proud to offer you a reality check. Don't count on
finishing home improvement projects, catching up on leisure reading, or
watching all those programs stored on your TiVo. Here's how new parents really
spend their time.
"Feed, change, soothe, feed, change, soothe -- all day long and all
through the night." That's how first-time mother Lydia Lizano sums up life
with her 4-week-old daughter, Katelyn. "The toughest part was when she
cried and cried and cried and I didn't know how to soothe her. It took time to
get to know which cry meant what. Nobody ever tells you how hard it is the
first few weeks."
A Time of Challenge
Psychologist Arthur Kovacs, PhD, says expectant parents would be better
served by a bigger dose of the truth. "There are a lot of myths about
becoming a parent in our society," he tells WebMD. "The first step to
good adjustment is to understand the reality. The biggest myth is that this
should be a time of idyllic happiness. It's really a time of terrific
"I feel like I no longer live for myself," says Lori Freed, a
pharmaceutical sales representative with a 2-month-old son, Luke. Freed is on
maternity leave and says staying home with a baby is "a lot more work than
I realized. You can't imagine how much attention they need. Even though you
know you will love them, you can't imagine how hands-on it is."
"New moms are always amazed at how much time one little baby takes
up," says midwife Elizabeth Stein, CNM, owner of Ask Your Midwife, PC, in
New York. "The mother is at the mercy of the baby's schedule."
What might that schedule look like? Every baby is different, so there's no
way to predict a typical day with your newborn, but Freed says a typical day
with Luke goes something like this:
7 a.m. Feeding
8 a.m. Play for an hour
9 a.m. Feeding
10 a.m. Nap
2 p.m. Feeding
3 p.m. Nap
4 p.m. Feeding
6 p.m. Feeding
8 p.m. Feeding followed by bath
9 p.m. Baby goes to bed
10 p.m. Mom goes to bed
1 a.m. Feeding
4 a.m. Feeding
It looks like Freed has a couple hours between each feeding, but in reality,
Luke nurses for 20-30 minutes, leaving her with only an hour and a half between
feedings. That time is quickly filled with preparing and eating her own meals,
doing dishes and other chores, and changing diapers -- five or six wet diapers
and a couple of soiled diapers every day.
Freed says she's glad she decided to breastfeed, but it takes up far more
time than she had imagined. "It's hard to get things done with a baby who
eats for 20 minutes every couple of hours," she tells WebMD. According to
the American Academy of Family Physicians, Freed's experience is typical for a
nursing mother -- breastfed newborns usually nurse 8-12 times per day. However
feed your newborn as often as she wants to be fed, they write.